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JOHN DEERE CLASSIC MEDIA DAY
June 6, 2011
CLAIR PETERSON: I think everyone has had a chance to come inside hopefully. It was warm out there. Kind of makes you feel like it's John Deere Classic week. I think it was warm in Dublin last week too.
As I said on the putting green, you know, we are so pleased and proud to have Steve here. This is a big day for us. You can tell that all you folks have come from a long ways away, and we really appreciate that. We talk about this event being our Super Bowl. It's our only major league sporting event in town.
The neat thing about it is that it generates a considerable amount of money to charity, which stays in the region. $4.34 million last year got distributed to 500 different organizations. That's what the Birdies For Charity program, 100 cents on the dollar going to each of those organizations, and then the tournament proceeds go into a bonus fund. We're able to give an 8% bonus check.
So it's not just an athletic contest, it's something that is really important to the community, and I think having you all here underscores that.
Before we introduce everyone here at the front of the room, I just wanted to recognize the facility itself, Ian Nicoll, general manager, and Paul Grogan, the golf course superintendent, and their staffs are world class. This facility has been here since 2000. It's one of the great golf courses on tour, in my opinion. Steve and I talked about it a little bit at the putting green, that some people compare it to Muirfield Village in that it's a shot maker's course on the grounds with the trees. Beautiful to spend time here as a spectator. Fair and challenging for a player.
It's great to go out and talk to players and know that this is what we have to talk about. In addition to that, the entire tournament really is based on resting on the shoulders of 1,500 volunteers. We always have our most important volunteer every year. I don't know if everyone understands that these folks come off of our board and sit for six years on our executive committee, spending a tremendous amount of time in each of the progression of assignments until they one year become our volunteer chairman.
This year we've got another great volunteer chairman in Brian Kardell. I'll hand things over to Brian to continue the program.
BRIAN KARDELL: Thank you. First of all, I'd like to join Clair in thanking you all for coming today and welcoming you to the 2011 John Deere Classic Media Day. Glad you're all here. I'd also like to pass on a few special welcomes. The first one goes to our defending champion Steve Stricker. Wow, what a day yesterday. I want you to know that we're all there with you.
We had a weather delay. We came out on the course. We hit it into the hazard on 15. We didn't collapse. We didn't panic. We got it up and down. We take our bogey. We take our medicine on 15. We go to 16. We hit a 5 iron on 16. It's all carry on the 16. So we want to make sure we get there. We carry it onto 16. We hit a bad bounce, and we're in the back bunker. We got hit out of the back bunker. Got water, don't want to go that way. 25-foot putt, but we make the putt for a par.
We go on to number 17. Hit it down the middle. I think we hit a 3 wood because we want to hit it up the middle of the fairway. Push a 6 iron a little to the right. Hit it in the bunker. Up and down out of the bunker, 6-foot putt, another par. We're feeling pretty good. But just to keep everything interesting, we hit it into the right fairway bunker.
As we talked to Jimmy about it, let's hit it into the right side fairway bunker, just to keep it interesting. Now all we have to do is get up there and take our bogey and win the tournament, which, of course, we did.
He went to have an interview for charity and stuff. We were exhausted. I had to go to bed. Steve has been a wonderful tournament champion. We're happy to have you here.
And what many of us don't know is that last night he wrapped up in Dublin, Ohio, likely after 10:30 at night. Jumps on a flight back home to Madison, gets up at 6:15, 6:30 this morning to travel all the way here to be at our Media Day. We just want to really tell you how much we appreciate that. You've been a wonderful past champion. We're so happy you're here. So welcome.
Second special welcome I'd like to give is to the folks from The First Tee program from the Quad Cities. You know, what a wonderful program, where you not only go out and you learn lessons about the game of golf, but also learn lessons about the whole experience of life. And so thank you for being here today. Welcome.
I got to tell you, how cool is it to have a lesson from the No. 4 player in the world. There's none of your family or friends that will ever one-up you on that. Thanks for being here.
And as you all might imagine, all of us here at the John Deere Classic are really excited and looking forward to hosting the 2011 tournament, which marks our 41st year of hosting a PGA Tour event in the Quad Cities. We're very proud of the $4.34 million that we raised during the 2010 tournament to help out nearly 500 local and regional charities. We're also proud to say that we're still number one per capita giving event on the PGA Tour, which is pretty awesome. Number one.
And, of course, we couldn't put this premiere event on without the help and dedication of the nearly 1,500 volunteers that I am simply honored to lead.
Speaking of volunteers, I have a little advertisement for you. So make sure your cameras are running. We are still in need of some of those great volunteers. So I challenge each of you and each of your family members to go out and make a decision, make a personal decision to give a little back to your community. Go to our site, johndeereclassic.com, look through the various areas where you can volunteer, decide how you want to help, and sign up. I promise you you're going to be happy that you did it. This is a wonderful event, and what a great way to give back.
Finally, a very sincere thanks to our title sponsor John Deere. What a wonderful corporate citizen and partner they are. We feel very honored to have their sponsorship commitment through 2016. And so to Sam Allen, Bill Becker, and to all the employees of John Deere, thank you so much.
And for those of you who were here last year, we had rain in the forecast. It's not going to rain today. Going to be a little hot and muggy out there. But for everybody playing golf, have a wonderful time. Thanks.
CLAIR PETERSON: All right. We won't belabor this, but, again, what a terrific privilege to have our two-time defending champion here. There's a gentleman in the room, Gary DiMotta, that introduced Steve at the Golf Writers dinner as the recipient of the Jim Murray Award, which recognizes a player's friendliness and willingness to work with the media. He's one of the guys that we root for all the time regardless of whether he's our champion or not.
He's fourth in the world. He's the highest ranking American in the world right now, and hopefully, Bobby pointed out the billboard as he drove into town, which recognizes that Steve's eyeing a three-peat. It would be a very historic event, something that I would love, by the way, if Steve would win again.
But there's 155 other guys that have something to say to it. Ladies and gentlemen, our two-time defending champion Steve Stricker.
STEVE STRICKER: Thank you. Thanks for all the kind words. Appreciate it.
It's always -- I want to welcome everybody, first of all, to really kick off the 2011 John Deere Classic. What makes this event so special is not only the ladies and gentlemen that run this tournament, but like Brian was saying, the volunteers, they get involved for the community, for the charitable dollars that are involved, and for the -- just the helping out as a whole community. It's very important.
This tournament reminds me a lot of the way it was when I first came on tour, smaller areas, smaller communities got together, got behind the tournament for a cause, for the charitable dollars. This is probably -- not just because I won it the last two years, but probably one of my favorite places to come play. I enjoy the golf course. I enjoy those pork chops walking up 16 every now and then.
But the course is great. The people that run the tournament are great. The volunteers are second to none in friendliness and making you feel welcome here. It's really a cool event. I really, in my years on tour, haven't heard anything negative said about this tournament. Everybody who comes here wants to come back because of all those reasons. So hats off to community. Hats off to you guys. And I appreciate being here. I really do. And I hope to do it one more time.
Thank you for coming out. Stay hydrated. As we saw a couple kids go down out there today, it's very hot. Again, thanks for coming. I'm truly honored to be the last couple years champion, and we'll see you again in July. Have a good day. Thank you.
Q. Having won Jack's Tournament this past week, talk about your relationship to Jack and what it meant to win the Memorial.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it means a lot. I said yesterday all those years you watched the champion come off the 18th green and he's there with a handshake to congratulate the winner of his tournament. You always think how cool a feeling that would be. It happened for me yesterday. So it was really a unique feeling.
It was a long day. The weather, the delay, and then kind of a shower here and there down the stretch made for a long day. It's really an honor there as well. It's one of those tournaments you look forward to on the calendar each year.
I've gotten to know Jack over the years. I played against his son Gary at Ohio State. Jack was a captain on one of the Presidents Cup teams I was on and got to know him, and I've known him over the years. First of all, he's a great guy. He's a family man. He's very humble for what he's done in his career. He's a friend. It was a pretty cool experience yesterday afternoon.
Q. Have you ever had a chance to win any tournament three times in a row?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think I have. Has anybody won this three times in a row? No. No, I don't think I have. It's going to be fun. I obviously enjoy the course. I have some very good feelings going around here. Like Clair was saying, it's much like what we just came off of down at Muirfield. You've got to drive the ball well and hit some good irons here. So I've got some good feelings around here. Hopefully, I can have another chance.
Q. Over the years, playing against Tiger and Phil, there's always crowds out to see them. Talk about how it's been.
STEVE STRICKER: Are you calling me under appreciated? Is that what you're doing?
I think it's good for the game. I think where Tiger and Phil are at, they're still the biggest draws in golf. We can't take that away from them. And I think it still provides a lot of excitement. I think we all still tune in to golf -- I know I do -- just to see how Tiger and Phil are going to play. To see whether Tiger's going to get his game back, see what he's doing. I still think that provides a lot of interest, and it also opens up the door, like you said, for a lot of other people.
So I think it's good. I think it was good when Tiger was winning because people wanted to see that, but I think also, on this end of it too, they're still tuning in to see what those two guys are going to do. They still provide a lot of interest. It also gives a lot of guys a lot of confidence knowing that it's kind of wide open. If you play well, you know, there's a number of guys out there that can win. There's so many good players.
So that's always the carrot that dangles in front of us, knowing if you play well enough, you can beat anybody out there. I think that's the way everybody's feeling.
Q. [ Inaudible ].
STEVE STRICKER: 20 guys in the history of the tour?
Q. History of the tour [ Inaudible ].
STEVE STRICKER: You know, it's difficult to two-peat, let alone put three of them together. You know, I think the expectation level is high when you win a tournament and you come back and you expect more of the things that you had there the previous year. And when they don't fall into place, you may lose a little bit of confidence or that little bit of edge, I guess.
You also have a lot of demands on your time when you come back. People are looking at you more. They think you're going to be in contention to win. So there's a lot of expectations on yourself too and from other people. It's just hard to do.
There's a ton of good players. Somebody can get hot, and they'll go low, and you may not even have a chance even if you did play well. So there's a lot of things that have to fall into place to win once, let alone three times in a row.
Q. [ Inaudible ].
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I don't feel any different, and I've been ranked as high as number two in the world for a while. I've kind of been in the top ten over the last two, three years. I really don't try to think about it. They asked me that question yesterday as being the highest ranked American. I really want to text Tiger and say, what are you? What happened? I haven't got the courage to do that yet.
But in seriousness, I'm just doing my own thing. I go out there and try to play my own game, work at it like I do at home, and be prepared when I do go out there and play. I'm enjoying the ride. It's been a great 5 1/2 years since I've made this turnaround, and I just keep pinching myself at times, and I keep trying to do the same things I've been doing on a weekly basis.
Q. You were talking about difficulty of being a repeat champion. Tell us how the difference was coming back last year and the demands on you.
STEVE STRICKER: There really -- there was not -- there wasn't too many demands here. These guys made it very easy for me to come back and play and keep my focus on playing well.
But I know there's some tournaments that there is a big demand, a media demand, tournament demand, but that wasn't the case here at all. They made it very easy for me to come back and just do my thing and try to play. Fortunately, I was able to do it again.
Q. In retrospect, [ inaudible ].
STEVE STRICKER: It's pretty cool that whole thing that transpired here last year. That was the first round, wasn't it? You know, shooting 59. I think it had to feel weird for him shooting 59 and only leading by one. For me, I was like, okay, I'm right back in it. It was a good feeling for me. But for him, it had to be, holy cow, I shot 59, and I've only got a one-shot lead.
I would think it would have been harder for him to swallow than the way it was for me.
Q. [ Inaudible ]. Did it ever cross your mind to do maybe something different?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, no, it didn't cross my mind not to come. You know, I know how important this day is to this tournament, and to be here to get this 2011 tournament going and get some momentum built up behind this.
You know, we need volunteers, as Brian was saying. So anything or anybody can help in this situation. I'm glad to be here. I feel a little bit of a responsibility. Now, if it was out in California or something like that, I might have had to say I'm not going to come. But when it's right down the road in my backyard, I feel like this is home for me.
You know, school at Illinois, three hours from home. It's an important spot for me.
Q. Are you going to drive home?
STEVE STRICKER: Bobby's going to drive home.
STEVE STRICKER: We tried that one time, the tax break. Wisconsin said, you know what, you're coming right back here. We're going to tax you anyways. No, we tried that before we had kids, and once we started having kids, we decided it was more important to be at home and around family and friends. My wife grew up there, and I grew up very close to there. So that's home for us.
It works for me. You know, hitting balls in the trailer in the wintertime may not work for everybody, but it works for me. I'm comfortable with it. It gets me away from the game. It gets me away just far enough where I can relax a little bit, get away from it, and refocus and get fresh about it again and come back.
That's kind of what I've been doing this year, and it's been working out. Nothing's really changed. It probably won't change either.
Q. Steve, you touched on going to Illinois. The No. 1 guy played at Northwestern. What's it say about the Midwest and northern schools and how many golfers come from everywhere to compete at a high level?
STEVE STRICKER: No doubt about it. Even Mike Small at the University of Illinois, what he's done with that program. They finished fifth in the nation this year, ranked consistently in the top ten. And Northwestern winning NCAAs eight, ten years ago, whenever it was. Luke Donald played at Northwestern, now the No. 1 player in the world. Mark Wilson from Wisconsin wins twice on tour. Jerry Kelly lives in Madison and plays out of there.
So it can be done. And like I say, I think it forces us away from the game enough to be energized, resharpen, refocus, all that stuff, to get ready to play.
Sometimes when I saw kids growing up that they were more talented than me, that they lived down in the South, that they worked on it during the whole year, and they're nowhere around now. I have a feeling that's because they just had enough of it. You know what I mean? There's only so much one can do with anything, a job, or a sport, or whatever it may be. I think it's good for us.
Like I say, it's not right for everybody, but the guys who choose to live up North show that they can handle that and play from the North. You know, there's just good golf all over the place. Like I say, guys that do that are used to getting time away from the game, and I think that's a good thing.
Q. Are you still excited from your last round?
STEVE STRICKER: I started holing them out here too, I don't know, last year or two years ago in the wind. I don't know. I've had some really good things happen here. I've putted well here in the past. I really enjoy the course. It's a course where there's some risk and reward. There's some par 5s you can get to. You know, there's a good bunch of par 3s that you have to be careful on, and then there's some short par 4s that you can make birdies on if you drive the ball well and give yourself some opportunities. That's what I've done well the last couple of years.
And I've putted well. This is the same grass that I grew up on, bentgrass, and I feel comfortable with the area, the conditions and everything. And once you've had some past successes at a place, you know, you've got those good vibes when you come back.
Q. Is it nice to come to the area to golf with the younger generation?
STEVE STRICKER: It's very nice to go to these communities and see The First Tee program or any other program that involves golf to get kids more interested in the game. Like I was saying out there -- and Brian alluded to it too -- you know, golf teaches us a lot of lessons along the way. I've learned a ton in my career. These kids, if they stick with golf or really any sport, sports in general teach you a lot of life lessons along the way.
It's nice to see kids that come out and take the time and the effort to come out here and be a part of this.
Q. How do you plan to prepare for the U.S. Open?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm going to get away from the game for about three days probably and start hitting balls on Thursday, start practicing Thursday, Friday, Saturday, head out there Sunday early, and get out there and get some reps in on that course.
I enjoy the course. It's much like -- it's just a great old style course. Much the same at any U.S. Open, you have to drive the ball well. Hopefully, I can carry that over from what I did this last week. I drove the ball really well. Get some good irons at Congressional and put it up and down and make some putts. You need your whole game there just because it's such a fine line. The rough is going to be thick. Conditions are going to be tough.
But I enjoy the challenge one week out of the year. It's a tough week. It's mentally fatiguing and tiring, but it's a place where you want to be. You know, you want to be there. You can't win it if you're not there. Looking forward to and going there with a lot of confidence coming off this last week.
Q. Steve, when you won here last year [ inaudible ].
STEVE STRICKER: Still don't want it. What's that?
Q. Trade it?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I would. Obviously, to win a major is at the top of my list. You know, my window of opportunity seems to be with age dwindling a little bit. I'm still playing some pretty good golf. I still feel like I maybe have an opportunity here or there yet before my career is over. Yeah, it would be a good trade-off. Obviously, winning the Open would be pretty special.
Q. [ Inaudible ].
STEVE STRICKER: You know, it's nice any time you win. Being the tenth win, really, it's nice to get into double figures. But looking back over my career, I feel like I've won at some really nice places, Riviera, Colonial, Nicklaus' place, here. Westchester. They all fit in here. TPC John Deere, they're all similar styles.
No, really. That's how I look back, at the quality of tournaments I won, and that's what makes it pretty special.
Q. Could you talk, first of all, about the final day at the Memorial.
STEVE STRICKER: The hole in one, I played that hole at 4 under this week, and I've really struggled with that hole over the years. I don't know what happened this week. It was a perfect club, perfect yardage for me, and it came off good. It came off right at it, never really left the flag. You don't expect to see it go in, for sure.
Then to follow it up with a birdie my last hole of the day was a really cool way to win the tournament. Really I played with a lead for Saturday and Sunday and got off to a pretty big lead on Saturday. I kind of got sloppy with my game. I don't know if I was tired. It was really hot. I wasn't feeling the best that day. Had a little stomach thing going on. I don't know if I just kind of lost my concentration. It got slow on the back nine. Or just protecting the lead, it's hard to do.
I really could have blown the tournament open that Saturday on the back nine and didn't. And I kind of kicked myself a little bit that night and got off to a good day start on Sunday and got it rolling again. Then everybody else was rolling too. It was amazing how low the scores were. I'm 6 under at the turn, and I really hadn't increased my lead.
It was a tough day. It was a long day. The rain delay threw another little monkey wrench into it. I sat in there for 2 1/2 hours, you know, thinking about not trying to throw this tournament away, that this is my tournament to win and go out there and get it. It was tough. It was a tough day. But very rewarding when it was all said and done.
Q. Have you been following the University of Illinois [ inaudible ]?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, he is in the field, and I did follow. I did talk to Mike and text messaged Mike on a weekly basis. We talk about the team and wish them good luck along the way. I'm excited for Mike and his team. He's really done a great job there. First of all, the kids are great. Every time I've been down there, they're first class kids. They're polite.
Mike has done a great job there, and I'm very happy for them. They have a chance really to win the National Championship this year. They're just a couple rounds away. It's exciting to see Scott in the field here. He's a good kid. I played him last year in the U.S. Open practice round. He played well for the U.S. Open last year, and hopefully he plays well here.
Thanks, everybody. Thanks for coming. I appreciate it.
CLAIR PETERSON: As you know, Steve will be available after we're done here to do one-on-ones. If you have any other lingering questions, you might be able to ask him then.
Before we get to that point, I wanted to recognize a couple of other people here. As you know, our network of Chevy dealers has been very generous the last couple years and has provided a fleet of cars for the players and for our evacuation needs. They're rested here. They've done a really neat thing about their two Pro-Am spots they have available. They've selected a young boy from our boy's golf team, young girl from a local girl's golf team. They're going to play in the Chevy spot.
So they're sitting in the back of the room there, and you might want to say hi to them before the festivities are over. And then we have a really -- yeah, thanks to the Chevy people.
And then we have another special guest here. Michael DeVries and his mom Ann from Western Springs, Illinois. Huge sports fan, huge golf fan. I met Michael today and told him that I had a chance to see the video of him going to the TPC Sawgrass and give him a little left-handed swing lesson to Graeme McDowell. You might want to pull that up on YouTube if you want to talk to him.
But he lives just a couple of hours away. He had a terrific experience at TPC Sawgrass. His story really revolves around fighting a liver ailment, the same ailment that Walter Payton had to deal with. His mom has donated a portion of her liver in order to get him through this and things are going wonderfully.
As a big golf fan, we know your goal is to go to the Masters, but the John Deere Classic is going to have to do, I guess. We have a nice experiential package here where we're going to bring your family in town and put you up in a hotel that's donated and let you walk inside the ropes as an honorary observer. Maybe you can give Steve a lesson before the week's over.
But I'll let Steve hand you the documents, and you can take a look at it.
You should see this guy's swing. Phil Mickelson has nothing on your left-handed swing there.
So that is the -- we've all been through this before. Steve's going to stick around and do our one-on-one interviews. It's organized chaos, as you know, so be patient, and we'll let you all go out and play a little golf when we're done with that. So with that, thanks for coming.
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