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April 5, 2001

Steve Stricker


WILLIAM MORRIS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to have Steve Stricker with us who had a very fine 6-under par today. Steve is appearing in the Masters for the fifth time and he has to his credit three PGA TOUR wins and two international titles. Why don't you tell us about your round. That might be a good place to start.

STEVE STRICKER: You know it was a good round. This was my best round here at Augusta. You know, I didn't get off -- I could say I got off to a good start but I didn't feel that great about my swing early in the round. I felt like I was fighting it a little bit, but as I got a little bit more comfortable after I got a couple more, I started to feel like I loosened up a little bit and made some better swings. But I played smart. I hit a lot of good iron shots into the greens, especially early on, and stayed away from a couple of bad swings that I made and kind of escaped with a birdie on 9 after a bad tee shot. You know, I just -- I guess I just played smart, and I putted well, too. Something that I've been doing well all year is putting well, and I continued that today.

Q. Last year was the first year you even broke 75 in the first round here. Did you tell yourself that you had to start better, not only for obvious reasons but for the psychological impact of having a chance on the weekend?

STEVE STRICKER: No, I never knew that stat. I never really know what to expect coming in here. My game has not been too well and I've been putting in a lot of time, working on a lot of things. And part of the reason why my game hasn't been so well because I've been thinking about my swing so much and trying to get it better and a little bit more consistent, and I've been hitting a lot, a lot of balls. Just hopefully, it is starting to pay off. I'm starting to see some better things out there. If I can just continue to putt the way I've been putting and start hitting better shots, then I should see lower scores.

Q. I guess this is your fifth time here, but your times have come in bits and pieces where you've played, you've not been invited a couple years, you've played. Would you talk about if at all your time away from here has made you appreciate what is here more?

STEVE STRICKER: I think I've only missed one year since I started in '97, my first year. Actually, '96 was my first year here. You know, it's just a learning place. You just need to go around here a bunch, and the more you go around here, the more you can feel comfortable. But there's definitely spots to hit it on the greens and spots definitely to stay away from. You know, you feel good playing here in the past, knowing that you know what to expect with the pin positions; you know where they are going to be. You know the severity of the greens; how they can change from one night to the next. I think the more times you play here, the more you get comfortable with the fact that, you know, it is not a comfortable place. You know, you've just got to deal with the situation and just hang in there every hole and play very smart. I think this is probably the toughest course, where you really have to pay attention all the time.

Q. Do you remember what the year was like that you didn't come?


Q. Having just said that, this is ninth time DiMarco has played this course today. How do you explain something like what he did today, given that obviously the more at-bats you have in this place, at least the more comfortable it was for you; is ignorance bliss to some guys to some degree?

STEVE STRICKER: It could be. Maybe he just feels really comfortable going around here. Certain holes set up different for certain players, and, you know, I know there are certain holes out there for me that I just didn't feel right on the tee. Maybe he doesn't feel that way or every hole feels good to him for the most part, it is a comfortable place for him to come and play. Today it wasn't -- I shouldn't say it wasn't a tough day, but it was, you know, the easiest, probably, day I've seen here at Augusta in the five times I've been here. The greens are a little soft, softer than normal, and there was no wind. The fairways, you know, were soft and holding. Maybe that had something to do with it, too.

Q. Your wife is back caddying for you again. When did she start again? When does her season start?

STEVE STRICKER: I played Australia, and she wasn't there for that, and then she started the next week that I came back to the States, which was Phoenix.

Q. So she's done the whole year?


Q. Except the win?

STEVE STRICKER: Except that win, yeah.

Q. Does that make a difference or is that important to you?

STEVE STRICKER: We enjoy being out there together. It's been a while -- you know, I forget the last time she caddied for me, but she caddied for me last year at the GMO in Milwaukee. She's always expressed a big interest in getting out there and caddying again. I always enjoyed having her out there, too. We get along great on the course. It's a team effort, because, you know, she kind of lives and dies with every shot that I hit, maybe even more so, on some of my bad ones. It just feels good to do something good together, because I know she's -- I know she's in my corner, for sure.

Q. You've played here enough now to know different conditions. On the subject of the speed of the greens, how much faster can they get than they were today? If 10 is as fast as they can get, were they 70 percent today? Can you quantify it?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, they were probably -- you know, probably a 7 out of 10, a 7 or 8 out of 10. You can tell there's a lot of moisture in the greens, or even in the fairways from the rains we've had here. Like I said, if the wind kicks up a little bit, the sun comes out, it can change in a hurry, and I don't imagine they are going to be putting any water on the course. So, it can change very drastically in a matter of a half a day or a couple hours or whatever. But I'm sure it is only going to get more faster and difficult as the tournament goes on.

Q. 1 you hit it close and missed the putt, and 2, you hit it close and the ball rolled back down the hill. What did you think going back to the third tee?

STEVE STRICKER: I 2-putted for par after hitting close at 2, and I told Nicki, I said, "Welcome to Augusta." I've hit two good shots into the greens and walked away with two pars, but you know what, I didn't get rattled. Then I hit it close again on 3. It's just a course where you really have to be patient, I think, and not let any of those little things outside your control bother you or try to get in your way. So, I really didn't get too upset about them. I thought it was a good start. I drove it well on 1, and not so well on 2, but hit good iron shots into the greens.

Q. As well as you started the year, and even decent at the Phoenix, was there a point at all, especially during the Florida swing where you started to get frustrated?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I was getting frustrated. I was frustrated all the way up to this round today, so -- you know, I've been putting in a lot of time. I'm just not swinging the way I feel like I should, or I'm not that comfortable with it yet. If has not been for a lack of hard work -- but it's just, you know, I kind of gave myself an opportunity after that win in Australia to kind of tinker around with my swing a little bit and try to get better, try to improve some things that I can't -- I don't do so well at. I'm starting to see some positive signs of what we've been working on, so that makes me feel good, and a round like today really gives me a bolt of confidence.

Q. Does a round like today shock you or do you feel more like "It's about time," because of the work you've put in?

STEVE STRICKER: Both. I really didn't expect to come in here and shoot 6-under today. But it doesn't surprise me, because I put some good rounds together in the past, not necessarily here, but in other tournaments, major tournaments, so I didn't really get that nervous. I didn't get in my way. I just kind of kept going with what I had going and playing with what I had.

Q. What kind of things were you working on?

STEVE STRICKER: A lot of things. Just about every part of the swing. I just think it's the game itself, you know, where you can continually work on it. But a thorn in my swing, a thorn in my side, has really been the way I take it away and the way I kind of drop the club underneath on the way down and kind of get it stuck behind me, and that's been my normal shot for the last, you know, two or three years, and it's just -- you know, it is getting aggravating enough where I just, you know, I got off to that good start this year and I felt an opportunity to work on it and tried to get it better. Really, you know, kind of dedicate myself to improving on some of those things that I need to work on.

Q. It's been a little bit of a theme the last few years, but how often do you use driver and how often do you use 3-wood? Do you have a driver you are comfortable with? How many times did you hit driver today?

STEVE STRICKER: I'm not comfortable with it. I hit it. It is a TaylorMade driver. I don't even know how many times I hit it today. But I didn't back down. I hit it when holes called for it. I didn't say, "Oh, boy, I'm not hitting that driver very well, I'm going to hit my 3-wood." I step up there and I try to make an aggressive swing, just because I feel like if I'm going to get better as a player, I'm going to have to fight through some of those bad feelings and still try to make good swings and not try to back down to negative thoughts or negative feelings. So, I hit it, you know, whenever I had to. You know, I probably -- I definitely hit it more than my 3-wood, I didn't back down to it at least.

Q. So soft fairways would be something -- I mean, when these fairways are hard, the ball is just going to run whatever direction, but soft fairways is something you would like to see here generally?

STEVE STRICKER: No, I wouldn't mind hitting my 3-wood all the way around. I've got a hot 3-wood that I feel like I'm a little bit more consistent with than my driver. I would not mind seeing it get hard and fast at all.

Q. And just hit the 3-wood?


Q. Pretend I'm an average golf fan. Explain to me why a guy who wins a tournament then goes out and proceeds to tweak his swing to the point to where you are getting in your own way? Just you can always get better, I guess?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, and to tell you the truth, I didn't -- over the last four or five years or so, since '97, I really haven't felt like I've hit it that great. I scramble great and I showed a lot of that in Australia. You know, I didn't hit it the greatest, but I show that I can get it up-and-down from anywhere, hole putts, things of that nature. But, you know, I feel like deep down, I can be a better player. I think everybody does. I think that's why everybody is always trying to improve, and that is a game such that, you know, you always feel like you need to improve, and with the likes of Tiger around and Phil the way he's been playing, it's like you can never rest. You know, I just feel like I'm not a consistent enough ball-striker and I don't hit it as well as I should, so that's why I continually try to work on it.

Q. Given conditions today, how much more aggressive could you be out there around the greens?

STEVE STRICKER: You still had to be very cautious hitting into the greens. You couldn't fire at some pins just because in some of the spots that they were, because if you did miss, it was still a very difficult up-and-down. The greens were not very fast. Playing with Seve today, he left a lot of putts short. I know him being here in the past and the speed of the greens he probably could not imagine them being at the speed that they were. You still had to play smart. It isn't like you can go out there and just hit it anywhere and still score well. You still had to hit quality shots and good shots and hit them in the right spots on the greens and make the putts.

Q. Obviously there's been a lot of attention this week on Tiger and what he can accomplish with four straight majors. Does that make this tournament any more special for you or anyone else to be a part of, to be a contender in or is it something that never crosses your mind?

STEVE STRICKER: It hasn't crossed my mind. I think it's fun to watch, from my point of view, to watch, you know, the history that he's been making over the last few years. You know, it's just a great time to be a part of the game right now, as a player, and a spectator. I just think it's unbelievable what he's doing. You know, he's not only winning some of these majors, but he's blowing the fields away. It scares you in some respects, seeing how good he is, but, you know, like I think I've heard somewhere else this week; that you just -- nothing is unbelievable when it comes to him anymore. It's just you expect great things from him.

WILLIAM MORRIS: Steve, would you run down your birdies and bogeys for us, please? There are some in the room who would like to have that.

STEVE STRICKER: Birdied 3, hit a wedge from 129 to a foot. Birdied No. 8. Didn't hit a very good sand wedge in there. Spun back maybe about 25, 30 feet and made that. 9, hit a 6-iron. I pull-hooked my drive into the left pines and kind of ran through there and I was able to go around the pines from the other way and sliced a 6-iron to about -- it was probably about eight feet. Bogeyed No. 10. I was just right off the edge of the green after hitting 6-iron in there, and it was a simple little chip shot that I got a little careless with and ran it by about four feet and missed it coming back. Eagled No. 13. Hit a 3-wood around the corner and then a 5-iron from - I think I had like 206 or 207 to the hole and I hit that to about 15 feet and made that for eagle. 14, hit a 3-wood, and I was a little far back. I hit a little 6-iron in there, just a little 6-iron to about -- that was probably six feet. Then birdied No. 15. Hit a driver and a 4-iron. Had like 214 or 215 to the pin on 15 and hit 4-iron, kind of right-center of the green and 2-putted from about 40 feet or so. And bogeyed 16. I kind of pushed my 8-iron to the right. The pin was kind of to the back right. Hit what I thought was a pretty good chip, but it ran by maybe about 12 feet and lipped that out. Then birdied 17. Driver and a 7-iron to about 20 feet.

Q. Could you actually be above the hole today and still make a run at a hole?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Well, you couldn't make a run at it, but --

Q. You weren't scared to hit it?

STEVE STRICKER: It wasn't scary as it has been in the past where you just tap it and still watch it run all the way off the green. But just like on No. 2, I hit a sand wedge in there. I thought it stopped at one point. I wasn't up by the green, but it looked like it almost made it, it didn't have a lot of spin on it, and it rolled about 30 feet down the hill. It's still tricky and there are still spots where you have to be very careful.

WILLIAM MORRIS: Steve, thank you very much, and good luck to you the rest of the week.

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