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January 13, 2016
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Steve Stricker into the interview room, making his 14th start at the Sony Open in Hawaii, but first since 2012. Steve, welcome back. Get some comments.
STEVE STRICKER: Thank you. Nice to be back. Yeah, excited to be back. We made this decision quite a few months ago really, at the end of the year. Probably a few weeks after playing in the PGA Championship. We thought it would be a good start to the year, bring the kids back over.
We came over last week. We got here Monday, went to the North Shore, spent some time up there, played Turtle Bay and then drove down here. So it's been a fun ten days so far. So it's great to be back here.
THE MODERATOR: First start of the 2015-16 season. Just talk a little bit about your plans for the year.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. I'm excited to get going and playing. I feel a little bit stronger, a little bit healthier. It's been about 13 months since the surgery I had on my back, and finally I'm starting to feel somewhat like my old self, I think.
Going through the ball a little bit stronger. I feel better with where my conditioning and where my body is at compared to some times last year, so I'm excited to play and look forward to playing a few more events, probably closer to 14, 15 events this year. Excited for the start here this week and playing Palm Springs next week.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Great. Questions.
Q. I was just curious on your -- whatever your numbers are schedule wise. How much do you factor in FedExCup and how much do you plan on whatever you plan ahead of time for that?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. I went over my schedule. Billy Schroeder out there with the TOUR wanted to know what I was going to play in this year. I came up with about 15 events, and that wasn't even including the PLAYOFFS. So things can change. I'm not exempt for any major or any World Golf Championship event, so I've got a lot of things hanging out there that I can work towards and try to get into some of these events. So that's exciting, too. There's always something to play for out here, and I've got a lot to play for this year.
So that's why I'm trying to get off to an early start and hopefully play good these next couple of weeks and try to get in contention. I'd love to win again. It's been a few years. And that's my No. 1 goal again this year is to try to get back in that winner's circle.
Q. (No microphone)?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. It's a little weird. But I kind of expected that when I decided to scale back my schedule a few years ago, that slowly these would fall away, these tournaments that I had been getting into. You know, there's some tournaments that I really miss playing. So that's the fun part again, that I can try to go back out there and try to play well to get back in those events again.
Q. How much as you play the schedule this year will you sort of have an eye, half an eye, or just even a thought from above about what's going on with the Ryder Cup and helping Davis as far as looking at things and talking to people and so forth?
STEVE STRICKER: For sure. Yeah, I mean we continually talk about that amongst ourselves. It's a topic of conversation a lot.
You know, again, we're in that Ryder Cup year. So as the year progresses, we'll all be watching to see who's playing good, and especially as the year moves on, who's raising their game to that next level and trying to make the team. And everybody says they want to make the team, but we all want to make the team. I want to make the team again, but it comes down to playing well, and then from us on the outside, who is playing well, and watching those players, and hopefully playing practice rounds with them and getting to know them a little bit.
And there's so many young, good, talented, young players that are out here that it's really an exciting time for American golf, I think, because it's fun to see, and they're good kids, besides. So there's a lot of possibilities that could happen by the end of the year.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your mindset of playing more after making that decision to not play so much for a couple of years? Was there a change in your attitude recently to want to play more or, I mean, what really was the deciding factor?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I was forced away from it last year. You know, I think because of this back issue that I had that I finally took care of. And that was lingering for two or three years prior to that that I was just kind of dealing with it. And finally getting that put behind me, and then only playing nine events last year. I want to play more than nine events. That's not what my schedule -- that's not what I want to do.
So I want to play close to that 12, 14, 15 events. And so that's what I'm excited for, and I'm excited that I'm feeling good. I've gone around here and I played Turtle Bay, like I said, with no pain at all, and I'm feeling stronger. So starting to do better things at home as far as strengthening and conditioning, so those things are helping and improving when I do come out here. So that's what I'm excited about is playing a little bit more and playing healthier on the flip side of things.
Q. Is that based on you feel better and you want to play?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Yeah. And I still enjoy the game. I just don't -- I don't enjoy the total preparation that it takes at times, you know, to do it at home constantly. You know, I guess that's where the rub becomes an issue for me, you know, when I'm going home and now because I'm not playing as much I can spend more time doing what the kids want to do, going different places.
So it's the at-home preparation that is scaled back a lot. So that's the balancing act.
Q. You're going to hate this, but you won twice your first two wins on TOUR 20 years ago. Comment, please.
STEVE STRICKER: That's a long time. Yeah.
Q. When you look where you are now, if you were to go back and look at your career backwards, what's the biggest surprise? What's the one thing you probably could have never predicted from '96 when you were winning?
STEVE STRICKER: The biggest surprise in my career?
Q. Yeah. Looking at it from this side, what's the one like turn that surprised you?
STEVE STRICKER: I would say winning the nine times in my 40s. You know, winning the three times early on through 2001 and then kind of ^ hitting the skidders there for a three-year period, and to bounce back the way I did is surprising to me. You know, at times I still don't believe that that period of time and that stretch of golf happened, you know, that I played well for seven, eight years in a row. So I think that's a bit shocking to me.
And then in that same breath, a little bit shocking to me that I decided to kind of say, you know, I'm stepping away. So those two things kind of -- you know, when I decided to step away when I was still playing very well. And so I think that kind of shocked me in a good way, too. You know, I'm excited and I'm glad that I did that.
But I also -- that was something I told myself when I was in my younger, middle 30s. I said, you know, it would be nice to kind of step away when I'm 45. And it so happened that I did it when I was 45. But still very much enjoy coming out here and playing to this day.
Q. (No microphone)?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. I guess that whole stretch. You know, I didn't know I had that in me to win that many times in that many years. You know, I always felt like I was a decent player, not a great player kind of thing. So I always worked hard at those things every year.
And it just -- I got on a run, and a lot of players do that out here. And it was fun. But still can't -- I guess it's shocking to me where I was before that. You know, I was down and out. You know, I didn't feel like playing. I didn't care -- you know, I could have walked away from the game. At one point I felt like giving it up, you know, because it was so bad. So to see the whole flip side of that is shocking.
Q. With Nicki on the bag, does it bring back memories and do you find yourselves reminiscing about --
STEVE STRICKER: For sure.
Q. -- remember when we came down here the first time?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Especially when we went into Palm Springs right after Christmas before coming over here. We went to Palm Springs for about six days and that brought back a lot of memories.
Yeah, I'd made it through TOUR school in Palm Springs back in '93 at one of the courses that we're going to play at CareerBuilders next week. So it brings back a lot of memories, a lot of cool memories. And you know, you can't believe -- we can't anyways -- I'm sure you guys all feel the same way -- that it goes by that quick. You know, I mean 22 years in the blink of an eye. So it really happens fast.
Q. Are you going to try and qualify for the U. S. Open?
STEVE STRICKER: Yes. I will. That's the only one we can qualify for; right?
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, you could. (Laughs). Is that a bet or anything? There's a couple of other tournaments you can qualify for. That's probably what I'll try to do.
Q. Has Nicki ever come close to firing you?
STEVE STRICKER: Firing me as a player? Firing -- her quitting?
Q. In her role as a caddy, your wife, has she ever come close to walking out on you?
STEVE STRICKER: You have to ask that to her. I don't think so. There was a time -- the year that I won that Western Open where she got pretty ticked off at me. (Laughs). And she basically, you know, kicked me in the butt, and I owe a lot to her for that win, because I was going south there, and she started getting in my kitchen pretty good. Yeah, I was. I'd been close a lot of times. And it was the same year I won Kemper earlier on, but I was in there a few other times and wasn't winning and wanted to win, and I was feeling sorry for myself and all that stuff, you know, and she laid it on me.
And then I reeled off like an eagle and three birdies to finish the round and went onto win the tournament. So she pissed me off, I guess. (Laughs).
Q. Is she more intimidating than Tiger?
STEVE STRICKER: She -- no. No. Well, (laughs) you gotta live with one of them. You live with your wife. You gotta keep her happy, you know.
Q. When you were home a little more than you wanted to be. You were in the skids?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. It was different. One was by choice. The other one when I wasn't playing well, I was home because I had missed cuts, you know, so you're home early, it seemed like a missed a ton of cuts. I would go home and then not even feel like going back out during those tougher times.
But like the last few years I'm excited to go out every time. You know, I'm excited to be home. I practice smaller amounts when I'm home, and then I'm excited to go back out on the road again to play.
So where when I was playing poorly I wasn't that excited to go out on the road. And that was where the struggle became do I even really want to play, because I wasn't having any fun going out on the road. And now it's the opposite. The kids and Nicki are coming with me a lot more. I mean I played nine times last year and I bet they were with me, you know, five of the nine times. And we're starting off the year, they're with me these first couple. And I'll probably play Bay Hill. They'll be coming there. So there's a lot of events that they're going to come to now, and we spend more time together, and the kids love coming out on the road. So it's totally different.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, bring them to Hawaii, warm weather. Yeah. I don't know. And we've got a senior in high school this year. My daughter's a senior, that she wants to go to Wisconsin or one of those smaller schools right in Madison. And we can't get her out of the house. She's staying with us even into college, which is great by us. We love having her there. And they love coming with us. So that's a good thing.
Q. Reflecting on the great career of Steve Stricker, but what's been your favorite win of all of those?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I would say those team events have probably been the most fun. The winning side of those team events. The one Ryder Cup team win that I've been a part of with Paul Azinger down in Valhalla. That was unbelievable fun. You know, all the Presidents Cup wins that I've been a part of. You know, just developing those relationships, I think, have been the coolest part, I think, throughout the years. And that too has been shocking. You know, to be a part of all those teams has been a lot of fun, and to play on seven or eight in a row in the later part of my career has been a blast. So I would say those events have been the coolest part of my career. And those are the ones that even to this day you want to be a part of.
You know, I've been an assistant captain the last couple of team events, and you know, I'm going over there and I'm feeling like I want to tee it up or punch somebody or something. You just want to get in the game, you want to play. So those are the memories and the coolest memories I think I have of my career.
Q. Just to follow up real quick on the Western Open and the butt thing, what exactly not word for word, but what exactly does Mrs. Stricker say to light up Mr. Stricker?
STEVE STRICKER: She'll throw a couple of F bombs out there at me. (Laughs). She'll let it go. You know, she'll like pull your head out of your you know what and come on, let's get going. She's not afraid to tell me the way it is and the way it should be. So I appreciate that about her.
You know, she's totally on my side, you know. I have no worries about her this week or next week and if she's rooting for me or not. She's as much a team player as anybody.
Q. No one likes to get yelled at. Do you yell back?
STEVE STRICKER: No. I took it. I took it. I think, if I remember right. There's times where I will, you know, fight back if I know that she is wrong, but she was right in that situation, and I realized that, and she let me have it, and I think I took it. I took it and used it, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: All right, Steve. Thank you for your time.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports