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July 12, 2006

Steve Stricker


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Steve, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the John Deere Classic. Last couple weeks have been pretty good for you, given you a lot of confidence.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, they have. It's been a welcome change to my game. Obviously the U.S. Open was a huge deal for me, and then following up the next week at the Booz Allen, finishing 2nd there, was another good week and secured my card and all that good stuff for next year, so it's been a good year so far.

Q. Any specific things that have worked better for you? Obviously looking at the stats, driving is up, greens are up, sand saves are up. Just talk about what steps you've taken to improve the game.

STEVE STRICKER: I worked a lot this winter on my game up in Wisconsin. You know, we've got a range that we can hit from inside to out, and I spent a lot of time hitting balls. I played all the way up through I tried to qualify in Q school last year all the way into December, so I was staying on my game all the way through December, and then I carried it through the winter break there and continued to do the things that I've been working on over the winter for the first part of the year. Some of the things really clicked, and they've been a lot of little things that I've been paying attention to, not any major swing changes or anything, but just a lot of little things. They've seemed to help, and my confidence level is back or getting better, and it's been a lot of fun again to play.

The last few years it's been not playing well and then tough to come to tournaments to try to tee it up because confidence level is down, but it's vice versa this year. You know, it's been good.

Q. Was there a time when you wondered if you were going to get it back?

STEVE STRICKER: Oh, yeah. When you go through three years of not really playing that well and struggling to even get inside the top 150, you're wondering what's going on. But I continued to have faith and continued to work at it, and really this last winter, I just made a bigger effort, really, started working out a little bit and working on my game a lot more, I guess, even during the wintertime. It just seems to have paid off.

Q. Was not getting through Q school kind of a kick in the butt?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it was, and even going to Q school was kind of a kick in the butt. You know, you kind of check your ego at the door type thing. Not that I have a big ego or anything, it's just that I've been out here for a long time, and you don't want to go back, and I ended up going back and felt like I was in a spot where I didn't want to go back to again. Kind of a reality check and all that other stuff, and it made me a little more determined to get my game going again.

Q. Two years ago this was a good tournament for you here. You tied in the top five. Do you feel like the form to get back to that level is there?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I do. Obviously you've got to have a lot of good things go your way during a tournament week, but I've been playing better, and like I said, my confidence level is up, and I enjoy coming here. I enjoy the course, and so all those things put together, yeah, I hope to have a good week. I just try to take one hole at a time and just keep trying to plug away and see if some good things can happen.

Q. These young guys come out here and they just swing it from the heels

STEVE STRICKER: I've been playing with them.

Q. Hit it as far as you can, is that the name of the game now?

STEVE STRICKER: They've got a lot of talent. They hit it a long ways. They've grown up with this technology. I played with Bubba Dickerson last round last week, and he grew up with a 46 or 47 inch driver. I grew up with 44 inches. So it's hard for me to kind of make that next change. A lot of these younger kids have grown up with this new technology and they swing hard and overpower the courses. It's something that you've either going to just stay with your game or try to adapt somewhat to the change, but I think ultimately you just stay doing what you've been doing, and if you do that successfully enough, then everything is okay.

Q. Is it different? Are there more of them now, these young guys coming out? How much has the youth movement changed since you've come here?

STEVE STRICKER: A lot has changed. It's a totally different game. I remember when I first came out, it was important to get it in the fairway, important to lay it up short of the bunkers and play position golf more so than now where guys just take out driver anywhere. That's the difficulty over the last few years that I've seen. I've kind of just gone back to my game, just trying to get it in the fairway.

You start playing with these kids even the older guys, even the bigger hitters, and I'm not a bigger hitter, but those bigger hitters, they pull out driver anywhere and challenge the bunker or hazard or whatever is up there. They believe if they're going to hit it up there somewhere they'll just hack it out of the rough and they'll be that much closer to the green.

Q. Is there a danger of getting caught up in that?

STEVE STRICKER: I think there is a danger of getting caught up in it. You've got to realize when you are getting caught up in it and when to back out of that situation. I even know like some of the top players are experimenting with these longer drivers. I've got a couple coming, 46 inch drivers. That's an inch and a half longer than what I normally play with.

You know, it's out there. I mean, you've got to try to tap into that technology and see if it can help you but realize if it's not helping you, you real quickly get back to what you've been doing.

Q. Was Phil Mickelson's Open meltdown a reality check that maybe fairways are not such a bad idea?

STEVE STRICKER: I don't think so. I don't think it's going to change a player's way of playing, but that's just the way he plays. That's what he figured. He had 4 wood. His other club was a 4 wood, so I don't know if 4 wood would have been the play there or not. He would have got hammered if he hit 4 wood in the rough. I'm sure he was thinking if he could have got it up in that bunker, up there in the rough somewhere, I mean, he could have got it on the green I would imagine, the way he was playing all day.

But it finally caught up to him the way it looked. I didn't get to see the whole round, but from what I understand it just finally caught up to him.

Q. You alluded to earlier a number of the physical changes or physical work that you've done in the off season. How much of that was mental, just for lack of a better term, just came from inside you, the inner game?

STEVE STRICKER: I think it's a combination of both. When you start doing one, it kind of improves your mental element, too. I know Joan here works out. She can attest to that. If you start working out, you almost it's another form of practicing. You know, when I'm working out, I usually watch TV, a golf tournament on there, and it kind of motivates you to do that. You start thinking about your game even while you're working out.

I mean, it just kind of gets to your inner side, I guess, and you start getting more dedicated. There's just a lot of positive things that come with that, I think, and just another step in trying to get my game back. It was just kind of another steppingstone.

Q. You have a lot of resources at your disposal, your family, the Tizianis in Wisconsin and also did you consult with a swing coach? How many people did you talk with, or did you feel like it was all within you?

STEVE STRICKER: It's all within me, and that's the way I felt from day one. I've got my father in law who's my swing coach, and he has been for a lot of years, but it was finally up to me. You can have somebody tell you all the things in the world, but deep down, you're the guy who has to do the work, you're the guy who has to hit the shot, pull the trigger on those shots and all that kind of stuff.

But it started with me at Tour school, I think, and then I continued through the winter by working out and hitting a lot of balls. I would bounce ideas off him and we'd talk about them, but yet it was just basically me up there pounding balls and trying to work on a few things.

Q. You're a friend of the GMO, which next year goes opposite the British Open. You were in the Western last week, which is every other and Booz Allen is gone. Do people here understand what would you say to people who may not understand what it is that they have in this tournament for the next four years?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, I don't understand what's going on some of the time. We're losing some of these tournaments that are close to my heart, Booz Allen and U.S. Bank Championship is moving opposite the British, which could hurt them, might not hurt them, but there's just changes in golf. A lot of it is money driven, I guess, and a lot of it is trying to get spectators more into the game, more interest into the game. I don't think it was bad what we were doing, but I guess obviously we thought we needed a change.

I'm just a little disappointed in seeing some of the tournaments go away. I think that's my biggest concern. I guess we're just going to have to wait and see how it's going to all pan out. Hopefully it's going to be good.

I mean, I'm excited. It's a great opportunity to be a player at this time, to be a part of this FedEx Cup. I'm happy that the Quad Cities is going to stay here. I mean, it's an event that I enjoy coming to. It's one I can drive to.

The people are unbelievable. I mean, it's a small town, Midwest feel. I went into Panera Bread today, and I ended up talking to everybody in there. Everybody wants to come up and say hi and talk to you and see what you're doing here, what's your name, how have you been playing and all that, so it's kind of a special, unique tournament that we don't get to see very often. It's nice that we're going to be here.

Q. On that note, your thoughts on the FedEx Cup points coming up next season. I was talking to J.P. Hayes yesterday and he said it's good because it gets some guys out to tournaments like the JDC or it hurts some guys because they won't be able to get to as many tournaments as they would like?

STEVE STRICKER: He head it right on the head. J.P. and I, we're both in that position of not having status for next year. That was another motivating factor to be a part of this FedEx Cup point system for next year. Yeah, it's going to be tough to tell right now what it's going to do to the schedules of some of these top players and what it's going to do to the availability of some of these guys getting into some of these events.

I know the guys that are on the outside looking in are wondering how much they're going to be able to play just because of that. You know, it's going to be interesting. I think the points system will add another dimension to other game and get people interested I think that might not be, and the season is going to be basically done with in September before the football starts, where we've typically run into problems with competing against football.

There's a lot of positives to this, and hopefully it doesn't cut down on the availability for players to get into events, the guys that need to get into events and that kind of stuff.

Q. If Michelle were to make the cut this week or at any men's tournament, what would that mean for the sport do you think?

STEVE STRICKER: I think it would be huge. I'm as big a fan as anybody. I find myself watching more LPGA events lately, especially the majors and things like that because of the young talent that they have out there and watching Michelle and Annika kind of go up against one another sometimes. I think it's just a matter of time before Michelle makes the cut here or anywhere.

From what I watch on TV, it's pretty impressive. I've never seen her hit it besides on TV, but it looks pretty impressive, and to be only 16 years old is just it's unbelievable, really.

I remember what I was doing at 16, and what she's doing is a joke; it's quite different, and my hat's off to her. She's going to be she is a great player and she's just going to probably rewrite a lot of record books as she continues to get better and grow up.

Q. In May you had the chance to be a father again. Isabella is now in your life. Describe how that has changed your dynamic as far as touring and how it's helped your game in any way.

STEVE STRICKER: Not a lot of sleep lately (laughter).

Q. I was going to say, there was a little bit of a lull between May 10th and the U.S. Open, probably because of the sleep?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's been good. I mean, obviously we tried for a long time. We have a girl that's seven, and then we tried all those years to have another child and it never worked out. We were finally glad to see this one come out, and everything is fine.

You know, it's a challenge, again. We were getting to a point with our seven year old where it was the three of us, and it's easier to do things, easier to travel, and she's kind of on her own sometimes. Now with another baby, it kind of throws a monkey wrench into everything. We've got to make sure we keep the time for that seven year old and all that.

They're coming out this week, and they came out for a day last week, and it's a big production when they all come out. You've got to have a trailer in tow when everybody comes. It's been good. It puts things in perspective and really shows where my priorities are at least. It's been great.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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