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August 22, 2008

Steve Stricker


STEWART MOORE: We welcome Steve Stricker to the interview room here at The Barclays after a fantastic second round 64 out there. Talk about, it's been a little bizarre, Hunter Mahan goes out with a 62 yesterday, and you went low today, and no one thought that was out there.
STEVE STRICKER: It is a good course. You've got to do a lot of good things. The greens are tough. But I didn't think the scoring was going to be this low. And when Hunter goes out and shoots that 9-under round yesterday, it shows you that it is capable and it is out there.
I think the course is in such good shape, that's why the scoring is good, and I think as we get further along into this tournament, the scoring could get a little bit better just because guys will find a way to play it, understand it a little bit more and feel a little bit more comfortable with what they are doing out there.
STEWART MOORE: Coming to a tournament defending a tournament you won the year prior and you have great memories, but in this instance, we're at a different golf course; does this change things at all? Do you have a different sense coming back than if we were at Westchester?
STEVE STRICKER: I think you're right, when you're coming here, you don't know what to expect. You don't know anything about the golf course. All of the good feelings that I had last year at Westchester, basically, they are there, but as far as it relates to the course, they are gone, because we are at a different venue. You've just got to go around and learn this one all over again, and try to gain some good, positive feelings from what you've got here.

Q. You mentioned outside about The Ryder Cup and how it had been your No. 1 objective all year long. What was it like going through seemingly, I don't know exactly how many weeks it was; it seemed like a couple of months, being the guy on the double being the marked guy going all the way to the PGA before Ben edged you and how have you dealt with that, and now being on the auditioning list, guys trying to make a spot?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, when I had a stretch my missed the cut four times in a row in the middle of the year, you know, I was worried that I played myself off the team. And then I kept looking at the list and figured out that, hey, I'm still -- I think at that time, I was still a couple of guys out of the top eight.
So I figured, you know, I still have a lot of the season left, and you know, that I had an opportunity still to turn things around and get it going again and get on that team, and I have. But I've been on the bubble like you say throughout. I felt like it puts extra pressure on you each week. You have this extra goal out there that you are trying to make and it's hard to focus on both things.
So it's been difficult to try to shove that in the back of my mind, because it keeps coming up. It keeps presenting itself to me that I very much want to be on that team, so I've always got to try to put it back and concentrate on what's at hand and that's playing good golf and trying to play well. We all know when you do that, things take care of themselves.
Disappointing that I wasn't making the team on my own merit being inside the top eight. But it is what it is, and I've still got an opportunity. I didn't look at it as a downer. I talked to Ben and he thought I would be mad at him and all that kind of stuff. (Laughter) I was rooting for the guy. You can't root against him. He's a great guy. And it's not over yet.
That's what I keep telling myself. I have got three more weeks to try to play well and show Zinger that I deserve to be on that team.

Q. Can you talk about a northern guy -- it seems like northern guys have success on these type of courses, and also, can you walk us through the eagle?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, this reminds me of home to tell you the truth. Even though we are out east, this looks like a course that could be very easily in the Midwest somewhere. It reminds me of Medinah a lot. The grasses are the same. We putt on poa annua greens a lot where I'm from; it's bentgrass fairways, bluegrass rough and everything reminds me of home and I think that's probably why you see that.
The eagle was a 3-wood in the fairway and then I laid up with a utility club. I think I had about 72 yards or 67 yards, I can't remember, right around 70 yards, and flew it past the hole and spun it back in with a 60-degree wedge.

Q. Hunter goes out yesterday and shoots 62 in the morning and you go out today and shoot 64 early on; is this course more susceptible in the morning or is that just coincidence?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it is. A little bit softer. The greens are a little bit softer. They got a little firmer and crusty on us yesterday afternoon. They got a little more difficult to putt. Any time you have poa annua greens and you have 144 guys traipsing around on them, they get a little beat up.
So you had to be a little more careful yesterday. Today they were perfect and they rolled great. They were smooth. They still held fairly well, but you could tell that they are going to get firm. Imagine this afternoon, the guys that are playing this afternoon are going to have to deal with what we had yesterday.

Q. Did you bogey your first two holes yesterday, and did that light any type of fire under you to slap yourself in the face to get things going, or was that just coincidence? You haven't made a bogey since then and you have about nine million birdies.
STEVE STRICKER: It was a wake-up call. When you're starting -- it's a tough start on 10. It's a good par 3 and then you have 11 and 12, good par 4s, and then it's just a tough start.
I told myself, you know, before the round even started, to try to get off to a decent start, and that meant just making pars and just get through those holes with pars. I didn't hit it very good for about the first seven or eight holes and snapped out of it and then played pretty well from there on in.

Q. Obviously you talk about how it's two different golf courses, so the memories from last year are sort of irrelevant; but because it had been so long since you had won, what does a win like that do for you, even this week?
STEVE STRICKER: You mean last year's win, what does that do for me this week? Well, you know, it shows that I can do it again, for one. It had been basically 11 years since my win in a stroke-play event. So it just shows that I can do it again, for one.
And you can take a lot from that. It gives you a lot of confidence. It's very difficult to win out here if you're not Tiger or Phil or Vijay; it's just hard to win and there are so many good players, and you don't get that many opportunities.
But you know, it just gives you that bolt of confidence showing that you can do it.

Q. You mentioned that you're constantly trying to not think about The Ryder Cup, but when you start off as well as you did today, are you fighting those thoughts at all; like, wow, this is an opportunity to have a good week and throw yourself into contention for that?
STEVE STRICKER: No doubt about it, yep. (Laughter).
I was thinking that --

Q. The eagle.
STEVE STRICKER: That's right. I've got two tournaments going on within one. That's basically what I feel like. That Ryder Cup is there a couple of weeks away when he makes that decision, and I'm trying like heck to keep it out of my mind, but it's nearly impossible. I want to make that team, and I want to be on there. I think I could help that team. I think I would be a good addition, but it's hard when I'm thinking about that and when I'm trying to play golf here, too.
I feel a little more pressure to tell you the truth coming into this week, just because of that reason trying to make the team. Like I say, I've got two things going on at one time and I'm trying my best to separate them out.

Q. The presumption was pregame, pre-tournament, that this would be a long-hitter's golf course, and it doesn't seem to have turned out that way. Why do you think that is?
STEVE STRICKER: You've got to get it in play. I hit a lot of drivers in the practice rounds, and then all of a sudden when tournament time came around, even the group I was playing with, we ended up hitting a lot of 3-woods. I think it's just important to get it in the fairway and give yourself an opportunity to get it on the green.
The greens are difficult in spots. There's different levels to them. You've got to be on the right level. You can't short-side yourself. So there's a lot of things that are going on with this course, and I think it's almost like a U.S. Open. I mean, it's not as hard because the rough isn't up I don't think, but you have to plot your way around and try to minimize your mistakes.

Q. How does one win Comeback Player of the Year in consecutive years? (Laughter)
STEVE STRICKER: That's right. I guess it means that I was nowhere to be seen three years ago, or four years ago, it is now. I don't know. I get some flak for that every once in awhile from players and media alike.
You know, it's a good thing. I take nothing but positives from winning that award, even though it was two years in a row. And Tiger said something to me after I won it the second time, and he was dead serious, and I don't know if I've said this before. But he looked at me in the eyes and he's like, "You know, no one ever will do that again." And that's the way that guy thinks. (Laughter) I'm just thinking, great, I won it again. And he's like, "no one's ever going to do that again," which is pretty cool.

Q. Your driver looked like it betrayed you a little on the last three holes and you had to work harder to get par; did you feel like you left something on those three holes, potentially birdies out there and you could have separated yourself more from the field?
STEVE STRICKER: I actually had birdie opportunities those last few holes. Even though I didn't hit the driver where I wanted to, or got in play, I still gave myself the opportunity to make birdie and I had a very makeable putt.
I hit 3-wood in the left rough at 17, but ended up having about a 12-, 15-footer for birdie that I missed.
And 18, I drove it in the left trees with the driver, and that's probably the toughest driving hole out here. You have to almost slice it to keep it in the fairway; and hit it in the fairway through the trees and caught a good lie and a good break, and had a lip-out birdie, had a makeable birdie putt, there, too.
Sometimes it's getting away with your errant shots and your mistakes and trying to make something good out of those bad ones.

Q. You ended up finishing second last year in the FedExCup?

Q. What was that, 3 million?

Q. Did you get that money, or did it go into the deferred thing?
STEVE STRICKER: It went right into my retirement account.

Q. So it wasn't a flat-out check that you could go out and frivolously spend here or there?

Q. So I guess I won't ask you what you spent it on. At 41, making The Ryder Cup team, what would that mean to you?
STEVE STRICKER: It would mean a lot. Whenever us players play, and you play at a high level for a period of time, that becomes a goal. It's a goal with every U.S. player out here is to try to be part of that team. Even though it sounds like it's nerve-wracking and a tough week, you want to be a part of it; to experience that and to play for the country and to just take it all in and see what it's all about.
To be a part of a team I think is a huge thing, too. I didn't realize that until playing on last year's team, and it had been, you know, basically 11 years since I played on my first Presidents Cup team till last year's team, and it's just a lot of fun. You get to joke around with the guys. You get to understand them a little bit better. You just get to know them a lot better, and you miss that on a week-to-week basis.
It's just a lot of fun, and like I say, it's been a goal. I've been on the other end of the spectrum from two other captains on a Sunday night saying, "We're not going to pick you." This time I hope that Sunday night call comes through that I'm going to be on the team.

Q. Different kind of pressure, Ryder Cup pressure, major championship player, playing for a lot of cash pressure; which is the most pressure, and why?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, you know, the most nervous I've ever been is trying to win a major and being in contention. Last year's U.S. Open, I felt very comfortable for whatever reason going into the back line and ended up playing poorly. Last year's British Open, that was probably one of the most nerve-wracking rounds I've ever played in.
I think it just comes and goes. I think you feel good about yourself and your game at certain times, which lead to how well you handle the pressure. When I was over at the British, you're in a foreign country and it's just different golf. I wasn't handling the pressure at that time very well. But yeah, I think the majors are probably the most nerve-wracking, and even The Presidents Cup, you feel a little extra twinge of nerves there when you're trying to play, because you're playing with another guy usually and you don't want to let him down or your country down. There's a lot riding on the line there, too, as well, and so both of those things are right up there.

Q. So you give us your clubs in for your birdies, please?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, No. 2 was a par 3. I hit a 6-iron to about eight feet.
3, I holed out that 60-degree sand wedge from about 70 yards.
5, laid up with a 3-iron. Hit a sand wedge,54-degree sand wedge to about five feet.
11, 3-wood and a 5-iron to about 20 feet.
13, driver in the fairway, laid up and then I had 65 yards and used my 60-degree wedge and hit that to about six feet.
And then hit a 9-iron at the par-3, 15, to about 12 feet.
STEWART MOORE: Good luck tomorrow. Thanks for coming in.

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