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December 11, 2007

Steve Stricker


JOE CHEMYCZ: You were voted the 2007 Comeback Player of the Year for the second straight year. Highlights of the 2007 season include a second-place finish in the FedExCup, including a win at the Barclays, your first win since 2001, nine Top-10 finishes, the second-most of your career, and currently No. 4 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Congratulations. I know it's always an honor when you're voted awards, especially by your peers.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, thanks. It is an honor, and to win this for the second straight year, I don't know how I did it, but it is an honor to be voted by your peers. Like Joe and I were talking about, we don't know if the award has the correct name or not. I mean, I won this last year, and I don't know what I did to deserve it again this year. But it is, it's a nice award, and I am honored.

Q. Do you think you can win this a third year in a row?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know, I was thinking about what I would have to do to win this three years in a row, and usually you have to have a better year than last year. I don't know if I'd be out of this ballot and maybe be on the Player of the Year ballot, which would be nice.
JOE CHEMYCZ: 2005, No. 162 on the Money List; 2006, No. 34 on the Money List; and of course in 2007, No. 4 in the world.

Q. At Carnoustie and then again in Oklahoma, 100 questions on where you were, how you've come back. You seemed a little tired of them. Are you at all? Do you mind explaining the comeback at all, or does it get to your nerves?
STEVE STRICKER: It's getting to my nerves, to tell you the truth (laughter). I try to be as polite as possible, and I do answer the questions, but it's been three years and I've had two really solid years. I feel like that's way on the back burner now, and I've been looking forward and looking to what I want to continue to do and not look so much in the past anymore. So when people do bring it up, it does tend to bother me a little bit. It's a nice story but it's an old story is the way I feel about it. It's two or three years ago.
I still answer them, but I'd rather talk about what I've done just recently or what I'm going to do moving forward.

Q. Talk about the byproduct of your success, an event like this, Mercedes, something like that that you haven't been to in a while.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's great. I did it back in '96 and after the start of the '97 season after I had a good year then and then a good year in 2001. I think in '98 I made the TOUR Championship. So it's not like I've never done any of these events. But it is definitely nice to get back into them.
It's a bonus. You know, when you can come here and play for the kind of money that we're playing for and to be Tiger's event, a special event as it is, it's all bonus. It's all icing on top of the cake. It's a privilege to be here and looking forward to getting my 2008 season going and coming off of an eight-week layoff. I feel like this is the start of next year, really.

Q. Do you think that the gap is closing on Tiger? Are people getting closer, or is he just kind of moving away again?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think it's getting closer, no. You know, just playing with him toward the end of the season and watching what he does and what he's capable of doing kind of just blows me away at times. I realized that back in '97 when I first played with him. His rookie year on TOUR basically I played with him at AT&T, and I was coming off a good year in '96, and I kind of looked at him to see how I could stack up.
I didn't stack up very well then, and I don't stack up very well against him now, either. But there's ways that you have to try to beat him, and that's just play your own game and do things you can't compete with him with length or his strength out of the rough or any of that stuff, so you can't kind of -- I've learned you can't compare yourself to him; no one can. You just have to go about your own business and try to shoot the lowest score possible but doing it your own way and not getting caught up into how he does it.
I think that's the impressive thing is if you start to watch him and start to watch what he does, to me that's a no-no, just because you need to be paying attention to your own game and trying to do it your own way.

Q. Not to dwell on the trailer, but that was '05 that you first went into the trailer. Did you at all last winter, and what do you do now in your off-seasons to get ready?
STEVE STRICKER: Still do the same stuff. I did at the end of the '06 season, I spent some time in the trailer again hitting balls, and I was in there again -- I went down to Jacksonville for about four days prior to coming here. That's my warmup, though, staying at home for as long as possible, hitting balls out of the trailer, hanging onto the clubs. I've got a putting green in my house where I can putt, and then doing those two things, at least I'm able to hang onto a club. And then I usually go somewhere to try to play, try to get some rounds under my belt, and that's what we did the last four days down in Jacksonville.

Q. The double header obviously with the Illini, you at Sherwood, they're playing football in the Rose Bowl on New Year's day. Talk about the gallery here being Illini fans.
STEVE STRICKER: Yes, is there a question?

Q. Is it going to be nice that this is a tournament where you can come out --
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I get a lot of I-L-Ls wherever I go, and I don't know if there will be any Illinois fans already out here for the football game, but usually at tournament stops I'll get a lot of Illinois fans. I take it you're from Champaign maybe?

Q. No, out here, but I just noticed that the game is coming up. Just talk about having an interest in that.
STEVE STRICKER: An interest in the Rose Bowl? Yeah, I've got an interest in the Rose Bowl. Going to the University of Illinois and being a part of that program for the four or five years that I was there, it definitely was fun to see Ron Zook turn that program around this year. You always knew he could get the players in there, and it looked like he finally put it together on the field and it was fun to watch. I'll be rooting for them for the Rose Bowl.

Q. You talked about Tiger's physical strength, and I think we recognize that, but also the mental side of the game, people discuss how tough he is mentally. I'm just wondering what is that when you're competing against that, and do you notice that as much as the physical side?
STEVE STRICKER: You know it's there. I guess you get caught up, or at least I do, watching some of the physical stuff. You know he's very strong mentally, too. You've just seen it so many other times, and it's documented. I watch a lot of the Golf Channel or watch a lot of golf on TV. It's just well-documented how strong he is mentally. He's impressive. I don't know any other way to put it. He's just impressive, and I get to watch him for a couple more days starting this week, too, or at least one, I guess, so I'm looking forward to it.

Q. At the end of the year it got to be pretty tiring for a lot of the guys playing in all those events, and of course winning a tournament now of course that opened up a lot of doors to you. Do you find it difficult to say no to tournaments? It seems like there's so many good ones now. Do you have any difficulty looking ahead to your schedule and figuring out what you're going to do and where you're going to play?
STEVE STRICKER: Not really. I mean, obviously there's been a couple opportunities this fall to play, which I've taken advantage of this one here this week. But no, I still feel like my job is to play on the TOUR and to focus my attention on the TOUR, not so much the fall stuff or maybe overseas during the course of the year. I tend to shy away from kind of that stuff just because I feel like my obligation is to the TOUR here, and I want to perform well on the PGA TOUR and I want to be rested and ready to play when I'm going to play.
I've got usually my favorite courses that I like to go and favorite cities and stuff like that, so I just kind of tend to do the same ones year after year. But obviously there's World Golf Championships events that are thrown into it, and I'll be playing those like I did last year. It'll be basically pretty much the same schedule, but I try to focus mainly right here on the TOUR.

Q. Do you find that it's kind of caught up with you when you go out to grocery stores or coffee houses? Do you feel you're getting recognized by people more when you go out or are you still able to fly under the radar?
STEVE STRICKER: I get recognized a little bit more, but it's pretty much under the radar, I guess. Every once in a while people will come up to me and say something about the year that I had last year and that, which is nice. You know, it's just -- when you talk about Tiger, again, and I can't even imagine some of the stuff that he goes through dealing with that kind of stuff. It's kind of a nice position I feel like I'm in. I get a little recognition but yet I can still slide under the radar, like you said, and go about my normal business.

Q. I'd be curious, having seen the likes of Philadelphia resident Sean O'Hair and Minneapolis resident Tim Herron this week and yourself, what's it like for you at home? How important is it to not be able to play golf? And can you imagine what it would be like to live in Florida as an example?
STEVE STRICKER: I enjoy my time away. You know, as you probably know, I need to get away. I don't know if it's just because I grew up in Wisconsin and I've always had that time away from the game. I'm not sure, but I've tried to -- like at the end of the '96 season I played a lot in the off-season and then started playing right away from January. I could tell that I didn't have the time away, and my attitude was not good; I was short-tempered. I just wasn't ready to play. I found out that I need that time away.
We tried to live down in Florida for a period of time, and it just didn't work. Our family and friends are in Wisconsin, and I need that time to be there and to do the things that I like to do in the fall time. That's why we're there.

Q. When did you try living in Florida?
STEVE STRICKER: It was early in my career. We actually had a house in Tampa and we were residents of Florida, actually, until the Wisconsin IRS just decided to pull us right back (laughter). That was after the end of the '96 season where they decided, how are you a Florida resident? I said, well, I have been for three years, and I made that money in '96, and they said, well, no, you're a Wisconsin resident now. So we've been back ever since.

Q. You were really there for three years in Tampa, you had a house and that was your off-season?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that was it down there. We'd go down there in November, December, January. All through the Florida Swing we'd drive out of there. Once we had our first child in '98 my wife wanted to be back home with family. Since she wasn't caddying, she needed to be back home with the family. That's kind of when it all happened, when we went back home.

Q. Were you playing a lot when you were in Tampa during the wintertime?
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, yeah, I played all the time. You'd go outside and it's 75 degrees and nice, and it kind of forced you to play almost. You felt guilty if you didn't go out there to play. That's what I like about Wisconsin, because you can't get out there to play at the end of October and November, and it forces you to get away. But you can still hit balls, like I said. If you feel the urge you can still go out and hit balls in that trailer.

Q. What was the highest high last year, the peak experience looking back in retrospect?
STEVE STRICKER: Definitely winning the Barclays. It was such a long time in between wins. 2001 was a win at the Match Play, but you've got to go all the way back to '96 before I won a stroke-play event. That definitely was the highlight of my career. And I still, my wife and I talk about it, that did-it-really-happen type of thing. We still can't believe it yet.
It meant a lot. You know, it just proved to me that the work that I've been doing had paid off and that I'm heading in the right direction.

Q. Can I ask you about your thoughts on the British Open with the passage of time and where that fits into your memories of the year, whether it was an opportunity lost or a good experience?
STEVE STRICKER: It was both. It was both an opportunity lost and an experience that I think led to me winning later in the year. All the things that led up to that I felt like were a positive experience, a learning experience, one that I think helped me win at the Barclays. And I definitely thought that even the British Open but even more so the U.S. Open, I'm leading after nine holes -- I mean, with nine to play, and have a chance to win.
You know, you could have looked at them as a negative, but I decided to try to keep it as a positive. I was moving in the right direction, and my goal was to win. It would have been nice to win one of those majors, but to win was my goal. And to finally do it, I think all that clumped together, all those experiences helped me do that.

Q. How do you think your year might have gone had you won either of The Opens or Wachovia? And kind of as a follow to that, how do you guard against satisfaction having finally gotten back to where you thought you should have been?
STEVE STRICKER: No doubt. I don't know how the rest of the year would have gone. I think because I was close for a lot of events during the middle of the year, it kept providing me some sort of hope and some sort of fire that I was going to try to win again, and that just motivated me even more to continue to work towards that goal. You know, I don't know how that would have worked.
Looking at this year, I feel like this is another year for me to try to come out and prove again what I did this last year. I need to be prepared. I'm not resting on anything. I'm not resting on my laurels at all, and I've been working at it, and this whole month now I look forward to working towards the Mercedes and the start in Hawaii.

Q. Is there anything you're really working towards?
STEVE STRICKER: Ryder Cup. I look at that as something that I have not done. Obviously the majors, you're going to have to play well in those to make that team, to be a part of that team. You know, I look at the end there and trying to be a part of that Ryder Cup team because I had a blast being a part of that Presidents Cup team, and it's been a long time since -- '96 was the last Presidents Cup team, but to be together again with all those guys was a pretty special event. I've never been on a Ryder Cup team, and that would be awesome.

Q. Talk about your experiences here and how you like playing in Los Angeles.
STEVE STRICKER: You know, the weather is great. It beats being in Wisconsin this time of year. We have a foot of snow on the ground. I don't play a whole lot in LA. I like coming here. I play the LA Open every once in a while, but I'm excited about this week. I'm excited to be part of the field. I'm excited to get -- I keep saying the '08 season, but even though this is the '07 season still, I feel like I'm working towards next year and this is kind of the start of it all.

Q. You're basically paying attention to Badger basketball and hockey right now?
STEVE STRICKER: Badger basketball, and I've been going to a few of those games and spending time at home and helping out with the kids and everything, so it's been a nice eight-week break and I'm ready to get going again.

Q. How shocked are you that Tiger Woods was named the Player of the Year?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm not shocked at all. We kind of seem to expect that as the years keep going on and on that that's going to be one constant at the end of the year.

Q. How significant is your driving, the improvement in your driving?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it's been pretty significant. It's not great yet. I still could improve on that. But I think just my overall game has been a lot more consistent. I'm driving it a little bit better. I looked at my stats comparing this year to other years, and it was a little bit better. It wasn't as good as the '06 season but it's definitely gotten better. I feel like I'm a little more in control of my game now. My iron game is better and my chipping and my putting has always been decent. I'm just -- everything, the overall game has gotten a little bit better.

Q. Monty once said that the reason the majors are so hard to win is that Tiger wins two of them, Ernie, Phil, Vijay will win another one, and that only leaves one for everybody else. Do you agree with that or no?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, Tiger usually gets one a year it seems like. How many has he won, 13? How many years has he been on TOUR, 11? So that's basically one a year. Sometimes he throws in two. So he's right, you know, it leaves two for everybody else to try to fight over, and there's a lot of good players fighting for them. It makes it difficult.
I guess when you look back -- when I look back anyways at the Open this year and the British Open and Winged Foot last year, Tiger wasn't there at Winged Foot, and I'm like, well, this would be a great opportunity because he misses the cut. I didn't get it done, so I look at those as missed opportunities. But you're right, there's a lot of other players vying for those two or three during the year, and it's tough, a lot of good players.

Q. I just wonder, you're No. 4 in the world, or in the earnings, and all of a sudden you're back. Do you consider yourself one of the elite players? And I guess we always think of Phil and Vijay and Ernie, that group, and Retief. Do you say, "I'm in that group"?

Q. Why?
STEVE STRICKER: Because we've always looked at them that way, I guess, the Big Four or the Big Five, whatever you want to say. I've had two good years, and I've snuck in there. I don't see myself as that, no, I don't.
You know, maybe that's just my way of trying to provide me with some sort of motivation to try to get better, too, to try to work hard at it to keep moving my way up.

Q. This week obviously Tiger is the host. When you look at -- when you and other players look at him, he has this, the Deutsche Bank, AT&T National, the Learning Center, a foundation, everything else that goes on. Are you as players surprised at how he handles all those things on his plate, and would you or anybody else be able to welcome all those things onto your plate and be able to handle them the way he does?
STEVE STRICKER: That's what I was getting too earlier, too, about the flying under the radar. It's nice to have some success but not really get noticed. Here's a guy that has it all the time and probably has a hard time going out anywhere without running into somebody that wants a piece of his time. You know, obviously he's got a lot of great people working with him and for him that can handle a lot of this, and he can come in there and provide his time and energy when he needs to.
I don't wish it on myself, no. He does obviously a great job in handling his time and efforts and the things that he -- his interests, or the things that he decides on putting his time into. So like I said, no, I don't welcome that. He obviously does a great job with that, and the people that he's probably built around -- built around him have done a great job with that, too.

Q. My host wanted me to ask about the Packers and your take on the Packers and what a typical Packer Cheesehead party would be like now that they're playing really well. Is it just over the roof?
STEVE STRICKER: I get dressed up in a Bears outfit to tell you the truth. I'm a Bears fan (laughter). I don't get a lot of sympathy when I'm at home when my Bears are playing the way they've been playing. But last year the Bears did well. I was kind of letting them know that the Bears are playing well, but it's vice versa this year. But I'm a Bears fan at first but a Brett Favre fan big-time. I love to watch him play, and I root for the Packers when they're not playing the Bears.
You know, we have a good time with it, and it's fun to watch him play this year. He's having probably one of the better years of his career, which is good for Packer fans, too, because he'll probably be back again for next year, too. It's been fun to watch.

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