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January 6, 2008

Steve Stricker


STEWART MOORE: We'd like to welcome our runner-up this year at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, Steve Stricker, after an exciting four-hole playoff out there.
I know you're disappointed, but you have to be happy with the way you played this week, especially after a long winter in Wisconsin, not really getting to practice all that much.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, this is definitely a good start for the season, a little bittersweet again today where I played a great round and ended up with some opportunities in regulation to make a couple more birdies coming down the stretch, hit good putts, but I can't be disappointed. It was a great start to the year. I mean, I can be a little disappointed, I guess, because I didn't win. But again, it was a good start. I'm very pleased with the way I played. Especially after the first nine holes, I was a couple over after the first nine holes, and to get it back to 18-under, I did a lot of good things.
STEWART MOORE: And your runner-up finish today, 2700 FedExCup points has got to put you in good position going into the rest of the 2008 season. Like you said, you have to be pretty excited to be at the top of the board there and look out from here.
STEVE STRICKER: No doubt. Yeah, it's a good start. I don't know any other way to put it except that I'm excited about the way I'm playing. I'm looking forward to going to the Sony Open next week. You know, it would have been nice to come away with a victory here, but again, I just continue to improve, and I feel like I keep building and I keep learning about myself and my game and a lot of great things happened to me again this week.

Q. What kind of ball mark does Chopra use and talk about how high it was on 18?
STEVE STRICKER: I looked at it and I'm like, you know, that's my area where I need to go, but I thought what are the odds of me hitting that. It was a rather large ball mark. It wasn't a coin. It hindsight I should have had him mark with a penny.

Q. With a what?
STEVE STRICKER: With a penny or something else smaller. But it was -- it's pretty tall. You know, that's my fault, and just not having him remark it. It took a lot of the speed off. But you know, you learn from that, you know? Like I say, I should have had him mark with something smaller.

Q. The books show this was your first playoff.

Q. PGA TOUR at least. Could you just talk about how you kind of handled that? It looked like things were swinging on just about every shot out there.
STEVE STRICKER: I thought I handled it pretty well. I hit the ball well. A couple of putts I came up short on. It's difficult with the low sunlight, a lot of shadows around, to really figure the speed of the greens, really. I knew the putts. I had similar putts in regulation, but I just didn't get the speed right on a few of them.
And the one on 18 really was a fooler because I had almost the identical putt in regulation, and the thing I swear stayed straight or maybe went a little to the right, and mine broke to the left and it looked like Chopra's kind of hung out on the right on him. It's late in the day and they're growing and they're probably a little slower. But I thought I handled it pretty well. I hit the ball fine, just didn't get it in the hole when I needed to.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the pursuit today? Daniel got to 18 but you just kept coming and kind of just the chase?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I told my caddie I need to birdie the last three to get to 19. We hit -- we knocked it on the green in two on 15 and lipped out the eagle putt there. Birdied 16, and then lipped it out at 17, also. I really felt confident that I was going to make the putts, and I continued to make birdies. You know, I just had a target number in mind, and it was a lot of fun trying to get there.

Q. What was going through your head when he took four putts to win it? He had four shots at winning it. What are you thinking about when all that is going on?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, you know, I had chances to win it there, too. He had a chance to win it in regulation, but if I make it at No. 1, you know, or even the first playoff hole at 18, I mean, if I get it in the hole first -- I was actually excited to go putt first when we were similar distances, so I thought if I can get it in first the odds can be in my favor.
Yeah, he had some opportunities, and I did, too. It was no Tiger Woods and Ernie Els playoff, I can tell you that (laughter). We were kind of throwing jabs, it looked like, and kind of feeling each other out and kind of seeing who was going to make the first mistake.

Q. What would you say was the best opportunity of the playoff?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, right away at 18. I figured if I could make that putt it was going to put a lot of pressure on him, and I thought I had it read pretty well. You know, whether I mis-hit it or pulled it or what, I don't know, or just started it over there left of the hole, I don't know. But I thought that was a good opportunity. And I had it right in the jar on No. 2, too, it just came up short.
But you learn from that, and next time I'll get that ball to the hole. Even if it runs by two or three feet, at least I gave it a chance. That one was a little disappointing.

Q. I don't want to say you exceeded expectations by finishing second, but you're coming out of the Wisconsin weather and so forth. When you came here did you think you could win this or did you sort of think if you played your way into shape you could do okay?
STEVE STRICKER: There was a lot of questions within myself, coming off of a long layoff and played Tiger's event in the middle of December and then took some more time off for the holidays. So there was still some questions. I was able to hit balls at home every once in a while. But not really get into playing shape.
It was really the land of the unknown for me what to expect, and that's why I think I got off to kind of a slow start. You know, it was just not knowing how I was going to play. After that, after those nine holes, I kind of settled down and kind of got back into the rhythm of the game and did very well.

Q. A big factor today, and I don't think anybody saw it, was the eagle. I guess we need to ask you about that before you leave because I don't think they had it on tape. Would you go through that?
STEVE STRICKER: I drove it on 12, I thought I hit it down the middle or even left side, and it ends up all the way down in the right rough, really not a very good angle. The pin was cut on the right side and I was downwind out of the rough. I just thought if I could just flop it up there and get a maybe 10-, 15-footer and try to make the putt. It came off really good, right at the pin, and I didn't see it. I heard it hit the pin and then Justin Leonard said it came back out and went back in again. I didn't see it. But it was kind of a fluke shot and it kind of got me going to the point of it jumped me up to 15-under right away, and then made a good stretch coming in.

Q. How far did you have and what did you hit there?
STEVE STRICKER: I think I had about 61 yards, I think, and I hit a lob wedge. Actually, no, I had about 48 yards to where I wanted to land it. I just was kind of guesstimating it and paced it off up there, but it was about 48 yards.
STEWART MOORE: Real quick, birdies on 15 and 16, take us through those.
STEVE STRICKER: 15, I hit a driver and a 3-wood to about probably 25 feet and lipped it out for eagle and tapped it in for birdie.
16, I hit driver and a sand wedge, I had 100 yards and hit that to maybe 10, 12 feet, made that.

Q. About how long was that last putt?
STEVE STRICKER: On the last playoff hole? You know, it was probably an 18-footer probably, 15, 18 feet.

Q. They had it at 23 on ShotLink.

Q. Did you think his might tumble in?
STEVE STRICKER: I thought it was going to go in. He left a couple hanging on the lip. He played well, and obviously I didn't get to see any of his round today but he played well, and he didn't make any mistakes in the playoff. You know, we both had our opportunities.
STEWART MOORE: Steve, thanks for coming in.

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