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September 5, 2007

Steve Stricker


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Steve Stricker into the interview area. Steve, No. 2 in the FedExCup Points list, a win at the Barclays a couple weeks ago, tied for 9th last week. Obviously still playing well. Maybe just talk a little bit about your play the last couple weeks and being in your home area of Wisconsin and the local folks.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, this is always a fun one for me to come down to, being a past champion here at Cog Hill back in 1996 and being in an area where -- close to home and close to where I went to school at the U of I. I always enjoy coming here, and it's been a great run the past couple weeks where my play has come together, and I've continued it over the course of these Playoffs and hopefully will continue it for the next couple.

Q. There's been somewhat of a parade of players today who are starting to complain about the four in a row, the deferred money. Your take on this time of the year and the amount you're playing. And B, I'd be curious to know how much communication there was between the TOUR and you personally on this system.
STEVE STRICKER: It is a tough stretch. There's no question that playing the amount of tournaments that we're playing, the Bridgestone and the PGA and then we had one week off and then we're into the Playoff system where if you want a legitimate chance at winning, you need to play four in a row. It's a long stretch.
I mean, it's something where not a lot of players do it, and especially this time of year where the majors are over with, school is starting, activities for the kids are starting, all that kind of stuff.

Q. Beer season.
STEVE STRICKER: Beer season is right around the corner (laughing).
Personally I don't like it. It's a lot of golf in a short amount of time. I do like the end of the season that's in the middle of September where if you play well enough you don't have to chase for your card. You know, it would be nice if we had a break in there at some point. I don't know how that would all work out.
But I think you're hearing a lot about that, too, coming off of a Monday finish. I think it's really -- it's been another tough thing, your Monday finish at Boston, you turn right around, you fly here Monday night. Players for the most part need to get away for at least a day, and then bang, you're right into it on a Wednesday Pro-Am. I think you're hearing a lot of the griping because of that coming off of a Monday finish and then playing four in a row where a lot of guys normally don't do that.

Q. Communication?
STEVE STRICKER: I personally have not talked to the TOUR about scheduling at all. I mean, we have a policy board in place that you hope talks to the players, and they communicate to the TOUR through the policy board. But me personally, I have not talked to anybody about scheduling.

Q. In regard to the -- with the four in a row, you obviously have the majors, and then if you want to maybe end up the winner you've got to try to get in all four. How difficult is that because it seems like to get up mentally for the majors and then to have to try to get up all four at what would usually be the end of your season seems to be kind of difficult?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it is difficult. There's a lot of emphasis put on the majors, and then when you play well in the majors it takes a lot out of you. And then you get away for that one week in between and then you're supposed to get right back at it again. Fortunately for me I won, but that takes a lot out of you, too; being in contention and going through the emotions of winning a tournament and being around the lead takes a lot out of you.
So it's just a long stretch. I don't know any other way to say it. At this time of year it's a long stretch. But you know what, there's a lot on the line, too, and that's why I'm playing, that's why I'm trying to do different things to try to prepare for each tournament. You know, I didn't pick up a club yesterday, so I'm trying to get away as much as I can in between tournaments, probably not practice as much at the end of rounds just to try to conserve energy and worry about getting more of a rest at the hotel and just trying to compensate in other ways.
You know, like I say, I mean, it's a great problem to have. We're playing for a lot of money, and for me being right in there with a chance to win, it's very exciting.

Q. You talked about your success out here before coming here. Tiger earlier said today the same thing; he's going to miss not coming to Chicago next year. How do you feel about it?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm going to miss not coming here, as well. It'll be weird to not come here. But I don't look at it as a negative so much as I would have back in other years. I think it's going to be an every-other-year deal from what I understand, and it may add to the excitement of us coming back again. Not that we need to add excitement or that we're lacking it now, I just think coming here every other year the community may embrace it a little bit more.
Because it is coming back only every other year, they may come out and support it a little more, and we're going to go to other great venues. The cause is still a great cause for the Evans Scholars and the Western Golf Association.
I think it's going to be good, but it'll be sad that we're not going to be here.

Q. You were out here 11 years ago. What similarities are you seeing from your game then and then coming into this week?
STEVE STRICKER: I think just my confidence level, more so than anything. I remember coming here 11 years ago, coming here very confident and eager to play, and I feel very much the same now.

Q. When was the last time you played with Tiger?
STEVE STRICKER: It's been a while.

Q. In competition.
STEVE STRICKER: I can't even remember. It may have been the British Open a few years ago. It's been quite a while, maybe over at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, which is maybe 2000. It's been quite a while since I've played with him.

Q. Do you look forward to it?
STEVE STRICKER: I do look forward to it. I'm not going to talk any trash talk, though. But I do look forward to it. He's the best player in the world. It'll be a lot of fun. Hopefully I won't get caught up in watching him. He's a great guy. I get along with him great. He's easy to play with. It's the dealings with the whole surround is the tough part.
But I'm looking forward to it. It's a no-cut tournament and you can go out there and there's still a lot riding on the line, but I've just been taking a different approach lately and hopefully will continue that tomorrow again and have fun with it.

Q. Does he look as beatable as ever?
STEVE STRICKER: No comment (laughter).

Q. When was the last time you came to this tournament feeling as confident as you do and knowing that you have a good chance to win, and how good does that feel for you knowing that this is one of your favorite tournaments?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, it feels really good. It's always nice when you can hop in your car and drive a couple hours to play in an event, an event that you like and an event where I've had some success in the past. I'm excited about getting going tomorrow. I'm going to have a challenge right out of the shoe playing with Tiger and K.J., but it's something that I've come to learn that if you want to grow as a player and be competitive with the best, you need to play with the best and you need to learn from them. It'll be a learning experience for me tomorrow. I'm very excited about coming here and hopefully will put myself in position going into the weekend where I can be up around the lead.

Q. One other question. Given your position in the standings, were you disappointed that Phil isn't in the field because it obviously helps you; if you have a good tournament you could go to first?
STEVE STRICKER: It's kind of a -- I look at it both ways. It's disappointing that he's not here because we are doing this FedExCup and it's the Playoffs and you want your best to be here. And Tiger wasn't there the first week and it was disappointing, and with Phil not here this week, it's also disappointing. Again, he's the leader and now he's not here, so it's an opportunity for all of us to move up and catch him and get ahead of him with only one tournament to play next week. I look at it both ways.

Q. You guys go through the regular season, this is the first year of the Playoffs, no one really knew what to expect. Now that you're in it, has having the playoff format after the PGA changed at all?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know, you know, leading up to it I didn't really have any expectations. No one really knew how it was going to play out, how the points were going to shake out, how much movement there would be during the Playoffs. If you played well, how much could you move up; if you didn't, how much would you move down. I think players are getting a grasp of what's going on, what you need to do to move on and to move up the point list.
But I think it's exciting. Maybe I'm partial just because I've got a chance to win it, but so do a lot of other guys. I mean, if you're within 10,000 points probably going into next week, you're going to have a legitimate chance at winning it. I think that's exciting. It brings a lot of players into the game. It makes it a little bit more exciting to watch on TV because there's a lot more that's going on during the course of the tournament.

Q. If I could ask you a question about your old teammate at Illinois, Mike Small, who's having a great year in this state and this region and made the cut at the PGA. Can you talk about what kind of golfer he is and how he's kind of found a place, a comfort zone, playing a few tournaments and being the coach at the University of Illinois?
STEVE STRICKER: I think you said it best, he found a comfort zone. That's what -- I've talked to Mike about this, that I think he feels more comfortable knowing that he's got a full-time job as a coach at Illinois. He loves that job. He's doing a good job at being the coach, but yet he's playing better than ever.
I think that lends itself to being -- he's just comfortable knowing that he's got that job to fall back on. He doesn't need to go out there and play golf for a living to support his family and support what he does.
But I think it's incredible how well he's played over the course of being a coach there. You know, he wins everything in the state it seems like. You know, it's sad that he's not here this week because if this was the regular Western Open, he would be here playing. I'm happy for him. He's doing a great job down there, he's got a great facility that they just opened up down there at Illinois, and he's playing great golf.

Q. Did he have the talent, it was just a matter of putting too much pressure on himself and not being able to put it together when he tried to play on the regular tours?
STEVE STRICKER: I think he just put a little pressure on himself. He's a little bit of a worry wort. I know him from a long time ago from playing college golf together. He tended to worry, and I think when he got out here, he didn't feel as comfortable. It's tough out here your first year, and then he started to press and feel the pressure of trying to retain your card and all that stuff. It just didn't work out for him.
But he's definitely a better player than what he showed that year that he was out here. And I think, you know, some players it takes a long time to develop and feel good and understand the game and feel comfortable with what you're doing, and I think he's doing the right things and he's comfortable with what he's doing.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Before we go, just a couple of quick comments about the golf course and what you expect for the week.
STEVE STRICKER: The course is in great shape. The fairways are firm and fast. They're in great shape. The greens are pretty receptive right now and smooth. So I can see the scoring being relatively low here this week if we don't get any crazy weather or a lot of wind or anything like that.
You know, it looks to me like it's going to shape up to be a great event here. Everything is in place and everything looks ready to go, and the players are fired up.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Steve, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

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