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April 6, 2001

Steve Stricker


CLIFFORD KIRTLAND: We have Steve Stricker with us, standing at 7-under at this point. Steve, would you mind reviewing your score card for the fellas, please, sir?

STEVE STRICKER: I birdied No. 8. I hit a driver and a 3-wood and a chip shot from maybe, you know, 40 yards or so to about seven or eight feet. Birdied No. 12. Hit an 8-iron in the back, just on the back fringe, and the pin was in the back, and that was probably about a 12-footer. Birdied No. 13. A 3-wood and a 4-iron to about, maybe 30 feet and 2-putted. Bogeyed 16. Hit a bad 7-iron in the right bunker there and didn't get it up-and-down. Blasted out my sand wedge, maybe to about 30 feet. Bogeyed 18. Drove it in the right trees. Tried to make a hero shot and didn't come off. Ended up having a good putt at it, maybe a 10-footer after hitting a sand wedge from about 100 yards, and I missed that for a bogey.

Q. I know you've discussed this, but in '96 and '97, '98 you were one of the top golfers in the country and I think 13th in the PGA TOUR in '98 and then two years, you are down to 113. What happened to your game, and then why is it back again?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I don't know. If I had those answers, I probably would not have been down at 113.

Q. Was it the changing of clubs? Somebody told me it was your round at Pebble in '97 with Tiger that affected you, or is that nonsense?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I haven't thought of that. I don't know. I changed equipment. I lost confidence. I just kind of hit a little skidder there for a while and a little downslide and I didn't get out of it. It's even affected my confidence to this point, even up until today. It's just, you know, I'm just not driving the ball well enough yet. It's getting a little bit better, but that's the part that left me in '97 and I've kind of continued to struggle with that part of my game ever since. You know, I've been working hard at it and trying to get out of there, but I really haven't. Other parts of my game are coming around. My chipping and putting and iron play has been pretty good over the first two days. It's just, you know, it's a tough game, and I played with a guy today, Seve, that I can see that he's going through some problems, too. You know, so it can affect anybody, and any player.

Q. You hit so many quality iron shots, especially on the front nine, do you feel like you should have walked out with something more?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I really feel like I left a lot out there. I really wasn't getting impatient or anything. It's just, you know, you can't keep giving yourself opportunities and not make them, and then -- you know, I just felt like it was sliding a little bit, especially when I was not making some of those birdie putts, and it caught up to me at the end. I made a couple bad swings at 16 and 18 and made two bogeys coming in.

Q. Could you just talk about trying to draw on the experience that you had in the PGA Championship a few years ago, being on the leaderboard for so long?

STEVE STRICKER: Sure. I still think about those two days, the weekend there very much, especially the last day, where I really didn't play that good the last day at the PGA, but I hung in there and did all of the little things. I still gave myself a chance at winning that. But, you know, it's a situation I'm not too familiar with, as much as some of these other players. But I've been out here long enough where I should be able to handle it. I don't feel the greatest about my swing yet, but even these first two days, I've been able to fight those kind of negative thoughts and the bad feelings that I've had on the tee, and I'm starting to enjoy it more and more going around the course, too, starting to understand it a little bit better, where to put the ball, where to hit the shot, and understanding that you really have to be patient and really think your way around here.

Q. I recall you were pretty emotional at the end of that week. Are you now kind of a crusty old veteran that it won't affect that way?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I don't think -- well, who is to say, I guess. You know, my wife was pregnant, she was at home. She was not caddying anymore. It was just an emotional time for me. I thought I could have won the tournament. There was a down period there where after I didn't win, I was very disappointed. You know, I grinded it out every day there so hard, and by the end of the day, they started asking me about my wife, your baby, all that other stuff; it kind of got to me. Hopefully, that won't happen again, but who's to stay say it won't.

Q. Putting is obviously a strong part of your game. Have you ever had to go through any experimentation like a DiMarco or anything? Have you always been a naturally-gifted putter?

STEVE STRICKER: That's probably been the part of my game that's been the most consistent over the years. Struggled with it a little bit last year, but other than that, you know, it's something that I feel comfortable doing. Once I get on the green, I feel, you know, very comfortable on the green. I've got positive thoughts, thinking that I can make just about any putt. I need to translate that into some of the other parts of my game so that I can feel the same way driving the ball or some more difficult iron shots or whatever. But that's something that's always come a little natural for me, I guess.

Q. Has anybody asked you how the course was playing? Is it playing different?

STEVE STRICKER: For us, it was playing fairly similar to yesterday. The greens were still soft and receptive. They really hadn't sped up -- I could see a little speed-up in some of the greens, but there was some more difficult pin positions out there today, too, I thought. So, it is starting to firm up a little bit and starting to get a little bit faster. But for us, playing early in the morning, it still was very similar to yesterday.

Q. I know there's a long way to go, but are you starting to feel like something special is happening with your game?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I feel like I'm coming around a little bit with it. I've been putting in the time. Starting to make some better swings. I'm starting to see the results on the course. I mean, there's really where you've got to see it. You can pound balls until you're blue in the face and hit them all perfect, but you need to see them out there on the course and under the gun. So, I'm starting to see some better shots and it is giving me more confidence as I go around.

Q. Your wife being your caddy, when did she come back? Was she with you in Australia?

STEVE STRICKER: No, that was the only tournament she has not caddied this year, because of the distance the tournament was away from home, and we had the baby and we left her at home, so we didn't want to both be gone. So she has been on the bag since the next week after that, which was Phoenix for me.

Q. How does she help here? Any situations where she talked you into something or out of something?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, she's fairly quiet when it comes to club selection, putting, that kind of stuff. Occasionally, I'll ask her her opinion, but more times than not, we are just out there and she's there, you know, giving me support and trying to --

Q. Build your confidence?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. She's very good at that.

Q. Does she have any favorite sayings?

STEVE STRICKER: No, not really. She doesn't repeat anything over and over. She just told me on the front nine there after I wasn't making some of those birdie putts, she told me to be patient, hang in there and they will fall. You know, that helps, knowing that -- it just kind of relaxed me a little bit. You know, I really didn't feel impatient. I really wasn't trying to press over those putts or anything. It's just nice having her out there, just because we get along so well, and we talk about other things going down the fairway. It's not necessarily, you know, grinding over the next shot right after you hit the last one. So it's nice having her out there.

Q. What other things were you talking about, for example?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, we talked about the NCAA game the other night -- what we are going to have for dinner tonight. Just about anything. But it's -- like I say, it's just nice that I can have her out there and she does a good job and she's very good at it.

Q. Beyond the moral support, can you think of any one or two instances where she gave you some technical advice, or she came up with something that was technically helpful?

STEVE STRICKER: She knows better not to do that technical stuff with me, especially during a round. She's a coach's daughter, so I think they have gotten together and kind of devised a plan on what she should and should not say. One good thing she's very good at is she's able to kick me in the butt when I start talking negatively or poorly about the round, or my shot, or my swing, or what have you. But no other caddy can just lay into me like that and not be afraid of her job. (Laughs). So she's good at her job.

Q. What did she say after today's rounds?

STEVE STRICKER: She was very optimistic and very upbeat. Seve told her some nice things to pass on to me. She was very fired up, and I am, too. I think I'm in a great position. I don't think I'll be leading, but I think, you know, if you told me I was going to be 7-under after two rounds, I definitely would have taken it.

Q. What did Seve tell her?

STEVE STRICKER: Just general things. You know, not get in my way, and you know, if I just hang in there and keep playing the way I've been playing, I've got a chance to win this thing. And he says, "I think he can do it." So, that's pretty nice, I think.

Q. When you changed clubs, was that to get a bigger contract? Were you dissatisfied with the clubs?

STEVE STRICKER: No, it was money, basically. (Laughter.)

Q. What did you switch from and to? What had you been playable?

STEVE STRICKER: I was playing Peerless, PHD equipment, Arnold Palmer's company, and switched to TaylorMade's.

Q. Are you still using TaylorMade's?

STEVE STRICKER: Actually, I've got a driver in my bag this week, TaylorMade driver.

Q. Did you do any scoreboard watching today?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I did. I watched it all the way around. You know, it's kind of fun seeing your name up there, seeing what everybody else is doing. And I don't mind seeing it up there. I've been out here long enough where -- the first couple tournaments where I saw it up there I would make a bogey on the next hole. Now it's fun seeing it up there, especially here at the Masters. I just kind of like watching what everybody else is doing, seeing where they made birdies and eagles and everything else.

Q. You've been talking about working on your game and progressing. Am I wrong, or does it appear that you are getting the most out of your game in the biggest tournaments?

STEVE STRICKER: Maybe. I suppose you could be right. I guess maybe I dig down a little bit deeper, maybe, I don't know. I kind of put all of those swing thoughts, maybe, aside when I play these tournaments and just kind of go on my natural ability and make more putts, it seems like. You know, I just seem to be getting it done.

CLIFFORD KIRTLAND: Thank you very much, Steve.

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