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May 15, 2019

Steve Stricker

Farmingdale, New York

JULIUS MASON: Good morning, everyone. Very pleased to be joined by 2020 United States Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker today. Welcome to Bethpage and the 101st PGA Championship. I am guessing that you are pretty pleased with where your game is now coming into the championship, having won the first major on the PGA TOUR Champions this year at the Regions Tradition, so congratulations on that.

Will we continue seeing you navigating both tours do you think as we wind up going down the next couple of months?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think I'll continue to do what I've been doing and play a little bit on both tours and see where that takes me, but obviously -- I shouldn't say obviously, but winning last week has kind of changed my focus maybe a little bit, maybe gearing more towards some of those Champions Tour majors and trying to win more of those. That was fun. I've never been able to win one of those. So that was a neat experience.

But I'm very happy to be here, too, as well.

JULIUS MASON: I think we can put on the screen, and I think what we'll see in front of us are the current standings for the United States Ryder Cup team. We're a long way away, but any surprises, anything that lifts your eyebrow when you look at that list?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, obviously having Tiger up there at the top is a pleasant surprise. It's good to see him playing well again, and winning Augusta was -- I think it was -- I think everybody got a little bit emotional watching that. If you were able to think back to 1997 when he won his first Masters and getting a hug from his dad, and then to come off the green and to hug his kids, I mean, as a parent, that tugs at your heart a little bit, and I was no different. I thought that was a really cool scene there on the 18th, and happy to see him playing well and at the top.

And then, like you said, we're so early in the game here, but all these guys have been playing so well, and it's good to see Jim Furyk in there at 7th place. He's playing well, also.

Yeah, I don't think there's really too many surprises there, and we've still got a long ways to go.

Q. Curious, where were you watching the Masters, and was that the first time you've cried watching someone else win?
STEVE STRICKER: I didn't cry, but I did -- I watched my wife, she shed a tear I saw, and my daughters, too. I was down in Naples, Florida. We had taped it, and we all swore to secrecy not to look at our phones before we watched it, so we watched the whole back nine, and we were down there watching it, and Tony Bennett, the Virginia basketball coach, was with us. So we all were able to watch it together and enjoy it all together. It was fun.

Q. Yesterday Harrington dropped his captain's picks from four to three. Any thoughts on you doing the same thing, or if you stay at four, why?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, no. We haven't thought to change that at all. I think our process that we've gone through over the years has worked. I'm comfortable with having the four picks. I think it gives us a lot of flexibility on guys in that 9 to 15 to 20 range and who's playing well. No, I think we're happy with what we're doing.

Q. Obviously you're the captain for the Whistling Straits Ryder Cup, but four years later it's going to be here. What are you seeing from this course not only this week but in your career that's going to suit it really well for the Ryder Cup in 2024?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I think the fan base is going to suit us really well here. I think the way the New York sporting fans get behind their teams and so passionate about our country and U.S. of A., I think that's going to be a huge advantage for us when we come back here.

Q. What was the travel schedule like just getting from Alabama to here, any difficulties?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I got in here -- well, I felt like Nick Saban leaving Birmingham. If you've ever seen Nick Saban come into Birmingham, it's four squad cars, multiple police escort, and I was able to get one of those to the airport. I felt pretty special leaving, and I hopped on a direct plane right into LaGuardia, and I got in maybe to the house I'm renting at about 9:00, 9:30, but pretty smooth trip Monday evening.

Q. Everyone talks about how difficult this golf course is. Is there one hole or one shot that sort of stands out to you?
STEVE STRICKER: There's a couple holes out there that stand out to me. Those long ones for sure, for a guy like me that doesn't have a lot of length. No. 1 I was talking to Kisner on the range, he couldn't hit it to the fairway from that new tee. I guess there's a new tee back there. I haven't seen the course at all, but he couldn't get it to the fairway.

Whether they use that tee or not remains to be seen, but there's a few long holes. No. 7, the other one, No. 15 up the hill. There's some real key shots, and I think those shots are coming from off the tee. You've got to get it in the fairway to be able to get it to the green. So it's playing long, playing much tougher, I guess, if you're going to be driving it in the rough, so you've got to play from the fairway.

Q. We all think that length is the biggest key out here, especially being wet. From your standpoint, is that going to be the biggest issue, if you can keep it anywhere in the short grass, or is there a player like yourself or a Zach Johnson or something like that that really has an opportunity if they do all the things right?
STEVE STRICKER: I think putting it in play is going to be a huge deal this week. Like I said, I haven't seen the course yet, but I am only basing this on what I've heard. Length is always an issue. If you can drive it long and straight, you're going to have an advantage. But again, I think guys with moderate length can play if they get it in the fairway. If they can hit more fairways, then typically those kind of players are more accurate. If they can hit it in the fairway and play from the fairway more times, I think that's going to count for something.

And you're going to have to be spot on with everything it sounds like. Your short game, your long iron play for a shorter hitter like myself, you're going to have to be on. And obviously to win a major or to contend, you're going to have to putt well.

It sounds like you're going to have to have it all this week.

Q. How much time are you devoting to the Ryder Cup right now? Have you been to Whistling Straits since you were named the captain? And your win this past weekend, did it change your work schedule going forward as far as the Ryder Cup?
STEVE STRICKER: I haven't devoted a lot of time yet. There hasn't been a huge need yet just because we're so far away, but there's been things that we've been doing, little things here and there. We've been to Whistling Straits. We were there on a nice snowy afternoon right after the announcement.

Yeah, it doesn't change anything what happened to me on this last weekend going forward. I mean, still my number one priority is to be prepared for next September and to be ready and do everything possible to get a team that we can win with and that everybody is going to be comfortable with and hopefully get the best golf out of our players.

Q. If not for the signage and the fact that you're doing a press conference, when you get here, if you were told this was a U.S. Open and not the PGA Championship, would you know the difference?
STEVE STRICKER: Again, I haven't been out there, but from what I understand, it sounds a lot like a U.S. Open, where driving accuracy is going to be a little bit more of a premium, and then once that is in play, from that point you're going to have to hit good iron shots, you're going to have to have a great short game. If you miss a green, then you're going to have to putt well. So it sounds like to me you're going to need your -- the whole package for a guy to win here.

Q. And what do you recall about '02, because that was a time in your career where you were not necessarily on the rails, and yet you did pretty well here?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I look back at my past finishes here, and I've had some -- I think I finished 16th or 18th, and then in the low 20s. Yeah, it's one of those courses, I remember one year it rained all the time, or maybe both those years, and then we played a couple of Barclays here, too, or one of them I played.

I just remember it's -- you've got to be patient. You make your pars. I think hitting it in the fairway, knocking it on the green, making pars and parring it to death is going to be a good score this week, it sounds like, which is much like a U.S. Open, to your point. Other than that, that's all I really know at this point.

Q. Throughout Tiger's comeback, you always seemed to be a believer that there was good things ahead still. But did you really believe a major win, the Masters, was possible? And was there anything you saw out of him on that Sunday that really stood out?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think the reason I was a believer is because I was -- I had personal experience being -- playing poorly for a period of three times and came out of that playing better than I ever had in my career. I believed that anything was possible. I believed that he could win a major again.

Until he does it, you're always wondering if it's possible, but I believed that he could do it.

As far as -- I just see the progression in his game, it seems like, from when he won even in Atlanta. It looks like he's more comfortable with his game and with himself out there. I think that was the biggest thing I saw is that he just looked more confident. He hit the shots -- some of those shots he hit coming in, the one at 16 in particular, that's not an easy shot. You've got water left, you've got -- and if you miss it to the right, it's almost a sure three-putt sometimes, and he hit it in there to a couple of feet. He hit some really clutch shots when he had to, and I think that's what I was most impressed with.

Q. You said you haven't seen the course yet. Was yesterday just a rest day, and how do you feel coming off last week?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I was a little bit tired yesterday, and I putted for about an hour and a half, and I had intentions of going out there but just never got motivated enough to do it. But I figured if I go out, I'll play nine holes, I'm going to play the back nine with Jordan this afternoon, and then I'll probably just take my putter and chip -- my 59-degree wedge and walk the front.

You know, I've played here enough. The course is right in front of you, and it's going to come down to executing the shots and hitting them. So I'm going to try to conserve as much energy as I can going forward and do that today.

Q. You just mentioned Jordan. He talked about being in a slump. You had been at least in one slump during your career. Can you talk about kind of what was it that got you out of it, if there was one or two things that got you out of it?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it was the realization that I -- this is what I've got to do. I'm not capable of getting any other job in life probably, so I'm like, I'm a golfer, that's what I've done my entire life, so let's suck it up a little bit, let's go to work, work harder.

You know, I went to work harder in the wintertime and just put the work in and talked to my father-in-law a little bit more about what I wanted to change, because I knew I'm the guy out there hitting the shots, and it's easy to take direction from people, but deep down, you've got to be the guy that's comfortable with hitting and executing the shots under the gun and feel comfortable with what you're doing.

I mean, it's easy for me to tell you, Hey, Alex, you're taking the club outside, but if you don't feel that or if you don't know that or if you're not comfortable with that, it's still going to be hard for you to do. So I kind of took a little bit more ownership of what I was doing, and I pointed in a direction that I wanted to go in, and we worked together a little bit better. But just went to work harder and took more ownership of what I was doing.

Q. Jordan needs to win the PGA to do the Career Grand Slam, Tiger needs to win the next three to do the calendar Slam. Who's got the better chance?
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, boy. That's a loaded question. I don't like -- I'm going to plead the fifth on that one. It's fake news, Doug. (Laughter.)

I don't know. That's -- they're both equally as hard. I don't know. I mean, Tiger winning three more in a row, no one has done that, right? So the odds of that, Jordan, I'm sure, is trending upward it sounds like. He sounds like he's moving in the right direction. But I don't know.

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