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June 30, 2019

Steve Stricker

Notre Dame, Indiana

THE MODERATOR: It's my pleasure to welcome Steve Stricker here into the media center. Steve is the 2019 U.S. Senior Open champion, rounds of 62, 64, 66 and 69, a 72-hole total of 261, and that breaks the championship record. The six-stroke win ties the largest margin of victory. He's the fourth player to go wire to wire. His two bogeys tie the fewest in championship history, and the 57 consecutive holes without a bogey sets a new mark. That's 14 more than the previous record.

Steve, simply put, what a performance. I'd love for you to sum it up and describe what it means to be a USGA champion and have your name on this historic trophy.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, what a special week. I told you all week, I kind of came here with a little chip on my shoulder from not winning last week. I felt like I had something to prove, and I just played some really, really good golf the first three days. Today was a little bit shaky at times, but what a great week. Had Nicki on the bag. My kids were here. Our family friend was here. Just a special course, special setup.

I never was able to win a USGA event in my career, whether it was in the amateur ranks or when I turned pro. Had some good U.S. Open finishes, but this is it. So it's very special. Any time you can win a USGA event, I always held those to kind of the highest of tournaments that we play in, and it's a great feeling to be able to hold that trophy and to be the Senior Open champion.

THE MODERATOR: You mentioned the U.S. Open. You'll be going to Winged Foot next year for the U.S. Open by virtue of this win --

STEVE STRICKER: Oh, that's right. I get in the regular U.S. Open now, too? Good deal. I didn't even know that. Sweet, no more qualifying.

Are they back-to-back?


Your wife, Nicki, on the bag, both your daughters here. What was it like, that walk up 18? Must have been obviously a very happy moment, an emotional moment for you. Tell us what was going through your mind walking up with Jerry Kelly up to the 18th green.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it was a special moment. I told Jerry, I said, it's awkward, we're friends, we go back to junior golf. I want to beat his brains in out there, and he wants to do the same thing to me. But at the end of it all, we're friends. I respect him. I love him and his family. So it was hard, especially the last two days.

But again, it provided me some motivation. He was the guy that won the tournament last week that I had the opportunity to win. And so, again, every time I looked at him, it provided me a little motivation to get it done.

THE MODERATOR: Let's go through the card and open it up to questions. Today you started off right off the bat with a birdie on the first hole.

STEVE STRICKER: I hit it in the right rough off the tee and hit a nice sand wedge in there from I think 95 yards to about 10 feet, made that.

THE MODERATOR: Eight straight pars but a few really nice up-and-downs in there, especially No. 7.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, No. 7, I kind of -- tried to hit it in the center of the green, and the wind got it, kind of pushed it over, and it ran through the green into not a very good lie, and the pin was over a little knob on the left-hand side of the green. And hit one of my better chips of the week, hit it down there to about six inches, but that was a really good up-and-down there.

THE MODERATOR: Turn in 34, bogeyed 10, nice up-and-down at 11, really the shot of the championship, the chip-in at No. 12.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that was huge. I make the turn and I have a seven-shot lead. I looked at all the boards. I'm like, all right, all we've got to do is just make pars and play smart. And what do I do? I hit it over the back of the green into not a very good lie, and I miss about a 10-footer there for par, and Jerry makes birdie. All of a sudden my seven-shot lead goes to five really quick.

That's a wake-up call. And then he hits it in there on the next hole.

So it got my attention, and that chip-in at 12 was huge. Nicki and I had been talking that we've been looking for a chip-in, and I said right before I chipped it, I said, I'm still looking for that chip-in, and she's like, "I am, too." So maybe the power of us both thinking about it, it came true.

But that was a huge chip and kind of got me that six-shot lead back again. Felt a little bit more comfortable, but yet still six holes to play.

THE MODERATOR: And then a consistent six pars coming in. Unbelievable performance. Let's open it up to questions.

Q. You talked a little bit very briefly about Nicki and the kids being here, but you won the Regions, Bobbi had a career-best finish at the Big Ten, Izzi won I guess the first stage of the Drive, Chip & Putt, and now you have this, and I'm just wondering what the mojo is in the Stricker family.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know, we love golf, and we all play it. My wife plays a lot. My daughters are getting into it more and more all the time. And they see the work ethic that I put in and Nicki puts in, too. She works at her game very hard. So I think it kind of runs downhill, runs downhill to the kids, and they see that work ethic and they too want to get better. They want to perform in tournaments. They want to -- Izzi said her legs were shaking when she was doing the Drive, Chip & Putt, and I said, well, wait until you get to Augusta and see how they're shaking. (Laughter.)

But they see what I go through. They enjoy being out here. I enjoy having them out here. It brings us all together.

Q. If the standard rate for a winning caddie is 10 percent, how much is Nicki getting?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, she gets way more than 10 percent. She gets whatever she wants. (Laughter.)

Q. When you came here today, the course had given up a lot of sub-par rounds, 99 coming into today. The course was different today. Could you tell us what it was like and what you were feeling like coming here with the lead that you had?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, the course was definitely a little bit different, and it got a little firmer as we went along even today. There were some shots that I hit in that I didn't think I was going to be through the green on, and they were through the green.

And then the wind switched around literally on us. It laid down on us on No. 12, where there was no wind, and then we hit our tee ball at 13, and then all of a sudden when we get to our second shot, it starts to help. So that wind did a complete 180 and switched totally different directions.

The course firmed up. The pins were a little bit tougher. You know, and it's Sunday of a major championship out here on the Champions Tour, so everything -- you put that all together, and it makes it a little bit tougher.

Q. We talked all week about the mystique of Notre Dame and its surrounding. Do you feel a little bit more part of it now with what you've gone through the last four days, the wire-to-wire victory?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, yeah. It's a beautiful campus. We came here four years ago to watch the University of Virginia basketball team play Notre Dame. We're friends with Tony Bennett, and we were able to take in some of the campus life then. But more so this week. We were able to -- we walked around campus yesterday, went in the Golden Dome building, we went to the Grotto. The registration was in the football stadium. We got down on the field, threw a couple passes. It was just a really special week.

The USGA did an unbelievable job here and made us feel welcome. The Warren people, the Warren family I should say, I met Bill earlier in the week, just really nice people, and they've got a wonderful course here that the university and everybody around can enjoy.

Q. I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but there was some pretty bad weather coming out of the Chicago area that kind of took a hard southwest turn, so the weather kind of played into your favor, as well.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think this is one of the only events this year on the Champions Tour that we didn't have a weather delay. The weather was great all week long. It was warm. The ball was flying. I haven't played in this warm of weather all year, so it was good to feel loose. I felt like I was swinging at it a little bit more aggressively, and like I said, the ball was going.

Q. You've been kind of a part-time player on the Champions Tour and suddenly you're a frontrunner for Player of the Year. How does this affect how you look at your schedule going forward and what you're going to do going forward?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's a good question. I'm on the fence with either John Deere or the SENIOR PLAYERS Championship. SENIOR PLAYERS Championship is another major. If you were to win that, it gets you in the regular PLAYERS Championship like it does the U.S. Open. It's something that I'll think about this next week and what I want to do. John Deere is a special place for me, but I'm still on that fence. Where do I go and play? There's some real good perks out here for when you do play well and when you do win tournaments. So I've got to take that all in and see what I want to do.

Q. You mentioned your long-term relationship with Jerry Kelly. You guys had a little conversation after your approach shots on the 18th green. I wonder what you said to each other. I saw you put your arms around each other.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, he congratulated me, and I congratulated him on well played, and the last couple weeks. He won last week and was right in contention here this week. He's been playing some great golf, and I told him the same thing. I'm like, this was hard. I mean, you're a friend, and I enjoyed playing with you, but it was hard.

But I told him I did enjoy it. We just had a couple good talks. We were finally able to loosen up a little bit and -- it's hard to enjoy each other's company when you're trying to beat the other guy. But we were able to do that the last few holes.

Q. Just to follow up about winning two majors, both by six shots, is this some of the best golf you've ever played?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, the first three days here this week was some of the strongest I've played consistently for three days. I was hitting a lot of quality shots and making the putts, not making any mistakes.

Today I kind of -- I played defensive, and it's hard to play the game that way, especially when I was so aggressive the first three days. I went out there trying not to make a mistake sometimes, and that's hard to do, hard to play.

But, you know, again, I didn't make any major mistakes, and that was the goal. I think I only made one bogey today. I wanted to go bogey-free again today, but I figured if I just don't make any mistakes, somebody is going to have to shoot lights-out to catch me, and that was the goal.

Q. You missed a few greens short and a few long. Was that a result of playing conservatively, not being quite as sharp as you were, or how do you explain missing a little bit short and a little bit long?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, the short ones, some of them were kind of intentional. Like on 12, where I ended up chipping in there. I just told myself, do not miss this left of that hole. You cannot get it up-and-down. Anything short right, right in that bunker, I have a chance. I was totally fine with where I hit that.

There was a few other holes I said the same thing to myself. I feel like my short game is strong enough where I'm comfortable chipping still, and my putting has been good. So I just -- I kind of put it in some spots where it didn't look very good, but I was really okay with what I was doing.

But then there was times I was trying to get it on the green and I hit it through the green because the greens firmed up a little bit. A lot of those, I played away from the hole, and I really didn't even have the hole in my mind. I was just trying to hit it to an area so I could make my par and move on.

Q. This is sort of like which daughter you like better, but where does this U.S. Senior Open title rank when you've won some nice events on the PGA TOUR and so on?
STEVE STRICKER: Where does this rank? You know, it's -- yeah, I won some nice events on the TOUR, but being a major out here, being a USGA event, a national championship, even though it's on the senior level, it's still very special. You know, like I said, I always held these USGA events to a higher standard. You wanted to play well at them. So this one here is probably the top. It's a very special day.

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