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July 1, 2008

Steve Stricker


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: We'd like to thank Steve Stricker for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the AT&T National. Last year, you finished second here and started a roll. I know you played well early in the season, but it started a roll into the FedExCup Playoffs, and you ended up in a pretty good spot. Just talk about the good play you took from here last year and carried it through.
STEVE STRICKER: I did. I had a good tournament here last year, like Joan said, and this whole area has been a special place for me; winning the Booz Allen back in 1996, actually then it was the Kemper Open; and doing that over there at TPC at Avenal with my wife on the bag. It's always been a special place, and to finish second here last year propelled me to a good, strong, season-ending push towards that FedExCup and had a good rest of the year from here on out.

Q. I know you've struggled recently; tell us what's going on there.
STEVE STRICKER: Got off to a good start this year. Probably through the first nine events or something like that, played pretty well and had a chance to win early on, and just kind of hit a wall I think. Mentally got a little fatigued I think. My swing kind of -- my tempo kind of left me there for a while, starting to get that back, but I think for so long, for a good, solid, year and a half, two years, I was playing at a pretty high level, and it's tough to maintain.
I always have kind of known that there's still going to be bumps in the road. I'm not a Tiger Woods. I'm still going to have some bad tournaments along with some good tournaments, so I realize that more than ever now, and I'm just working hard to get it back again and moving in the right direction.
I had a decent U.S. Open. I did some really good things there again, so I feel like I'm turning the corner and heading in the right direction, at least.

Q. Two questions. Did you burn more fuel, so to speak, during that really strong climb from Houston a couple of years ago onward; or, during the stuck-in-neutral-type gears that preceded?
STEVE STRICKER: Good question. You mean, compare those two time frames?

Q. Which took more energy; the grinding and getting nowhere, or this?
STEVE STRICKER: They are two totally different energies for one. One is the energy that's bringing you down, and that's obviously the time I wasn't playing well. It's tough to get yourself mentally out of that doldrums. And I was there the last couple of months, I felt those bad times again, but I realize that and I know what to do, and you try to work yourself out of those times when you're not hitting or playing or feeling that good about your game.
But the time that I was playing well and having a chance to win a lot of times, it's a totally different energy. You're at such a high all the time, that you don't realize how much energy you're really using until you actually come down off that high. I don't know, they are totally two different things, but it's hard to realize, when you're playing well and in contention a lot, that you're actually burning a lot of energy, and you need to take that time to get away from the game and reenergize. Even though you're playing well, you want to keep going at it, but it still takes a bunch out of you.
Again, I don't know two, totally different things.

Q. For not knowing, you did a good job at that one.
STEVE STRICKER: Thanks. (Laughter).

Q. What's the status with Tom? Do you have Jimmy for a while or what's going on?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, Tom and I have split ways, my caddie. Kind of a mutual thing, and I think he wanted to stay home a little bit and was tired of the travel, tired of me I think at time, too.
So I think he wanted to stay at home and I have got Jimmy Johnson on the back for three events. I may try a couple other caddies throughout the end of the year. I think Nicki is going to come back on the bag. I think she wants to caddie. I was thinking about playing the John Deere. She was going to do it there for sure but I'm not going to play, and I think she's going to do it at the PGA over in Oakland Hills. She's fired up and excited to do it again, and I'm excited to have her out there.

Q. Stay out of the bunkers.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. (Laughing)

Q. Today is the first day for drug testing on the TOUR. Wonder your thoughts, do you think it's necessary; or you a proponent, opponent, whatever?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it's necessary, just to keep us up with the other sports in the world.
I'm not concerned about it. I've never been to a meeting about it. I've read some of the literature on our doping -- anti-doping policies, but as far as I'll just go by the rules that are set forth and participate in it, but as you can tell, I'm not on any steroids or anything like that. (Laughter).
But it is what it is, and I think it should be part of our game.

Q. If I'm correct, you are the only member of the Top-10 in the World Rankings who is here this week. Last year, there were seven of the Top-10, Tiger being one of them. Do you have any thoughts on why that may be, and just a coincidence, or is it something else?
STEVE STRICKER: Could be just a coincidence. Could be the fact that Tiger is not playing, could be part of it.
You know what, it falls the same on the schedule, doesn't it, basically? I mean, it's all the time. I don't know. I can't put a finger on it. The only thing that comes and jumps out at me is that Tiger is not here, and maybe guys aren't coming here because he's not playing.

Q. Wouldn't that be a positive for other guys?
STEVE STRICKER: It might be. (Laughter).

Q. I don't think this applies to you, but a lot of guys besides Tiger are having knee issues; I think Appleby, Funk, Perry; is this just a cycle, or can you see guys with more power in the game, that that's coming about?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. Good question. In our sport, it's always going to be something, imagine, you know, whether it be back pain or I think the knee issue because Tiger has it, has come out into the forefront and people are maybe taking more notice of other players that have problems, but you know, usually it's a back problem or some sort of problem.
But in this game, you need all of your muscles to be working, and it's tough to play when something is hurting. So I don't know, it's just probably that we are paying more attention to it that Tiger's got it.

Q. I take it, knock-on-wood, that you've never had that?
STEVE STRICKER: I have had occasional knee problems, lower back problems but nothing too serious. I've been pretty much free of any pain.

Q. The way last year turned out, you made the big run; now with the rest of the year and the FedExCup wide open, I wonder how exciting are all of these things at stake, and it's wide open.
STEVE STRICKER: It is wide open. Last year I thought, you know, it was good, it was good TV what we had going last year, as the FedExCup wore on, there was a lot of good story lines there, too. It was exciting for the first year and I think this year is going to be much the same. Kenny Perry has been showing that he's been playing really well.
But you know, when we get into that Playoff system and everybody gets a little bit closer together, it all is going to depend on what you can do in that Playoff system, and if you can win one early on and jump up a bunch, you can find yourself right with a chance to win it all.
It's going to be exciting. I think obviously we would love to have Tiger playing in it and being a part of it, but there's going to be another form of excitement without him out, too, to see who can step up and do well.

Q. Tiger has said recently that he's had soreness in his left knee for the past ten to 12 years, and with everything that he's already accomplished in his career, as another one of the world's top golfers, does it scare you to think that he'll be playing virtually the first pain-free golf of his professional career when he comes back?
STEVE STRICKER: It is scary. I don't know if he would have played any better golf; I don't know what degree it was hurting him, but obviously, he did pretty well the last ten or 12 years. But I'm sure when he comes back, he'll still -- I don't know where I'm going with this thing but -- (laughter) -- I'm sure he'll do just fine.

Q. The course here at Congressional, how do you feel it plays to your strengths, and how do you feel it challenges your game?
STEVE STRICKER: It's a great course. This is a major-style course. Obviously we've had PGA's here and U.S. Opens here. It's set up like a major here this week. You know, the rough isn't quite as bad as it was last year. It's a little softer than it was last year but other than that, it will test you in every aspect of your game. You have to drive it in the fairway. The greens are difficult. A lot of them slope from back to front, if you get on the wrong side, you're in trouble.
It's a great test, and it's one of my favorites out here on TOUR, and I'm glad we're here. But it is a stern test.

Q. When Tiger is not if the field, or when he is in the field, do you personally pay a lot more attention to the board to see where he is? How do you deal with that? And how do people feel about him not being here?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't pay any more attention. Obviously you know where he is; he's on the board. Obviously I look up there to see if I'm up there to see if I'm up there or what the leaders are doing. I look at the board all the time and you realize who is there, whether it be Tiger or anybody else, you realize who is up there.
As far as -- what was the other question?

Q. If he's not here, do you come in a little bit more enthusiastic or optimistic or do you not think that way?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think that way. I just try to worry about my own game and try to pay attention to myself and play as best as I can. You know, it not very often that you can beat him but you can beat him every once in awhile.
Like I said, it's not very often but every once in awhile you can beat him and you have to play well to do it and you have to play well no matter who is up there, whether it's Tiger or anybody else, you have to play well and be at the top of your game to win here.

Q. Who has the most to gain by him being gone?
STEVE STRICKER: I guess we all do. I guess we've all got the opportunity to take this and run with it if we can play well. It's up to the guy who is going to play well, and, you know, Kenny Perry right now is showing that he's put a lot of effort into trying to make this Ryder Cup Team, and all of a sudden he's second on that list, probably first maybe if you throw Tiger out of it.
And I had a question, too. Is he off that list now?
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: You can't ask questions in here. (Laughter).

Q. It goes to nine now in the standings.
STEVE STRICKER: I was talking about the FedExCup. Can he still win the FedExCup?
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: He can't make it to THE TOUR Championship, but he can still win the regular season.

Q. Can you talk about the first time you played links golf and where you rank the British Open in terms of majors you look forward to going to, GMO notwithstanding.
STEVE STRICKER: I think one of my first trips over, I played Carnoustie, trying to at that time finish in the top 20. Actually they took the Top-10 guys, not otherwise exempt, but you had to finish in the top 20 and I tried to play Carnoustie and get in that way and didn't do it. But I think that was one of my first trips over there, and then I actually tried to qualify one year over there.
My wife was on the bag then, and -- I'm blaming this on her. (Laughter) We didn't hit balls on the day before. They had no range, so we didn't hit any golf balls. We stuck an extra club in the bag the night before just to get it in the trunk, you know, we stuck it in the bag just to get it out of the way and we went to the tee the next day with one too many clubs in the bag. We laugh about that today, but back then it was a sore subject. (Laughter). We've had some --

Q. Where was that?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't remember where it was. And I think I was trying to qualify for -- maybe it was '95 for St. Andrews, I think.
But no, I enjoy going over there. Last year really whetted my appetite for that style of golf. I've never really -- I've had a couple decent tournaments over there, nothing spectacular, but last year had a real legitimate chance to win, and going into the last round and the last group with Sergio, that was really a lot of fun and really had a good time with that, so I'm very excited about going back.
I played Birkdale back when O'Meara won it, so I've been there already, and played the tournament then. That was in '98 I think. So I'm looking forward to it. Looking forward to going back there.
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Steve, for joining us, and play well this week.

End of FastScripts

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