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August 26, 2007

Steve Stricker


LAURA NEAL: Steve, congratulations. Your fourth win, first in six years, first Playoff event and you're now leading the FedExCup. Tell us how it feels.
STEVE STRICKER: It feels great. (Laughter) I don't know what else to say. But I tell what you, I've been waiting for this day for a long time. It feels really good.

Q. You must have thought you would wait another 6 1/2 years after watching K.J. pour in those putts one after another.
STEVE STRICKER: No doubt. I thought, here he goes. I was in contention there at AT&T and he holed it out of the bunker at 17. I thought, "Well, here he goes." He made a bomb and then he made one earlier, too.
You know, I just had to pay attention to myself and I didn't really worry about what he was doing. I just tried to stay focused on what I was doing and trying to do -- I knew I was playing well enough throughout the day. Even though I wasn't scoring that well, I thought I was hitting well enough to maybe make a few birdies coming in, not obviously four out of the last five holes.
But I tried to stay as positive and upbeat and just waiting for my time.

Q. Having what was on the line, have you ever had a more interesting stretch of holes in your entire golfing career?
STEVE STRICKER: No. Not considering what was on the line.
But I made birdie at 14, and that really gave me a huge lift there. I needed something positive to happen, and that was it. I drove it good at 15. I hit a good iron shot at 15, and even though K.J. made that long putt at 15, I just said, "I'm only down one." At that point, I felt like it was just between him and I.
So I just felt like, you know, just stick to my guns and just keep doing the things that I've been doing. He hit a good shot at 16, and at that point I felt like I needed to get a little more aggressive with things, and I took a little more dead aim at that pin and I pulled it off, and then made a good putt.
You know, from that point on, I felt like I had the momentum.

Q. Tom talked about getting back on track and some of the mental demons that you overcame. Was there a stretch or an incident -- I know you obviously got Player of the Year in 2006, but was there an episode where you finally saw the light in terms of how to get yourself sorted to the level that you've been?
STEVE STRICKER: Not really. There's no real defining moment except that I've put in a lot of hard work at the end of the 2005 season. I went back to TOUR School and I think that was a big wake-up call. I put a lot of effort there and I think I missed my TOUR card there by a couple of shots. I just worked real hard at it at the end of the 2005 season.
I came out with I think kind of a fresher attitude and I caught on to many things during the winter in Wisconsin hitting a lot of balls. I caught on to some things and when I came out in the 2006 season, those things were working. Even though I hit a bunch of balls and had not played in too many tournaments, I came to Houston, finished third there and just kind of snowballed. I felt like the things I was working on were helping and working.
I decided to keep on doing the same thing and I continue to do the same thing today. It just kind of snowballed, my confidence level, too.

Q. Mechanically?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, they were little things, not a lot of huge things. But a lot of little things that I wanted to take care of and kind of address those situations.
And it kind of filtered down into my mental outlook, too. They kind of go hand and hand, and I wasn't giving myself the benefit of the doubt a lot of times. I was not thinking very positively before I even got up to hit a shot. So I tried to change all of those things, and slowly, you know, at the start of that 2006 season -- and for me it seems like if I can get on a roll and get some confidence, I become a different player. And I think a lot of players are that way, but more so than for me, I guess.
I felt like once things got rolling, I could run with that. I still am.

Q. Just talk about after all of the disappointments, just the emotions when that last putt went in and you knew that you had won.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that was pretty special. I was hoping that I didn't have to make that to win, because I was having a hard time taking it back.
But it was such a relief, to tell you the truth. I've worked -- I mean, every player out here wants to do this, wants to win. That's what we are all out here to do. You don't get in position that many times, and when you do, it's tough to pull it off.
So I was just happy that it worked out my way this time at the end, and I pulled one off.

Q. How did you deal with the disappointments at the U.S. Open and then again at Carnoustie? And in another time, would you have been able to pull it all together and do what you did today and put it behind you?
STEVE STRICKER: I didn't see them as disappointments. I think that's the first thing. I didn't see those as a negative deal. I thought that was another building block in what I was doing. Even though I didn't finish them off, you know, the way you're supposed to, I still felt like those were positive things for me. I was moving in the right direction.
You know, as you look back, it was, it was building blocks. And here I am today, the winner of this event. So I guess you can look back and say, you know what, those helped me get to where I am today, you know, sitting in here.
And that's the way I tried to look at those. Even though they were somewhat disappointments, I still look at them as positive tournaments.

Q. Two things. One, just wondering if you had a picture of the place since your wife probably didn't take one. And I had a question to ask -- (laughter). To have Jerry Kelly come out and to see the emotion on Tom's face, he seemed to be more emotional than you, what effect did that have on you as you came off 18?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I'm an emotional player as it is and I'm an emotional person. So -- here we go again. (Laughter) it's hard. I don't know why, but it is. (Eyes tearing up).

Q. When you were hitting balls in Wisconsin, it wasn't as cold as this room, was it? (Laughter)?
STEVE STRICKER: We were in a three-sided mobile home that's got heat pumped in there and you're hitting them from inside out. So that's what I did pretty much the whole winter.

Q. Not to make the tears flow anymore, but you talked about how at Carnoustie, you talked about going on the road a lot and missing your wife and kids; going up 18 was it hard to put them out of your mind and focus on what you had to do?
STEVE STRICKER: No doubt. There's a lot of times especially coming in, I get that birdie at 17 and you know, I'm thinking about winning the tournament. I've got to kick myself in the butt and say, you know what, we've got another hole to play here. Let's not get too unraveled yet.
Yeah, it's hard, but that's the challenge of playing in tournaments, the challenge of trying to win tournaments, the challenge of being in the final round and in the final group on the final day. Those are all things that you have to overcome and that's why it's so hard to win.
There's guys that are in that position a lot and it becomes second nature for them. I'm not one of those guys. I'd like to be but I'm just not one of those guys but I did feel much more comfortable. It shows you there's progress and I've been in that position more and more and starting to feel comfortable more and more and probably earlier in the year I wouldn't have been able to make three birdies coming in.
I put myself in position enough times this year that I didn't want to screw it up again basically. It all turned out.

Q. Is it more icing on the cake because of the FedEx points and all that to win this one?
STEVE STRICKER: I guess so. I wasn't out there thinking about the FedExCup points. I mean, obviously winning the tournament is foremost. Everything that comes after that is icing on the cake.
But yeah, I'm in a great position now. There's still a long ways to go, and we all know who is coming back next week. (Laughter) I've just got to keep focused and keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully get myself some more opportunities in the next three.

Q. That was sort of my question. Are you going to start paying more attention to the numbers and what you need to do in the next few weeks?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think so. You know, obviously I'll have some -- I'll look at it, the points list, maybe after -- obviously after this week's tournament and see where I fit and see after next week's tournament, see where I fit.
You know, you're still going there and you still need to play well in the tournament. It's still the same deal. You need to prepare yourself and you need to get ready and you need to play as best as you can there, and let the points fall where they may, I guess.

Q. Did starting a family precipitate your decline or did you find yourself getting into bad habits mechanically and you sort of fell out of love with the game and found a family was a good place to go?
STEVE STRICKER: The second part, yeah. It seemed like every time Nicki and I have had a baby I've had a good year. I've told her, you know, we just had a baby last year -- (laughter) -- and I got off to a good start and kind of rolling.
I think just maybe it puts me more at ease or whatever. But during that time when I wasn't playing so well, I got into some bad habits before we had children and I ended up firing my wife as a caddie, basically, because things were not working out so well and I didn't want anything to come between her and I.
And then, you know, we started a family. Once we had the first child back in '98, you know, I wasn't playing -- I played good in '98. But you know, as it kept doing there, you miss them. When she's on the road with me every week out of the year, caddying, seeing her 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to not seeing her, it was hard. Probably could have been an excuse somewhat but I'm over that. They understand that this is what I need to do. I understand that I need to be out here and they understand that this is where I need to be and she's very supportive that way.
It helps to have a good wife at home.

Q. You've had a couple of opportunities this year, what was your mindset this morning on the range today? Did you feel like today was going to be a different day?
STEVE STRICKER: I did. But I felt that way every one of those rounds I was in contention. Because I tell myself, "This is going to be my day, this is going to be my day."
But I was more relaxed today, there was no question. I was nervous but I definitely felt more relaxed. My putting felt really good. And that had not been happening in some of those other rounds. Even though the greens here were very difficult to putt, my putting felt good. I felt like if I can just get some opportunities, I was rolling it good enough that I could make some putts.
So I did feel a little bit calmer today and I did. I felt better.

Q. I think you just answered my question. I was going to ask, those near misses that we've been talking about and K.J. throws those haymakers at you out of left field, why were you able to get it done today when you sat here and told us in your own head those other times, "there he goes again"; why were you able to dig your way out of it this time?
STEVE STRICKER: I felt really good about it those last three or four holes. 15 is just a tough hole but I ended up driving it well here and I think that set me up for the rest of the four holes -- for the rest of the three holes.
I had played 17 very well every day. I hit the driver and 3-wood there in the fairway and gave myself opportunities there every day. I don't know if I birdied it -- maybe all -- every day. So I felt good there, and I felt like if I could get to 18, you know, tied, at least I had a chance.
You know what, I felt good. I was thinking that after birdieing 16, I'm like, you know, I finally -- you know, I got deeper into the round having a chance to win. Those other tournaments, it kind of -- piddled it away there mid-round. So I felt like, you know what, I'm deep into the round; anything can happen.

Q. What was the longest putt you had for birdie on 17 this week?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. They were all pretty close.

Q. All inside ten feet?

Q. Just wondering if you had spoken to your wife yet by phone or have you had a chance to talk to her?

Q. More crying.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Thanks a lot. (Laughter).

Q. What's it going to be like -- I asked Tom how you guys are going to celebrate and he said there's a soda and a sandwich involved. What is it going to be like to walk off the plane and see your family and all of those people who have been supporting you?
STEVE STRICKER: You guys like to see me cry, don't you? (Laughter).
You know what, it will be a special moment.
LAURA NEAL: Why don't we go over your scorecard. (Laughter).
Start with the bogey on 2.
STEVE STRICKER: Bogey No. 2. I drove it about a foot in the rough, had a terrible lie, chipped it out short of the green and gave myself about a 10-footer and missed it.
Birdied No. 7. Hit the 3-wood and a lob-wedge from about 84 yards to about, I don't know, I think it was about 12 feet.
I bogeyed No. 10. I hit a utility club in the middle of the fairway and then hit it over the green and didn't get it up-and-down. I missed about maybe a 4-footer.
Bogeyed No. 13. I drove it again like one foot into the rough and really didn't have a very good lie. I hacked it out short of the green and didn't get it up-and-down. I missed about a 10-footer -- 8-, 10-footer.
Birdied 14. The hit a 9-iron to about three feet.
Birdied 16. I hit 4-iron to probably 18, 20 feet.
17, I hit driver and -- it was our 53. We hit sand wedge in there to maybe three or four feet.
Then 18, drove it in the left rough again by about a foot and then hacked it out short of the bunkers and hit a lob-wedge to about ten feet.

Q. On the approach shot on 18, you were eyeing it very closely, watching it trickle down. I don't know if you were worried about it going down on the slope or not; did you feel you caught a break that it hung on?
STEVE STRICKER: No doubt, and that's the breaks that you're looking for right there. I hit a good shot in there. I was trying to be aggressive with that shot thinking that K.J. might make a birdie from over there. And he gave himself a good look at it.
But you know, I wanted it get it back on that plateau but I was kind of in between yardages and I didn't have a great lie on the fairway. It was kind of sitting down on me a little bit. But that's -- I was telling my agent, that's the breaks you get right there and that's the ones that win you tournaments, something like that not rolling down the hill.
LAURA NEAL: Steve, congratulations. Thank you.

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