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July 21, 2007

Steve Stricker


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Stricker, 64 today, 7-under par and a total for the Championship of 6-under par.
Tell us about your round, equaling the best score ever in Carnoustie and certainly on a course which is now longer than the previous 64. Tell us about the round, please.
STEVE STRICKER: It was just one of those rounds where everything kind of went right, and my putter felt really well. I've been spending a lot of time working on my putting. I gave myself a lot of opportunities today, and I ended up making quite a few putts, something that I haven't been doing as of late. Today they all seemed to go in.
I played the first 14 holes very well, from tee-to-green, drove the ball well, got them on the greens, made some putts and then actually didn't even play the last four holes poorly but just couldn't get it on the green and ended up saving par on all of them.
It was quite a day. It was quite an experience. It was a lot of fun, and it gives myself a chance going into tomorrow.

Q. This is two straight majors you've played well. You played well at Oakmont. I just wonder, and Gary and I were talking, are you back to with where you were in '96 when you were this hot young golfer and won two tournaments? Could you just review, I know you've done it before, just review what has happened and where you went and how you've come back?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm not young anymore, so that's the first thing that's different.
You know, I don't know if I'm back. I played well in '96. I had some good years in between there and 2001. And then after that I fell off the map there a while. I didn't have the desire that I really wanted -- that I needed to have to play this game. I really wasn't sure if this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started a family. So things were kind of up in the air and a question for me.
And then it probably didn't take until the end of the 2005 season, I went back to Tour school and didn't make it and just kind of rededicated myself to work harder. I'd worked harder at it, I'd gotten a better attitude. I enjoyed going to the tournaments. I'm very comfortable with my game and what I'm doing out on the course.
It's not such a life-or-death situation, the game isn't anymore. I'm more at ease out there, I think, and I think that's resulted in some better play.

Q. The fact that your wife used to caddie for you and then left, was that a change that all of a sudden you missed her and you were a little bit lonely out there at all?
STEVE STRICKER: It's tough adapting to life on the road at times. And all of a sudden when she's not there driving with you like she had been all those years in a row, and she's home taking care of the kids and you're leaving home, it tests you a little bit. It finds out where your heart is, and that's why I struggled with that. Not to say my heart isn't there now, but I've accepted this is what I need to do. They're behind me 100 percent.
There was that period there where I just wasn't sure of things and what I wanted to do. And like I say, everything is good now. This is what I know I need to do and this is what I'm meant to do, and I've just worked harder at it.

Q. Was it humbling there, I guess year before last, being a guy with hat in hand and writing letters and asking for people to throw a bone to you, let you play, a guy with your accomplishments to have put yourself in that situation?
STEVE STRICKER: It was hard. I mean I didn't think I deserved to be playing in all the events. I thought I could get a couple of spots at tournaments where I'd been good to in the past, where I was going there year after year. But that's the hard part, when you don't have really much of a status. You're begging your way into tournaments, and you never knew when you are going to play. You never knew when the sponsor was going to -- or the tournament director was going to give you an opportunity to play. So you never were really sure that -- when you needed to be prepared with your golf game, whether it was this week you're going to get in or maybe next week or maybe not for another month. So you always had to be prepared.
It was hard, but I made the most of it. I enjoyed getting into the tournaments that I did get into. I put more of an emphasis on taking advantage of those tournaments when I did get into them. But it wasn't a spot where I wanted to be in, begging for spots to get in the field. That probably added to my desire and fueled me to work a little harder and get back to where I thought I should be.

Q. Was the course record in your mind when you were coming down the stretch?
STEVE STRICKER: No, not at all. I had no idea what the course record was or what the low tournament ever, but no, it wasn't. I was just trying to move up the leaderboard as much as I could. I was trying to make birdie at the last. No, it wasn't in my mind at all.

Q. Is that perhaps a good thing, because you may have been tempted to go for things you didn't?
STEVE STRICKER: Course records are nice and all, but the real deal is the tournament and that's why we're here. I saw that I was still a couple of shots behind Sergio at the time, so I was trying to get as close to him as I can. Like I say, that was my main goal.

Q. Is Sahalee too long ago to use that experience to your advantage or not?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't think any of these experiences I've had in my career are too long ago. Things are different now. Sahalee was a great experience. I've had some other great major tournaments. I had a chance to win at Oakmont just this year. I finished in the top 10 the last year at the U.S. Open and the PGA. So I've given myself some chances recently. Hopefully I can just put it all together tomorrow, get a little bit stronger on the inside coming down the stretch and hopefully do it.

Q. When you questioned whether or not you wanted to stick with professional golf, was there any other vocation or anything like that that you might have thought about pursuing?
STEVE STRICKER: That's why I'm in golf (laughter), because there wasn't anything else. But that's what I figured. I'm like, I don't know what else I'd rather do. And that's what I came to the conclusion of is what else am I capable of doing, first of all and then what else would I rather do that gives me the opportunity to play golf, for one, and when I'm not playing to spend the time at home with my family and not really -- you've got to practise at home but you still get a lot of off time, a lot of downtime where you can spend with them and you can make your own schedule and be your own boss and that. So that's what I came up with.

Q. Looking back at the time at Oakmont, you thought your putting kind of let you down the last nine. After you had some time to analyze that, did you still feel that way, and what do you take out of that? Also as a follow-up, what do you think it is about you or your game that lends itself to major championships because you've got a pretty good record?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it was a my putting that let me down there, and those greens were so ridiculous, I mean hard, that I'm sure they let a lot of people down. Their putting let a lot of them down.
It's something that I've been working on harder here this week, my putting.
And in answer to why I'm doing well in majors is I enjoy where par is a good score. I enjoy just the competition of every hole. Every hole is a new hole, and you need to first of all get it in the fairway. And when you don't, sometimes at these majors making a par is even more rewarding than making a birdie. That's what I really enjoy about them is just the toughness of them.

Q. For those of us who haven't experienced it, can you kind of take us inside what's going on inside your head when you kind of get it going, like you did today? You talked about par being a good score in a major, but obviously the course was giving up a lot of birdies today. Were you more aggressive than maybe you would normally have been in a major?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I was a little bit more aggressive today at times, especially going out here, on the outward nine where the wind is favorable on a lot of holes. You play No. 1 downwind and No. 2 downwind. I drove it there on 2 where I've been laying up short of the bunkers and I ended up hitting a wedge in there. There were some holes where you could be a little bit more aggressive, and today I was.
I figured I needed a good round to get back into this tournament. So that was my frame of thought going out. I just tried not to get in my way as things got going well. I tried to continue to be aggressive. I tried to give myself opportunities, and I did, all the way up through 14. So that was the good part.
And finished good. Those last four holes are not easy. I hit a decent drive on 15 and the wind caught it and moved it into the bunker. 16 is no bargain; you're hitting a 3-wood to maybe a 15-yard-wide area. So anytime you can make pars on those last four holes, no matter how you do it, it's very rewarding and very good. I just tried to continue what was going on and not get in my own way.

Q. How close did you actually come to saying I'm not going to do this for a living anymore? And if you can recall, what was the low point for you professionally?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know if I have a specific time that was my low point, and I don't think I was very close to giving the game up for good. Obviously if things didn't turn around -- but I kept seeing signs of better play. I kept working on small things. I kind of had an understanding of what wasn't working well for me during tournaments. You know, my thinking really wasn't that sharp and controlling my emotions out there wasn't very good. So I kept working on all these little things all the time.
But I don't think I was ever one tournament away or one week away from calling it quits; I don't think that was the case at all. I knew it was in there. I just was having a hard time finding it at the time, getting it out of there. Fortunately I caught on to some things at the end of the '05 season and I worked hard at them, and it's been paying off.

Q. Along those lines, was there ever a point where you were offered or considered taking a job as a club pro?

Q. That never came up?

Q. Secondly, you've had some good rounds at Quail Hollow and Congressional and Oakmont this year. Did you walk away from those having doubts about finishing or encouraged that you're getting close?
STEVE STRICKER: A little bit of both. Those are all tough courses, for one, and all tough finishing holes, but I have had some opportunities to take advantage of certain situations and I haven't. So in one regard I feel very good and very optimistic that I'm going in the right direction, but yet I haven't finished off some of those tournaments where I think I'm capable of doing.
And especially at Oakmont. I really felt like that was mine to win, even though deep down you've got to believe you're going to win, and that was the way I was feeling at that tournament making the turn. To make double at 10 and 11, I really felt that I let that slip away. Not to say that I was going to win, but just to say I should have had a better opportunity coming down the last few holes than I did. But I've just got to keep moving forward. I take all of this as a positive. I'm not beating myself up saying that I didn't win any of these tournaments, but I've given myself some opportunities this year, and hopefully one of these times it's going to pay off.

Q. With several close sniffs at winning go majors, can you talk about what winning one would mean to you?
STEVE STRICKER: It would mean a lot. Obviously this is why all of us are here and wanting to win. These four tournaments throughout the year are ultimate goals for everyone to win, just to have the opportunity.
I'm very anxious and excited for tomorrow. You just can't think about that, though. I've gone down that road in the past where you're out there playing and you start thinking about winning and you just can't do it. You've got to just concentrate with the job at hand and continue to be aggressive or play smart and move forward. Hopefully you just kind of worry about all that at the end.

Q. I think most of the U.S. writers, if there was an award for the nice guy, you probably would be on the short list. It's hard to envision how you could be wrestling with attitude and emotions, and you've used those words multiple times. Is that just -- do you mean self-doubt or negativity because you weren't playing as well? What do you mean by that when you said you needed to change your attitude and fix your emotions?
STEVE STRICKER: Just feel -- you mean during those down times?

Q. Yeah.
STEVE STRICKER: I'd beat myself up inside. I never showed my anger a lot outwardly. But I wasn't giving myself any breaks and I really wasn't that confident during those times.
And now that it's changed, I'm very confident. You know, I'm not beating myself up. I'm a lot easier on myself. But you've got to be strong about this kind of stuff, too, when you're coming down the stretch and you're trying to win a tournament. I mean, it gets emotional, it does for me, at least. But those are the things that I need to work on and try to fight those -- fight the results out of your mind and try to just stick into the present and try to hit the shot at hand.

Q. I'm wondering, I know you want to be here at the British Open, but does it seem strange that you're in this tournament this week and not in Milwaukee?
STEVE STRICKER: Very strange, because -- I don't know when my first one was there, maybe in 1990, so it's been 16 or 17 straight years that I've played there. And not to be there is very weird. I'm watching the tournament through the Internet and saw that Joe Ogilvie was leading. Not to be there, and especially in 70- or 80-degree weather is very weird (laughter).
This is a good alternative. I mean, it is what it is (laughter). It is what it is, and this is the way it fell on the schedule. And I'm happy to be here, but I miss home.

Q. All you guys struggle with something from time to time. I'm sure you remember that period when Sergio would grip and regrip prior to the swing. What was that like to watch as a professional, particularly at Bethpage?
STEVE STRICKER: To watch Sergio grip and regrip?

Q. For you to watch as a fellow professional?
STEVE STRICKER: You understand what he's going through, everybody has little hitches or idiosyncrasies in their swing that you're trying to overcome all the time. I understand what he was going to and I'm sure it had to be very hard to stop. It doesn't look like he's having a problem doing that now (laughter).
Yeah, I understood where he was coming from. It wasn't something I was laughing at or made fun of him for, not at all. I kind of felt for the guy at the time because people were all over him about it. And it was just kind of a trigger.
Everybody in their swing has some sort of trigger to get them going, whether it's a forward press, a little movement with their legs, something usually very small, but that was his at the time and he's gotten rid of it.

Q. During your down time were you essentially alone trying to dig yourself out of the hole or did you have some friends out here on Tour who gave you pep talks and told you to look inside yourself because maybe it was in there?
STEVE STRICKER: I talked to a few players out here over the years about the longevity of your career out here and how you go through the periods of up and downs, and you fight that feeling of wanting to be home with your family compared to being out here. At some point everybody goes through it, I think. You've got to try to find that within yourself, to make it good within yourself, to make you feel good about being out here; otherwise there's no sense being out here, because if you're out here wanting to be home, you're not going to play good golf.
Jay Haas told me a long time ago, if you're going to be out here, you make the most of it out here for that week. You concentrate on being out here and put your time in out here and not get those thoughts into your mind about being at home, because that makes it a lot harder.

Q. Technically starting after the two-win year, did you fight a hook and did you change drivers and golf clubs and was that a major problem?
STEVE STRICKER: Do I have to answer all of that?

Q. Sorry. Apparently Azinger on ABC TV, a guy just e-mailed me and said he talked about that a lot with you, and he's here doing the telecast from the United States.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, everybody fights something in their swing. I fought something. I had equipment changes, not that that had anything to do with it. But everybody -- I was just swinging at it poorly and that's really all I want to say.
It's better now, and that's what I keep trying to tell myself. I stand up on holes where I hit driver now where other years I wouldn't even think about it. That's that, I guess.
STEWART McDOUGALL: Thank you very much.

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