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June 8, 2016

Steve Stricker

Memphis, Tennessee

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We'd like to welcome Steve Stricker to the interview room here at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Steve, returning to Memphis for the first time in 10 years. Welcome back.

STEVE STRICKER: Thank you. Nice to be back.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: What are you looking forward to in Memphis?

STEVE STRICKER: Had some great barbecue yesterday on the range. That was good. Yeah, I'm excited to be back. I hadn't been here for a while, obviously, and schedule the way it worked out for me this year, qualified -- tried to qualify for the U.S. Open on Monday, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to come in and try to qualify for the Open and then just stay in town and play here at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, so excited to play and be here this week.

Q. Did you choose to qualify here because of the Memphis tournament or was it vice versa? How did that work?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I wanted to play in the tournament, and then so I figured to knock two of them off in one trip instead of going somewhere else. Yeah, so I wanted to play in the tournament. Like I said, the way the schedule worked out for me this week, my daughter graduated last week. I usually play Memorial, so I was home for that and we had a grad party on Sunday so I didn't get into town until Sunday night. So just the way things worked out for me this year, this fit my schedule.

Q. How has the cut-back schedule helped or hurt? What's your feel about it?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, it's not great for my game. It's good for my home life and being a dad and a husband. That part is great. It's a bit of a struggle at times with my game, but I'm enjoying it. I'm happy I did it. I wouldn't change it again. It's the right thing. You know, it's just that time of my career to be kind of scaling back, I think, and still busier than ever doing a lot of different things, but as far as playing less, it was the right choice.

Q. What stands out about the course, having not been here in 10 years? How would you describe it?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, when was the redo of the greens? Anybody know for sure? Well, yeah, I can remember -- it just seems more difficult. I don't remember a lot about 10 years ago, I guess, but it definitely seems firmer on the greens, faster, more challenging for sure. I didn't know if that was because I'm older or what, but it definitely seems harder.

Q. Any good stories from your pro debut?

Q. Well, your first pro tournament.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, my first pro tournament was up in Canada on the Canadian Tour, the Payless/Pepsi Open, which fortunately I ended up winning in a playoff over Todd Hamilton, so that was my first pro event in 1990. So I think about that quite a bit. You know, it kind of gave me some confidence that I could play at the next level. Yeah, so there's always those kind of stories around, so it's always interesting to hear some of these. I've been following Bryson DeChambeau this year and what he's trying to do without getting his card and trying to make his way through the sponsor exemption way. So yeah, there's always stories like that, and it's fun to follow along on some of them.

Q. What's maybe the hardest part of that first start of the pro career? What's the biggest adjustment?
STEVE STRICKER: I think the feeling of feeling like you belong or that your game is good enough to be at this next level. And there's all sorts of next levels in the pros. You've got mini-Tours, you've got Canada, you have Web.com, you know, Europe. So there's all different levels. But I think when you get out there, you want to know if you can stack up, if your game stacks up to everybody else, and I think that's the biggest thing is whether you can or you can't. And you want to see where your game fits and what you need to do to get to that next level.

Q. On the opposite end of the spectrum, what's it like playing in your 40s, winning tournaments at this level? How different is it than when you're first on TOUR?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's very different. I think I was telling somebody a week or two ago when I got interviewed about -- they asked me when did you really feel like you belonged on TOUR, and I thought about that, and I guess I really didn't feel comfortable until I was in my 40s, when I started winning a little bit more often and getting in contention on a regular basis. Then I really felt like, you know, this was my place and my place to be.

Yes, and it's different for everybody. I mean, I'm sure Jordan Spieth feels that way already and last year. I guess it just takes people different amounts of time to feel comfortable or feel like they belong out on TOUR. But yeah, the 40s were good to me, and it was a good time during my golf life out here on TOUR.

Q. How is your game right now? I watched a little of your U.S. Open qualifying round at Germantown. Do you feel like you could win this tournament?
STEVE STRICKER: I feel like I could win. I've got to get my putter rolling a little bit better. I've been hitting the ball pretty nicely, not doing the little things like I am accustomed to doing, and I think that's at times from the lack of playing. But if I could start making some putts and doing the little things like I used to, I could get in there. I got in there this year at -- got in contention in Tampa at Copperhead there in Innisbrook, so I know it's in there, it just takes a little more to get it out of there. But we'll see. Like I said, I've been hitting it pretty nicely, and it's getting it in the hole I think has been a challenge at times.

Q. Is there anything you've done as the assistant captain of the Ryder Cup that you think is going to help you prepare to be the Presidents Cup captain next year?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I think the biggest part being these assistants is just learning what to do and what not to do and what the players want and what they don't want. It's really not -- it's not rocket science, you know? You want your players to play well, and whatever it takes to get your players to play well and who they want to play with, and I think it's about listening to them, and I think that's what I've learned the most. The successful guys that I've been around as a player, around Paul Azinger when we played for him in 2008, Freddie Couples on those Presidents Cup teams, even Davis Love through two of the days at Medinah, and even the third day. You know, just something happened there we can't explain, I guess.

But there's a common theme there, and it's just being there for your players, I think, and listening to them and making them happy and allowing them to play good golf and have a light atmosphere, I think. We've learned that on the Presidents Cup teams, I think, is just have a fun attitude. You know, everybody wants to win, no more than we do. It's just getting that good play out of your players, I think, and listening to them and letting them go out there and perform at their highest.

Q. Are there any funny stories that goes along with the what not to do lessons?
STEVE STRICKER: There's some stories, but I'm not going to indulge you in any of those. Yeah, I've seen some unhappy guys, and I've been on that side of things, too. You know, I didn't earn a point at Medinah. And the week, and especially the Ryder Cup week, you can have a great week, or it could be a pretty awful week when you really sit back and think about it. The great part is you spend it with your friends and you get to know them and you feel like you go to war with these guys, you know, and you become friends and really close, but there's times where you feel like you let your teammates down, too, where it puts you in a different place than what we're accustomed to out here because you're playing for somebody else, which we really never do, right. So there's some definite highs and lows during these weeks of competition when you're playing for your team, and that's the challenging part.

Q. Steve, can you discuss your upcoming Champions Tour event in Wisconsin and what your role will be and just kind of how that came about?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. It's an exciting time for us in Madison. We're a couple weeks away from having our first Champions Tour event there, the American Family Championship, American Family Insurance Championship, so we're really excited. The community has really rallied around this event. We're going to raise a lot of money for charity, which is the reason why we wanted to do this event. I became a brand ambassador for American Family Insurance, I don't know, probably five years ago already, four or five years ago, and we formed a foundation together, and we just wanted to come up with different ways to try to raise money for charity. We had some ideas that never really materialized, and then finally the CEO there, Jack Salzwedel, he got behind this idea of getting this Champions Tour event in town, and they've really -- they've been great. The community has been great. Half the money is going to the children's hospital in town and the other half is going to go to our foundation, which then we'll give to local charities in our area. It's really an exciting time, and the community has been unbelievable. Everybody is fired up. Everywhere I go back at home, there isn't a day that goes by that somebody stops me and says that they're really looking forward to the event, and thanks for bringing professional golf back to Wisconsin. All those things, it's been really a cool atmosphere, and we can't wait for it to come, and hopefully we get some good weather.

Q. You obviously can't play, you're not eligible, but what will you do during the week?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I'll be there all week long, take part in the First Tee program where we're going to have a bunch of First Tee kids out there for a clinic. I'm going to play in both the pro-ams. I'm going to play in a celebrity group on Saturday with Andy North, myself, Brett Favre, and Mark Tauscher, two former Packers, so that was just announced a couple days ago that Favre and Tauscher are going to be there.

So we're going to go off on Saturday afternoon after the last group just to play nine holes.

Again, a cool thing for our community to have Brett Favre, a legend, obviously, in football, and a Packer, to have him play. So it's really a lot of cool things.

Q. You're talking about your success in your 40s. What are your impressions of what Phil has been able to do and kind of comeback year he's having this season?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, he's been playing great. I've been watching him pretty closely, and it's cool to see that he's playing great. It looks like he's got a lot of enthusiasm again. He switched swing instructors earlier in the year, and it seemed like that provided a little spark for him. So it's cool to see.

You know, I was assistant last year for the Presidents Cup, and he was a pick last year for the Presidents Cup, and he was quite a ways down the list, but we need him on those teams. So it's cool to see that he's playing well. Hopefully he can be a part of this Ryder Cup because he's a great guy for the team room, great partner, whoever he partners with. He's light, he's fun to have around, and he means a lot to the U.S. Team, so it's important, I think, that he makes that team. So it's good to see him playing really well.

Q. Just a footnote on your Champions event, is this the first time that a TOUR player has promoted a Champions event?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I'm not -- I don't know if it is the first time or not.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We'd like to welcome you back to Memphis, and have a great week.

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