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June 19, 1999

Steve Stricker


LES UNGER: Steve, we've been watching and seeing the ups and downs of everybody out there. How about an overview of the conditions and how the course is playing.

STEVE STRICKER: Well, I think it's getting harder by the day. The pin positions are extremely difficult. The greens are faster today than they were the previous two days and the fairways are getting firmer. So it's starting to play a little bit faster and shorter, but I think the greens are getting faster and more difficult, too.

LES UNGER: But you were able to post a 69.

STEVE STRICKER: I got off to a great start. I holed a 40-footer at 2 and then holed an 8-iron out of the bunker at No. 3. So getting off to that kind of start really got me going and gave me a little bit of confidence, got me into the round. Instead of making a bogey to start off the round, I went another way and made a birdie, and when you do that here in an open, it lends itself to a good round, I think.

LES UNGER: Well, you started on your card, just eliminate the routine pars and if you could tell us about the rest of the holes, please.

STEVE STRICKER: I 3-putted No. 8 from maybe about 35 feet. Came over a 6-iron at No. 9 and it buried in the left bunker, and I left it in the bunker and then hit it out to about 2 feet to save bogey. No. 10 I hit a wedge from, I think I had 140 to the pin, hit it to about 7 feet, made that for birdie. Birdied No. 14, hit a 7-iron. I think we had 167 and hit that to about 4 feet. Bogeyed No. 16, hit a 2-iron, it landed on the green, rolled through the back left part of the green and came to rest in the rough and really didn't have a very good play from there and hit it out to about 10 feet and missed that. Bogeyed No. 17. I tried to hit a 7-iron, and I think I got a little bit greedy coming in on 16 and 17. Instead of just aiming for the center of the green, I tried to hit it right in there and stuff it. And the wind got it a little bit and hit it on the right side of the green and didn't get that up-and-down. I missed probably about a 10-footer there, as well.

LES UNGER: Do you think a 69 is going to hold up as the low score for the day?

STEVE STRICKER: I have no idea what anybody else is doing. I know a round of 69, it definitely will get me back into contention a little bit more than I was starting the day, and it puts me in a position where I need to go out tomorrow and probably shoot another 69 or 8, and get it back to even par. At least I have another opportunity, and that's really all I can ask for going into the last day. So it puts me in good position for tomorrow.

Q. John Cook said earlier that anybody that went under par today, it would be the round of the year. Do you feel like you shot the round of the year?

STEVE STRICKER: I don't feel like I shot the round of the year. I feel great that I shot a 69. But getting off to the start that I did really fueled my whole round. I mean, 3-under through 3, you know, you don't expect to start off that day. And to do that was a pleasant surprise. But I still thought coming in today that -- my wife and I and my father-in-law, we talked about that there was probably a low round out there. And we've heard somebody on TV, I think it was Johnny Miller, saying that somebody could come out and shoot a low round, 66 or 5, so we were thinking of a low round, anyways. But to get off to that kind of start, you really don't expect to do something like that. But it got me in a position to shoot that 69.

Q. Steve, there's been a lot of talk about difficult hole locations. Do you think the hole locations were fair and reasonable today?

STEVE STRICKER: I do think they're fair. I don't know about how reasonable they are, but they're fair (laughter.) But they're put in positions where you have to play extremely smart. And if you don't, if you try to be too greedy, you're going to pay the price. They give you a position, usually, a place to hit it, a place to miss it, and it's usually not very close to the hole at times. You have to take your 20- and 30- and 40-footers and 2-putt them. When I first got out on Tour I couldn't handle that. I thought, well, this isn't golf. They force you into situations that you're not comfortable with, but I've learned to deal with that I think over the years, that you come to these major tournaments and you expect the unexpected. And you expect the pin to be put on a place where you could putt it off the green, you could putt it in the bunker, so you learn to deal with it because everybody has got to play it. It's just tough. And I think that's what they're doing to you, too, the USGA. They're trying to find out who the toughest person is mentally, as well.

Q. Steve, there were a lot of terms being tossed around earlier today, Carnage, Chamber of Horrors, Augusta on Steroids. Considering all of that, do you almost feel like you were playing a different course from everybody today?

STEVE STRICKER: No, not at all. Don't get that score wrong. I played well, but it's still a struggle out there. The course is so tough that it's hard to drive it in the fairway and it's hard to get it on the green and it's hard to make putts. And that 69 did not come easy. And after making bogey at 8 and 9, I righted the ship and made a couple more birdies to get it to 3-under again. I guess I had that confidence going from the start that I was able to get off to such a good start that it gave me a little bit of confidence and I kind of kept it all the way through the round.

Q. Steve, you mentioned you got off to a good start. Did you feel you were too aggressive on 16 and 17?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I did. I felt like I was way too aggressive. I was thinking 3-iron all the time on 16. And I ended up taking out a 2-iron and trying to get it all the way back there to the hole and it went over the green too far. If I hit that 3-iron, it probably would have slowed down on the front of the green, and I probably could have 2-putted from there. 17 I know I was way too aggressive. I tried to hit it and stuff it in there. I should have put it in the center of the green and tried to make it in a 20-footer. But maybe that's a lesson I learned today I can apply tomorrow.

Q. If this isn't the toughest golfing test you've gone through, what is?

STEVE STRICKER: I think this is. I think Shinnecock in '95, I think that's when we were there, was extremely difficult, as well. The conditions there were tough. They were windy, and the greens were extremely fast. But this is one of the toughest courses I've ever played, if not the toughest.

Q. What were your yardages on the 8-iron at No. 3?

STEVE STRICKER: I think I had 136 into the wind, hit an 8-iron.

Q. Actually that was part of my question. But you had a good lie in there, was it fairly flat? Could you see it go in or could you hear people go gonzo up there?

STEVE STRICKER: I heard the people going crazy. I hit a great lie on the bunker. I could tell it was getting closer. You can tell how the people are reacting when it's getting closer, but to have that go in, you don't expect that. But the worst thing of it is I was going to make a birdie, anyway, so I picked up one shot, I guess.

Q. Steve, the irony between you and Phil Mickelson, did you ever have a chance or was there ever an opportunity where you were going to pull out of a tournament because of your wife and could you just talk about how she and her pregnancy came into your golfing career?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I was prepared to pull out of the PGA Championship last year. And I didn't have a beeper like Phil does, but I had a private plane, people that I could call that I could make it home as quickly as possible if she called. But she told me she wasn't going to call me. (Laughter.) Amy, though, I've got to believe Phil and her made a little pact, that if Amy was going to have to baby that she was supposed to call Phil. And knowing Phil, and I know how much he wants to be there, and he'll be there and rightly so, I guess. It's their first child and there will be more Opens.

Q. Going into tomorrow's final round, how much will you think about the PGA, and what do you think you've learned from that?

STEVE STRICKER: I think I've learned a lot from the U.S. Open last year, playing with Lee Janzen, and playing with Vijay in the last round at the PGA. I was able to see how they won, basically. It's hard to put it in words, I guess. They stayed real patient. I could tell they were battling nerves, too. They got a couple of good breaks, but I think mainly they remained calm on the outside. I'm sure they weren't on the inside. But it looked like they were fairly patient, and I know when I get into contention, especially in a major tournament, that I really get ahead of myself and I start to walk a little bit faster, my swing gets a little bit quicker. And those are the things I'm going to have to deal with and slow down a little bit.

Q. Steve, going back to last year when your wife was pregnant, you had the baby, I guess, two weeks after the tournament. Did that come into play at all in your last round, you found you had trouble concentrating, and do you think that will be a problem for Phil tomorrow?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I was pretty emotional about the whole thing last year for some reason, just the fact that we were going to have our first child, the fact that I was in contention at the PGA, I don't know if it really played a factor or not. I hope it didn't. It probably spurred me on more than anything, and I played well because of this other thing, this other great thing that was going to happen. Knowing Phil, I don't think it will interrupt his concentration or bother him at all tomorrow. It looks like he's extremely focused, the times I've seen him on TV, and it looks like he's on a mission a little bit. Amy being pregnant probably relaxes him a little bit and turns some of the focus away from the U.S. Open onto the pregnancy.

Q. Would you like to see the Open return to Pinehurst sometime in the future, despite the difficulty of the course?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I would. I think it's fair. I think it's going to bring out the best winner, too. The person who thinks his way around the most, who hits it probably better than anybody during that week -- although I've kind of proven that theory wrong, I think, because I don't feel I'm hitting it in the fairway enough, and not enough greens, but I'm doing it with my short game. I'm getting it up-and-down when I have to and making enough good plays, making enough birdies to stay in contention. But I enjoy it. I'm starting to enjoy the course more and more every day.

Q. Steve, given the absence of birdies, how far back is too far back for tomorrow, and how would rain of any consequence change that equation?

STEVE STRICKER: I'm not sure. If Phil stays at 3-under, it's all going to depend on him. I would say guys within five or six shots of the lead are going to have a real good chance, but you're going to need some help from Phil. If he's playing well, it's going to be tough to get. But there is a lack of birdies out there and I'm sure tomorrow is going to be just as difficult. But you just never know what's going to happen. You've got to remain patient and try to make pars, and sneak in a few birdies, to put some pressure on the leaders, and maybe try to get in before anybody else does at a certain number, because those finishing holes are pretty tough.

Q. Steve, you said that you do think it's fair, but you're not sure how reasonable. What's reasonable? Could you define reasonable?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, I think reasonable means that everybody has got to play them. They're not in a position where the ball is rolling back like they did at Olympic Club last year. They are in tough positions. They're up on top of the hills where if you hit a putt a little bit too hard, it may roll off the green. But everybody knows that, and some of them are a little over the edge, I think, but again I think that's what you come to expect when you come to the U.S. Open. I think that's why certain guys play the way they do, because they handle those difficult situations and they know it's going to be that way coming into the tournament and they expect it to be that way.

Q. Steve, is there anything in particular that you'll work on this afternoon to prepare yourself for tomorrow's final round?

STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't think so. I'll just probably go to the range and loosen up a little bit and try to work on my ball flight more than anything. If it's windy again, you need to control your ball flight a little bit. And at times I didn't do such a good job of that today. And just try to loosen up, hit some balls, and try to get some confidence going on the range. It won't even matter tonight, because tomorrow will be a new day and a new set of circumstances, and you're going to have to deal with all that stuff tomorrow.

LES UNGER: Is your wife ever coming back on the bag.

STEVE STRICKER: She's going to caddy this year at the GMO and she's looking forward to it as well as I am. It's been a long time since she's caddied and it will be a refreshing tournament for us to be back together.

End of FastScripts....

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