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JOHN DEERE CLASSIC MEDIA DAY


June 4, 2012


Steve Stricker


CLAIR PETERSON:  The question I have obviously all the time is who's coming.  We're here to somewhat answer that question.  We have a nice field that is shaping up again.  The quality of the golf course helps; the jet to the British Open certainly has helped us.  We normally have 22 to 26 players that take advantage of that.
One of the interesting and difficult aspects of answering that question is that players don't have to commit themselves until the Friday before the tournament.  So the sheet of paper that I get has some names on it that we know about and some names that haven't committed yet.  Steve Stricker has yet to commit to the John Deere Classic.  I begged him on the way over here, please.  But he did verify as we were driving by the billboard that yes, he will be here.
I think in the press kit it said we have 23 players who have won tournaments in the last couple years, guys like Jason Bohn, Fredrik Jacobson, John Huh, Rocco Mediate, Sean O'Hair, D.A. Points, Heath Slocum, Scott Stallings, who found an Augusta credential here at the John Deere Classic.  We view that as a great omen and won at Greenbrier and took that pencil to Augusta with him and it became quite a story at this year's Masters.
Jhonattan Vegas, Mark Wilson, Zach, of course, he just won, he's a board member of ours, Jonathan Byrd, John Senden, another past champion of ours, Charles Howell, another former sponsor exemption of ours, Spencer Levine, who you might have seen over the weekend, he's in the field, and guys who are Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup players and major championship winners like David Duval and Todd Hamilton, Rich Beem, Lee Janzen, Boo Weekley, John Daly is going to be here again.
We are very excited to have a field that's picking up to represent this event the way we want to be represented.¬† This is a perfect segue to our three‑time champion.¬† You talk about a gentleman on the PGA TOUR, someone that any tournament, every tournament director would love having represent their event, we're so fortunate.¬† Just to remind you what's been happening over the last three years, our other board member, Lance Barrow, put together a three‑year highlight reel of what Steve has done.¬† On these video screens for a few minutes you can see some of the highlights.
(Video shown.)
CLAIR PETERSON:¬† I never get tired of watching that.¬† Ladies and gentlemen, one of the top ranked players in the world and our three‑time champion, Steve Stricker.
STEVE STRICKER:  Boy, I made a lot of putts there, didn't I?  Something I haven't been doing lately, but hopefully we'll get that turned around.
Just want to say thanks for coming out, getting this going.  This is a fun time of year for me to come down here to get this going, to get the ball rolling.  This is the third year now, which is just unbelievable, to think how time has flown for one, but to think that I won this three times in a row is beyond belief, really, to tell you the truth.
But always exciting to be here, always looking forward to coming back.  Just the way the tournament is run, the people involved, the player history, obviously we couldn't do it without the volunteers, and John Deere.  Clair said it all, they're great people, great Midwest people, great sponsor, and the community rallies behind this event, and I think I've said this probably every year that I've come here, this is the way the TOUR used to be when I first came out here, a smaller venue where the whole town, the whole community rallies behind the event to raise $5.2 million is really an incredible feat in this smaller community, and really the hat of everyone should be tipped to the whole community here for raising such an unbelievable amount for charity.
Like I said, this is the way the TOUR used to be.  Milwaukee had an event like this, which we no longer have.  But it's great to come here to see the enthusiasm of the people and the volunteers and the people behind it.  I'm looking forward to it again this year.
I think this tournament is gaining traction on a yearly basis.  You know, it's a difficult time in the year for guys to commit to come and play, but nine times out of 10 when I ask a person if they're not playing here, they wish they could be here, and more times it's getting to be where guys are coming here.  They love playing here, they love the tournament.  Clair is a great tournament director and does whatever it takes to get a guy to come here.  And the plane has helped tremendously, obviously, to get more players to come here.
But I'm really excited to be here again.  Look forward to spending some time with the kids out here on 18 trying to reenact that putt, and again, thanks for coming today, and look forward to seeing everybody in a short period of time, a month away.

Q.  You said the tournament has made quite a big deal already (indiscernible.)
STEVE STRICKER:  Well, it's a unique opportunity.  It's hard to do.  It's hard to repeat, let alone win for the third time, I guess.  But I've had some special moments here.  I look forward to trying.  It's going to be difficult as ever, believe me.  Just to win a golf tournament is hard, let alone four times in a row.  But I'm excited about the challenge, excited about the opportunity to try to do it.  It would be a lot of fun.
The anticipation for me obviously is there already.¬† I think about it‑‑ I thought about it at the beginning of the year.¬† Even though I haven't committed yet, I will be here.¬† (Laughter.)

Q.  (Inaudible.)
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, I do that probably on a weekly basis.  I just heard it again last week from one of my playing partners.  It was Pat Perez, who's like how did you do that, how did you get it on the green, how did you make the putt?  So I hear that quite a bit.  It's a special time in my career for doing something like that, to kind of come through and do something in the clutch when you have to.  That's something, that shot, I'll remember forever.

Q.  Explain why you've played well here, and how much of a factor is it that it's kind of home turf, if you will?
STEVE STRICKER:  You know, I don't know what it is.  I mean, it's Midwest.  It's the type of golf course that I've grown up on.  I can drive from home.  It's comfortable surroundings.  I'm comfortable here.  You know, I don't know.  I enjoy the course.  I enjoy coming here.
I guess when you like to come to a place and you've had some success in the past and had good vibes going into the tournament, that shows a lot what it can do for your game.  I look forward to it, again, and I really can't put a finger on it.
Last year coming down the stretch, I thought, well, it's over.  I'm kind of leaking oil, and hit it in the bunkers, buried it in the bunkers, and just not hitting the shots I needed to win, and then I ended up kind of stealing it away from Kyle Stanley.
Yeah, I don't know what it is about here.  I just enjoy coming here and enjoy the people and the tournament.

Q.  The bunker shot, where does that rank on your list of impressive shots?
STEVE STRICKER:¬† Well, it's the top of my list.¬† It seems like a guy like Tiger does it when he wins every time he wins, or every other time.¬† But for me that was a shot‑‑ it was a do‑or‑die situation.¬† I made up my mind that I was going to try to get it back there.¬† My caddie said, well, he thought Kyle made a double.¬† He thought he hit it in the water, made a double.¬† My caddie was like, why don't you just take a 7‑iron and try to hit it in the short part of the green and try to get it up‑and‑down.¬† I said, no, give me the 6, I'm going to try to get it all the way back there.¬† I had it in my mind I was going to try to get it all the way back there.¬† I had it in my mind to try to make 4.¬† To make that putt was icing on the cake.
Yeah, the bunker shot was the toughest shot probably out of the two.  To pull it off means a lot.

Q.  (Inaudible.)
STEVE STRICKER:  Well, he pushed that one.  (Laughter.)
You know, like I say, I still get it today, and right after it happened, I got a lot of how did you do that, it was incredible, kind of stuff like that.  But it was a great time.  To have my family be here and witness it and be a part of it was cool, too.  To win it three times in a row, to get another piece of John Deere equipment is always a good thing.  And yeah, it was a pretty special week.

Q.  Can you talk about the state of your game?
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah.  My game is not really there right now for whatever reason.  I'm hitting the ball okay, not scoring all that well, not putting worth a lick.  Had the last really good opportunity to win at New Orleans, just didn't make any putts.  I missed the cut at THE PLAYERS, again, short game, putting kind of the issue.  And then hit the ball well again this last week at Memorial and made nothing again, and not even really close some of the times.
So I've got some work to do in that department, which is seriously one of my strong points, and I'm really struggling with it still.
My health is good.  I've been doing a lot of physical therapy on a regular basis when I'm home, so my neck feels better, my arm is feeling stronger.  So I just need to work on my game a little bit.
I think my health is where I need it to be, getting better on a weekly basis.  I just need to start dropping a few putts.  To watch a video like that, it's like, wow, let's do that again.
But it's the nature of the game.  You have these little bumps in the road, and it's all about getting through them, and usually when you come out of things like that you learn more about yourself, learn more about your game and come out a better player.  So I'm hoping that's going to happen, and I'll continue to work on it and get ready for the next few tournaments because there's a good stretch of tournaments coming up.

Q.  (Inaudible.)
STEVE STRICKER:¬† I did.¬† I followed it as closely as I could on my phone, texting Mike Small, the coach, congratulated him, again, for having an individual champion.¬† I know he was just a little‑‑ he wasn't as deep as he was over the years for depth of his team, but I know he had a couple really good players, and that proved to be a point when Thomas won.
I think that's two NCAA champions in three years, so that proves what Mike is capable of doing down there.¬† He's been great for the program, has a great eye for talent, and his coaching ability‑‑ and playing ability.¬† He still plays really good, too.¬† It's good to see.¬† He's put Illinois on the golfing map amongst colleges, and it's fun to be a part of it, too, and still keep in touch with Mike and the team.¬† We have another fundraiser down there in the fall again, so it'll be good to go down there and see the kids again.¬† But it's nice to see.

Q.  (Inaudible.)
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, that's part of the coolness of coming back here because I feel like I've got two home field advantages.  I get a lot of Wisconsin people coming down, family and friends, and then I get a lot of friends from Illinois, people that I recognize, people that I got to know through my college days there.  So I see a lot of friendly faces during the week.  It's nice to see.  And I get a huge amount of support here.
It's a special week.  I get to see a lot of people from school.  Smalley usually is around or some of his teammates are around, and it's part of the uniqueness for me, for one event out of the year, to get so much support, it's really nice.

Q.  You've been able to do so much good through your charitable foundation.  Talk about how important that is to you.
STEVE STRICKER:  No doubt.  You know, it's about giving back, and I try to do it as much as I can.  I've got a couple charities that I'm involved with and have fundraisers for.  One of them is down at my alma mater at Illinois, and I have another one up in Wisconsin for VSA.  So it's about helping out with other players, as well.  Andy North has a big one today that unfortunately, and fortunately, I haven't been able to participate in in the last three years, but usually I'd be there today.  So it's about helping out and giving back to not only the ones that you believe in, the charitable causes that you're a part of, but helping other players, as well.
I went down and did a little fundraiser with Jack Nicklaus about a month and a half ago, and they raised $300,000 in an afternoon luncheon.¬† But it's engrained in golfers, I think, that part of the deal is to give back, and no one does it better than you guys right here at Quad Cities.¬† $5.2 million is an incredible number.¬† We've been looking into putting an event back on in Wisconsin, and we were just trying to maybe the first year‑‑ it's not going to happen, we're not going to have an event, but we were looking into it, if you could raise close to a million dollars you'd be doing really good, and here you guys are doing five times that number.¬† It's a remarkable thing that goes on here, and it's just getting bigger and better, I think.
You know maybe one day we can get out of the States.¬† That would probably be‑‑ I don't know how you feel about it, but maybe this deserves a better date somewhere down the road.¬† That's always a possibility, too.¬† I know if you do the field would probably get better and more players would come and enjoy the Midwest‑‑ what the Midwest has to offer, I guess, and the hospitality that we have here.

Q.  (Inaudible.)
STEVE STRICKER:  I don't think they're related.  I feel like I'm getting stronger, to tell you truth, and I feel like I'm hitting the ball a little bit further, hitting the ball more solidly.  I don't know if it equates to my short game getting worse.  I hope not.  But I don't think my focus is entirely there to tell you the truth.  I've been kind of daydreaming at times, not really 100 percent focused in on what I've got to do.  So I think that's part to do with it, too.
You know, and putting for me has always been about focus and getting into it and realizing what you're doing, and I'm trying to retrain myself again and try to figure out what I am doing up there.  I hit a couple putts yesterday, I got done, and I'm like, what just happened.  So trying to go through that again and see what my actions are prior to the putt and see if I can try to figure it out.  I'm either hitting a great putt or missing the hole from about six feet.  So not a good thing, but like I say, I'll be playing and figure it out.

Q.  (Inaudible.)
STEVE STRICKER:¬† Yeah, it's a great test.¬† It's one of my favorite courses.¬† I got to play it in college.¬† My coach was from the California area.¬† Mike and I and the rest of our teammates, we were able to play that during one of our spring breaks out there in California.¬† It's just a great, traditional, old‑style golf course.¬† I think there's only one fairway bunker, and there is no water hazards, I don't think, on the course.¬† It's just right in front of you, tough as can be.¬† A lot of little movements off the tee where fairways are maybe sloping in a direction where it's very difficult to keep it in the fairway, and of course the USGA will have the rough up, the greens fast, so it'll be a tough challenge.
I was able to play with Lee Janzen there in the final round in '98 and got to see what it takes to win a major.  He played great.  Even though it was 14 years ago, I still remember a lot of what happened there.  I'm looking forward to going back.
I had a good finish there.  I think I finished fifth there in '98, so it's a tough test but a fair test, and I'm looking forward to getting back there.

Q.  What do you think Tiger learned about his game by watching you play?
STEVE STRICKER:¬† That's a good question.¬† I don't know if he can learn anything from me.¬† I'm learning stuff from him all the time.¬† Yeah, I don't know.¬† I think it's our personalities.¬† We get along with one another, even though our personalities are probably complete opposite.¬† But we do a lot of similar things out on the golf course, I guess, little things.¬† I'm not going to say‑‑ he hits it much further than I do, but the way, I think, we manage our games and go about our business out on the golf course, and when I get out there I'm all about business and trying to get it done, and so is he.
But we've been able to play a lot together over the years, and we've done well except for a few in the last one we didn't do so well in.  But for the most part we meshed very well together.  We bounce ideas off one another, he'll ask me about putting and I'll ask him about something else.  So we're not afraid to talk to one another about our games and what you're doing at the time.
Yeah, it's a good golfing relationship.  We get along well on the golf course, and I think we respect one another and respect one another's golf games.  But it's been a fun ride playing with him in some of those events.

Q.  How important is this Ryder Cup to you?
STEVE STRICKER:  I would love to make that team.  I think I'm outside that number now, but I would love to be there.  It's going to be a great event I have a feeling.  We're back here in America, which is always fun to play in front of the home country, Chicago area, which is right down the road for me.  I heard it's sold out.  I heard the Chicago area, the people coming there, there's going to be a lot of enthusiasm let's say.  I would love to be a part of that and try to get that Cup back again because I was on a team that lost it.  It would be fun to be a part of that and try to get it back.
Guys, thanks for having me.  Have fun today.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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