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June 16, 2006

Steve Stricker


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome again today Steve Stricker to the interview area. Steve with a 1 under par round of 69 today, total of 1 under par for the Championship. Steve, two very fine rounds back to back. There must be something about this golf course that fits your game in particular.

STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. I mean, it's tough. It's a course where you've got to keep plugging away every hole just like any other U.S. Open, I guess. I've just had good practice here every day. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were good practice days for me; I played well in the practice rounds and I think I just kind of except for the start yesterday, I think I've kind of continued that.

Q. For the record would you walk us through the birdies and bogeys on your card, please?

STEVE STRICKER: Started on the back side you want where I started or just go from No. 1? Started on the back side, birdied 14. I hit a driver and a 6 iron to probably 15 feet.

Three putted 15 from about 15 feet; I was above the hole there and ran it by about maybe six, seven feet, missed that.

Then 18, I hit 3 wood off the tee and an 8 iron to about five feet.

Birdied No. 2, holed it out of the bunker.

Drove it in the fairway on 2 then flared a 6 iron over in the right bunker and holed that.

Q. How long was the bunker shot?

STEVE STRICKER: It was probably 15 yards.

Bogeyed No. 7, hit it in the front right bunker, didn't get it up and down.

Drove it in the fairway at 8 and kind of misjudged the wind with a 6 iron and was more right to left than I thought, hit it in the left bunker and didn't get that up and down.

And then No. 9, drove it in the fairway and was kind of in between clubs, was between an 8 and a 9 iron, and I hit a hard 9 and ended up yanking it over there in the bunker to the left and holed that one out of the bunker.

Q. Talk about how it feels of being on the verge of having the wheels fall completely off but saving everything with that last shot. Is this a course where the swings and the emotions are going to go to extremes like that?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's just the nature of the game, I think, especially on this course. We saw it with David Howell yesterday, too. There's just no letup out there. The weather by the end of the round, you're getting tired and your mind starts to wander, and it's a grind mentally, too, as well as physically.

It was a bonus, obviously, to hole that out of the bunker. I mean, I could have made a bogey just as easily probably and been sitting here at 1 over. It was a good finish.

Q. Is there any way to compare the pressure you feel week after week trying to make a cut and keep your existence out on the Tour as compared to the pressure of trying to stay near the top at a major championship?

STEVE STRICKER: That's a good question because I was thinking the same thing out there. I feel tons more pressure when I'm trying to make a cut. You know, whether it's in a major or out there in a regular Tour event. When I had it going today and knew I was well inside the cut and leading the tournament, I was actually having a lot of fun with it and really didn't feel a whole lot of pressure.

I started feeling a little bit more pressure when I started making a couple of bogeys, but, you know, I actually really enjoyed that a lot. I didn't have to worry about, like I said, making the cut and playing on the weekend. I was well inside that number.

Q. Last couple of years, last three years have been kind of a struggle for you, had to go back to Q school this year. Can you talk a little bit about that? Were there any injuries involved, and just how you got to the point where you are right now, having shot 64 65 in the qualifier? It seems like your game is coming back strong.

STEVE STRICKER: There were no physical injuries, but mental injuries there might have been, I'm not sure (laughing). I was obviously struggling with confidence and everything that goes when you're not playing that well. I just put in a lot of time this winter. I worked hard at it. I think what helped, too, is I went back to Q school, went back to the finals, and I kept playing all the way up through December this last year and then never really put the clubs down over the holidays.

I can't play up in Wisconsin, but I was still able to hit a lot of balls. I continued doing that and working out through January and February, and the tournaments that I've gotten into this year, I've played well. I've just kind of been building a little momentum each and every week that I play.

Q. When did the confidence was it Houston that the confidence began to really gel or was it before that?

STEVE STRICKER: I think it was a little bit before that, but I mean, obviously Houston helped, finishing third there: It got me on my way to trying to get my card back, you know, for next year. I still need to make some more money, but I'm in a good situation with some tournaments left to play. But it's just been a gradual climb for me, I think. I started out playing well right at Pebble Beach this year, the first tournament out of the chute. It's just kind of progressed every tournament. I haven't played that much. I think this is only my seventh event this year, but it's kind of progressed every event.

Q. Not to harp on this, but you almost won the PGA in '98, you won the World Golf event. Was there a particular incident, tournament, turning point where your game did fall off and where you started to struggle?

STEVE STRICKER: The whole year of '97 probably was my first three years on Tour were a steady progression, '94, '95 and '96, and obviously my two win year in '96 was the highlight of everything, and then just kind of fell off the chart in '97. I've had some good years since, sporadically, but not the consistency that I would like.

I don't know if it's just obviously a lot of lost of confidence in '97. You know, it's been a work in progress just to get it back. Again, I think it's the nature of the game, and that's what I've come to realize, I think. It's very difficult to sustain unless you're a Tiger or a Vijay or some other God gifted player. For the normal guys out here, it's hard to sustain high level for a long period of time. You have your ups and your downs.

You know, I realize that, and I think that's what's helped me in some respect, too.

Q. Was there an equipment change, also, that played into this struggle that you've had with your game, and could you elaborate a little on that?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, and I don't know if it was equipment. I played a lot at the end of '96, after the Tour was over, kind of the silly season stuff. I don't know if I just wore myself out and then I never really got away from the game like I normally like to do in the winter months. It was probably just a combination of things that led to me not playing so well, and whether it was equipment or not, I think there was a bunch of things involved there.

Q. I know you try to stay physically sharp given the infrequency that you get to play on Tour. Is it hard for you to stay mentally sharp, given that it's a sporadic schedule you're playing right now?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I haven't had that problem so far, luckily. I actually feel really refreshed when I come out. I think it takes me a few holes to get going. You know, typically in tournaments to really settle down it takes three, four, five holes to really settle down, and that may take a little longer for me sometimes because I'm not playing every week. But mentally I've been really refreshed and sharp and ready to go.

Q. You say you lost some confidence in '97, but you almost won a major and won a World Golf Championship event after that. Did it kind of go up and down?

STEVE STRICKER: Yep, I think it was just the consistency that I didn't have. That was what I was known for right when I first came out. I made a lot of cuts in those first three years on Tour and I was in contention a lot, and then all of a sudden in '97 I disappeared, and from that point I had some good years, '98 and 2000 and 2001. I mean, those were some good years. But just not the level of consistency that I usually like to play at.

Q. I'm wondering, even though it was a long time ago, will there be some memories of Sahalee that you'll be able to draw on as you play this weekend?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think so. It's been a long time. It's been eight years, but it's in there somewhere, it's just whether I can get it out of there and be able to contend like I did back then. We'll have to wait and see, but I know it's in there. It's just believing in my ability and trusting what I've been doing and continuing to work at it.

Q. Your wife Nicky was on the back with you during the great times, and I remember you talking about her, knowing when to talk about the ducks or different things to kind of distract you and keep you calmed down. Do you ever think from this experience and how great it would be not anything wrong with your present caddie, but do you ever think what a comfort that might be to have Nicky back on that bag?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, and she would love to be back on the bag, too. Hopefully she'll get to do it once or a couple times this summer. We had a good relationship on the course, and she was also there for that bad year, though, too in '97 (laughter), so we can't get too far ahead of ourselves there. But it was a good timing, I think, that we had that baby girl in '98 because we were about ready to kill each other, I think (laughter). But no, we had a great relationship on the course, and we still do. She loves doing it, I love having her out there. It's just those days are long gone, but we did have a good time.

Q. You can certainly drive the ball enough to win out here on the weekend. Do you feel enough in control with your iron shots to put yourself in position to get up and down consistency over the weekend when you hit a poor shot or are you in good control with your iron shots?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, my irons, I'm kind of hot and cold, I think, with those sometimes. I hit a lot of good ones early today and then struggled at the end. But it's just you know, not every hole sets up the same, not every shot feels the same. I guess the strong part of my game is I am able to get it around. I am able to get it up and down when I miss the greens, and I have thus far. That's what you need to do here.

I mean, I think I hit 12 greens today, and that's pretty good around here, I think. I actually had an opportunity to I missed the last three, so if I can continue to do that, hit 12 or 13 greens in the weekend, I should be doing all right.

Q. When you play only seven events, what do you do with that other time?

STEVE STRICKER: I've been at home changing diapers the last month, really. But before that, I've been playing a lot at home, practicing, but mainly playing, trying to keep sharp by playing. I really haven't hit a whole lot of balls recently, but just been trying to stay sharp playing.

Then you throw in I had to qualify for the U.S. Open in a Monday qualifier, so you throw in some competitive rounds here, whether they're little money games at home or U.S. Open qualifier, what they are, it still helps to do that kind of stuff to stay sharp.

RAND JERRIS: Steve, thanks very much. Congratulations on your fine play.

End of FastScripts.

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