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August 1, 2007

Steve Stricker


NELSON SILVERIO: Welcome, Steve. Thanks for coming in for a couple minutes. First Bridgestone Invitational, I believe.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think it is.
NELSON SILVERIO: Your first impression of the golf course?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I've been here in prior years when it was the NEC World Series, and I don't think I was here too many years for that, either. But I have been here, and I'm looking forward to this. It's in great shape. The course is very tough, greens are fast, rough is up. It's like another major tournament. It seems like every week we're getting one of these.
But I'm excited and looking forward to it.

Q. Just kind of characterize your year for us. It's been -- you've played great, had a lot of Top 10s. Has it been a relief? Has it been fun? You've had disappointments, had chances to win. Overall how would you kind of summarize it?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, it's been a great year, but it's been a mixed bag of emotions, from riding some highs to experiencing some disappointments with not being able to finish a couple of tournaments off.
It's been very good. I mean, from where I've come from a couple years ago to where I feel like I am today and the way I've been playing, you know, definitely it's very rewarding and I'm very excited. But again, there were some chances there that I wish I could have taken advantage of along the way.

Q. Was there one high that kind of stood out this year, whether it was a finish or just something you figured out with your game?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, not really, I just continued doing what I was doing last year. You know, the high is probably getting back in contention there at the U.S. Open again and being in the final group at the British Open. You know, things like that, when you look back over your year, those were some pretty good things.
But again, you know, in the same breath, I think about, well, I had chances to win them both. It's something I need to work on and something I need to try to improve on. Hopefully the more times I get there, maybe the next time it can turn out a little bit differently.

Q. When you're having such a tough time, did you ever wonder if you were going to get back to this level? How close were you to just saying forget it?
STEVE STRICKER: I wasn't close to quitting I don't think. There were years there where I was playing so poorly that it was hard to come to the golf course and hard to stay focused and hard to think and feel positive about your game. So those are tough.
But in this game it seems like the more effort and time you put in and try to change your attitude around, good things can happen. That's what I kept telling myself over that kind of three-year period there where I didn't play very well. Things were going on at home, you know, having kids and all that kind of stuff. You know, that kind of takes your focus away from golf a little bit, too. So you kind of have to learn how to deal with that kind of stuff.
When you're out here on TOUR you try to focus your attention on playing while you're out here.

Q. When you win the comeback Player of the Year, is it almost like, I want to win this again?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I told reporters before, you don't want to be up for that award too many times in a row (laughter). It's a great honor. I think it shows a lot of character, you know, the position I was for those down years to finally come back and play well, and I'm continuing that. You know, I'm playing well again this year.
I don't believe it was a fluke, and I believe that I'm going in the right direction again, and I keep looking to improve.

Q. The TOUR was never known as a sprint, it was always more of a marathon. But now from the British Open on, we're kind of like at that last hill before the finish line. Can you talk about that span from the British Open to the end of the FedExCup? You're playing so many big events where you almost have to play, you have to play well. Can you just talk about the emotional and physical challenge that is?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it is. It seems like one week after another, and it actually started all the way back at the U.S. Open for me. You know, take a week off after the Open and then it was Tiger's event, which again was on a major-style golf course with a good field, and then you have another week off, and bang, you're in the British Open, and then a week off and now you're into this stretch here.
It's very condensed. You know, the TOUR has put all these tournaments together like this, so I imagine that the better players are going to play more and more often. You know, you do; you have to try to pace yourself. I looked forward to this stretch maybe a month ago. I was kind of eyeing it up and saying, you know, I'd better make sure that I'm prepared physically and mentally for this last stretch, because it is. It'll be six out of seven weeks that I'm playing. I heard Jim Furyk is playing eight out of nine, so there's guys that are playing a lot of tournaments in a row that you'd better be prepared going into them physically and mentally.
Everybody is going to do it, though, so you've just got to keep working at it and try to take a day off here and there and rest and get ready for the next event.

Q. Do you remember the last time, if ever, how many tournaments in a row you've played before? What's the longest stretch you've ever played?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't know for sure. I imagine four or five in a row.

Q. So seven out of nine is --
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's a lot, especially when I haven't had my card for too many years in a row where I was begging to get into tournaments and would play maybe one or two a month. Yeah, it's a little bit different.
You know, it's not like I haven't had time away. You know, I took this last week off, and I got two good weeks right here and then I'll have one more week off for that final stretch. The final stretch is going to be tough. There's a lot of anticipation there, there's a lot of uncertainty amongst players on how the point system is going to shake out. But again, it'll be exciting. And after that we'll have some time off.

Q. Have your expectations changed?
STEVE STRICKER: In regards to playing out here?

Q. It seemed like a good question. In regards to when you got -- having played well at Oakmont and having played well at Wachovia and Congressional and British, you're playing well again. Are you now showing up at some of the bigger events with higher expectations than you did at the start of the year, and is that at all difficult to channel in the right way?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I do expect a lot more out of myself now. It's just, like I say, it's kind of a weird position for me, you know, because I hadn't been here for so long. And to finally come here, and now I expect to go out there and play well, and I think that's just a confidence factor more so than anything, where before I'd get into some of these events, maybe a major event by qualifying for like a U.S. Open or something, and get there and not really feel like I belonged type of thing. But now I feel like I belong, I can go to these tournaments and try to contend, and I guess that's just a confidence thing, that I'm starting to believe more in myself and my game.

Q. Did you get more down on yourself or beat yourself up or whatever as you were going through that -- kind of those dark times or when you were right there at some of these tournaments I mentioned and didn't get it done?
STEVE STRICKER: The down times, for sure. I mean, your attitude is a little bit more in the dumps, at least mine was. I was beating myself up. I knew I was a better player than what I was playing, and not doing it is frustrating.
And then this last year, and even last year I had a chance at the Open last year. It's kind of a different feeling. You know, you're excited that you were there and excited to be in that position and excited for the chance to win, but to not get it done is a different kind of low. I mean, you're still disappointed but you still gain a lot of confidence from that, at least I do. Being in the last group at the British Open and leading after the U.S. Open there with nine holes to play, I still pulled a lot of positive energy from that and felt good about it, even though I didn't get it done.

Q. And do you remember at the Presidents Cup in '96, do you remember how you did that year?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I was 2 & 3.

Q. It was the Dunhill Cup I was thinking of.
STEVE STRICKER: I remember that, too.

Q. How did you do there?
STEVE STRICKER: I was 5 & 0 there.

Q. Did you ever put your finger on what turned things around?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it was in the winter after the 2005 season I put a lot of time in up in Wisconsin. I hit a lot of balls. I was at a range where I could hit from inside out, and I would spend countless hours there every day. That was part of my routine. I'd work out, do some little workout stuff, and then I'd hit balls for at least a couple hours it seemed like every day while my daughter was in school, and it was just part of a routine that I did every day, and I kept working on a bunch of little things that seemed to click.
And then finally when I got into some tournaments in 2006, last year, I got into the Houston Open early on and had some success early on, and it kind of just showed me that the things that I was working on were the right things, and I was feeling comfortable with them and it kind of snowballed from there.

Q. Did you just kind of stay there until it was time to pick her up from school?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I kind of was. I was just in this little rut every day. I would work out for a little while in the morning and then hit balls until I had to go pick her up, and that was that. I felt like I was getting a lot done, and I had the mindset then -- I wanted to get it right before I went back out on TOUR, and I was feeling like I was going down the right path. You know, and that's all we can do as players is feel good about what you're working on, because there's always something to work on. And I was feeling good about the little things that I was working on.

Q. What was the name of that driving range?
STEVE STRICKER: It's right at Cherokee Country Club. My father-in-law owns the course, and he bought like -- I think there are three mobile homes or three-sided mobile homes with a net coming out and you can hit from inside out.

Q. Mobile home?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, like a scoring trailer like you see out here. And then there's only three sides and they put a tarp over it at nighttime, but they turn the heat off, and turn the heat on during the day. You can hit in there -- in 30-degree weather you can hit in short sleeves, no problem. We were hitting in there when it was down into single digits with like a long-sleeved shirts. You could do it in just about any condition. If it was snowing or raining, it was okay.

Q. Not to delve too much into this, but where did the balls land?
STEVE STRICKER: In the snow.

Q. Did they leave them there until spring?
STEVE STRICKER: No, actually they clear the range, and then we use yellow balls in the winter, white balls in the summer so you can see the balls in the wintertime.

Q. Are there flags out there?
STEVE STRICKER: There's flags out there. I think they're frozen there by that time of the year, but you have a lot to aim at, and you can get a lot done.

Q. You mentioned physical preparation for this stretch of a lot of tournaments in a row coming up. What exactly have you done? Does that mean you work out more or make a point of taking a day off more, or what's your physical preparation for this stretch?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't work out throughout the season. I feel like I play enough and I run around after the kids enough. You know, I want to spend -- when I do have some downtime, I want to spend it with my family. I don't do that much working out during the season, but at the end of the season I will. But during this stretch here, just made sure that I got away from the game for three or four days. Like last week I didn't pick up a club for four days, just clear your mind and get ready to go for the next stretch.

Q. Is that easier to do when you've had a successful year and get away for a few days as opposed to a couple years ago?
STEVE STRICKER: It is, not that you want to fall into that trap. But I feel like things are going well. I feel comfortable with my swing, so I don't need to sit out there, even though there's probably work to do. I don't feel like I need to go sit on that range and beat balls and get worn out and tired. I feel like I can try to save some energy, and then when I come back, you know, I started up on Saturday -- actually Friday before this week, and I felt fresher, and it seemed like the things that I was working on were just -- you can focus a little bit more because you are a little bit fresher.

Q. What do you think just off the wall, looking at the World Rankings and you see where you are now, how far you've come, you look at those, what's your first thought?
STEVE STRICKER: It's unbelievable, really. I mean, it's hard to believe in one aspect, but again, you know, I feel like I'm capable of being up there.
It's just been a great run. This time around, I don't want it to end. I kind of want to keep trying to improve, and I've got probably a -- I'm 40, so I've got -- I'm looking at maybe five or six more good years hopefully, so I kind of want to finish it off a little bit better than I did the first time.

Q. Can you kind of compare the differences in your game between now and '96? Do you drive it longer, drive it straighter, are your irons better? What are the differences, if there are any?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I'm not sure. I don't think I drive it longer. I think I'm about the same in distance. Accuracy, probably about the same. You know, I don't think there is much difference. I think I maybe manage myself a little bit better. I'm a little bit easier on myself. I'm not as uptight as I think I was back in '96. If things weren't going right back then, I think I got a little bit more on edge, a little bit more uptight.
You know, going through those three years where I didn't really play that well, you know, nothing really phases me anymore. I've hit every bad shot in the book (laughter), so it's just, like, if I hit one now, I just kind of go on. Before I would let it eat at me, and I think that's been a big help, too, is I just kind of shrug it off. Everybody hits them, and you've just got to go and try to get it and find it and move on. I think that's been a big help, also.

Q. Southern Hills coming up and then looking into the future, Presidents Cup.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, Southern Hills, a great course. Again, I mean, seems like we've had a bunch of these in a row, great courses and tough conditions. And Southern Hills is no different. I mean, I played a U.S. Open there and a TOUR Championship there, and both times very difficult. You have to drive the ball very well just like here. Should be firm and fast. It's going to be hot as I look forward in the weather forecast. It's going to be tough, and it's going to be a good challenge for everybody.
It's, again, no different than any other major where you have to drive it in the fairway first of all and then try to get it on those greens. It's going to be a tough one.
And as far as the Presidents Cup goes, hopefully I can make that team. I'm very much looking forward to being on that again and participating with the other players. You know, it's one week out of the whole season where we can kind of be friends with one another. Not that we're not, but you're not trying to beat them up. You're trying to pull for them and be a teammate with them, and that's something unusual for us, you know, because we don't get to do that very often. So I'm very much looking forward to that.
It's been a long time. '96 I was on the last team, and great experiences, and something you take with you for the rest of your life.

Q. I think this will probably be Mr. Nicklaus' last time around.
STEVE STRICKER: I look at that, and I was able to play with Arnold Palmer as the captain in '96, and now if I'm fortunate enough to make the team I have Mr. Nicklaus as a captain, so not shabby for the two captains.

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