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THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT PRESENTED BY NATIONWIDE


June 2, 2015


Steve Stricker


DUBLIN, OHIO

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We'd like to welcome Steve Stricker, 2011 champion here at the Memorial, into the interview room.
You just got in from Wisconsin, made a big announcement this weekend for the Champions Tour.  Just start by telling us a little bit about what it's like to get an event back to your home state.
STEVEN STRICKER:  Yeah, we're very excited about the Champions Tour event coming to Madison.  Right now it's going to be called the American Family Insurance Championship, a sponsor of mine.  Something that's been in the works for the last couple of years since I became a brand ambassador for American Family Insurance.  So it's something that we had talked about for a while.
The Tour had come in on a couple of occasions to try to get us moving in that direction.  And finally we're able to sign everything, get it all headed in the right direction as of this last week.  So we're all very excited to be bringing professional golf on a yearly basis back to Wisconsin.
We have a lot of big events coming our way as far as Ryder Cup in 2020 and the U.S. Open in '17, the PGA this year.  But to bring Champions Tour golf to Madison, there was quite a buzz yesterday and we look forward to putting on an event next year and seeing how that all takes place.  We've got a lot of work to do.  But it was a great day yesterday to make that tournament.  It was a lot of fun.
MODERATOR:  Switching gears now to this week, a place that's special for you.  You have a win here.  You're making your 15th start here this week and only one missed cut in all those starts.  Talk about what it's like being back here and what you're looking forward to this week.
STEVEN STRICKER:  Always a fun place to come back to, provides some great memories here from back in 2011.  I think about those memories a lot, walking off that last green and seeing Jack there to give you that handshake and some great words that he said.
And it's just a special place.  It feels like home.  It's in the Midwest.  So it's always nice to come back here.  And the tournament is such first class, they treat us so well and put on such a great event here that it's one that you look forward to come back to every year.

Q.  Do you cry the day you won?
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† Probably, I don't remember.¬† But it seems like I cried every time I won.¬† But it was a special moment, when you see Jack there waiting for you.¬† And I struggled coming in, down the last few holes, I had to make some up‑and‑downs.¬† I remember a key up‑and‑down at 16 and at 17, and I was able to make a bogey at 18 and still go ahead and win.
But it was pretty cool to see him there with a smiling face.¬† And I've known Jack or been around Jack for a lot of years.¬† His kid used to play, Gary, used to play at Ohio State, so we got to have special run‑ins with Mr. Nicklaus and Gary way back in college.¬† So it was fun to get a handshake and a trophy presentation from one of the greats in the game.

Q.¬† The average age of winners here is a couple years older than on Tour.¬† Why is it that‑‑
STEVEN STRICKER:  What is that age, do you know?

Q.¬† The last couple of years like 31, and this is 33 or 34.¬† Why is that here?¬† Is it because it's a second‑shot course or what's happening?
STEVEN STRICKER:  I don't know, maybe the field consists of older players, too.  I don't know the criteria to get in here is such that maybe older players get in here.  Maybe it takes some getting used to.
When I first came here‑‑ and I still find it a very difficult golf course.¬† There's some holes where you have to hit some pretty precise shots.¬† No. 12 comes to mind.¬† You're hitting a 6‑ or 7‑iron to not a very big area.¬† And if you don't hit it on the green there, sometimes it's a challenge to make your par.
There's some intimidating shots around here.  Maybe it takes a while for guys to get comfortable going around here  and seeing where to hit it and where not to hit it.  So maybe a couple of those things are the reason why.

Q.  Do you recall how old you were the very first time you tried to qualify for a U.S. Open, whether it was local qualifying or what?
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† I know where I was going‑‑ I had to be‑‑ no, I don't exactly.¬† I couldn't tell you (laughter).

Q.  Can you just make something up?
STEVEN STRICKER:  I had to be in high school, I would have thought.  Do you know for sure?  Can you provide me any help?

Q.  I'll see what I can do, but not right at the moment.
STEVEN STRICKER:  I know I would try either my junior or senior year of high school or maybe my freshman year in college.
I remember vividly going down and making it out of the Wisconsin, the regional section, and then going down to sectionals down in Chicago area.¬† That's where I'd always go, just a couple hour drive.¬† I remember playing with Clark Burroughs, which he's an OSU grad, too, isn't he?¬† And smoking and rolling up his sleeves.¬† And so that was an eye‑opening event.¬† And I remember playing with him down in Chicago.
So I remember some of those earlier days.  But it had to be in the early '90s or late '80s.

Q.  You're doing it Monday, I guess, right?
STEVEN STRICKER:  Yes.

Q.¬† Over the years, especially as you get younger players who are good players, who aren't quite eligible, you'll hear the odd person saying I'm not going to try to qualify until I'm exempt.¬† You seem to be‑‑
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† Why would you have to‑‑ I don't understand that one.¬† Why would I qualify until I'm not exempt?

Q.  There's a number of players if they're not exempt, they won't go through qualifying.  You seem to be the type that would do it regardless and I'm just curious why?
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† Yeah, I want to play in The Open.¬† I mean it's my last‑‑ I've got this week, I think, as an opportunity to maybe have a good tournament and sneak in.¬† I think they take top 60, right?¬† So I have a chance this week to do that.
And then obviously if I don't do that come Sunday, then my last opportunity is Monday.¬† So, yeah, I very much want to play in the U.S. Open.¬† My majors‑‑ I've had some good Opens.¬† And it's at a point in time in my career that I don't know how many of these I'm going to get to play in again.¬† So I'm trying to take advantage of them and trying to play in them.¬† So I see it as a good opportunity to try it again and go out to Washington.

Q.  I was going to follow up on that and ask you if you had the capability physically?  Are you ready to play 36?
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† It's going to be‑‑ it will be a challenge, I think.¬† I'm finding it hard to put multiple days of practice together and tournaments together yet.¬† So if I go ahead and make the cut here, play well here, hopefully this week, end up on Sunday and then a quick turnaround, 36 holes on Monday.¬† It will be a challenge, I think.¬† And it will give me a good idea of where I'm at physically and all that.¬† I'm going to give it a rip and give it a try.¬† I think I'll be fine.
But I have noticed that I still have some more strengthening to do and issues to kind of piece through and get through it.

Q.  Do you have any familiarity with the courses or are you going to try to get any?
STEVEN STRICKER:  I've been there and qualified or attempted to qualify there before.  It probably won't be until I get there until I start to remember some of them.  Is it at the Lakes in Brookside?  Yeah.  I know I've done them both, played at both of those places.

Q.  Good luck.
STEVEN STRICKER:  Thank you.

Q.  With the history of weather problems at this tournament, do you arrive here with a different mindset to get ready for tournament?  Do you have to gain experience in how to deal with a weather delay?
STEVEN STRICKER:   You know, I looked at the weather, and obviously we've had some tough weather years in years past.  And I looked at the long range.  It always seems to be on your mind when you come here, for whatever reason, I guess just because of that.
But you just go with the flow.  The more times you're out here, the more times you get to deal with it.  I think you have to have an attitude of going with the flow because sometimes things are thrown at you that you're not expecting.  You have to hang in there, get mentally sharp and be prepared for anything to happen this week or any other week.
I mean, the last couple of weeks we had to deal with it, too.  Or at least I did down at Colonial a little bit.  You just have to be prepared for anything.

Q.  What was the worst one that you've ever dealt with, does one come to mind?
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† Presidents Cup when we were here, probably.¬† That was a lot of rain.¬† And that's one where we were coming in and warming up, it seemed like, three or four times a day, it seems like.¬† But it was a tough week weather‑wise here.¬† So that was probably one of the harder ones having to deal with all of that.

Q.  Speaking of the U.S. Open, do you have any familiarity with Chambers Bay at all?
STEVEN STRICKER:  I have not been there.  Don't know anything about it.  Just from what I've been hearing, it's spectacular views.  The course I've heard mixed reviews on so far, but personally I haven't been able to experience any of it.

Q.  I guess I'm a little surprised, did you think when you had this surgery you'd be in the business where you are now where you're not sure you could go 36 holes or your physical issues are still determining what your schedule is going to be, or did you think you'd be pretty much ready to go right now?
STEVEN STRICKER:  Yeah, and I am ready to go, I think.  I think we're still taking it fairly cautiously, not playing more than one week at a time yet, where I'm going home in those off weeks.  And the last few events that I've played and then gone home, I haven't picked up a club for three or four days at home just because I've felt like when I put three or four practice days together and then go to an event, it's been pretty fatiguing yet on my back.  So still trying to sort through those issues.
But, yeah, I think I had that mentality that I would be back and ready to play at full speed.¬† And I think I am.¬† I think I am back playing full speed, but it's‑‑ I thought I'd be back at Augusta, a hundred percent ready to go.¬† And I don't think I was so much there.¬† But I've progressively gotten better each and every time I've teed it up.¬† And even when I'm home, I can feel a difference in strength.¬† So it's a little bit of a mixed bag yet and not sure what to expect come Monday, but I think I'll be fine.

Q.  Obviously you've been exempt in most of the majors for a while.  The fact that you have to qualify and then will have to go to a venue where you probably won't be able to prepare as you normally would prepare, how do you look at that?
STEVEN STRICKER:  Yeah, it's a challenge and it will be fun.  You know, obviously I want to get in and play and play at the U.S. Open, but if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out.  But I'm going to give it a try.  And so it will be interesting.
I haven't done the U.S. Open qualifier for a number about of years, I don't know, probably back in '06 or '07, somewhere in there, probably when I had to try to do it again.  I'm not afraid of it.  I'm not afraid of trying to go and trying to qualify that way and get in the tournament that way.  Because you never know, once you get in, you could have a great week and change the rest of your year or career sometimes.

Q.  You mentioned you don't know how many more opportunities you have to qualify for The Open, you have a Champions Tour event.  Do you imagine being a guy that will compete on the PGA Tour until you're 52, 53, 54 years old?
STEVEN STRICKER:  I do.  I do feel like I'm going to work hard and keeping my body in decent shape and play a limited schedule out here.
I think I've got in exempt status out here until 52 or somewhere around there, so it will be‑‑ I think it would be fun to play some out here in some of the events that I've had some success at or enjoy going here, here being one of them or Colonial.¬† It was a great week a couple of weeks ago.¬† John Deere, some of those events that I've had some success at and go back.¬† And then play some Senior Tour events, too, while I'm at it, and see how all that takes shape.
I'm really not sure what that's going to bring, the Champions Tour.  It looks like a lot of fun.  Guys tell me it's a lot of fun.  But I'll see where I'm at competitively at the time and make a decision there.

Q.  For those of us who live here, into the Big 10 loyalties with Ohio State, etcetera, you talked about bringing that event to your home state in Wisconsin.  Just curious how you got to Illinois to play golf, and were you recruited by Ohio State at all?
STEVEN STRICKER:  No, Ohio State didn't want me.  I was recruited by Illinois, Wisconsin, a couple other smaller schools.
I went down to Illinois because really wanted to‑‑ I had great parents, great home life and all that, but I wanted to grow up and get away from a small town atmosphere and see how I could handle being out on my own a little bit.¬† And it was really only four hours away.¬† I could hop in the car and come home if I wanted to and there were times I did that.
And Madison, the coach was and is my father‑in‑law now, but he's not the coach there any longer.¬† But he didn't like to play freshmen at the time.¬† So Illinois, I think, had just finished 9 out of 10 in the Big 10.¬† I was like, hey, I can maybe slide right in there and maybe get to play right away.¬† So that was my thinking to go to Illinois and get in there and play.¬† So there were some of the reasons why and it's‑‑ go ahead.

Q.¬† Did you say your eventual father‑in‑law was the coach at Wisconsin?
STEVEN STRICKER:  Yeah.

Q.¬† That's an interesting‑‑ were you dating his daughter at the time?
STEVEN STRICKER:  No, I wasn't dating his daughter at the time.  I called him up and said, listen, I can't come to school here, thanks for the offer, all that stuff.  He's like, you know, if you ever need any help in the future, don't be afraid to give me a call and come back.
So I called him to get some golf lessons, actually, and then I ended up meeting his daughter and we dated for a while and I ended up marrying her, so that's how that all played out.  So that shows you what kind of person he was.  Yeah, that's how it all worked.

Q.  I feel like we got the short version of it?
STEVEN STRICKER:  (Laughter).

Q.  This is the time of year where NCAA is finishing up, and guys are turning pro.  What do you remember about that first event as a pro and making that transition into that stage?
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† Yeah, my first pro event was in Milwaukee at the GMO, ended up finishing‑‑ made the cut, finished like 35th or something like that.¬† I played with Joey Sindelar, another Ohio State guy.¬† Boy, I'm bringing up blasts from the past with these guys.¬† Joey Sindelar, I remember playing with him the last day, and it was a great experience.¬† And what better guy can you play with than Joey Sindelar.¬† He's a great, all around guys.¬† And he kind of held my hand going around there.¬† I did some dumb things on the way in.¬† I remember making a bogey at a par 5, 16.
And he took me aside at the end and he said, hey, listen‑‑ I tried to go for 16 with a driver off the deck.¬† Young, foolish.¬† So I ended up making bogey.¬† He's like, listen, you don't need to do that, you don't need to be a hero, hit driver off the deck; just lay it up, pitch it up there, make you birdie and go on, make some pars.
So he was great.  I can remember that to this day.  That's what sticks out in my mind most.  Playing there and playing in front of my home state of Wisconsin.  And Joey sticks out vividly in my mind.

Q.  What was the first check, do you remember?
STEVEN STRICKER:  My first check was like $5,300, I think, from that event, $5,300 or $5,500, something like that.  Tom, you weren't the tournament director there at the time, were you?  You gave me the spot.  There's the guy that gave me the spot.  Wow, we're all coming together today,  aren't we?  (Laughter).

Q.  With your success here and the win and you played well here, what is it about this course for you that sets up nicely and has led you to that success through the years?
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† Yeah, I came here before, many years before, thinking I could never play well here.¬† And I don't know what happened that week where it all kind of clicked together.¬† And I would come here before and grind my butt off and shoot even par or 1‑under.¬† I'm like, gosh, this is the toughest course in the world.
And it still is very difficult.  It's one of those courses where you can get it going and shoot a good number, but also if you're a little bit off, there's some real trouble to be had around here.  So I think it's just a course you've got to get comfortable with and hit to the proper spots.
There's actually a lot of short irons here.  I've gone over it in my head a few times.  If you're on with your short irons, you can play pretty well.  You have to drive the ball well, though, too, to give yourself those opportunities.  So definitely drive it well and hit some good irons, like the case for any course, I guess.  But it takes some learning, I think; it really does.

Q.¬† That week you won, you had a hole‑in‑one.¬† You played the par‑3s ridiculously well.¬† Have you ever had a week like that?
STEVEN STRICKER:  Yeah, I think I holed out another shot somewhere along the line, too, a wedge on 2, maybe.

Q.  Three eagles in seven holes?
STEVEN STRICKER:  Oh, really?  What other hole did I eagle, was that No. 5?

Q.  Yeah.
STEVEN STRICKER:  And sometimes I watch tournament golf on TV and I watch guys go through a period of holes where that's where they won the tournament.  And that's probably, I guess, where I won the tournament is that stretch of holes.  If you play decent and get on fire for a while and do some things that aren't quite the norm, you can kind of separate yourself from the field and go ahead and maybe win the tournament.
So I guess that's what happened.  I don't know why that week, why it was just my week, I guess.  And I was on a pretty good roll at the time playing well, and it just happened to be my week, I guess.

Q.  When you were in your kind of slumpy era, did you ever take career money to keep your card?
STEVEN STRICKER:  Good question.  I never took career money.  I don't know if I was in the top 50 at the time or not, to even take one of those.

Q.  I think you are now.
STEVEN STRICKER:  I think I just slid in there.

Q.  Secondly, when you talk about how one week can change everything, where were you in '06?  And how much did Winged Foot do for you?
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† It did a lot for me.¬† Yeah, Winged Foot was a huge‑‑ there was a couple of key tournaments there, going to play Pebble Beach, which I really am not a big fan of that time of year out there.¬† I love the course.¬† I love the scenery.¬† But the weather sometimes, as we all know, can be a little bit sketchy.¬† I went out there, I think that may have been my first event that year.¬† Made the cut, did all right.
But really in the Houston Open, I had top‑5 there, finished third or fourth.
But then the U.S. Open really gave me a lot of confidence.¬† I don't know if I was leading after three or two‑‑ after two?¬† I came out and I actually drove the ball really well in that position.¬† And the driver was my bugaboo back then, and that gave me a lot of confidence going forward that, hey, I can handle this under the pressure.¬† The things I've been working on obviously were working, they were holding up under the gun.¬† So that gave me a big boost of confidence after that event.

Q.  And lastly, I'm curious when you talk about coming back from a tournament and not touching a club for three or four days.  I'm wondering how much of it when you trim your schedule back the way you did a couple of years ago and then had all that time off with surgery and get into this other life that you once had called the home life, is it hard to build a routine?
STEVEN STRICKER:  For out here?

Q.  Yes.
STEVEN STRICKER:  It's a little different.  I've got to really manage my time.  I'm still busier than heck at home.  We've been busy trying to get this tournament going.  So I've got other kind of pulls on me with the Foundation stuff we've been doing.  Not a lot, but there's still some of that that I didn't have before.
And then trying to make sure that‑‑ I still want to play well and I still want to play.¬† I love to compete and come out here.¬† So I've got to manage my time and think about what I want to do and how to prepare for the event for that week that I'm going to go out and play.
So, yeah, it is little bit of a challenge.  But I wouldn't trade it.  It's been great.  The kids and Nicky today said do you really have to go?  It must mean that I'm doing something right at home and doing the right things at home, too.  So that makes me feel good.

Q.  Given your stage in life and all circumstances included, is your desire for practice the same as it was?
STEVEN STRICKER:  Probably not.  Probably not.  Yeah, that's three questions.

Q.  I heard four and a half back there (laughter).
STEVEN STRICKER:¬† It's gotten a little tougher.¬† And I think it's harder even when I reduced my schedule because I can get away from golf.¬† I haven't taken any two week breaks yet, but usually if I take a two‑ or three‑week break, I won't pick up a club, and it almost gets harder to do it.
It if you're doing it all the time, you're kind of thrown into it, it's work, it's what you do.  But now that I get away from it for longer periods of time, it's harder to get back into it.  That's been a challenge.
I've actually been playing and practicing pretty hard, the week prior to Augusta, this whole prior time, except the three‑day breaks begore I'm getting ready to go again.¬† So it's a bit of a challenge, it's kind of a work in progress, but like I said, I wouldn't change it for anything.
MODERATOR:  Thank you for your time today.  Good luck this week.

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