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May 21, 2019

Steve Stricker

Rochester, New York

JOHN DEVER: Good afternoon, and welcome to the 2019 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship here at Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York. Please be joined by our 2020 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Steve Stricker. Steve, you have really taken to this PGA Tour Champions, four wins so far, including your first major just about 10 days ago, but you're also toeing the line with the regular Tour. What's your mindset when you put your schedule together?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I don't know what my mindset -- that's been part of the issue. I had signed up to play Colonial this week as well. I didn't know where I was going to go. I think winning the Regions Tradition a couple weeks ago, made the most sense for me to come here and play another major and hopefully get in the mix again.

But, yeah, that's been the challenge. I feel a little bit of pull from both tours, just not knowing where to go and play. And I love Colonial. I'm past champion there at Colonial, so that was a hard one to pass up.

I know if I would have gone to Colonial that I would have been wishing I was here too. That's been the challenge. When I go somewhere and have the ability to play both places, I feel like I should be at both of those places. So that's been a little bit of the struggle.

But I'm really happy to be here this week. And we drove up yesterday, like I was talking to you out there, that we made the nice drive up from the city, New York City, after messing around. It was an enjoyable day. I didn't really how pretty the state of New York really is.

JOHN DEVER: It's nice in the spring. We're pleased to have you here with us. I'm glad you made this choice. You played here in Oak Hill in '13 at the PGA Championship. I think you finished tied for 12th. What were your recollections from that week, and how do you think this course will hold up this week here?

STEVE STRICKER: My recollection of that week is really not my play, I played with Dufner, Jason Dufner, the eventual winner, I believe, in the 2nd round when he shot the 63. So I kind of remember a lot of what was going on with him and the last hole and what he did on the last hole. He actually had about a 15-footer, if I remember right, to break 63 at that time, the magical number. So he missed it and then tapped in his par putt.

But, yeah, I remember having a decent tournament but remember mostly about Duf and what he did.

JOHN DEVER: Let's hit the floor for some questions.

Q. Could you talk about what it's like to play three majors in three weeks, and do you ever think about, in that stretch, could I play an easier course for a couple days first?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know, when I looked back at the schedule and was thinking that this would be three in three weeks, you don't think much of it during the time. I missed the cut by a shot last week, so I had two days off to kind of rest up, and I didn't do much golfing. We hit some balls and Saturday, my family and I did. And then we didn't do anything yesterday or Sunday. So I was able to get away from it for a little while and rest up and get ready for this week, because I understand this week is -- I know what the course all about, it's a challenging golf course, and I hear the conditions are challenging as well. The rough is up, I hear. The early time of this event, being in May, you know, grasses are lush, they're thick, they're starting to grow, and I imagine that's similar to what we got here this week as we did last week in Bethpage. I'm sure it's going to be a big challenge.

Q. Thoughts on how the U.S. Team performed, some of the top players for your potential U.S. Team in 2020, obviously top two players in Dustin and Brooks, just sentiment about how the team fared?
STEVE STRICKER: Kuch, you know, snuck his way in there again. Xander Schauffele was up there were a little while. Didn't have a great Sunday. I'm watching what's going on. It's so early though in the game. But it's really good to see that the top two guys in the world, both American players, are playing well and Dustin really challenged Brooks on that last day. And Brooks had to dig deep. It looked like he really was fighting to get it done. And guys who have one tournaments have all been in that position. When you have a big lead and it starts to slip away, it's very difficult to play. To see him gut it out and play so well coming down the stretch, hitting some key shots, especially at 17 and the great wedge shot at 18, and piping it in the fairway at 16 and knocking on there too. So some real challenging holes down the stretch. 15 he hit it in fairway, knocked it on. That could have gone a number of different ways really quickly. To see him do that and Dustin force him to do that was exciting and good from my standpoint, too, to go out and watch and see.

Q. Did you ever have a win sort of similar what Brooks did or -- if not, what was the -- of your wins, what one was the toughest to pull off?
STEVE STRICKER: I had a -- I had a big lead at the Western Open back in 1996, and I think I ended up winning by 6 or 8 or something like that. But when you go into the final round, you -- you have everything to lose when you're leading by -- I think Brooks was leading by 7 going into Sunday. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain there because you're supposed to win. And then I see the stat that nobody's ever relinquished a lead of that number in any golf tournament on the regular Tour or a major or anything like.

So there was a lot of pressure that was put on him. So like I said, it's -- when it starts to go bad, too, it seems to snowball. And then if you give up -- like the first hole he gave up two shots right away to Harold Varner, and you're like, oh, my gosh, my 7-shot lead just went to 5 in a matter of one hole.

It can play some tough mind games on you. That's what so challenging about it. He really gutted it out coming down the stretch, because he could have let that go pretty easily.

Q. (Off microphone)?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. They're all hard. I don't know if one really -- maybe Memorial. I don't know, I don't know what year it was, 2009 or '10, something like that. We had a rain delay, and then coming back out, it was one of those where I had a two- or three-shot lead and bogeyed the par 5 up the hill No. 15, I guess that is, and then had to make a couple good up-and-downs.

It's just hard. When you're put in that position with a lead and you're expecting to win and you're putting that pressure on yourself to win and expect yourself to win, when it starts to go a little haywire, it makes it very difficult.

Q. What's it like to balance your responsibilities with a Ryder Cup and yet these majors in succession in trying to play your best golf while keeping tabs on other golfers?
STEVE STRICKER: Right now the responsibilities for the Ryder Cup aren't that great. There's a few things here and there that we talk about and deal with. But right now it's been pretty calm. From what I understand, about a year out, starting in September, it will get a little bit busier. But I'm constantly looking at how guys are playing.

So that's really no different for me. It's just still there's still some focus, though, that what do I want to do, come 2020 in September, do I want to -- there's all these little things that go through my mind. So I'm constantly thinking about that.

But I've been so far able to kind of get inside the ropes and kind of concentrate on my golf game and leave that stuff behind me for the four or five hours that I'm out there. But I'm sure that will change as we get closer to it.

Q. You said that after winning Regions Tradition you felt like you needed to play this week. Have you adjusted your long-term season-long goals since winning at the Tradition?
STEVE STRICKER: Not really. I'm just taking the next few weeks as they come. I know I'm playing next week. They gave me a spot at the Memorial Tournament. I'm going to play at Jack's place. I'm going to try to qualify for the U.S. Open. And then I'll probably -- if I get in Open, obviously play there. If not, I'll probably have a couple weeks off, and then it's in our Champions Tour event in Madison, and then the U.S. Senior Open for sure.

And up to that, or after that point, I should say, I'm not really sure what I'm going to do, but I know what I'm going to do through June.

Q. Let me ask you about your win 10 days ago at the Regions. That was the first major championship of your career. There are a lot of players in the field here this week that have never won a major on either Tour. What was that breakthrough for you? You had come close on numerous occasions. It must have been a monumental moment in your career.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it felt good. I would have loved to have one won on the big Tour. That gets harder and harder all the time. I'm not even in most of them. So it's still a challenge to get into them.

But I still believe that if I get in the right situation -- my game's pretty close really. I don't know if I can compete at a Brooks Koepka level or Dustin Johnson level or Rory McIlroy, those guys have some really special talents. But the dream is still there. I still work hard at it, trying to get in those majors. It's just a different deal. It's different adrenaline. It's fun to be a part of that last week. And it drives myself more to try to get into those.

But winning the Regions was really special. It's the next best thing, I guess, winning a major on the Champions Tour than on the regular Tour. That's why I'm here again and try to get back in that position again and see if can pull off another one.

Q. Different captains have kind of put their signature on Ryder Cup captains, these things they do differently than others, different types of ideas. Do you have any ideas that you might do something with your team that might be different than what other teams have done?
STEVE STRICKER: Maybe a few little things. It's -- there's not much different things you can do. You know, I mean, Jim Furyk did an unbelievable job. He gave great motivational speeches. He had some great talk, people that came in and gave us talks and the players. I went through this with the Presidents Cup. Was there much different that I did there than any other team? Probably not.

I'd like to get just the guys together every night and get them together in one room, and I the did that at the Presidents Cup, where they can talk over a few things have fun with one another. I get to say a few things, the assistant captains. So it's just us, the team and the assistant captains. It's not a big deal, but I felt like the more times we could be together, the 16, 17, 18 of us, however many assistants were there and the players, the better, you know, the more together you feel, cohesiveness all that stuff. If that's different. We haven't done that on very many teams. But it's about playing good golf. You know that, Alex. It's about making the putts and making the guys comfortable with the position that they're in and who they're being paired with and letting them do their thing.

And sometimes that's easier said than done. But hopefully we can move forward after what happened in Paris and look ahead. That's my thing, let's look ahead, what are we going to do in Wisconsin, and go from there.

Q. If you had the opportunity only one of two things, you could either pick all 12 or you had no picks at all, which way would you rather go?
STEVE STRICKER: I think I'd go with no picks at all. I mean, I think history has shown that the majority of the picks come in that 9 to 15 range, 9 to 12, 9 to -- it doesn't go -- I mean, Phil Mickelson one year, what was he, 20 something when he got picked a couple years ago. And then he may have been for a Presidents Cup, I don't remember.

I think the way our system is, the way our point system is dictates the guys that are playing the best. And you could probably go right off that top 12 and not see a huge difference in what your picks are going to be.

Q. Your counterpart on the European side, Padraig Harrington, at the PGA Championship talked about a benchmark that he has for captain's picks. He feels he didn't say that they had to play the BMW Championship, European Tour's version of the PGA Championship, but he was pretty close to saying if they wanted a captain's pick, they needed to show him they wanted to be on the team and by playing the BMW PGA Championship, they would have accomplished that. Do you have any kind of benchmarks, or how will you determine of the captain's picks who really wants to be on that team?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I think they all really want to be on that team. I would love for our guys, I'm sure at some point we're going to get there to Whistling Straits, you know, all of us as a team before it even happens. I would love to get everybody there at some point. Whether you can make that mandatory or not, that's something I that would have to go down the road and see if that's even possible.

I would hope that the guys would want to be there. And it's up to me to create those challenges and to create the environment for them to want to be there and to say, hey, yeah, this is important. I think we need to be there together as a team prior to the Ryder Cup.

We don't have the luxury of seeing that course like some of the Ryder Cups over in Europe. So we're kind of all on the same page. They probably have some guys that have place Whistling Straits just as much as we have. The challenge is going to be for us to get there as a team, I think, and to get all 12 guys there as a team prior to the Ryder Cup and going around it and seeing it before that week.

That's going to up to me to try to create something to try to motivate them somehow to -- and there shouldn't really be any motivation. I know if I was on that team, I'd want to be there in a heartbeat. So that's going to be the challenge for me to get everybody there.

Q. If you had to pick out one, what would be your most memorable Ryder Cup shot that you played?
STEVE STRICKER: Probably holing a putt on top of Sergio at Valhalla in 2008. He had just holed a long birdie putt, and he -- he was pretty boisterous about it and fist bumping and screaming and yelling. And I was able to hole one on top of him for a halve of that hole. And then I holed another one, another putt on the 18th hole to actually halve the match, about a 15-footer. So those couple of putts probably -- and it got some reaction out of me that I typically don't show on the golf course.

So the Ryder Cup tends to do that to you. It brings out something different in you. It -- you feel the nerves more than anything, and you show emotions more than anything there, too, during the Ryder Cup, and those are the shots that I think back at.

Q. You said you're looking forward not behind, but you must have to kind of like debrief a little on what happened at Paris and what didn't go right, what did go right. Have you done that? And what did you find?
STEVE STRICKER: I haven't done that completely yet. Obviously the course was the biggest talk, you know, where it was set up for a little bit more accurate ball-strikers off the tee, accurate drivers. Jim knew the type of player that he wanted, and he has spoken about this where some of guys that he thought would be well-suited for that course weren't playing well at the end of the year, you know, like a Kisner, a Kuchar, Xander Schauffele, just like a player of Jim's caliber, you know, very meticulous, hits it down the fairway.

And then we go there and we've never seen the course. I think only one of our guys had played it maybe under competition, Bryson I think went -- Oh, yeah, JT went over there. So kind of behind the 8-ball as it relates to that, I think.

And from what I understand, like I said, I haven't talked to -- we've got a group that helps us out with stats and all that stuff. We just gave too many holes away with where they won with pars, where they didn't have to make birdies. But I'll get deeper into that as we get going into this year and look at that a little bit more. But hopefully we can prepare a little bit better.

I think that's tough when you're going overseas, not seeing the course. The preparation is the biggest key. And we just weren't able to do it. You're in a short period of time coming off of an overseas trip, playing the whole FedExCup Playoff events, guys are tired, and it's just a tough trip.

Q. Do you think that the whole schedule change now, do you think that's going help?
STEVE STRICKER: I do think it's going to help us. Yeah, we have more time to rest after the Playoffs. If guys want to get up there and see the course, we're going to have more time to get up there and see it. So I think overall that's going to help us in the long run. It will help them, too. They're going to be in this same boat. They've got guys that are playing in the Playoffs, and they'll have that time to rest, too. But I think if that continues overseas, I think that will help us -- if that schedule is going to be the same, I should say, and we have those three weeks off or whatever it is 'til the Ryder Cup, we could potentially leave earlier, get over there earlier, more time to rest, more time to see the course, too.

JOHN DEVER: Steve, we're thrilled to have our Ryder Cup captain in the field this week, and thank you for making time for us this afternoon.

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