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February 18, 2008

Steve Stricker


LAURA NEAL: Steve, thanks for joining us. As many of you know, Steve is the 2001 Accenture Match Play winner. He's No. 3 in the world and the No. 1 seed in the Sam Snead bracket playing Daniel Chopra. Talk about your expectations going into this week.
STEVE STRICKER: It's always something different that we normally don't get to play. And I get an opportunity to play Daniel Chopra, a guy that beat me this year at the Mercedes Championship. So we've got a little past history, I guess, with one another, so that will be fun.
But I always look forward to this week. It's an event that I've won a few years back, and it's something different. It's something unique throughout the year. We get so caught up in playing the same type of golf all year long, and all of a sudden we're thrown into a match play situation. It's a lot of fun and it brings a little different mentality to the game.

Q. Is there really such a think as an upset in match play when there's such a fine line separating 1 from 64? You just look at the seeds and you want to say, well, it was an upset. I just wonder whether that's a fair term.
STEVE STRICKER: You know, maybe --

Q. Does that make sense?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. There may be a handful of guys that you would maybe say that if the lower seed beat them, maybe the lower seed beating Tiger, that would probably be an upset, no matter who it is. But other than that, there's so much parity, I think, and everybody is so good out here that anybody could beat anybody in any given day.
And it just takes a good stretch of holes where you got off to a hot start or you made a run through the middle of the round or whatever it may be, that you could knock somebody off. It's kind of dangerous. It is only 18 holes. Like I said, if somebody gets off to a blazing start or plays well in the middle or the end, anybody can get beat.

Q. Is there such a thing as being upset in this tournament?

Q. Such a thing as being upset in this tournament?
STEVE STRICKER: What do you mean?

Q. How mad are you when you lose? What's the feeling like upon losing compared with walking off the course at Wachovia, for example?
STEVE STRICKER: It stinks a lot more here, and I don't know why. But when you do get beat in this situation it tends to hurt a lot more. And I don't know why, it just -- one guy beats you, I just don't know why that is, but it does, it hurts more.

Q. To what do you attribute your comeback last year and basically since the last few years before then, any one particular thing?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I think I've just worked harder at my game. I've got my attitude adjusted, feeling like that's in the right place and just got a more positive outlook on things when it comes to the golf course. But I think all that came from just hard work, trying to fix a couple of things in my swing. I got quick with my swing before and I slowed my tempo down, I worked on my grip. I worked on my position at the top. There was a lot of little things that I thought I needed to work on, and I felt like I did those at the end of the 2005 season. I just worked harder and tried to get a better attitude.

Q. When you were younger, maybe even in your college days how much did you work on your putting? You've got one of the reps out here as the guy that can get it done with the short stick. The reason I ask is people have been waiting a good long while for somebody younger than Tiger to come along to maybe knock him off his throne. It seems like most of the guys younger than him have trouble getting the ball in the hole, Charles Howell Trevor Immelman, maybe everybody but Baddeley. I was wondering if they work on it proportionally as much as they do on their swing as much as older guys, perhaps?
STEVE STRICKER: I work on my putting a lot. I know Tiger works on his putting a lot, too. It's an important part of the game. I don't know, I can't talk for those younger players, if they work on their putting a lot.
But that's what separates Tiger from everybody, I think, or one of the things that separates him from everybody, that he gets it in the hole as good as anybody. And he's, I think, the best putter out here by far. He makes clutch putts. He makes par-saving putts. He makes a lot of putts, and that's why he's so good.
A lot of guys can hit it as far as him. They can probably hit it as good as him. But when it comes to scoring and the ability to get it in the hole, no one gets it in there better than Tiger.

Q. You probably didn't grow up with video cameras and obsessing about your swing as much then?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't do any of that kind of stuff. I don't videotape my swing hardly at all, maybe once or twice a year. I'll look at it maybe -- see a replay on TV or something, and try to catch a swing during the competition round. I feel I take more out of that than anything.
But, no, I don't sit there and grind on getting it in perfect position during the season too much. I do a lot in the off-season where I work on things. But it's basically feel for me and trying to get some of the feels, some of the things that I want to feel in my swing, and I try to work on those throughout the year.

Q. What was a harder tournament for you to win, Australia or Barclays?
STEVE STRICKER: That's a good question.

Q. Can't remember back that far?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that was hard. You know, I think the Barclays. Not to take anything away from the players I beat there or anything like that, it's just -- it was so long and it was such a long stretch from wins and fighting all these thoughts that I had about winning. I had opportunities last year to win that I didn't capitalize on, so I was fighting those kind of demons. And it just -- the emotions of trying to win again. I think the Barclays was tougher and the most rewarding.

Q. You beat some good people.

Q. Justin, Padraig?
STEVE STRICKER: I did, I beat some Ryder Cuppers there. Verplank was another one.

Q. Taniguchi?
STEVE STRICKER: Toru Taniguchi. So, yeah, I shouldn't say I catch a lot of flak for winning that event, but it's not looked at, I don't think, as favorably as winning with Tiger in the event or Ernie there -- well, Ernie was there.

Q. He stayed a long time that week, too.
STEVE STRICKER: He did. But I don't know where I was going with that. I keep telling myself I beat a lot of good players to win that event.

Q. I guess the idea is it harder to beat six guys or 143 or whatever? Six guys one at a time or 143 over four days?
STEVE STRICKER: It's hard either way. It's difficult. You have to play well. I think, though, in this event you could maybe slide past a guy every now and then, if you catch your opponent not playing very well and you can just play decent. And sometimes in a full field event you can't do that; you've got to play well throughout the whole 72 holes. In this one here sometimes, like I said, you might catch somebody on an off day. It doesn't happen very often but it's always possible.

Q. What are your thoughts on this course as a test for the best 64?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it was meant for guys who hit it a long ways. I think this course is a bomber's paradise. I think it's fairly generous off the tees. We play two of the par-4s that are reachable with drivers. I think it's built for guys who hit a long ways.
I don't know, last year in the finals, Henrik and who? Geoff Ogilvy. Two short knockers (laughter). So those guys bomb it, too. So it's a good course, though. It's in great shape, especially the greens are pure. The fairways are pure. Everything is really nice about it. It's a good match play course.
The greens are very difficult. They're very undulated, which provides a lot of possibilities when it comes to match play, I think. You can be aggressive and short-side yourself and have no chance for getting a par. So I think it provides a lot of entertainment with those two reachable par-4s and it's a good course for it.

Q. The Chopra thing was basically match play at Mercedes, wasn't it, sort of a continuation of that for the two of you?
STEVE STRICKER: Coming down to the end of that tournament?

Q. It was a two-man shootout, was it not; fair to say?
STEVE STRICKER: I think there was -- I don't know if Stephen Ames was in there, too, maybe. I was just so concentrated on trying to make a few more birdies down the stretch. But then obviously in the playoff it was definitely match play. Yeah, so it's just a continuation, I think, of that. I look forward to trying to beat him this time.

Q. What type of gear shift do you have to do between the years when you go from 72 holes in stroke, and they flip the switch and all of a sudden you're in a position of match play where you may make an adjustment in your shot based on what the guy next to you just did?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you have to pay attention. I think different circumstances call for different things. It depends if you're leading the match or if you're behind, if your opponent is in the desert or looking like he's going to make birdie. So I think it all depends. You have to pay attention to what he's doing somewhat, but you also have to pay attention to yourself and do the things that you'd normally do and not try to force your hand or force the situation.

Q. But in a playoff I suppose you might have to force it, depending on what the other guy does.
STEVE STRICKER: No doubt about it, yep. If he's up there a couple of feet from birdie and you're still hitting your 8-iron shot in there, you know you'd better try to stuff it and try to make a birdie as well, and normally in a 72-hole tournament maybe that's a pin you don't fire at. So I guess it all depends what your partner is doing and where you are in the match.

Q. You grew up in southern Wisconsin. How did you happen to take up golf there? Is there a lot of golf played in a small town area like that?
STEVE STRICKER: My dad was a player. He was a good amateur player and we lived right next to a nine-hole course. It was a family thing. It was something we did on the weekends. It was something we looked forward to doing together on the weekends. He showed me the basics of the game and let me go from there.

Q. Based off your great season last year, going into this year, the goals that maybe you had last year, some of them might have been achieved last year. Do you look into this year with different goals or are they the same as they might have been last year as far as getting wins and playing well and hoping to gain points for FedEx and ultimately Ryder Cup as in this year?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's fairly similar to what I was trying to do last year. Instead of the Presidents Cup last year I'd love to make that Ryder Cup team. I've never been a part of that Ryder Cup format and I'd love to be a part of that team. Obviously trying to win a golf tournament is always at the top of everybody's list out here. It's no different with me, either. So I'm just trying to play well and gain points for both the FedExCup and the Ryder Cup and continue what I've been doing the last couple of years.

Q. Did you ever think of maybe giving up a couple of years ago? Did you have that temptation or feeling that you might want to? How did that work?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I thought about it at times. I thought about it, but it was a situation where I thought about what other job would I like to do, what other job am I able to do. And I kind of came to the realization that there wasn't much else for me to do (laughter).
So I decided I needed to work a little harder at my game. This is what I've been -- this is what I was meant to do for my entire life, I think. I've done it since I was a little kid. I thought I'd probably be miserable if I did something else. So I just decided to dig a little deeper and try to work a little bit harder at it.

Q. If you were ever in a situation where you were watching golf instead of playing it that particular week would you rather watch match play or stroke play?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, good question. I think I'd rather watch match play, since we're here this week (laughter). But seriously I don't know, this is a big tournament. This is one of the World Golf Championship events; it holds a little bit more to it than a normal event. I think people tune in -- I don't watch a lot of golf when I'm home.
I'm trying to dodge this question. I don't know, it's a good question. It's something different, and I think that's what's refreshing for me to watch or for anybody to watch. It's just something different than we normally play.

Q. You talked about Ryder Cup. How important is that for your résumé, for your career, where you've come in the last couple of years and now being third in the world? How important is it to make that team?
STEVE STRICKER: It's at the top of my list for this year. I really would love to be a part of that team. I had such a great time at this last Presidents Cup team. I felt comfortable there, much more so than back in '96. I would really love to experience this Ryder Cup. It's here in the States this year. As far as putting it on my résumé or anything like that, that part doesn't really come to mind. It's just trying to stay in the present and trying to continue on to do what I've been doing and just try to be a part of that team. And I know I have to play well to be a part of that team. There's things that go hand in hand to be a part of that play. Playing well takes care of it all.

Q. We joke about the "big three." But if you look at the World Ranking, measuring a guy over the last two years, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who's had better results than you over the last two years. With that in mind, do you feel like you get short-changed more for your ranking or for that event in Australia?
STEVE STRICKER: You ask tough questions. You know, I don't know. And I don't care, I really don't. I really don't care. I get a lot of ribbing -- I don't get so much ribbing for winning the Match Play in 2001, but I do get some ribbing for being No. 3 in the world.

Q. From who?
STEVE STRICKER: A lot of people. And it's all good fun. I really don't care. I just know that I've been playing well; whether I'm three or not, I don't care. I've showed that I've played consistent over the last couple of years. I showed that I've done some really good things. Whether I'm deserving of the No. 3 ranking is moot in my point, in my view. My divisor is really low, so maybe that's why I'm No. 3 (laughter).

Q. What a shock that is. What's the ribbing you've taken?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know, guys, some players, some family members.

Q. Wife?
STEVE STRICKER: Wife. But it's all in good fun. Again, she told me today, she said, "You are No. 3." So she's there in my corner, too. But it's all in good fun. And like I say, I try not to pay attention to it. I just know if I continue to play well -- I'm not looking at going after No. 1 or No. 2 or anything like that, I'm just looking to do my own thing and play well.

Q. What's the worst she's said to you?
STEVE STRICKER: That you're overrated (laughter).

Q. A little off subject, here, you might or might not have heard they're going to be doing this odd little promotion the weekend before the U.S. Open. They're going to run some guy that wins a contest that's supposed to go out and play the course right before you guys get there, based on Tiger sort of flippantly saying last year that your average guy couldn't break 100. In addition to playing that course they're going to have TV cameras and the guy is going to be put with three celebrities. What do you suppose happens when you put your average dude in that scenario? What do you see playing out there?
STEVE STRICKER: At Torrey Pines?

Q. Anywhere, Oakmont, wherever the U.S. Open may be?
STEVE STRICKER: I think he'll shoot over 100. I think that the way they set up the course is just so difficult. The average guy hasn't ever seen that before. He's never seen those type of conditions before. And then maybe to throw a TV camera in there and add the nerves to the whole situation I think adds a few shots to the whole deal, too. Yeah, I don't care really what U.S. Open course it is, it's very difficult. When you see pros shooting in the 80s and consistently averaging probably in the mid-70s as a whole, I don't know what the average for the 150 players is at a U.S. Open, but when the average is 6-over par or whatever it is, 5-over par for a tournament round for pros, it's going to be difficult for the average player.

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