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January 1, 2008

Steve Stricker


STEWART MOORE: Steve, thanks for joining us for a few minutes here in the interview room at the Mercedes Benz Championship. Another great season for you, second straight comeback Player of the Year Award for you. What's it going to take to win a third straight.
STEVE STRICKER: Joe Ogilvie just came up to me on the range and said, "You're going to have to win the Grand Slam and all the playoff events to win comeback Player of the Year again." It's quite an honor and it's nice to be here. It's been a long time for me and my family to be back here. It's nice to be back, and it's a great way to start the year.

Q. How is your golf game after probably the snowy winter?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, a little rusty, but I think to be expected. It's a little hectic over the holiday time to try to get a lot of practice in, especially for me up there in the snow. I was able to hit some balls every once in a while, but the range was also closed a couple times because of the snow. It's all right. I mean, it's the start of the year and we've got a long stretch in front of us.

Q. I thought you hit balls out of that indoor place out into the range.

Q. But there was so much snow you couldn't do that?
STEVE STRICKER: A couple days they had to close it because the timing of the snow was bad. We had some wet snow where it would melt in the morning or during the day and then it would start to snow and they couldn't get their picker out there because it actually would smush the balls into the snow and they couldn't pick them up. From one day to the other it's a real challenge, but then they'll blow it all off and lose some balls in the process of plowing it but then they'll be open the next day. It's quite a deal.

Q. How many days did you spend up in a tree hunting?

Q. Yeah, did you count them?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I didn't count them. I didn't do as much this year as I have in other years. I took a trip up to Canada, me and a friend, we went musky fishing for five days, so that ate into it. Then I went with my father-in-law up to his home where he was born up in Ironwood, and we did a little five-day deer hunting trip up there. I felt when I got home I needed to stay around home and not go up in a tree so much. I got my fair share in. It's nice. That's what I really look forward to in the fall, is doing some of that hunting and fishing stuff that I don't get to do during the summer.

Q. Have you tried to check luggage and they found like two bullets in your bag?

Q. Did you hear about that?

Q. Boo.
STEVE STRICKER: Did he really?

Q. He's red-flagged from here on now. They're going to tear apart his bag whenever he goes through an airport.
STEVE STRICKER: On the way over here?

Q. Two .308s. We didn't know what that meant.
STEVE STRICKER: That's a caliber.

Q. He had two in a tote bag.
STEVE STRICKER: Did he really? Oh, my God. No weapon, though?

Q. No, I guess he uses the bag for like just a regular bag and he throws stuff in it while he's hunting, leaves it in the car, and then it's also his travel bag.
STEVE STRICKER: It was checked baggage or his carry-on?

Q. Carry-on.
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, no. That's funny.

Q. After playing really well last year and then winning last year, how do you keep from getting satisfied?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, good question. I don't want to just rest on what I did last year. Coming out this year, I still feel like I have to prove some things. I want to prove some things to myself. I'd love to win again. I mean, that was so much fun there at the Barclays, it just whetted my appetite and I got the feeling that I can do it again and I want to do it again. So that's kind of my mindset, is just coming back out here and trying to get back in that winner's circle.

Q. Is there part of you that, having gone this way at one point in your career, that if you don't keep here, you're going to do it again? You fell down quite a while. Now that you've come back up is there a part of you that's fearful that if you don't maintain or improve or do whatever that you can fall again?
STEVE STRICKER: I've thought about it, and then I keep telling myself that I put in a lot of time. My game is totally different than what it was when I took that dive. I feel like my mindset is a lot different. I feel like this is where I belong. I think I had some questions about my game and about myself back then, and I feel like I'm a different person and I play a different game now. You know, I'm not as worried about it. I was worried about it back then, too. I think it goes through all of us as players, wondering if you can keep it going for a stretch of time or whatever. But it's just the nature of the game; it has its ups and downs. I've been there already. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't scare me anymore. I've been there, I've dealt with all the negative stuff, I've dealt with a lot of good things lately, but I've also dealt with those things four years ago that I really had to go through. Really, I've experienced it and it doesn't really scare me anymore.

Q. It's such a quick turnaround from last year to already being here. Did you really have the time to fully appreciate what you did last year?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I did. I really -- even a month and a half after The Presidents Cup, my wife and I are laying there in bed and we still look at each other and can't believe that I won again. I mean, she would say it and I would say it maybe a week later or something.
You know, really, it really was kind of a magical year for me, unbelievable at times. You know, it was a great ride. In one respect I'm glad that it is a quick turnaround because I feel like I can continue this good play. I played well at Tiger's event for coming out after a ten-week break, and I feel like it's kind of a continuation of what I've been doing.

Q. Any New Year's resolutions?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't do any of that kind of stuff.

Q. Why did you say it like that?
STEVE STRICKER: Maybe I was thinking -- I always think I'm going to work out more this year, try to get a little fitter.

Q. You and Calc both.
STEVE STRICKER: Is that what Calc said, too? I try to do it, but then when I get to the hotel, the family and the kids want to do stuff, and I feel like I need to do that more than I need to work out and take care of myself, try to help them out a little bit more.

Q. Where in your game can you improve the most?
STEVE STRICKER: I think still in my ball-striking. I think I can still improve. I think my driving has gotten better. I think I can still improve a little bit more. My iron play I think -- I'm a good short iron player, probably 7-iron down. But I think I can improve on my long iron game and maybe drive it a little bit better.
You know, always the short game. You can always constantly work on that and try to improve and do things there that can always save a shot throughout the course of a day. If you can do that every round, save a shot, that adds up to a lot at the end. The little things I've always tried to pay attention to, and I continue to try to drive it a little bit better.

Q. What was your career path leaving college?
STEVE STRICKER: Career path? I went to the Canadian Tour.

Q. Right out of college?
STEVE STRICKER: Yep, right out of college. I went through their Tour school, made it through there and then played four summers up there.

Q. You didn't try the TOUR Q-school?
STEVE STRICKER: I did. I failed it, and I made it in my fourth attempt. I got through in the fall of '93, is when I got my card. So my first year was '94.

Q. Did you have good support up in Canada? Did you ever have any money crunches?
STEVE STRICKER: I had a good -- my father-in-law, being the business guy he is, we put together a contract and we found ten sponsors. They put money in every six months if they had to, but I was fortunate enough, they put in money the first time and then I was able to make enough to keep supporting myself the rest of the way. And then made it on TOUR, and I still had sponsors then on TOUR and then was able to pay them back right away that first year and then got out of that deal.

Q. Do you still keep in touch with them?
STEVE STRICKER: I do. A lot of them are friends still. Some I don't see at all, but maybe half of them I still see and talk to on a regular basis.

Q. And just kind of a quirky question. What's the last job you had? This one doesn't count. Paycheck, you know, taxes taken out of your check, the whole nine yards.
STEVE STRICKER: It was probably at Nelson Young Lumber in Edgerton when I was in college. I worked at a lumber company during the summers. My brother works there now in the office, and I would just deliver lumber. He was nice enough to let me go and play in golf tournaments when I needed the time off, so it wasn't like a full-time summer job or something. It was kind of like when I was back home he'd let me come in and work.

Q. So you worked at a lumberyard?
STEVE STRICKER: Lumberyard delivering lumber. It was good fun (laughter).

Q. Some hazard in that, isn't there?
STEVE STRICKER: There was some hazard. I have a scary story, and I still think about this to this day. It could have ended my career without question. I still don't know what I was doing. But I'm waving the guy back. I usually rode with the driver, they didn't let me drive very much.
So we're delivering to a brand-new house, and I'm waving him back. Now he's coming back and I'm up on the front stairway, and now I get off the side of the stair but I'm still right behind the truck waving him back like this. He's looking at me, and all of a sudden he's coming too close. Now I'm pinned up against the back of the house which is right here. So I'm like, stop, and I go like this. The back of the flatbed pushes my arm right into the new siding. Now I'm a little bit pinned right there. I finally unwedge it and leave a dent in the new siding, but I still cringe at that to this day. I didn't do that again. I was off usually on the side of the truck (laughter). That was dumb.

Q. Goydos was asked the other day about with the U.S. Open being at Torrey Pines and the British going to Birkdale, if the courses set up nicely, for Tiger to make a good run at the Grand Slam. I'd be curious about your thoughts on that. And the other thing Goydos said was he didn't think courses were an issue anymore. At Southern Hills last year, not many would have thought Southern Hills would have been a good fit for Tiger, and he won there.
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think courses are an issue for him anymore. He showed at Hoylake without bringing a driver out of his bag -- I just think he'll find a way to get it done. His game is -- you don't see him -- he loses a few shots every once in a while, but he'll get it under control it looks like a little quicker nowadays. Before it seemed like he continued throughout the course of a round he struggled, but it doesn't seem that way anymore. He'll struggle through a couple shots here and there but then find it real quick again. I always think he's capable of winning all four. I think it would be very difficult to do, but if anybody can, he's probably the guy to do it. I don't think courses are an issue, either, for him.

Q. What's the hardest thing to do -- obvious, but the depth of field today?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, just the depth of field. He's human, too. He's going to have to play his best in every one of them to win, and maybe not quite his best, but he's going to have to play pretty darned good, and he can't make any screw-ups coming in. Not that he does that very often, either.
Everything has got to go right. There could be one guy or two guys through the course of the week that -- look at Angel Cabrera last year at the Open, they just catch fire and play great down the stretch. It's tough to come back on some of those courses if he doesn't have the lead or whatever. Yeah, I think it's just tough to do. I mean, he's done it. Not all in one calendar year, but he's had them all. It looks like it's possible.

Q. What was more disappointing for you last year, Oakmont or Carnoustie?
STEVE STRICKER: Probably U.S. Open at Oakmont. I don't know, they were both pretty disappointing. I've said this maybe to you, too. I took it as building blocks. But to have the lead in the Open with nine holes to play and feeling good about my game, and that was the part that kind of upset me the most because it wasn't like I was really nervous. I was excited. I mean, I was nervous but I wasn't like -- Carnoustie I was a little over the edge nervous, and the Open I was comfortable, felt like I was hitting it good. I was confident that I was going to play a good back nine and made a couple dumb mistakes real early.

Q. Did you take double on 10?
STEVE STRICKER: 10 and 11.

Q. How did you make double on 11?
STEVE STRICKER: Three-putted. Another dumb one. I short-sided myself. I tried to get it back and I tried to stuff it in there and I short-sided myself down in that bunker and knocked it out and three-putted from about 15, 20 feet, and I three-putted 10, too. I didn't putt very well in those two majors and coming down the stretch. I learned a lot from that, too, what I needed to work on with my putting, too. But they were both probably equally as frustrating.

Q. Do you think it would have been different had you won before heading to Oakmont instead of after?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it may have been even more -- yeah, it probably would have been more disappointing. But I kept telling myself -- I put myself in position here to win again at an Open. Let's take that. I mean, three years ago I would have been playing just to get in the tournament. So I kept trying to think about all these positives and all these things that I could just take away from it instead of looking negatively towards it. I really do believe that both those tournaments played a role in what I did down the stretch, I really do. Even though I didn't handle those situations very well, I learned a lot from them.
And then Barclays, I thought I handled it great. I putted good on Sunday when there was a lot of pressure there, too. Not pressure like the Open or the British Open, but still, when I had to do it, I did it. So I think it helped me a lot.

Q. Were you surprised that there was no fundamental changes to the FedExCup, or were you okay with the way it was?
STEVE STRICKER: I was okay with the way it was, I guess. I didn't really care for the scheduling down at the end. I think for a lot of people that was the biggest concern, was the scheduling down at the end, and they've changed that. The points system, I'm really kind of still -- I guess I've got to see it again, go through another year of it.
You know, guys talk about NASCAR and then the PGA TOUR, and NASCAR only two guys could have won the championship, the final race, Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. What did we have?

Q. Four or five.
STEVE STRICKER: Realistically? K.J. Choi was kind of -- he could have, but --

Q. K.J. and Rory were out there.
STEVE STRICKER: But realistically, three. So I thought that was pretty good. I mean, I think people -- I've heard other players and other fans say they wished more people had a chance to win and there would be a bigger jump if you play well versus playing poorly. You'd like to see it go down further. But I don't know, I thought it was pretty -- obviously I was in the chase of it all, and I thought it was pretty interesting. I don't know, I'd like to see one more year and just see how it shakes out again this year. If Tiger does what he does every year, is there going to be any difference?

Q. Is there a way to rejigger the schedule to get Tiger and Phil and Harrington and some of the other guys here? That's just as much a part of this new FedExCup schedule as anything.
STEVE STRICKER: Personally I think we start too early. I talked to Gary Planos this week, and he kind of feels the same way. It's holiday time. You know, when I was -- don't get me wrong, I'm excited as hell to be here, but you still have family back home. You've got to take off on the 27th or 28th right after Christmas to get over here and make sure you're over here and rested and getting ready. Personally I'd like to see it start a week or two weeks later in the season, just to be home through Christmas and the 1st of the year and be able to spend some time with family and friends.
I think that would help.

Q. Maybe not Phil, but Tiger's case, you think they'd --
STEVE STRICKER: Adam Scott, again, he withdrew this week. It's a busy time because a lot of guys play the South African Tour or -- what else is going on?

Q. Australian Open.
STEVE STRICKER: The Australian Open is going on, so they're playing all the way through part of December and then all of a sudden they've got the holidays, and it's tough for them to make that turnaround, too, I think. Yeah, I'd love to see it start a little bit later.

Q. The year you won the Match Play, that was backed up right at the end of a holiday.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, we left, I think -- yeah, we were flying I think before the 1st of the year to get over there.

Q. Any thoughts about how to do it so far away?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, again, I was just glad to get in.

Q. Were you 105 that week?
STEVE STRICKER: Is that what it was that week?

Q. 90s or low 100s.
STEVE STRICKER: I had a hard time finding a caddie that week, really, and it ended up being the guy who's on my bag right now who went with me back then. I called Jimmy Walker who caddied for Sluman. He was caddying for me on and off and he didn't want to go, and my wife didn't want to go, so Tom Mitchell, the guy who's caddying for me now, ended up going over.

Q. As one of the top-ranked guys now, who do you think out here is best equipped to make a run at Tiger, make the best run?
STEVE STRICKER: Best equipped? I would say Ernie or Phil. I like Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman, the way they play. I guess Furyk is right in there, too. You know, I don't know. It's just such a -- it seems to me there's such a big difference between Tiger Woods and the rest of everybody. I got to see Tiger play quite a bit at the end of the year, and I played with him again at the Target. You know, I haven't seen anybody play like that, never. There's guys who go through great runs, but this guy does it every week, and his bad rounds aren't that bad, where he stays right in contention.
You know, I think the World Rankings got it about right. I mean, how many -- he's about double, isn't he, of the second-place guy?

Q. It's more than double.
STEVE STRICKER: Is it more than double? That shows you right there, it's just the way it is. It's very impressive. I mean, some of the things -- when he hits it into the rough -- I played with him there at the BMW, and he hits it out of there like -- anybody else is just hacking it out of there and getting it to the front of the green, and he's getting it up there and getting it to bite on the green like it was coming out of the fairway.
I talked to him after that shot, and I'm like, "That didn't look that good." He said, "No, that wasn't that good." I mean, the lie wasn't that good. That thing came out and just landed so soft and spun. I had never seen anybody do that out of there. I still am amazed how he can do it. It's pure strength, obviously. But his short game is good, he putts better than anybody. Just tough to beat.

Q. If he were to enter politics and run for senator tomorrow, golf would have a pretty frenzied race for No. 1, wouldn't it?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think so. It would be a good race for No. 1. There would be a lot of guys. But our game wouldn't be as popular probably, either (laughter).
Thanks, you guys.

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