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September 12, 2007

Steve Stricker


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Steve, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the TOUR Championship. You had a nice string starting with that victory at the Barclays, the FedExCup playoffs with three Top 10s, second in the FedExCup standings, a chance to win the $10 million. You've come a long way this year.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's been a great ride. It seems so surreal at times, and other times I expect it but other times I look back and think, you know, how far I've come in a couple-year period. So it's been a great ride, like I said, and it's -- you know, I've got a great opportunity in this last event here at the TOUR Championship, so I'm excited about that and hopefully will continue my good play.

Q. If you were to win, obviously you'd win the Cup, but there are other scenarios in which Tiger doesn't win and yet he's going to be the Player of the Year. Does that invalidate the playoff system?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't think so. It's just like any other playoffs. You could be in baseball and have the best record of the year and get into the playoffs and not win the World Series, or vice versa. You could be the team with not the best record and come in and win it all.
I think it gives the opportunity to a lot more players entering this playoff system. I mean, I started this system I think 12th or 13th in points and moved up right away in contention for this whole thing, so I think it gives a lot more players the opportunity to do something special at the end of the year, and it adds a lot of interest to the game.
You know, for the players, too, it provides a lot of interest, too, coming down the stretch. It brings the fans back into it at a time of the year when the PGA is over, golf kind of disappears because of football, but yet we're still talking about this. Great pairings the last few weeks with Phil and Tiger, so I think it has a lot of merit to it.

Q. When you look at this field here, do you feel like, in quotes, a Cinderella story here?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, it's been a while since I've been back here. I don't know if Cinderella story is the right word or not, but you know, I feel like I should be here. I mean, maybe not the way I played the last few years leading up to these last couple, but it's just -- I keep pinching myself, I really do. It's been unbelievable at times. Just to win again has been a great thrill for me, and to add all this on top of it is just unbelievable.
The experience has been another thing that I've taken along the way, you know, playing with Tiger last week and getting in contention week after week, it seems like I've learned a lot. So I take a lot out of this, too.
It's been a great month, it's been a great couple of years, really.

Q. As well as you're playing, would you like to see this kind of keep going for a while, or are you kind of ready to shut it down?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm ready to -- it's been a long stretch. But I am still eager to play. That's the great thing about the way I feel. I don't feel like I'm tired, maybe because of the position I'm in. I've got a great opportunity, and even though I think this is about seven out of nine for me -- seven events out of the nine weeks, and that's a long stretch. And four in a row, I don't know when the last time I've played four in a row was.
You know, you sneak home for a day, and like I was telling Joan, it kind of gets you back into normalcy real quick but then you're back out the door the next day. I'm ready for a break, but then we have the Presidents Cup in a couple weeks, so we're right back at it again. But I'm looking forward to that, as well.

Q. How is your swing different from '05, and what was the main stuff that you changed?
STEVE STRICKER: I think I'm a little bit shorter. I think overall the easiest way to put it, my swing has gotten a little bit shorter, it's gotten a little bit more consistent, a little bit more repeatable, and that wasn't the intent going into what I was doing at the end of the '05 season but it ended up working out that way. I've kind of grown to like it. I've always been a guy who's swung the club really long, and I've shortened it up quite a bit. I think it's just led to being able to count on it under pressure a little bit more.

Q. You look like you stay on top of the ball and centered. Did you load back before?
STEVE STRICKER: I kind of -- I still feel like I get behind it really well, and I've seen pictures of late where it shows that, too, so I feel like I really get behind the ball well, make a good turn away, but the club just isn't traveling as far as it used to be. It used to kind of keep traveling on me. You know, my arms, and the club used to keep traveling. I think that's what led to a lot of inconsistencies. I think it's gotten a little bit tighter, a little more in my center, and it's been a little bit easier to repeat. And it's held up, I think, fairly well under the gun for the most part.

Q. With the wave of momentum you bring into this thing, with everything that's on the table for you, can you liken the anticipation you have for this week to anything else that you've played in?
STEVE STRICKER: I liken it to like the opening of the deer season, which is this Saturday (laughter). That's how excited I am, this and the opening of the deer season pretty much goes hand in hand. That's the way I feel about it, and I get pretty fired up to go deer hunting.
No, seriously, I don't know. Maybe my first win on TOUR, you know, and doing what I've been doing here just all seems to kind of been the same emotions, emotional highs. It was like I won again for the first time at the Barclays. My family and friends, they got all fired up, and we had a party a little bit, and it was like I had never done it before, it's been that long. So it's really been a lot of fun.
And everybody in my neck of the woods in Wisconsin, you know, is just really excited for me and fired up. It's been a lot of fun.

Q. Just to follow up on that, is this a different feeling for you than getting ready for a major because of all the circumstances that have come into it?
STEVE STRICKER: You mean this last tournament?

Q. Yeah, this last tournament, right here, this week. Because of what you've built up to, is this bigger than teeing it up at your normal major for you?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't think so. I mean, it's got a lot of -- there's going to be a lot of pressures here, especially once we get going, and if you find yourself in the mix of the tournament and the FedExCup, you're going to feel a lot of pressure there, at least I will. That's a lot of money we're talking about, you know, 10 million bucks.
I think as far as I'm looking at this right now, I mean, whatever I can do here is going to be a bonus. I mean, it's been that way this last month. You know, it seems like whatever I can do from here on out is just going to be icing on the cake, and that's kind of the way I'm looking at this, too. I've got a great opportunity, I'm not putting a lot of pressure on myself to do this. I'm not the favorite obviously to win this thing, so it's really no extra pressure on me. I don't feel any extra pressure on me. You feel like, you know what, I feel like I have an opportunity, let's go out and try to see if I can do it. I'm not the guy who should win this thing, so that kind of takes some of the pressure off me, too.

Q. On a course where the greens are less than perfect, does that favor the better putters, or does it kind of bring everyone back to the pack a little bit?
STEVE STRICKER: Good question. I don't know. I mean, I've putted well on bad greens, I've putted well on good greens. I think if you're going to putt well, you find a way to do it.
These greens aren't awful. I mean, they're not like a normal TOUR week green, but they roll fairly good, they're not as fast, but I think you're going to see a lot of low scores, I really do. I think the scoring conditions are going to be pretty good. The greens are really soft and they're slow, so with that combination you usually see low scores.
Who it favors, I'm not really sure. I think if a guy is going to putt well during the week, he's going to putt well no matter what the conditions are.

Q. Calc was in here yesterday and he was talking about if you won, he would force you to party with him and maybe have more than two beers. He said that's your limit. I wonder what your thoughts are about Calc kind of rooting for you and what you would do to celebrate.
STEVE STRICKER: (Laughing) Well, that would be a great problem to have. I don't know if I've ever had a beer with Calc, but I would love to buy him one, I know that, if I won $10 million.
I'm sure there are some guys pulling for me just because of where I've been. I am the underdog in this whole deal, and that's kind of what this format has brought about, I think, is the ability for someone to come from nowhere to win this thing. You know, I think that's what leads to excitement, and I think that's what leads to people getting fired up and the players being fired up to play in it.
But it is, it's exciting, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Q. You hear people say all the time, Tiger and Phil don't need another $10 million. What does the money factor -- does Steve Stricker need another $10 million, and what does the money factor mean to you? And along the same lines, how do you see success -- success changing you at all or changing your lifestyle?
STEVE STRICKER: My lifestyle won't change, that I know for sure. And as far as the $10 million goes, $10 million definitely means something different to me than it does to Tiger or Phil (laughter), I guarantee you on that one. I'm sure they still want to win it. I mean, $10 million is a lot of money.
I mean, it has to mean something different to them than it does to me. You would think it would, anyway.
I don't know, it won't change me if I were to win it. It would just ensure that my kids and my kids' kids are taken care of in their lives. It would be a great problem to have.

Q. One of the rewards of your good play is making The Presidents Cup team again. Could you talk about what that feels like?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that was a goal starting out at the start of the season. I was in good position from last year and played on the '96 team and had a lot of fun with that and really wanted to make one of these teams again. I'm very excited for it, and I'm looking forward to going up to Montreal. My first captain was Arnold Palmer and my second captain was Jack Nicklaus, so it's pretty good captains I've been able to play for over the last two teams I've been a part of.
Looking forward to it, and it's going to be a tough challenge, too. They've got a good team, but so do we. It should be a good competition.

Q. Is it going to seem kind of odd? I can't think of any other golf situation where you might have a winner of the tournament and a winner of the $10 million and I've got to try to figure out which guy to watch. On Sunday you might have almost two races going on simultaneously. What would the story be there?
STEVE STRICKER: Good question. I don't know, there possibly could be two races going on there. You know, obviously the winner of the FedExCup is probably going to bear a little bit more importance than the actual tournament because it's a bigger purse, it's $10 million.
But also -- I don't know, I don't really know how to -- what's going to happen with that. Hopefully the guy that ends up winning the tournament ends up winning the FedExCup. I think that would be pretty cool. I guess we're going to have to wait and see how that plays out. It could be a little funky coming down the stretch.
I've talked to some people that watch golf on the weekends, and they're saying to me that they're enjoying watching the competition within the competition, you know, guys trying to move on, and TV has been doing a good job of relaying that story, what these guys need to do to finish in what position to move on to the next week, and I imagine that's going to be the same this week, as well, where this guy needs to do this. There's going to be a ton of scenarios coming down the stretch, and I think that's going to add a lot of excitement.

Q. As a rare guy who lost his game and then got it back better than ever, do you have a sense that the main thing that a TOUR player fears is, quote-unquote, losing it?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, maybe. I mean, I'm sure it goes through players' heads. I mean, it's just the nature of anything, I think. You feel like you're doing something well and you want to stay and continue to do that well, but yet you have to always be on your game to succeed out here. You can't let that slip or go by the wayside, you know, and I'm sure it runs through players' heads. They've seen other players over the years that it's happened to, great players that have won majors and all of a sudden can't find their games. It's happened to a lot of players.
And the nature of our game is just that; it's volatile. I guess it's full of ups and downs, and there's very few players that can continue with Tiger-like play. He's one of them, Phil is one of them, Ernie, Vijay, their valleys are probably a little bit smaller than some of the other players. But everybody has them; it's just the depths to which you go, I guess, and some go deeper than others. It's something that we've got to deal with, and everybody has to deal with the ups and downs of this game, and I think it's just how you get yourself out of those.

Q. Just to clarify, the shorter swing, was that something that was a conscious decision or did it just evolve over time?
STEVE STRICKER: It kind of just evolved. I worked on my position at the top. I had been crossing the line at the top, which means that my club was pointing to the right of the target, and it had gotten long and crossed the line, and I was just working on getting it not across the line. I was working on getting it more on plane at the top.
All of a sudden it got a little bit shorter. So no, it wasn't a conscious effort so much as the fact that I was trying to fix the top but not necessarily shorten it.

Q. Just curious, when plans about a year ago were released to the public about the FedExCup, where did you stand on it? There were cynics right from the start. Where did you sit and how did you think about it?
STEVE STRICKER: I've always been kind of a guy who goes with the flow. I'm not here to ruffle any feathers. I thought it was a great opportunity for anyone to try to be a part of, to take advantage of. There's more money involved.
I mean, who can complain about that, really? Like I said, I was just excited about it. Anticipation was kind of -- it was there, but just really didn't know what to expect from the points, how much movement was going to be made if you played well compared to if you didn't play well.
You know, I was just going along with the flow. That's just the way I am, I guess. I'm excited about being a part of it the first year and taking part in it.

Q. As you're sitting here today and you look back, what can you say just to answer the question, how did I make it back here, and what are you doing now that you weren't doing a couple years ago?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I think just putting in a lot of hard work at the end of the '05 season and into '06 is the reason I made it back here, and having a belief that I was going to make it back here. I've got a great support, my family back home.
What was the second part?

Q. What are you doing now that you weren't doing then?
STEVE STRICKER: I think just driving it better in the fairway, hitting my irons a little bit better. I think I'm putting and chipping about the same. But I think my overall long game is better, you know, and my confidence level is obviously better. Just feeling like I'm going to go out there and play well every day has been a big part of it, and feeling confident that I can do it and really not getting upset when things don't go well. I'm letting that go a little bit easier. I'm not beating myself up as much I don't think when something doesn't go right. I'm just kind of going with the flow, like I said, and moving on, and it seems to be working.

Q. The FedExCup has received its fair share of criticism in recent weeks. Does having three of the world's Top 5 players in contention going into the final event kind of validate it a little bit?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it's been validated every week, even though the guys haven't played some of it. But especially this week, they're here. This is an event that Tiger and Phil have chosen to skip some of the previous years. We saw in every tournament the great fields, starting with the Barclays and Deutsche Bank and last week in Chicago. Every tournament has had great fields, and I think that shows you right there that it's working.
I mean, guys are wanting to play in this. They're trying to win it. Even though there's been a lot of criticism on both ends, players and the media, I think when you look back at these four events, I think it's been a success.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you. Play well.

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