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July 5, 2006

Steve Stricker


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Steve Stricker into the interview room. Thanks for coming by and spending a few minutes with us. Past winner here, 1996, so obviously this place holds a lot of memories for you. Just talk about the week.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I'm excited to be here again. It's ten years ago since I last won here. It's gone by in a hurry. Obviously a lot of good memories from here. My game is heading in the right direction, so it's an exciting time for me and an exciting week for me.

Q. A well-deserved break last week after a runner-up finish at the Booz Allen Classic, also a tie for 6th at the U.S. Open. Just take about getting refreshed for this week.

STEVE STRICKER: The Booz Allen went so long that it cut into my vacation time more than anything. Those two weeks were exciting for me. It was something I've been looking forward to doing for a long time, and my game has been headed in that direction, but to put two good weeks back to back was a definite plus.

They were long weeks. Being in contention, really not at the Booz Allen so much, we were fighting for second place, but the Open takes a lot out of you, and then being right there at the Booz Allen, those two weeks seemed to take a long time. But they were fun, and it was a definite -- a boost for my confidence and my game to show that I can do it again and be in contention.

Q. Can you take us through why your game went where it went and how long it took you to bring it back? We talked a little bit at St. Charles; you really had it going that day at sectional qualifier.

STEVE STRICKER: I don't know why it went the way it did. I think it's just the nature of the game. You know, it's filled with ups and downs. You know, it's a determination game where you have to just keep grinding away, keep practicing, keep trying to focus and get better. Even though you try hard sometimes, it just doesn't work.

I think for me personally, I was trying hard there for a while, and then it wasn't working and I had some good years in there and some down years, but the last three weren't very well. But then kind of this last winter, through that Tour school business of going to the finals and working on my game all the way through December, I kind of rededicated myself, kind of started working out again. You know, I practiced hard over the winter. Not that I didn't before, but kind of had a new outlook on things, and my attitude has been good, too. I think that's part of the reason.

Q. Was that kind of a wake-up call then?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it kind of was, I think, kind of a reality check, a gut-check and all that combined where I had to go back. I really didn't want to, but I wanted to get my full status back. I decided to go back.

You know, it's not a pleasant experience. I had to go back to second stage and made it through there and then get to the finals where it's six rounds. It's just not a lot of fun. You're on the road at the finals stage for about two weeks trying to prepare and then playing the tournament.

It wasn't a whole lot of fun, but I had a good attitude about it and I kept working at it, and I think it just kept me motivated to take that into the wintertime and into the start of the year.

Q. How does it feel now that you know that you're set for 2007, and what is going to be your attitude now for the rest of the year?

STEVE STRICKER: I haven't had this feeling for a long time, this feeling where I can kind of relax a little bit. I did that last week. I thought, you know -- or two weeks ago at the Booz Allen. I felt different out there. I didn't feel pressure on me to perform.

You know, there's a huge weight that's been lifted off me, really, being able to go out there and not worrying about having to make the cut to make a check to get my card back, all the things that go along with that. So it's been a relief, to tell you the truth, not that I haven't stopped working yet. I'm still going to keep working at it, but it's a relief knowing I've got my card next year, which is going to be an important year, and that I think was a lot of my motivation this year, too.

I didn't want to be on the outside looking in like I have the last two years going into the 2007 season of the FedEx Cup. No one knows how that's going to play out, if you're going to get into tournaments if you're in the position I was the last three years, so I wanted to make sure I had my card. So there was a lot of motivation when it came to that, too.

Q. Was there ever a time when things got really drastic, like maybe I can't do this anymore?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, it crosses -- it crossed my mind. I thought about what would I do. You know, what else would I do? I enjoy playing the game.

Even when I was going through those down times, those down years, you know, I still went out and I enjoyed playing the game, playing at home. When I came to tournaments, I didn't enjoy it as much because I wasn't playing as well and I wasn't seeing any results from what I was doing.

But it crossed my mind. After I thought about it, I wasn't going to quit. I mean, it just made me really work a little bit harder at it.

Q. That was kind of what I was going to ask, but was there one moment where you really were on the dark side as far as having the most serious doubt about whether you could get back to competitiveness?

STEVE STRICKER: Not one specific point I don't think stands out. The last three years -- I was still making a living, and that's kind of what I kind of regressed to. I shouldn't say regressed, but that's what my train of thought was. I was still making enough money to make a decent living, and that's what I was getting it down to. You know, it wasn't enough for me, really.

All of us out here, I mean, sure, the money is great. That's why we're out here is to make a living and to make money, but deep down, it's about winning and competing and getting in contention and all that. That's really what it was for me.

Q. With the recent success and knowing that you've got your card back and everything, do you reassess your goals this year?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, no doubt. I mean, my first goal this year was just to see if I could get my card back, get in enough tournaments to make enough money to get my card back. Obviously now, I mean, I've done that. There's Ryder Cup points to be had yet. You know, one good week just like J.J. Henry last week, he was 20-something on that list and he moved up into the Top 10. I'm 21st on that list. So it shows you that a good week here and there can get you right into contention for one of those spots.

You know, it's crazy how this game is. Last year I was going from no status to this year still no status but in a position to make the Ryder Cup team and get in the next two majors. So I've got to pinch myself every once in a while just to make sure everything is real and right. Yeah, it's crazy what's happened.

Q. What is your status right now? Do you have status?

STEVE STRICKER: I really don't have any status.

Q. Even with the year's earnings?

STEVE STRICKER: My status cannot improve the way I started this year. I started out in a category, Beyond 150 I think it's called, and I can't improve that. I can improve within that category, move -- other guys in that category, I can be on the top of that list, but I can't improve my category.

Q. You talked about 2007 being important and touched on the FedEx Cup. What are your impressions of the Cup? How do you think it's going to work? Talk about how it's affecting this tournament, shifting dates, moving to September, changing names; a lot of history is kind of going by the wayside.

STEVE STRICKER: Obviously it's very exciting for this Tour and for the golfing community to take on something new like the FedEx Cup. You know, I'm in a position where I've got to kind of wait and see how it's going to shake out, I think. It's going to be different.

You know, I've never had a problem with the way the Tour was scheduled and run in all the years past that I've been a member, so it's going to be a little bit of a change. I think it's going to be fun, though. I think it's going to be fun for the golf fans, for the players to watch this points list.

What I'm really kind of waiting to see is how it's going to alter the guys' schedules. I think the season is going to be shorter. You know, I don't know, I really am just going to kind of take a seat in back and look at it all and see how it all shakes out.

Q. What about this tournament not being called the Western anymore?

STEVE STRICKER: That's my mixed feeling on the whole deal is that some of the tournaments are changing, some of them are going away. Like the Booz Allen, that sounds like it may go away. That's kind of sad. This tournament is going to be moving around.

Obviously winning here, I enjoy Cog Hill and being a part of this year, but it's going to be back every other year the way it sounds, so it's an opportunity to also take golf to other venues, and great courses from what I understand that we're going to, Belle Rive and Hazeltine, so I think that's an opportunity for us to move around a little bit and give areas golf in their community for that week.

I think there's going to be a lot of positives out of the whole deal.

Q. We talked about refocusing the goals and reassessing. Would the Ryder Cup be your number one goal in sight right now?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, no question. I'm right there, just as much as anybody. I've got as good a chance as anybody to do it. It's just going to take me playing well the rest of the year. Obviously getting in those two majors would definitely help. If you can play well in one of those and Top 10, quadruple points, whatever the points are for those. Really, my first business is right here this week and to play well, and that would give me -- if I play well enough here I think that would get me into the British Open.

My foremost goal is right here this week, I guess, but looking ahead, getting in those majors and points for the Ryder Cup.

Q. In a nutshell, why are you playing better? What's going right out there? Are you driving it better?

STEVE STRICKER: I'm doing a lot of things better. I'm driving it better. You know, my percentage of driving and fairway is up. Greens in regulations are up. My putting has always been fairly solid, and that's the same, I guess.

You know, I think it's just renewed confidence level. This game, for me it's been such a fine line, I guess, that when I get it going, it gets going really well; and when it's not, just like everybody out here, you go through some tough times and it's tough to get out of that hole. I guess I'm climbing my way out and would like to keep her going for a while.

Q. Was there anything in particular you could put your finger on that caused your decline? I remember you changed equipment and you had problems finding drivers.

STEVE STRICKER: I think it was -- there was a few things there; changes in equipment may have had something to do with it. I played a lot at the end of that '96 season. I went overseas, Dunhill Cup, part of the Presidents Cup team, so I played a lot. And then I started right up again in '97 out on that West Coast and really not refreshed, I think, and then struggling with the driver didn't help things, and then my confidence just went in the hole.

Q. Did you kind of get caught up in your success?

STEVE STRICKER: In what way?

Q. Like you said, playing a lot more, changing --

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I think -- this is my business out here. It's what I need to do to make money, and I think I did that. You know, I think that I chased some of the money, whether it was a new equipment deal, playing more. I probably wouldn't change that because you've got to kind of take advantage I felt was the situation at the time. I'm riding that high, and you don't think you're going to go the other way. You don't think you're going to change equipment and go in the tank.

At that point I didn't find it was a problem, you know. I'm happy with what I did. I'm not happy with the way I played, but I've also had some -- '98 was a good year; 2001 was a good year; '99 was okay. So there was a couple of sprinklings of good years, but then the last three haven't been so good. But I think it's just a long process out here. I've been out here, this is my 13th year already, so it's just a grind, it really is. You have to pace yourself.

Growing up in the Midwest, I think I've always been accustomed to that winter break, and '96, '97 I didn't get that winter break, and I didn't get away from the game. I think that's what kind of hurt me the most. I didn't really get sharp mentally again. I didn't get away from it and just relax and get away, I guess.

Q. How much confidence do you find yourself now with your approach into tournaments now? Do you see yourself getting goals as far as just making the cut?

STEVE STRICKER: I've always looked at it the same out here, even when I was going through good times and bad times. First of all, you've got to make the cut. You've got to get in on the weekend. But obviously now you've got your eyes set a little bit higher when you're playing better.

So yeah, obviously I'm looking to get in contention and get that feeling again. You know, it's not surprised me the most but made me feel the best out of all these couple weeks is when I did get in contention, I didn't feel out of sorts. I actually felt a little bit relaxed, to tell you the truth. I felt good about it, felt comfortable being there. It's like I hadn't left, so that was what was surprising and pleasing the most.

Q. Just sort of along those lines, you mentioned the British and the PGA. I guess with the PGA being further down the line than the British and the Ryder Cup, what are you looking to -- how do you feel about that British and that PGA, getting in and performing well there considering what you did at the Open? Are there different thoughts getting ready for those?

STEVE STRICKER: I'm not going to do anything different. I'm just going to do the same things. I'm going to hopefully get in the events first of all. I think I'm just on the outside of the PGA. I think I'm 71st on that Special Money List where they take the top 70. So I still need to play well to get into these events.

But obviously after doing what I did at the Open and past successes at some of these majors, I've got a different feeling that I can go there and compete at that level, whereas the last few years I haven't even been getting into those events. It's just nice to be back in the game again and know that I've got my card for next year, I'm going to be back and part of the Tour again.

JOHN BUSH: Steve, thank you, and play well this week.

End of FastScripts.

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