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September 8, 2007

Steve Stricker


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Steve Stricker to the interview room, Steve with a 7-under par 64 today to finish at 15-under. It was one of those nearly perfect rounds, 13 of 14 fairways, 18 of 18 greens in regulation. According to the record books, that's only been done once before in about the last seven or eight years at this golf course when Joe Durant won, and he also did it in the third round. Maybe just talk about the ideal scoring conditions for you today.
STEVE STRICKER: You know, it was a good day. You know, a lot of things went right. I had a lot of opportunities on the greens today, took advantage of some, didn't take advantage of some other ones. I just gave myself a lot of opportunities all the way around. I started driving the ball in the fairway again and knocking them on the greens.
It was a good day. Holing out from the fairway, you don't expect to do that very often, but that was a bonus and kind of spurred me on for the rest of the round.

Q. How much of a plus will it have been that you've already played two rounds with Tiger this week?
STEVE STRICKER: What was the question?

Q. How much will it have helped you that you've already played two rounds with Tiger?
STEVE STRICKER: But I'm not going to play with him tomorrow. Baddeley just made birdie at 18. It would have been a plus (laughing).

Q. I'm a little bit confused in a big way. Would you have rather played with Tiger?
STEVE STRICKER: Why do you always have to ask these types of questions?

Q. I can't think of anything else right now.
STEVE STRICKER: You know, probably not (laughing).

Q. That's why I ask those questions.
STEVE STRICKER: I wouldn't have minded it, though. We get along so good, and it was nice to play with him the first couple of rounds here and get that under my belt. I felt comfortable with him out there. You know, we had a good time. But I'm sure tomorrow would have been different.
I mean, you know, it's all hindsight now, I guess. But it is what it is. I've got Aaron Baddeley tomorrow, which is another great guy. We'll have a good time, and hopefully do much of the same as I did today.

Q. Tiger said he thought ball-striking wise, this round he could have really taken it low. I'm curious how low you think you could have taken it.
STEVE STRICKER: I had a couple more in there, I think. I had a couple real good opportunities that I didn't make. You know, at this point you can't be greedy. Even though you want to make them all, it's just -- nobody makes them all for the most part, and when you do, it's one of those 60 rounds or something like that.
But I had a couple other opportunities, really good opportunities I didn't take advantage of. But I just kept -- I didn't hang my head on those and just kept moving forward and was thinking I was going to get more opportunities down the road.

Q. Can you take us through the eagle and also the reaction that you got as you walked up to that green?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that was pretty special. I had 112 yards to the pin, a little bit downwind, and I was in -- I hit a wedge. It was a little bit -- just a soft wedge. I thought if I could throw it past the hole on that little mound there and bring it back, because the ball has been spinning back. You know, you can't see it from where I was down there, but you could sure see the reaction of the people, which was pretty cool.
You know, I still haven't seen it. I don't know what it looked like. But it was a great reaction from the crowd after I hit the shot, and even better when I walked up there to get it out of the hole. It was as loud as I've heard it for a shot of mine probably in forever. That was quite a thrill.

Q. On that same line, this is probably as close as you're going to get to a home crowd, other than the old GMO, being as how you're close to Wisconsin and a former winner here and played at Illinois. What's your reception like at a tournament like this versus some other part of the country?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, this is night and day. Any other part of the country they don't know who I am for the most part (laughter). This is pretty special. You know, and to play well on top of it is even more special. I get a lot of I-L-L-s and go Badgers, and it's been a lot of fun. It totally reminds me of back in '96 when I won here that I got the same sort of receptions going around here.
It's pretty neat. I don't get this on a weekly basis, that's for sure.

Q. You say that you've really hit a high; obviously you won at Westchester, but it almost seems like since then you're even starting to find another gear. Your thoughts, please?
STEVE STRICKER: It's given me another shot of confidence, where it kind of reinforced -- the win reinforced all the things that I've been working on that they paid off and that they held up under pressure, and I think coming down the stretch at Westchester and hitting the shots that I hit there really helped my confidence level a lot, and being able to hit driver at 17 and the 4-iron at 16 at Westchester and then driving it in the fairway, making birdie there, and do those things there I think just gave me another shot of confidence. I seemed to carry that on to each and every tournament that I've played after that. It's been a heck of a lot of fun, I know that.

Q. Did you ever think two years ago you'd be playing the best golf of your life at age 40? I mean, this is a pretty massive sustained stretch of excellence here.
STEVE STRICKER: No. I mean, to be honest with you, no. My wife and I would always talk about, hey, look what Vijay has done since he's turned 40. I mean, I don't expect to win 20 times in my 40s or whatever he's won, but he has shown that you can play into your 40s and play well into your 40s. And there's other guys who have done that along the way, too.
So you keep thinking the positive thoughts, at least I have. You know, I just keep trying to keep moving forward, keep trying to -- you know, I like to think about what I've done the last couple years, but yet I don't want to dwell on it. I want to just keep moving forward and just trying to do what I've been doing and try not to dwell on all those good things and try to stay hungry and continue to try to play well.

Q. For those of us in this room who haven't been there, maybe with the possible exception of Gary, can you take us through your thoughts when you're on a roll like that? Are you like disappointed when you're outside of ten feet with a putt? It just seems like -- what's it feel like to just totally bite down in?
STEVE STRICKER: Nothing else matters at the time, at least I wasn't thinking about scoreboards or who's leading the tournament. I was just out there playing. I was out there trying to hit the shots, you know, whatever it called for. I just was focused on trying to hit it in the proper spot. And then once I got up there, you know, I was trying to make the putts. I just kept doing that hole after hole. Nothing else really mattered, I was just trying to hit the shots.

Q. You talked a little bit at the beginning of the week about feeling kind of fatigued from playing all these tournaments consecutively. How are you feeling now that you're at the top of the leaderboard especially?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't feel fatigued (laughter). I feel really -- you feel energetic now, once you go through this. The adrenaline rush that you get, having a round like I did today, playing the first two rounds with Tiger was real easy to get up for. I was very fired up to play the first couple rounds because I was playing with him and I wanted to play well with him. Then when I get off to the start I did today and having the round that I did, it's very easy to stay very high.
And I feel like I'm -- you know, have a lot of adrenaline and just running with it. You know, it's been that way for the last couple weeks. Then it seems like when Sunday comes, you finish up and then all of a sudden you hit the wall for a day or two. Those are the days, though, that I've been getting away from it and not even picking up a club and trying to get ready for the next week with a shorter amount of time to try to get ready for it.

Q. I'm just wondering, do you even do much thinking when you're making it look that easy? 18 greens I imagine when you're laboring with your game, you're thinking about swing keys and the ball is going left or right and this and that. Do you just pull it and pull the trigger, because it just looks so easy right now.
STEVE STRICKER: I guess I'm just into the process of it all. I'm into my routine, I'm into thinking about where I want to hit it, and that's really all I have creeping into my mind right now. I'm not thinking about negative things at all, just staying in the present and taking that shot as it comes.
I guess you just get in periods of that in golf where it's very easy to concentrate, and I've been concentrating very well. There hasn't been a lot of things that have bothered me, and when I have played a bad hole, you know, I really have done well with just letting it go, just letting it roll off my back and move on. I think that's part of the reason why I'm playing well, too. I've just been easier on myself and taking everything as it comes.

Q. I'm wondering if Nicki wishes she were on the bag again right about now, and do you talk about that? And curiously, I wonder what Tom has meant to you over the years.
STEVE STRICKER: No doubt. Nicki misses this a lot. She wishes she could do this again, but she's doing more important things at home.
Tom has meant a lot. We're friends, first of all. We enjoy the same things; he loves to hunt, he loves to fish. I love to do those things. He's a decent player, he's like a 7 handicap, and he's a good putter, so I don't feel hesitant to call him in to read a putt for me at times.
And he's just a good, positive guy to have on the bag, and that's what you need. I feel comfortable with him out there. We've got a good relationship out there, and we know each other, I think, which is very important.

Q. In weird way might there be less pressure tomorrow, knowing Tiger is in a different group? It's probably going to be a shootout; Tiger is probably going to shoot low. And if you don't beat him, it's Tiger Woods, and if you do beat him, you beat Tiger Woods. Nothing to lose for you in a lot of ways?
STEVE STRICKER: Exactly, and that's the attitude I had coming in here. I'm like, this is the best player in the world. There's no way I should beat this guy. I mean, every -- it's just, you know, I marvelled at some of the things that he did yesterday, and the day before, hitting it out of the rough and making birdies when it looks like he may make a bogey. You know, it's tough to compete against a guy like that, and all you can do is just try your best.
I think that's what's made me relax about the whole situation is I can't worry about him. I know he's going to do phenomenal things. I've just got to go out and do my things differently. I may make the same hole, but I go about it a whole different way than he did it. You've just got to play your own game and hopefully make a few more putts than he does, which is difficult to do, but just more importantly, just stay within yourself and your own game.
I think it's okay to watch him, really. I really enjoy watching him. I mean, you shake your head at some of the things he does. It's phenomenal, really.

Q. Along that same vein, we all know his record when he has the lead or tied for the lead going into the final round. How important was it for you to get that lead, the one-shot lead going into tomorrow?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, you know, you have one shot, and that's not a lot, but at least you have a shot. You have a one-shot lead. Aaron and I both have a shot on him. I'm sure he'll be the guy to beat tomorrow, even though he's one behind. We all know of his fire power and what he's capable of doing.
But again, you've just got to mind your own business and do the things that you do well and try to get it in the hole in the fewest amount of strokes, but it's going to be probably a different way than what he does it. Again, you've just got to pay attention to yourself and do your own thing.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Just take us through your birdies starting at 3.
STEVE STRICKER: No. 3, hit a 3-wood, 7-iron to about eight feet.
Birdied No. 7, hit driver in the rough right and then hit a sand wedge from 105 yards to maybe about 12 feet.
Holed out on 8. We went over that one, for eagle.
No. 13, I hit a driver and a 6-iron to about probably five feet.
Birdied 15, the par 5. I hit driver and a 4-iron in the right bunker and got it up-and-down out of the bunker and made probably about a eight, nine-footer.
And then birdied 18, hit driver and a 6-iron from 178 to about five feet above the hole there, made that.

Q. The opportunities that you alluded to earlier that you could have gone lower, 17 being one perhaps, 14? Can you talk about those?
STEVE STRICKER: Yea. I mean, I had a real legitimate shot at No. 2. I hit it in there maybe 10, 12 feet and misread it.
I hit another good one in there at 5. I don't know, I just had a lot of opportunities today. It seemed like one after another, I had real legitimate opportunities for birdies.
It's kind of funny because I talked to my brother-in-law Mario last night on the phone, and he struggles with putting. And I was kind of trying to shed some things on putting to him, and one of them to him was, you know, you're going to get a lot of opportunities, and you can't make them all, but if you miss one, you've just got to let it go. Don't beat yourself up over missing that putt. Just think that you're going to get more opportunities throughout the course of the round.
And I kept thinking of that myself today. I missed a couple, and I'm like, hey, don't worry about it, just move on, keep hitting them in there and I'm going to make some as we get going. It was almost like what I told him last night came to fruition this morning while I was playing, and I kind of chuckled to myself out there, and that's the way I took it. I just kept trying to hit it in there and giving myself opportunities.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Steve, thanks for your time.

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