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June 15, 2006

Steve Stricker


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Steve Stricker to the interview room this afternoon. Steve with an even par round of 70 for the first round. Steve, you started the afternoon off 4 over through the first three holes and then turned it around quite a bit. Can you talk a little bit about what happened after the third hole?

STEVE STRICKER: I just tried to stay as patient as I could. Starting that way was not fun, but I just played in enough of these where you just learn just to be as patient as you can. Even though you're going the wrong way, if you can just start stringing some shots together and start making some pars, you almost build some momentum off of making pars, and that's what I was doing. I was starting to hit it a little bit better. I got off to a bad start. Nerves, I think, were a huge part of that. I just didn't handle that part very well. I settled down a little bit and made a couple of key putts along the way.

RAND JERRIS: Take a moment and just walk through the birdies and bogeys on your card.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Three putted from the front fringe on No. 1.

Drove it in the right rough on 2, laid it up and then not a very good pitch shot to probably 25, 30 feet, two putted.

3, I blocked a 3 iron way out to the right and got it on the green in two but then proceeded to three putt.

Birdied the par 5, No. 5. Hit a chip shot to about three feet.

Three putted No. 6 from maybe about 20 feet.

Birdied No. 8, hit a 3 wood and a 6 iron to about eight feet.

Birdied 11 with an 8 iron to about a foot and a half, two feet.

Birdied 12, made about a hit it about two inches in the right rough, hacked it out and then hit a 6 iron to about probably 30 feet short, on the green but underneath the hole, and made that.

Then hit a good 5 iron on 13 to about I'd say probably maybe 12, 15 feet and made that. Then made all pars coming in.

Q. Talk about patience at a U.S. Open venue. This course gives you difficulty with those three holes. Is that something you keep in the back of your mind and really not weather that storm very easily?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, the first three holes, and even 4 today, that was playing the first four holes were playing right into the wind, and I was patient. I mean, I knew that I was probably going to make a bogey or two before getting to some of those holes downwind or some of the "easier" holes out here. But I didn't handle the start very well.

I've been playing well in the practice rounds and everything like that. I was terrible those three first holes. It was like I hadn't played all year.

But like you say, you know those are the tough holes, and if you can just get through them somehow and be patient enough, hopefully good things will happen on the way in.

Q. Second nine started as well as the front nine started badly. Tell us what sparked those great birdies at the beginning of that nine.

STEVE STRICKER: At that point I had stretched a lot of good balls together and started hitting some good shots, got them on the greens, had some birdie putts. Then my putter, I putted well. I started off putting horrible the first three or four holes, and then all of a sudden I started making everything.

That's a key in a U.S. Open; you have to make those 10, 15 footers for par once in a while. You don't want to do that on a regular basis, but you're going to have them. I watched the TV this morning, you're going to have 10, 15 footers for pars, sometimes for bogeys, and you have to make them. That's what I was doing, I was just starting to string some good shots together, and then those three holes I putted well, and the whole back nine I really putted well. That was probably the key.

Q. You mentioned watching some of the guys struggle in the morning. Can it be intimidating watching the first couple of hours of play and seeing how brutally difficult at times the course can be?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, it can be. You know, I was kind of taking solace in the fact that it kind of calmed me down because I knew it was going to be difficult. I mean, I played Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and probably saw every sort of wind that we could have, and I knew those first four holes were right into the wind, so I knew they were going to be difficult.

You know, it kind of gave me a sense that it was going to be difficult but yet I kind of always enjoy coming to an Open, and it is difficult here, and that's kind of what I enjoy doing, coming and playing this event because it is that way.

It's no different than any other Open. I guess it's just hard. Every Open you come to is as difficult as you want to have it, and this is no different this year.

Q. You've had some good things happen to you the last few weeks. What's been the key to kind of getting your game going? You talked outside about working hard over the winter? Are there other things involved, too?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I've got a good support at home, you know, through family and all that kind of stuff. Everything is well at home, had another baby about a month ago and I put in a lot of time over the winter to get my game going.

Things were starting to progress for me with my game, and I just started getting confidence, you know, each week. Third place finish at Houston really showed me again that I can play and contend. You know, just better and better signs each and every week, I guess, and I continue to work on it.

Q. Prior to Houston did you have the doubts whether or not you could get that third place to kind of get you going again, obviously after the year that you've gone through?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, from where I've been, not playing the type of golf that I would like to play, it always creeps in your mind if you're going to play well again and to get to the point where you were before. For me it's been a constant uphill battle the last four or five years. Yeah, those doubts always came into my mind, but that's just the nature of the game, it's the nature of what we do. You have to keep plugging through it, and the easy thing would be just to quit and not work at it and probably do something else for a living. But this is what I want to do and I continue to work at it.

Q. Can you expand a little bit on what you were working on over the winter? Was it physical training or was it something specific in your swing, or what was it that's changed so nicely for you this year?

STEVE STRICKER: It's been a little bit of everything. I did some physical training; I tried to work out a little bit more. And then I hit a lot of balls. In Madison, Wisconsin, we hit from indoors out in a heated trailer, and I just put in a lot of time there and just kept pounding balls and hitting them and worked on little things and just continue to work on the same things that I worked on this winter. It's just a long process, and I continue to do that every day.

Q. If we take a look at the third hole, 216 yard par 3, back in 1959, Billy Casper laid up on that hole all four days, made four pars, ended up winning the championship by one shot. Has that thought crossed your mind or anyone's mind this week, trying to pursue a similar kind of strategy? It's not one that he couldn't reach, it was just one that he didn't feel he could hold the green properly.

STEVE STRICKER: It's crossed my mind, especially making double bogey there today, it may get more of my thoughts. It's just a difficult hole. You don't want to miss it on the short side, so then you end up hitting it on the other side, and there's just not a lot of room there. You're back there today with a 3 iron, it's 216 or whatever it was into the wind. It's just a hard hole. I mean, I don't know any other way to play it besides I think most of us are just too stubborn to lay it up. I think our egos all get in our way. We'd probably all play it better if we did lay it up because for the most part the players are good at the short game and would have more opportunity to make a par than probably going for it.

Q. Earlier in your career the Stricker family was on the road together, and now you mentioned you have a good support system at home. Was that a difficult adjustment to you when it became the family at home and you're on the road?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's something that as a family we did everything together on the road. My wife caddied for me, we were together all the time, and then we had our first child back in '98, and that threw a monkey wrench into everything. I mean, it was great having the kid; our little girl is the best. But it was an adjustment for us because that was someone that was with me all the time.

It's been a little difficult, and that's not the reason why I don't think I'm playing bad, but it's just or we're playing bad, it's just what everybody has to go through out here. You have to learn to deal with the things. Being on the road isn't the easiest things all the time, but you just learn to deal with it and move on, and hopefully you have the right people back home supporting you and telling you to do the right things and being behind you 100 percent.

I'm fortunate enough I do have that at home.

Q. What status are you playing under on the Tour this year, and has it been difficult for you to get in tournaments?

STEVE STRICKER: The category I'm in is beyond 150, and I don't know what that really is for sure. It's past champions lumped in there, and then I think there's some other players that haven't won that are in there, too, that maybe made so many career cuts or something like that. I'm not really sure. I know that I come after everybody else, really (laughing). I've played in six events so far. This next stretch, next month, I should get in a few more with the tournaments being up around the Midwest and some of the past champions at the Booz Allen next weekend, and the Western I'll get into, so I've got a good stretch coming up.

RAND JERRIS: Steve, thanks for your time, and congratulations on your fine play.

End of FastScripts.

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