August 5, 2020
San Francisco, California, USA
Harding Park Golf Club
JULIUS MASON: Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us today. Very pleased to be joined by U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker. Steve, welcome to TPC Harding Park. You are playing in your 22nd PGA Championship, which includes four Top-10 finishes and a runner-up finish on the West Coast, I want to remind you about that, in 1998 at Sahalee.
Can you please talk about where your game is today and how you are balancing life on both the PGA Tour and the PGA Tour Champions, five wins, including two majors last year, pretty solid.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, thanks. Nice to be here. Yeah, my game, it's kind of a daily thing. You know, kind of wake up and see where it's at lately. For some reason, I lost a little bit of my game during the quarantine, even though I played a lot of golf with my family and Nicki and the kids, we've been playing a lot of golf but I haven't really translated it into any really great PGA Tour events.
I had a nice showing at the Memorial, or decent, I should say. It's a work in progress, but excited to be here. I didn't realize this was my 22nd. The PGA Championship has always been a great event and one that I look forward to every year and one of the fairest setups that we play in the majors, I believe, and this is a great venue right here. It's tough. The rough is up. The fairways are narrow. The weather is tough. So we have all the conditions for a tough tournament, so you're going to have to be on your game to play well here.
JULIUS MASON: Regarding The Ryder Cup, this morning we announced a revised selection criteria for the U.S. Ryder Cup Team, but can you please reflect on maybe your emotions of having to deal with a Ryder Cup being rescheduled, which ultimately turns your two-year job into a three-year job.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I love this job, three years of it. Obviously we all wish that we could be playing this September, but for the health and well-being of everybody, and I know it's the right call. The people are Wisconsin are so supportive, knowing that we'll be playing next September. There's been a lot of positive feedback that I've received from the people at home that it's the right call; it's the right thing to do.
But again, it adds another year, to your point. Another year of points. Another year of the system playing itself out, and again, I'm looking forward to that challenge of watching these guys and being around. I played with Collin Morikawa yesterday, a kid that I haven't even barely met before. It gives me a tremendous amount of time, extra time to get to know some of these kids that potentially could make the team.
Q. You're obviously going to invest a lot of yourself in a Ryder Cup in your home state, but so much uncertainty with it, is it almost refreshing to you that you have a reset now?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. We were on calls on a weekly basis, and the situation was so fluid that we didn't know what was going to happen from one week to the next, right. You know, so it's been a relief to kind of put that behind us now, knowing that we're not going to play this September and focus on 14 months from now, or 13 months from now for next September.
Yeah, it kind of can be put on the back burner a little bit. We've done a lot of the work. The PGA has done a lot of the work to prepare for this September. So a lot of that is done.
You know, come this fall when we get to watch some more golf, and then obviously next year as we get closer to The Ryder Cup, it will be more about just trying to formulate the team, see who is playing well, look at the possible pairings and watch a lot of golf and get to know -- like I said, get to know some of these guys and work on some of the pairings.
So we've got a long ways to go, obviously, but yeah, it was a relief to kind of make the decision, have the PGA make the decision, and look forward to next year.
Q. With a complete kind of reset, why the need to stick with six captain's picks instead of four?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, we just thought that it was in the best interests of the team to put our best team forward to give us that flexibility to get the pairings that we feel are best, to get the guys playing, you know, that are playing well, maybe guys that suit that course better than some other guys.
It just gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility. It was a decision amongst all of us that we thought was the good one and the proper one, and we're sticking with it.
Q. A non-Ryder Cup question regarding Tony Finau, one of your potential players. Just kind of curious when you look at him and his talent, is it surprising that he has only one win? And obviously he's had a lot of close calls, I think 30 Top-10s in the last three or four years. How do you look at that? Do you look at that as a player who is consistent in putting himself there constantly, or does part of you look at that and say this is a guy that needs to learn how to close?
STEVE STRICKER: No. I think Tony is a tremendous player. He's got a lot of talent. Obviously has a lot of length. He's even tapping into that part a little bit more, I've heard.
And secondly, he's a great kid. Wonderful to be around. He was part of the Presidents Cup team this last year and a good teammate, good guy in the locker room. I think he's just trying to figure out -- figure it out a little bit more as he's going along here.
He will. I think he tightens up that short game and that putting a little bit more; he's definitely got the long game and the iron play to compete on the highest level, and he's shown that. And I know he wants to get these wins as much as anybody, and I think he pops off another one, and if he wins another one, I can see the floodgates opening for him.
Q. Can I ask about the practice round today with Tiger Woods, and what do you think of his game and as his unofficial putting guru, your thoughts on a possible putter switch this week?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I asked him about the putter switch. It's basically the same putter with a little bit more flexibility in the putter. He's able to change the weights around a little bit, but the length is the difference. He's got a little more length on there, and that's just so he can practice a little bit more without back pain. That's what excites him the most is that he was able to put in a lot of time with this putter, and watching him putt, it looked exactly the same to me. He rolled the ball great. We had a great time. Fun to be out there with him and Davis. Always fun to watch. I think his game is in great shape. He's obviously always been a great iron player, and he hit some great irons today. He's still got some length.
So yeah, I expect good things from him if he can keep his body playable. You know, with this weather, it's a challenge. It's cool, it's damp, and so I imagine that will be probably the biggest challenge for him this week is to be able to feel like his body is 100 percent and give it a rip.
Q. When someone comes to you for putting advice, what's the most important tip do you think to tell them?
STEVE STRICKER: Geez, I don't know. I've given a few lessons over the years to some of these guys. It varies to each and every guy. Setup I look at. There's a variety of different things.
But yeah, it's flattering that some of these guys come to me, but again, it can be a host of things that I look at.
Q. Continuing on the putting theme, I know you're a guy who has used the same putter pretty frequently in your career, but have you ever changed putters the week before a major? And what's the biggest tip you have ever given to Tiger Woods to help him with putting?
STEVE STRICKER: I've never changed a putter -- I've maybe changed putters in my whole career a handful of times. You know, let alone the week before a major; I've never done that. But he's Tiger Woods. He'll be just fine. He's got a lot of talent when it comes to that short stick and he'll do just fine.
I guess the biggest lesson that I've ever helped Tiger with was that one year down at Doral that he ended up winning the tournament, and I'm finishing second to him. Yeah, it was amazing to be a part of that little lesson with him, because I watched a guy struggle from the week before, I guess that he played, not putting very well, and then watching him on the putting green wasn't very good. And then by the time the 45 minutes or an hour was up that I was putting with him, the confidence that he had was like a light switch; a light bulb went on for him. And then he made a lot of putts in the first and second rounds and his confidence just grew.
For him that week, if I remember right, it was a lot of the setup and the path of what his putter was going back on, and so I just worked on the setup a little bit, I remember, that week. But I didn't touch him today. I didn't want anything to do with that.
He's doing just fine. He looks like he's putting it great, rolling the ball great. We didn't talk about any putting or anything. I just asked him about his putter and what was the reason for the change. Other than that, he looked great.
Q. Wanted to get back to Ryder Cup on your own personal schedule. I don't know what your intentions are with the Champions Tour, but with extending another year of the captaincy, will this drag you back out with the youngsters for another year just in terms of being able to see them more?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah.
Q. And will you injure yourself doing so?
STEVE STRICKER: Will I injure myself? I hope not. Yeah, I'll be out here again I'm sure a little bit more than what I had planned next year. Again, to be around, to be visible, to do like what I did yesterday and play with Collin Morikawa, play with other guys, and just be out here and visible. I think that's important.
Then as far as the Champions Tour, I'll sprinkle a few of those in. I'm playing next week in Firestone and maybe a couple in Branson, Missouri, a couple in September. I'm exempt for the U.S. Open on the regular tour, so I'll play that in September. So yeah, I'll be bouncing back and forth.
But again, my plan was to play The Ryder Cup this September and then play, you know, mainly Champions events next year, but that's changed, and I'll be back out here playing some more of the regular tour just to be out here.
Q. And if you're being really honest with yourself, how much influence do you have on pairings on the PGA Tour?
STEVE STRICKER: That's confidential (laughter).
We don't try to do that. I've asked the Tour, you know, here and there, and they stick with their pairings and their process.
Q. This course here has some muscle to it, some long par 4s. Curious in your practice rounds how you are finding these 4s? What clubs are hitting into some of them?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I've got a lot of long clubs into some of these par 4s. You know, today we played the back nine, and a 3-iron and a 4-iron into, I think 12 and 13. It would have been a 5-iron at 14.
You know, but there's some good ones on the front, too. No. 9 is going to play pretty long depending on the wind there.
Yeah, I wish I had about 30 more yards under my belt, but I don't have, so I'm going to have to hit it on the fairway and get it on the green. Par is going to be a great score here. Par will be a wonderful score. For four days, I think anything under par is going to have a chance, depending on the weather, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but it's playing very difficult.
JULIUS MASON: U.S. Ryder Cup Captain, Steve Stricker. Thank you and good luck this week.
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