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August 1, 2018

Chris Stroud

Reno, Nevada

THE MODERATOR: Chris Stroud joins us, our defending champion here at the Barracuda Championship.

Chris, first of all, take us back -- if there's an example of how to play modified Stableford, you showed it in the final round last year -- nine birdies, an eagle. Comment on that final round and on winning here.

CHRIS STROUD: I think it was, I don't know how many years, I mean, I haven't played this format very often, not many of us have. But last year it was a pretty amazing experience, obviously my first time on TOUR.

But the Stableford system is pretty amazing. Makes you stay aggressive no matter how many eagles and birdies you've made, even when we were 200 yards out my caddie and I were, like, five points, let's try to make it. First time in my career I'm trying to hole out five irons and wedges and everything. You never stop/You push the pedal down the whole day.

Q. I know with that victory, with that two-year exemption, it's super nice. But I know now you have the FedExCup Playoffs on your mind with a few tournaments left. Just comment about your goals trying to get into the playoffs?
CHRIS STROUD: It's been a slow year for me. I had a couple things happen. I got hurt early in the season. I had to take off, midseason really, Colonial, really bummed up my left knee, and had to take off five weeks kind of in the middle of the season. I was just getting going, starting to play well. That really hurt my momentum.

Had to build back up and get my knee worked on, and then had to fight another shoulder injury. That's been kind of an issue.

And I switched some equipment. Everybody knows how difficult that can be. So it's been very, very slow the last few months. But I've been playing some nice golf. And now it's just a matter of putting four rounds together. Last week I played a really nice round [lost audio], shoot, 3-, 4- or 5-under, I'm right there in the hunt down the stretch.

I'm right there, a little bit later than I'd like to. But I'm back where I've got some great vibes. Love this place. Amazing golf course. Great format. And looking forward to defending this week.

Q. The beginning of this year you talked about going back to last season. You talked about hanging up the clubs and spending more time with your family. Coming into this week last year, I think you were 144th in the FedExCup standings. What were you thinking about? You were kind of on the cusp of maybe making the (indiscernible), maybe not, and you were on conditional status at the time. What was that kind of like going into that week?
CHRIS STROUD: That's a phenomenal question. You know, this is my 11th year on the PGA TOUR, my 14th year as a pro and probably my 20th year playing serious golf.

It's been a long, long career already for me. And you get beat up playing the PGA TOUR -- the best players in the world. Everybody's studs. Everybody's done everything. And after a while you get beat up so much sometimes you just want to hang them up.

At the end of the day I've been playing kind of just very average golf for so long, part of me was, like, it's not necessarily giving up, but maybe I can do something better. I wanted to spend more time with my family. We all have that struggle.

Anybody with kids growing up is -- it's a different stage in your life. And my family, my wife and two kids, two girls, used to travel with me full-time and then we'd go home full time. It was awesome. I didn't know at the time how great that was until I didn't have it anymore. And now they're full time at home and they barely get to travel.

So, I'm alone on the road all the time, away from my two girls. So luckily I've got Facetime which helps a lot to see their faces. But it was tough. The last couple two, three years for me have been sort of a milestone in my career, I feel like. I've learned -- we had to change. They were home more. I'm on the road. I've got to stabilize this thing and figure out how I can see them more often.

And it made me think I've got to branch out. I've got other abilities. I started four companies last year, one with Jim Crane, the owner of the Astros. He's one of the reasons why I'm wearing the Astros gear right now. It's sort of my retirement plan. And I came from a business family.

So it was a big couple of years in the making. And last year was, it was pretty amazing how it happened. Mentally I was coming into the tournament, like, you know what, I'm just going to play the best I can. I'm going to smile all I can and quit worrying so much. And I came in with just this great feeling of just I was at peace. I was, like, I'm happy with what I'm doing. I know I'm doing the right things with golf. And even though I haven't seen great results the last couple of years, I'm not going to worry about that anymore.

And sure enough, as soon as I let the reins go, it's like the clouds opened up, and I'm making birdies and I'm making all the putts, and I'm in the lead and I'm coming down the stretch and I eagle the last hole to get into the playoff. And I'm going, this is what I needed to do.

So at the end of the day -- Arnold Palmer was one of my heroes, to this day. And I didn't get to spend a lot of time with him, but every once in a while I'd see him at Bay Hill and he'd give me great pointers. And I'll never forget this one: He says, remember, golf wins every day. Every day is tough. Don't try to figure it out. Just do the best you can, smile and understand people are out there watching you.

And so I try to live by the words, these great words of wisdom that he and other people have given me through the years. And I try to exude a good example for kids that -- I was watching guys like Nick Price and Fred Couples growing up, and they were my heroes on TV watching.

So I'm trying to have the best time I can playing this difficult game we play every day. I'm very blessed and grateful to be here, to have a chance to play every week on the PGA TOUR and make a living for my family. But, yeah, the last few years have been -- it's been a different mindset -- but I'm always trying to get back there and understand, hey, at the end of the day just be grateful. You have a job. You have a chance to play on the PGA TOUR and all these beautiful events. And this week I'm here to defend the Barracuda Championship. Hopefully I can do it.

Q. Since you've won, what's that feeling, like, knowing you've locked up a two-year exemption? And as you mentioned the changes, with the injuries, not really feeling like you have to push so much, that you still have -- what's it been like knowing that you're now a PGA TOUR winner and you have that two-year exemption?
A. First thing that happened was the amazing amount of relief. Deep down inside, I was hearing things like PGA TOUR champion forever. You're a PGA TOUR -- they'll never take that away. You'll be the defending champ. I came in this week, I've got a locker forever here. That's the cool perks of being a champion. And knowing that inside really settled me down.

And then we go home and win a World Series. So it's like I was in Game 3 or Game 5 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, and in Game 3 I was with Jared Crane, who is the owner's son and one of my dear friends. [Lost audio] and his fiancee, we're like 12 rows up, just right of home plate. Fourth inning, we're playing great, he says, let's go see my dad.

So I texted Jim, I said, we're coming to see you. We go in the owner's box, we're watching Game 3 of the World Series in the owner's box. And it's like, my life was just on a high for three, four months.

Get into the offseason, I really didn't play great in the fall. Flew all over the world. Flew to Malaysia, Korea -- really got to see kind of the Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson schedule for the first time in my life. I got to see these amazing events, world golf events. And I said, this is where I need to be.

So I got home and I talked to my teammates and my group and Team Stroud. And I said, how can we get to the next level? I need to be there more often. So we said we've got to fix your -- I was having issues with equipment for a few years and I was frustrated, but I was just hanging with it, just trying to do the best I could.

And then I said, all right, we're going to start from scratch. I'm going to find the best equipment. I knew I had this free year, quote/unquote, free year to do that and not have the stress of trying to keep your job at the same time. So I've done that.

And unfortunately I got hurt this year. Nothing serious, but patellar tendonitis is a painful thing, and so I've been trying to maintain that. It's been kind of a restructuring year for me. But I'm in a really good spot right now and actually really good time for the FedEx.

I feel pretty fresh. I took off a lot of time in the middle of the year when guys are getting beat up in the summer and it's 115 degrees. And I'm taking some good weeks off, spent a lot of time with my family.

Golf-wise, I'm ready to play some golf. And I feel like I'm in good shape golf-wise. I'm bringing back my old trusty putter from last year. I literally just got it rebuilt today back the way it was when I won here last year. And I'm going to see if I can make a big run at the FedEx.

Q. You mentioned equipment changes. Did you make wholesale changes to the bag or just a couple of them?
CHRIS STROUD: Almost every club in my bag is different. I went to the Callaway woods -- driver, 3-wood, 5-wood. I still have the Cleveland, the old Cleveland irons, the Srixon (indiscernible), the Srixon irons in my bag. I had Cleveland wedges for my entire career and I just went to Vokey for the first time.

And I went to the Titleist ball. I love the Titleist ball. And I still, literally, for the last four months since I've been with them, I've been testing different types of balls. And this is my third different ball to play. I played it last week, too. And we're still dialing it in, but it's just nice to have options.

So, yeah, you've got to put them in play and see where they're at. And I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. I feel like 95 percent of my golf bag is done and complete and I don't have to change anything. Going into the next season, starting in October, I feel like I have nothing but free rein in front of me, just a big open road, and it's time to go.

Q. [Inaudible]?
CHRIS STROUD: Yeah, right now I've just cut all my deals, and I said, you know what, I'm not going to worry about that right now. I'm going to do the best I can, find the best equipment that I'm happy with, and I don't have any more questions. And then I'm going to get going. And right now I'm just starting.

So I'm very happy with it. I feel pleased with what I've got in my bag, and I think by October I'll probably sign with Callaway. I really like their equipment. And then obviously the Titleist golf ball I believe is the one I'll be hitting. Again, a big restructuring year for me. And good timing, I'm ready to roll. And we'll see how I can play this week.


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