Age no barrier for Stricker and Furyk

Age no barrier for Stricker and Furyk
Steve Stricker (left) and Jim Furyk

AUGUSTA, United States - All the talk going into the 78th Masters has been about the record number of rookies taking part and a perceived changing of the guard, but for two gnarled veterans of Augusta National, hope springs eternal.

Steve Stricker, who is 47 and Jim Furyk, who is four years younger, have played a total of 30 Masters between them and have seldom been in the mix come the back nine on Sunday.

Stricker's best finish was a sixth place in 2009, while Furyk can claim only two fourth places in 1998 and 2003 They both now play reduced schedules to spare their bodies the wear and tear that has sidelined four-time winner Tiger Woods this year and cast a cloud over the chances of Phil Mickelson claiming a fourth Green Jacket.

But both have shown in the last year that they still have the golf game to compete for major titles.

Furyk, whose only major success came at the 2003 US Open, was a frustrated runner up to Jason Dufner in last year' PGA Championship after holding a one-stroke lead going into the final round.

But now, late into his career, he has sought help from celebrated sports psychologist Bob Rotella, who has worked in the past with major winners Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Keegan Bradley.

"I think when I first probably started speaking to Bob, I felt a little bit worn out last year," he said.

"I think my mind wasn't in a great spot from a golf perspective. It was not only about golf though; it was more about life and how I found myself that I was a pretty happy-go-lucky person for about 20 hours of the day and the four that I was miserable was usually on the golf course, and I didn't want to be that way anymore.

"I went through 19 and a half years on the PGA Tour without talking to a sports psychologist, so I'm trying to figure it out a little bit, as well, and how exactly I want to use them, if that makes sense." For Stricker who had eight top 10 finishes in 13 starts in 2013 including four runner-up showings, the problem is often getting his golf game in top shape in time for the Masters, the year's first major.

That is because he opts to spend his winter at home up north in Wisconsin, where the freezing temperatures means that practice is very limited.

Still, he feels that could work in his favour as it has helped him deal with a succession of injuries that have dogged him over the years.

"I've had some issues over the last two or three years," he said.

"I've had a herniated disc both in my neck and in my back, so I've gotten through those without surgery.

"I've kind of done a lot of physical therapy and treatment on that, so I didn't have to do surgery. And I think the lack of play has definitely helped in that department.

"I feel as good as I've ever felt to tell you the truth I've worked out a lot more over the wintertime, lost some weight. Physically, I feel a lot better. So it's all going good in that department." A win for Stricker on Sunday would not only break his duck in the majors, it would also make him the oldest winner of the Masters, surpassing Jack Nicklaus, who won his sixth Green Jacket in 1986 when he was 46 and the second-oldest winner of any major championship behind Julius Boros, who was 48 when he captured the PGA in 1968.

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