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October 23, 1996

Steve Stricker


LEE PATTERSON: Any questions you might have? I know you had a good time at St. Andrews.

STEVE STRICKER: I did have a good time at St. Andrews. Do you want to hear about St. Andrews? It was a great week, just in the fact that I got to know Phil Mickelson and Mark O'Meara a little bit better and got to spend some time with them. We eight dinners out every night together as a team. And we got to play St. Andrews, and the best part of it all is we went over there and won. And that's what we went over there to do and that's what we were talking about at the beginning of the week. It was just a good week in that respect that I got to know those two players and that we came out on top. It was an experience that I won't forget, just because those are the two guys or some of the people that I've looked up to for a long time, just because of their level of play. They've been out here a long time and they've been very successful. So getting to know them and getting -- I think I earned some of their respect, I think. I hope I did, anyway, by playing. And it was just a good all around week, both on and off the course.

Q. Is that your first time there, at St. Andrews?

STEVE STRICKER: Yes. We went over there and tried to qualify for the Open a couple of years ago, and didn't make it. Just went over and looked at the course while they were playing Shell's Wonderful World of Golf between Seve and Azinger, I think. But that was the first time I've been around it competitively.

Q. What did you think about the golf course?

STEVE STRICKER: The more I played it the more I liked it. If I didn't go a round with O'Meara in the practice round, I don't think I would have known where to go, to tell you the truth. But the more I played it the more I liked it. And different conditions, the wind switched around some days and all of a sudden we didn't really know where to hit it. When it came in a different direction, bunkers came into play that you didn't even know were there. It's very interesting. It really is a strategic course. And I really can't get over how big and large the greens are. But I enjoyed it a lot, just the history and everything that's been there are the things that come to mind. It was fun.

Q. Where did that week rank in your career as far as your perspective? Put it in perspective.

STEVE STRICKER: It ranks right up there because it was -- we were playing for our country, and even though it might not have been as big a deal as maybe the Presidents Cup team or a Ryder Cup or something like that, it still was a tournament that we represented the U.S. in and we took pride in that and we played hard because we wanted to win. So it was -- it ranks right up there in the weeks that I've had out here on TOUR, I think.

Q. Talk a little about the World Matchplay. You had a couple of good, interesting -- couple of interesting matches?

STEVE STRICKER: I played Elkington. Until the first round I was down 2 through 18 holes. And then played pretty good golf in the second 18 and beat him 3 and 2. And hit some key shots and gave me some confidence to hit those shots. He put them in there before me and I stepped up there and hit them in there close to and snuck out a hole. Matchplay, it's a totally different game. So you're just playing against that one guy. And it's a little bit different than what we normally play and I gained a lot of confidence from that and went into the second round, after I beat Elk 3 and 2, went in the second round against Ernie Els and had him 6 down at the end of 18. He didn't play particularly well in the morning and I think I shot 66. We flip-flopped in the afternoon and I didn't play particularly well in the afternoon, and he shot 66 in the afternoon, so that came right down to the last hole and I hit a bad drive in the bunker. But again, I learned so much from that, just the competition, and like I say, it's totally different from a normal tournament. And I fed off that competition and it was -- I showed I had a lot of stuff on the inside. I think I showed myself that. And again I think it helped me in my confidence level.

Q. Did you picture yourself playing that well in those two events like, say, a year ago? Did you need this year to have those two wins behind you? Did that make a difference?

STEVE STRICKER: I think I did. I needed the start that I had this year, kind of the middle part of this year that I had I think to get the confidence and then the Presidents Cup stuff, being paired with Lehman and Pavin and getting to know those people on the team, just the competitive nature of both those players. Lehman and Pavin are two of the fiercest competitors you'd ever want to face. And I kind of fed off of those guys, and I learned how to play a little bit of matchplay and I think it helped in those two events overseas. And I had the confidence to go over there and play. And I like going head-to-head, the matchplay part of it is interesting, and it's -- it's just you and one other player. And sometimes -- I think one round I didn't play particularly well, but I beat my player. And that's all you have to do, which is different than the normal weeks.

Q. Do you see any difference between matchplay 18 holes and 36 holes besides the obvious, that it's more holes?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, I think it gives you an opportunity to be a little bit more aggressive. You can take some chances, I think, bigger chances earlier on. And it gives you a chance, like I was down 2 to Elkington, and I had a whole 18 holes to try to get that back. And I could have blown out Ernie, but he had the second 18 to come back, which he did, and beat me. It gives you a lot more opportunity to mess up, but if you're leading, it gives you a lot more opportunity to lose it, too. So it's interesting. You have to play well. And usually the guy who's playing the more -- the most consistent over that period, 36 holes, is going to show.

Q. Your career has been kind of a steady progression. Is there anything you can point to that got you over the last hurdle this year to win twice, anything you can figure out?

STEVE STRICKER: I really can't point to any one thing that's got me over the hurdle. But I think definitely the first win has given me a lot of confidence and given me the ability to win again, I think, at the Western and do the things that we've done after that, including those team competitions. I just feel like I'm a better player now, if that makes any sense. I feel like I can compete at this level. Before I won, I really wasn't quite sure and until you really do it, you don't know if you can do it, so it's just a reinforcement, I think, type thing. When I win or when I won and it just gave me that much more confidence to play better.

Q. What is doing so well in matchplay-type formats tell you about yourself or your game that maybe you didn't know?

STEVE STRICKER: I always thought I was a pretty good competitor. I don't like to lose. And when there were situations in those matches where I'd be in trouble a little bit, I'd be down a hole or two, but I'd come fighting back, and I didn't give up. Like I said, that player would hit it in there before me and I would stand up there and not -- I didn't feel the pressure that I had to hit it in there, but I still got up there and I hit good shots and hit them inside there. Those are times when if a player has already stuffed it in there, those are times you can back down and hit a poor shot and leave it in the bunker, that you're trying so hard. But I showed myself I had a lot of composure and hit a lot of good shots after other players hit good shots. It's just a totally different feeling than regular tournaments because you're so -- you pay so much attention to what that one player is doing, and usually during the tournament you're not paying attention to your other playing partners, you're just worrying about your game.

Q. How is it different playing in the tournaments with all the hoopla over Tiger Woods and what do you think of him?

STEVE STRICKER: I think it's great for golf. I think -- I don't think golf was starved for something like this to happen, but I think it's great for the game. He's done something that no other player has done, getting off to the start that he's gotten off to. I think he's a great kid. I don't know him a lot, but I've had an opportunity to talk to him a couple of times. You can see by the people that are coming out here to watch and everything that the public really knows about him and they're really fired up. And it's kind of fun to see. He's making it look awful easy, that's the only thing I can say. (Laughter.)

Q. Steve, let's go back two years, when you were back here at Southern Hills follow the first time as an alternate, just kind of waiting and waiting and waiting. Remember the story about Arnold saying that if he could bow out he'd like for you to jump in there. How did that feel and now how does it feel to be here now?

STEVE STRICKER: I tell you what, even though I didn't play in that tournament that was a week I won't forget, either. Because I got to play a practice round with Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, like I played with Tom again today. And me and David Edwards took those two guys on and we beat them for 40 bucks, and I actually got 40 dollars of Arnold's. It was an opportunity, though, that not everybody gets, and I never thought I'd get. And I was able to play a practice round with him and the week was made right there, even though I didn't get in the tournament. But I was able to go a round with those two great players. But I sure feel like times have changed now. I feel like back then I wasn't quite sure of my place out here on TOUR, and now I'm getting the feeling that I belong out here and that I can play out here. So I definitely have different feelings from the last time I was here.

Q. Well, do you feel differently as going from feeling that you belong on the TOUR as opposed to now feeling like you belong among the better, higher tier or the top third or however you want to call it? A higher level.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I do. I try not to -- I don't know what I try to do, but I try to keep things in perspective and try to make it so I keep working hard at it. I don't like to give in and say that I'm one of the better players out here. I've had a good year. And players have good years, but the thing is I need to keep backing this up year after year to be a top player. So the real key for me, I think, is going to be coming out here next year and seeing if I can do it again. And that's going to be a challenge for me, I know. And that's what keeps me going and keeps me working at the game. So it's not just -- it's been a great year, there's no doubt about it. And it's been really unbelievable, but I've got to make sure that I keep my focus and keep working at it hard so I can keep doing this year after year.

Q. How does Southern Hills set up for you? Do you feel like you've got a legitimate chance this weekend?

STEVE STRICKER: I feel like I've got a legitimate chance. I played fairly well today. I like the course. It's a course where you don't have to make a lot of birdies. The greens are good and tough. They're tough to putt. I don't think it's going to take a lot under to win, especially if the weather gets bad. But I enjoy the course a lot.

Q. Did you fantasize about a year like this or was this even better than you hoped for at the start of the year? Did you have goals at the start of the year?

STEVE STRICKER: I had a goal at the start of the year to get into the top 30. And to win, actually. But this has been kind of beyond my expectations, for sure. But I've just got to keep, again, trying to take each week as it comes and try not to -- hopefully at the end of the season I'll have a chance to sit back and reflect on really what's happened. After each win I've had to go run off and do something or play another tournament. So I haven't really had the time to sit back and really fully enjoy what we've done this year. But a lot of great things have happened. Hopefully it's just the start of many things to happen. But I've just got to keep those things in perspective, I think.

End of FastScripts....

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