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March 28, 2007

Steve Stricker


DOUG MILNE: Steve Stricker, welcome.
DOUG MILNE: Third place finished last year, helped earn you Comeback Player of the Year honors.
Just a couple comments. You come right out of the gate tied for fourth the first event of the year, Sony, and tied for fifth at Honda. Just couple of general comments on being back here in-house.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Seems like yesterday since I've finished third here last year and got great memories from here, and, you know, a lot of things fell into place for me last year. This was one of them.
I really didn't -- wasn't expecting to get a sponsor spot in here and Steve Timms called me kind of last minute and I think -- I want to say this Saturday before the tournament week, and ended up getting a spot and took advantage of it, and it really kind of jump-started and kick-started my year and rolled with a lot of confidence out of here and was a start to a good year.
DOUG MILNE: Okay. Anybody want to throw a few questions out him?

Q. Is Comeback Player of the Year a good thing to win? Or how did you look at that when you got to the end of it?
STEVE STRICKER: Every year when I hadn't had my card at the end of year, my wife would say "Next year, let's see if we can't be Comeback Player of the Year."
We said it for so many years that it finally came true but --

Q. So you visualize the thing long enough?
STEVE STRICKER: That's right. It wasn't a good thing to visualize. Every year I had finished out -- there's about three years I finished outside of the top 150. So it wasn't a good position to be in, but I kept thinking positively, and really at the end of the 2005 season just worked hard at it and got more determined and fired up to play again.

Q. How has the course changed since last year?
STEVE STRICKER: I think right now it's a little bit softer than last year. The greens I think are a little bit softer. The fairways aren't rolling quite as much yet. I know they've done some different mowing things.
They're mowing the fairways back into us to the tee from the green to tee. So I think they're a little slower than last year.
But from what I understand, they're not going to put any more water on the course, so things should firm up fairly well over the next few days with the wind and with drier conditions coming, I understand.
We've got a cold front coming. So drier conditions should dry things out and firm them up rather hard, I imagine.

Q. Can you see kind of the Augusta simulation that's they were trying to do?
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, yeah. The mowing patterns are ones in the fairways. They're mowing the rough grain, which usually produces a flier coming into the greens.
They've mowed, you know, closely mowed all the way around the greens. So if you miss a green where the water is off the edge, you know, nine times out of ten, it's going to roll right down into the water.
You really have to pay attention to some of those holes and probably play a little bit more conservative on some of those shots into the green.

Q. You feel like this is a pretty good prep for Augusta, Steve?
STEVE STRICKER: I like it. I don't know like -- I don't know if there's anything that can stimulate Augusta. I was there on Monday, and it's just so unique and so difficult up around the greens that I don't think you can really stimulate that anywhere.
But the conditions, you know, hopefully they'll get firmer and faster here, and condition-wise, I'm sure it will be similar to Augusta.

Q. Steve, what started to go right for you here last year and kind of really carried you through to a point where you were strong candidate for the Ryder Cup team?
STEVE STRICKER: I think I -- just like I said, I was a little bit more determined. My attitude got better. I worked harder in the fall of 2005 and the early part of 2006. I only played I think two tournaments leading up to the Houston week last year.
I think I had played Pebble Beach and Tucson. Maybe three. I played Doral, too. I hadn't played very much. I had a lot of time to work on my game at home, and, you know, I just started feeling some good things in my swing and I was getting better confidence level. Even though I wasn't playing, you know, I was working hard at home and feeling these good things, and finally I started to see it in some of the tournaments I was playing in and it just kind of steamrolled.
I just got off to that good start. Even the first tournament of the year at Pebble Beach I finished 14th, I think, and played decent at Tucson and missed the cut at Doral, but there were signs showing me that things were going in the right direction.

Q. How does the satisfaction of the last year compare with some of your earlier years?
STEVE STRICKER: That was probably, as far as satisfaction, one of the most satisfying years I've had on Tour. Just from the depths of where I was at, you know, from where I came from, three bad years really and not playing up to my ability or potential, and to come off and, you know, play that well all year long, I really had -- I told, I don't know, either my father-in-law or Nicki, that that was probably my best striking of the ball all year long.
Most consistent all year long, and I had a couple little lulls in the middle of the summer but then picked it up at the end of the year again to finish strong with a bunch of Top-10s. So consistently over the whole year, that was probably my best year last year.

Q. Curious about something that Rocco brought up in here a few minutes ago. There's been some discussion on Tiger's tournament, the one that's replacing the International, and there's some players that take exception to the idea of it being -- not being a full field event, and I'm curious where you kind of stand on that one?
STEVE STRICKER: I've been on both ends of that spectrum, you know, where I can't get into some tournaments and I've been exempt at some tournaments.
I had played in the CA Championship last week. I've never looked at it negatively in any regards at all. I can see where some players come from, but the one good thing about the Tour is that there's always something to work towards, you know?
Whether it be getting in a World Golf championship event, Tour championship, there's so many things, goals, unless you're Tiger that's exempt for them all or Vijay or somebody like that, for everybody else, there's so many things to work for out here.
There's -- you know, there's always something to do to try to get better, to get into another event. I see that as a positive sometimes.
I don't know about that tournament I see as a positive because it may take away from some playing opportunities from other players. But, like I said, there's always something to work towards out here, and I was always told you just got to play better, you know, and like I said, I've been on that other end.
It hurts when you can't get in, but it's just the nature of everything, isn't it? It's the nature of business and everything. You know, you work hard to achieve some of those goals or to achieve some of those opportunities to get into other tournaments.
So I see it both ways. I hope you don't write just that one negative thing there that I said about "You just got to play better." But, you know, like my point is that it's -- there's so much to work for out here, and there's a lot of playing opportunities and we know what drives this game.
We know the players that drive this game, and Tiger is definitely one of them, so -- but I see the gripe from both ends, really, because I've been there.
DOUG MILNE: Anybody got anything else?

Q. Yeah. Steve, what do you think the scoring is going to be like this week with the shortened rough? Do you think it's going to be comparable to last year, or do you think it will be higher?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it will be comparable to last year. What did Stuart win? 19-under? He had 6-shot win.
Yeah, I think the scores are going to be good. I think the rough, you know, there isn't much rough. You can play out of it. But, again, up around the greens is very difficult. So you're going to have to pay attention, but you can hit it into the rough and still be able to get to the green and knock it on there.
So I think they're going to be comparable to last year. I think somebody is going to come out hot tomorrow and the greens are still soft tomorrow. They are today, I mean. I think somebody in the morning is going to get off to a really good start tomorrow, especially if it's not blowing right away in the morning. I see the scores being good.

Q. Are you getting nostalgic for that Florida rough that you guys played?
A No doubt. That was the toughest -- I didn't play Bay Hill, but tough stretch of tournaments, and I know I was tired after Doral. It wears you out after awhile with the wind and the rough. It's nice to get to a place where there isn't any rough. But there's still wind.

Q. What does it mean to you to get back in the Masters after being away for a bit?
STEVE STRICKER: It means a lot. Like I was telling somebody else, you know, when you're watching it on TV, you just wish you could be there.
So it's definitely the place you want to be, you know, come the first part of April, and, again, I appreciate it a lot just to get back there just because of where I've been and how I played there for a stretch, and I'm excited to go there and looking forward to it.
And you need your long and short game there. It's very long now. I hit like three irons into par 4s last week, and you just -- you need to do it all well.
You need to drive it well there, and it's a lot tighter, and you need all facets of your game there to play well and I'm excited to go there.

Q. When you weren't there, would you turn any way into a coach potato that week?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I watched it. I taped it, and I ended up watching it in the nighttime or something like that. It's one of the best tournaments to watch. There's like four minutes of commercials, isn't there, every hour? It's all golf. It's one of the best tournaments to watch, but you sure wish you were there, at least I did when I was at home.
DOUG MILNE: Thanks Steve.
STEVE STRICKER: Thanks for having me in.

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