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June 21, 2006

Steve Stricker


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Steve Stricker for stopping in at the 2006 Booz Allen Classic. Steve, the 10th anniversary of your first victory on TOUR, which was here at TPC Avenel. A lot of good things to talk about. We'll start with that one. Talk about your 10 year anniversary.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, 10 years ago. It doesn't it kind of flew by, to tell you the truth. I still remember the day. It was a special day for me and my wife. Nicki was on the bag that day. First TOUR win. A lot of good things happened. We talk about it occasionally, reflect back on it. This is a special place for me in my heart coming back to Avenel here, the DC area.

TODD BUDNICK: We'll jump to last week, where you finished T6 at the U.S. Open, that coupled with a third at the Shell Houston Open, 59th on the Money List. Last three years you finished outside the 150. Looks like you earned your card for the next year. The T6 gets you a trip to the Masters and back to the U.S. Open next year. Hits keep running.

STEVE STRICKER: It was a good week. It was beyond my expectations going into last week. I had to go to sectional qualifying to get into the U.S. Open. Once there, I felt fairly comfortable. I've always enjoyed playing in the Opens. I've had some success at past U.S. Opens. It wasn't like I felt like I didn't belong there.

The question with me always is, how good can I get it into the fairway. I started doing that pretty well the first couple of rounds, struggled a little bit on the weekend. You know, I didn't feel like a fish out of water there. When I got into contention, I was quite comfortable nervous but comfortable. Ended up really enjoying myself and the tournament.

TODD BUDNICK: We'll take some questions.

Q. Can you talk about what the difference is between this year and the last few. Your game seems to have jumped up an entire other level.

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I don't know. Probably confidence level has gotten a lot better. Like I said last week, I put a lot of time in hitting balls over the wintertime, had a couple good starts to my season when I did get in tournaments. I gained some confidence from some of those events.

I just continued to practice the things that I was doing this winter. They're starting to click. It makes sense to me. I'm understanding my swing again, what I'm doing, what I'm not doing. It's almost like another phase. I mean, you can take any player, you kind of go through phases out here. A friend of mine was telling me last week, we were both talking about it, I started off my career and had some success, I was building up, then I kind of went into another phase where I kind of went to the bottom, had some good years in between.

I'm starting to feel like my game's coming around, my attitude's coming around. I think it's just the whole feeling or perception that I have about my game, my family, everything, is going in the right direction. Kind of a combination of things, I think.

Q. Does that underscore what a fine line there is between you playing well and not being able to keep your card?

STEVE STRICKER: I think that's the case with a lot of players out here. When you get going, playing well, you start gaining confidence. If you made enough to keep your card for the next year, you really can kind of free wheel it a little bit, things start to get a little easier. I haven't been in that position for a number of years.

I can just remember when I got off to good starts before, it kind of takes some of the pressure off. I've been playing just the opposite the last few years. I've been playing with pressure every tournament just trying to make cuts, trying to get my game going in the right direction. When you miss cuts, your game's not going well, it's kind of a snowball effect. It's tough to get out of that sometimes.

Q. Tom Kite was in here earlier today talking about Washington may not have a tournament after this year. Said it was a travesty. As a past champion, your feelings on Washington may not be back on the schedule.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I feel that way with a lot of tournaments, this one as well. Being a past champion, like I said, it's a special place for me to come to. I've always enjoyed the course. I personally feel they don't need to do anything to the course. I know some people feel differently. I've always enjoyed coming here, the design of the course. The condition it's in this year is by far better than what we've ever seen here. That's a testament to what the people have done here to get it in good shape.

I'm kind of up in the air with what's happening next year personally. I know there's going to be a lot of money involved. I know there's going to be this race for the cup. I'm just kind of wait and see attitude what's going to happen. I feel bad for some of these tournaments that are going to be put after the FedEx Cup, so called chase for the card. I just don't see any interest in that. All of a sudden we've kind of put those tournaments after the FedEx Cup, it almost feels like they're a notch below sometimes.

I'm just going to wait and see, see how it all plays out. To lose this tournament would be sad.

Q. When you say some players don't like it, what was the big complaint about this place?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, I think the condition over the years, the poa annua greens I don't think were always the best. The layout, a lot of players don't like the layout. I personally like it. Just stuff like that.

I think scheduling has a lot to do with it, too. Here we are the week after the Open, I understand a lot of people withdrew. I don't know how many. Quite a few. If it was at a different time... I remember back in '97, the week before the Open, you had a great field here. It shows a lot about scheduling, too. It's not necessarily the course or conditions sometimes as much as the fact as where it fits on the schedule, how players are feeling at the time on whether to come or not.

Q. Back to the FedEx Cup, one of the tournaments in an awkward spot is Milwaukee. After the British Open next year. You'll probably be in the British next year. What are your thoughts on that kind of a conflict?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, you know, Milwaukee has always struggled with dates on TOUR, to say the least. Obviously I'd go play the British. I couldn't really pass up a major tournament. It would be a tough decision. There isn't much you can do. I guess Milwaukee is in a position where at least they're within the season of the FedEx Cup. I guess that's a positive.

I don't think their field is really going to change there that much at Milwaukee. They always seem to get the same guys. The guys that are playing in the British, they aren't usually the guys coming to Milwaukee to play anyway. They could lose some stake players, like myself, Jerry Kelly, JP, Skip. They could lose them if we decide to go play the British.

Q. Talking about schedule, you played seven events this year. Can you talk about the difficulty of trying to get into events. I'm assuming there were events you would have liked to have played in. Talk about the pressure when you're there having to do well so you can get into another event and what your plan is now. I'm assuming your status stays the same. You still have to kind of fight your way into events going forward.

STEVE STRICKER: First question, just the fact I wrote to every sponsor at the beginning of the year. Some guys gave me spots last year. They wouldn't give me a spot this year because they didn't like to give the same guy a spot two years in a row. I heard that a couple times this year, which I understand.

I've always felt, if you play well, things take care of themselves. Out here that holds true for the most part. You just play well, things take care of themselves. My scheduling, I had no control over. I could only play where my number was getting in. I really didn't I only got two sponsor spots this year.

For the pressure part, you know, when you do get in a tournament, you feel like you need to take the utmost advantage of getting in, making the cut, making money. There's probably a little extra pressure there, just trying to get my game going, to make the money, make cuts.

Like you said, my status won't change this year. I'll have a busy next month because the TOUR kind of comes to the Midwest. Past champion here, past champion at the Western Open. They said they'd give me a spot, if I need one, at John Deere and Milwaukee. Usually I think my number gets me in there.

But I'll continue to write for spots, maybe kind of pick and choose some of the tournaments I write to now, knowing I'm going to have my card for next year. Hopefully with my finish at the Open, maybe I'll snag a couple spots from here on out.

Q. Two weeks ago at Barclay's, this week, there were a lot of WDs before the tournament started. You're a guy trying to fight to get into a tournament. You see guys deciding to pull out. Does that aggravate you?

STEVE STRICKER: No, not at all. That's their luxury. They've earned the right to determine their own schedule, pull out if they want. There's a gillion of my stories sitting out there, guys in my same position that have wrote for sponsor's exemptions, trying to get into tournaments any way they can.

No, it doesn't upset me at all. No, it doesn't.

Q. You talked practically how things changed for you, you made some money on TOUR. Looks like next year you'll be back. From your mindset coming into this week, big performance in the Open, having a bit of that pressure off, are things different for you mentally?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, yeah. I mean, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off me, to tell you the truth. I've always felt like I'm a player that belongs out here playing. The last couple years when I've had to fight for spots in the tournaments, it's been a little discouraging, to say the least.

But I've continued to try to practice, try to make my way back out here. Finally it's paid off. Hopefully I can kind of continue, like I said, on this next phase, continue to improve, get to some of the goals that I've set again, try to improve, try to just keep improving as a player. At least going in the right direction is how I see it.

Q. I was reading about your '96 win here. You were third on the TOUR in driving that year. Now you're like 120th. Have you geared down by necessity?

STEVE STRICKER: No. I may be one of those guys that hasn't been able to take advantage of the technology. I think I hit it about three yards farther on average than I did back then. I don't know.

Obviously everybody hits it long now. I think that's the difference. I'm not a huge guy, but I'm 6', 200 pounds. You'll get a guy, I'm not ripping on any small people, you'll get a guy that's 5'5" hitting it right next to you. Everybody's in condition, better shape, they work out. I do, too. It's just everybody has gotten bunched in there.

I haven't looked at that driving stat lately. If you jump up four or five yards, you make a big leap. Except for the top guys like Bubba Watson, JB Holmes, Tiger, those guys way out in front of everybody, everybody else is jammed in there from that 285 to 295 range. It shows me that everybody hits it about the same distance give or take a few yards.

It's just the nature of the game. Education is better for us players. The reps are coming out here and educating us more about how we can get more distance by lighter shafts, swing speed, ball speed, launch angle. Back in '96, none of that some of that was around but not in the aspect it is now. It's just changed a lot in regards to educating the players on how to hit it further.

Q. When is the last time Nicki caddied?

STEVE STRICKER: She's always itching to get back to caddie. She'll probably do it one or two times this summer. She always likes to do it in Milwaukee. It's close to home. We have a lot of help with the kids and everything. She's already hit me up for the Masters next year, too. She wants to caddie for there.

She really misses it. She's a competitive person. I think she feels that desire to win when she's out there on the bag, that she doesn't get to do much of any more because she's a mom. She's at home most of the time.

Q. Did you think about doing it for this one, 10th anniversary?

STEVE STRICKER: No. Just the fact we have a month and a half year old child now. She's at home with her hands full. Just wasn't practical.

Q. Harrington came in yesterday saying he was wiped out. Guys are fatigued. You some to have been energized by how well you played last week. Can you talk about where you are physically?

STEVE STRICKER: I went home for a couple days. I got back out here late last night. I think I needed to do that. It was good to get away, go back home, get back into reality, changing diapers, being at home.

But I do feel energized. I'm still tired. I think everybody who played last week, made the cut, is still tired. I feel good about myself, about what I've done the last just in seven tournaments this year. I'm kind of a little bit of both: I'm tired, but I'm excited to be there, excited to play again.

Q. You and Nicki set a precedent when you won. Are you disappointed no one has followed up, more winners kiss their caddies? Would that be good to see Phil and Bones?

STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't think so. I don't think that would be good.

Q. Your revival, can you trace it to last year? Your brother in law Mario was on the TOUR, revived your interest, made it more fun. Did that play into this year's success?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think it did. I think I could even pinpoint it more. I went back to TOUR school. I had to go back to second stage, then I went back to finals. I kept playing. Mario was out there. I stayed with him during certain tournaments. I kept playing and practicing all through October, November and December. I really never last year for whatever reason, I usually feel the urge to take some time off, get away from the game. Last year I kind of felt opposite. I don't know if I rededicated myself or what. Mentally I felt like I wanted to work on it for a change last year. I still feel that way now. I think it's shown in my attitude and my game.

I didn't play that good last year either. I was still working on it. Really it came in the fall. After I missed the finals, I shot 66 or 67 in the last round at finals, I had a couple opportunities coming in, I ended up missing my card by a couple shots. I think that last round there kind of fired me up and showed me that I still had game when it really mattered, in the last round at finals. Kind of carried over into this year.

You know what, spending time at home has been kind of a blessing for me. I played seven events. When I come out, I am I can finally see what Jack Nicklaus said, how he talked about he played 15 events. When he came out, he was ready. I am nowhere near what he did or does, but I can kind of see some of that. I go home, I take some time off, but I'm still playing and practicing. Mentally I'm really fresh when I come out because I haven't beat myself up the week or two prior in another event.

I think that's kind of helped, too, to tell you the truth.

Q. Next year you'll be able to put your own schedule together. Last year you played 21. Do you think you might be a little more selective now?

STEVE STRICKER: I've always been a guy who doesn't play a whole bunch. I've always averaged in the low 20s there somewhere. It probably won't be any different next year. I may I don't know. It will be a good position to be in for a change. I haven't been able to make my schedule up the last couple years.

I probably will do a little bit of that, only play a couple weeks at a time and then go home. More so because of the family. I just find it hard to go away for three weeks at a time. Two weeks seems like a long time. I think more so just to go home, be a dad, be part of the family, is more of the reason why I'm going to do it.

Q. I assume one of your goals entering this year was to play well enough to retain your card or earn your card for '07. Because of your success, does that change any of the goals? Do you look at it literally one shot, one day, one tournament?

STEVE STRICKER: I've learned over the years not to really get too far ahead of yourself out here. You're one tournament away from doing something really good. You're one tournament away from going in the tank sometimes, too. For me it's been a fine line of feeling good about playing well, feeling bad about playing bad. I kind of just been a little bit easier on myself this year I think, taking it a little slower, one tournament at a time, trying to be a little bit easier on myself, more positive with myself, just go from there.

There's just so many good players nowadays. You can look at cuts. When I first got out here, usually somewhere 10 to 15 shots from the cut line to the guy leading the tournament. Now it's very rarely over 10. It's usually 10 and under. Everybody's gotten bunched in there. You have to play well every day to make a cut. You really can't make too many mistakes. You have to learn to minimize your mistakes out here and keep plugging along.

Q. Sounds like with the family, couple years of struggling, you're really going to appreciate this next run maybe more than you did when things didn't come so easily for you.

STEVE STRICKER: Nothing has really come easy for me. Maybe that's why I went into that second phase of that little slide. I've worked hard. Even my first three years on TOUR, I was a guy that spent a lot of time practicing on the range. I'd go home, spend a lot of time. I know guys who go home, won't pick up a club, they'll come out and tear it up the next week. I'm not that way. I'm going home and usually playing is what I normally do.

You're right, I do appreciate what I've done in these seven events a lot more than whatever I've done before. I'm looking forward to next year already. That hasn't been the case the last few years. I'm excited and definitely I've got some opportunity for the rest of this year to do some more things. Just fired up to be playing better again.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Steve. Good luck this week.


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