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June 12, 1997

Steve Stricker


LES UNGER: Steve, you don't mind if we start off with a review of the round, your birdies and bogeys, the routine pars first, please, any par saves perhaps.

STEVE STRICKER: Okay. You just want me to give you the distance and stuff? No. 1, hit it in the -- out of the first cut of rough from about 135, a wedge to about 12 feet for birdie. 3 was a 3-wood and a 8-iron to about 30 feet left of the hole. Bogeyed 4 -- 3-putted for -- from above the hole probably about 25 feet. Hit it in the rough on 5, chipped out short of the green and missed about a 5-footer for par. Then birdied 7. Hit a 7-iron to about probably about 25 feet right of the hole. No. 8, hit a 3-wood and a sand wedge. Sand wedge was from about 90 yards to about 10 feet. 9 was driver, 6-iron, wedge from 112 to about 6 feet. And 10 was a driver and a 4-iron to about 20 feet.

LES UNGER: Steve, from the record I'm looking in the book, you've had sort of a quiet start to the season. Is this the start of something good what's been happening with you?

STEVE STRICKER: I sure hope it starts something good. It's been a tough year. I was wondering if, you know, if I was ever going to play good again and shoot any decent rounds because, you know, even last week at the Kemper, I played okay, and didn't get anything out of my rounds and ended up missing the cut. And I was just, you know, it's been kind of concerning and I changed equipment at the first part of the year. And, it's taken awhile for me to get used to the driver, 3-wood combination type thing. I really feel comfortable with that now and I feel good about it, whereas, I didn't feel so good about it. So, I think it's taken a lot of the pressure off me and now I can focus more on playing and practicing and trying to play better.

LES UNGER: Questions.

Q. Steve, can you talk about the save you made on the par 5 on the back?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that was on 15, I think. I drove it hit in the left rough, and you know, the ball was sitting down and I -- you know, it doesn't look like it wants to come out of there. I took a wedge to get it out of there and get on the fairway and get up there on the green in 3. It came shooting out of there better than I thought across the fairway into the rough, and into a worse lie. And, at that point, I knew I just was going to be struggling for par, and I just hit a sand wedge and chipped it out, and hit another sand wedge from about 88 yards and almost flew it in the hole, and made about a 4-, 5-footer. And, you know, saving par like that, really, it's almost like making birdie and really kind of kept my round going and my attitude, you know, strong. And, you know, you kind of look back at that one and kind of almost felt like I got away with one there.

Q. Steve, what did you do after missing -- I think you missed the cut last week. Did you come over here and play over the weekend? Did you do anything -- did you make any adjustments that helped you hit the ball better?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I did come over here. I think I played a whole tournament, 72 holes before I even started today. So, I've got my fair share of practice and my father-in-law which is my teacher, he came in on Sunday afternoon and so I was able to spend three days with him Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and, you know, we worked on it a lot, and just hit a lot of balls. And, he went around with me, nine holes each day. And, so, I was able to get some good work in on it and it felt pretty comfortable, you know, playing here just because I played so much already.

Q. After having such a good year, did you have any reservations about switching equipment?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I did, to tell you the truth. But, the equipment -- it's kind of a touchy subject to me because the equipment that I was using before, I really liked and -- but the offer that they came back with, you know, it wasn't even in the same ballpark, you know, and it's a business and I felt like I could drive the ball better and play better and I didn't come to Taylor Made thinking that I was going to become a different player or a worse player. I thought I was coming to Taylor Made to become a better player. And, the staff that they have is strong. And, the equipment and technology that they have is strong. I came there thinking that I was going to become a better player and I still believe that. I think it's just taking a little time.

Q. Steve, everybody else that's been in here has hit 10, 11, 12, 13 fairways. I think you hit six today. That's kind of amazing you hit six fairways and still come up with your score?

STEVE STRICKER: That's kind of deceiving those because I hit a lot of the first cuts. I can think of three on the front 9 that I hit in the first cut, and, you know, as long as you're in the first cut and able to get it onto the green, I'm okay with that. Getting in that second cut, I don't want to have any part of that. If I can get it in the fairway off the first cut off the tee, I know I can get it onto the green. It may not be as aggressive out of the first cut as you are on the fairway, but at least you can get it up on the green ^ ^.

Q. Steve, this is almost like a two-part question. What was key to the round today and how did you putt?

STEVE STRICKER: I putted good, finally. And, that's been a struggle this year, too. And, I think getting off to the good start, birdying No. 1 and No. 3, although I gave them back, you know, it gave me the confidence of making birdies and, you know, you go so long in an Open without making birdies and I think I made 6 today. So, you know, it just gets you going in the right frame of mind and being aggressive and feeling good about it.

Q. Steve, what was the low point for you and what did you do to try to get yourself out of if?

STEVE STRICKER: Today or this year?

Q. This year.

STEVE STRICKER: Well, I haven't had too many high points in 11 or 12 tournaments that I've played. It's been pretty disappointing to tell you that. And, you know, I was starting to wonder if I'm in the right profession or not the way I've been playing. And, you know, it's been hard on my wife as well. She's out there carrying the bag for me and she probably feels just as bad about the way I play as I do. And she goes through the ups and downs as much as I do. And, a round like this is good for us. And, it, you know, gets me going in the right direction and makes me feel a little bit better about what I'm doing.

Q. Steve, Colin Montgomerie was saying earlier this week that the U.S. Open is no place to try to find your game. You have to have it when you get here. You seemed to somewhat disprove that today?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, he's right. I mean, and he showed, you know, why he's a great player, just because his game sets up to Open-style courses because of the way he hits it so straight in the fairway and he's a good long-iron player. And, I just think you need to be aggressive still and, you know, you really can't back down just because it is the Open and the course conditions are a lot different than what you play week in and week out. But, you still have to be aggressive and -- be smart aggressive though, I should say and lay back and hit 3-woods at times . But your main goal is just to get it in the fairway on the green.

Q. When you made bogeys at 4 and 5, can you talk about how difficult it is to keep your composure?

STEVE STRICKER: It was difficult, and I didn't really get down on myself, though, just because you know, even par in Opens are pretty good scores. I was trying to stay patient and keep plugging along. I knew I had No. 6 coming up the next hole and I lipped out a chip there and almost made a birdie, but then rattled off four birdies. So, you just have to be patient and hang around and keep trying to do the positive things and keep trying to hit the fairways.

Q. Steve, Tom Lehman was through here earlier and was talking about how he felt the conditions today kind of made the course more vulnerable than it will be later in the week. Do you agree with that?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I totally agree. It's firmer than any of the practice round days but there was no wind to speak of, and you could still hold the greens with a good shot out of the fairway. So, I was thinking there was going to be some low scores today. But, you know, it's hard to tell in an Open and, you know, who's to say what the winning score is going to be. But, definitely, it's going to get firmer and faster as the week goes on.

Q. How many holes did you play in practice rounds and what days did you play after you got here?

STEVE STRICKER: I played 18 on Saturday and then I played 9 Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and played 18 yesterday.

LES UNGER: Anyone else? Nice going. And, we wish you good luck the rest of the week.


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