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September 3, 2008

Steve Stricker


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Steve Stricker to the interview room here at the BMW Championship. Steve is currently No. 13 on the FedExCup points list, so just talk a little bit about the week and your preparations.
STEVE STRICKER: It's been a short week. It's a tough turnaround coming from Deutsche Bank to the BMW here and trying to prepare. But you know, I've gotten to see the course. I played nine yesterday and played 18 today in the Pro-Am, which I didn't think I was going to get in because of the weather, but we were able to get it in. It's a tough course. It's long, it's very lush, and the greens are very difficult.
Rees Jones is tough on us with these greens. They're very difficult. So you've got to get it in the right quadrants out here, and hopefully the rain will hold off because it's in great shape right now the way it is.
JOHN BUSH: Vijay has set the bar pretty high these past couple weeks. Talk a little bit about your goals for the week.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, my goal is to obviously get an opportunity to win, which it has been every week throughout the year. Obviously with Vijay with the lead and cushion that he has, it's going to be very difficult to catch him. I don't even know if it's mathematically possible for a guy in the 13th spot. I suppose if I win them both and Vijay finishes last, I might have an opportunity.
You just try to play as well as you can and do your own business, and hopefully things work out.

Q. Between having a short week and the emotion of being picked for the Ryder Cup team, is that a boost? Are you tired? I mean, is that a plus or what's your mental status going into the rest of the week?
STEVE STRICKER: It's definitely a boost. You know, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off me for one. I've been playing the last couple weeks with some extra pressure I've felt like. Even though I've tried to not think about it too much, it's been there. It seems like every shot has counted a little more than normal just because I didn't know if I was going to make the team or not, so I still felt the pressure of basically auditioning still, trying to make sure that I got on that team.
So I definitely feel some relief in talking to Paul and being a pick. But I'm tired. Like I say, it's a short turnaround. You really get no opportunity for rest, when we finish Monday night and get in here late and then quick turnaround. So a little bit of both.

Q. Did that bring you any type of eye-opening moment, getting on the team, beyond the phone call? Has anyone called for your shirt size or -- you know what I'm saying, getting back and seeing players, anything like that?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I've gotten a lot of the handshakes and congratulatory things on my phone, and Dave Stockton, Sr., called me when I came in here the other night. I talked to him for a while, which was pretty cool. It's been kind of a whirlwind. It almost feels like I've won a tournament in some regards. That's the way the Ryder Cup is perceived, also, as far as exemptions. It's like winning a golf tournament. You get into some World Golf Championship events based on being on the Ryder Cup --

Q. British Open.
STEVE STRICKER: Is it the British Open? I haven't really looked into it. But I've gotten a lot of, like I say, text messages, a lot of emails. It's been a lot of fun so far.

Q. On the other end of the emotional extreme, were you here in September of 2001?
STEVE STRICKER: I was not. I was on my way. I was driving down from Madison, and I got to about Rockford, Illinois, and got the call that they had canceled it. What day was that, a Monday?

Q. It was canceled on Wednesday, but the attacks were Tuesday.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I know I never made it here. Tuesday morning were the attacks? We must have got word that day because I remember turning around in Rockford and getting a call and saying don't -- maybe they were thinking about canceling it or whatever. I never made it here.

Q. Switching topics a little bit, but can you just comment on the size of the greens here, and I wondered if they do get a lot of rain, as they're predicting, will length be an issue here at all?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it could be. If we get a lot of rain and all of a sudden the fairways get real slow, yeah, it's a long course. It's a 7,300-yard par-70. Hopefully our TOUR staff takes that into account if we could get some rain and adjust it properly, because it's a long course.
You know, obviously if it rains you'll be able to fire it at the pins a little bit easier, but again, the pins are very difficult -- I mean, the greens are very difficult and they can put them in some tricky spots. Yeah, length will surely play a factor if it rains. Right now it's pretty firm, and I'm hitting my 3-wood about 300 with hardly any wind, so it's playing really pretty fast right now. The greens are holding pretty good, but that'll change a lot if we get the rain that everybody says that we're supposed to get.

Q. You don't often see greens this size?
STEVE STRICKER: No, not very often. I mean, they're huge. It's taken a little while to get used to, too, because the speed of them, they're quite a bit slower than what we played last week. You know, they look like they should be really fast and they're just not rolling out yet. I imagine that will be the hardest part if it rains, just getting the ball to the hole.

Q. You touched on Vijay earlier, but if you could elaborate on when he is in this groove how that affects the rest of the field, and your thoughts on his game right now?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, obviously when any player gets in form like Vij is in now, I mean, he's in the back of your mind. You know that he's going to be there at some point, and it's just, again, something that you can't focus on. You just have to try to pay attention to yourself. You can't be worried about how Vijay is playing when you're out there. You've just got to take care of your own business and try to hit the shots that you can hit, try not to fall into the trap and try and do things outside your box, and just, like I say, pay attention to yourself and maintain your own game plan.

Q. What have you been following closer the last three weeks, the FedExCup points standings or the Brewers in the wildcard race?
STEVE STRICKER: I think equally a lot. I've been following the Brewers a lot. I know more about the schedule of the Brewers and what's going on with them, but I'm also getting on pgatour.com every week and every day basically and checking things out, how you sit in the points. So I've been following both of them pretty closely.

Q. With all the Ryder Cup activity aside, separate out all that, talk about how different this year is from last year, in terms of last year when you got to Chicago you had a really good chance at this whole thing, and this year you've got basically no chance if you don't mind me saying.
STEVE STRICKER: Thanks for reminding me (laughter). It's kind of funny that we made the system that was going to provide a lot of opportunities for players in the last week, and it looks like there's going to be fewer opportunities for players. You know, last year, I don't know, it's just been two different things. Last year I really, really -- I mean, obviously winning for the first time in five years, or actually six years, and then enjoying my run at Deutsche Bank and then basically at home in Chicago, you know, right around home and enjoying that. And this year the first two events for me have been, like I said, they've been tough, because I had a lot on my mind, and I couldn't really enjoy them as far as golf tournaments go.
I had the Ryder Cup, so much on my mind, that it was hard to play. Every day was a grind. I could tell that I was kind of emotionally spent, just at the end of my rope. I was tired, I didn't want to focus on it anymore, I just wanted it to be over with, and it's hard to play when you're that way. But I thought I did a pretty good job.
It's been two different kind of scenarios for me, but this year, having very little chance -- you know, when I looked at the payout, I was on line again looking at -- there's a lot of money riding on the line, and that's basically what we're shooting for is the title of the FedExCup and obviously the $10 million. There's still a lot of money to be won. That gets your attention really quick.

Q. Are you playing for second?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I'm trying to move up as much as I can every week. I mean, second place would be nice. Obviously I'm going to have to throw a win in there probably to have any shot at getting in the top two or three or four or whatever, five, so that's just the goal. Obviously if you play well out here, a lot of things take care of themselves, so you just need to go out and take care of your business.

Q. Can you walk us through Monday night and the phone call from Paul, where you were and what you were doing and kind of what time it came and what he said, what you said, what you did after that, kind of the reaction --
STEVE STRICKER: I was in the courtesy car on the way to the airport, and I got in about 4:30, and it was a number -- he didn't call from the number that he had given me, so it didn't come up Paul Azinger. I answered it thinking it could be him, and it was, and immediately I said, "Is this a good call or a bad call?" And he's like, "No, this is a good call." He broke the ice right away, he talked, he said some nice things to me, and I told him how happy and excited I was to be on the team.
He went over some things that he's been doing trying to prepare for this. He's got a game plan. And you know, he's going to stick to it. We'll know a little more as we get there on Monday, I guess, but obviously very excited. He was very excited to tell me, too, finally. He said he knew this for quite a while, and he just didn't tell me or anybody else that he was going to pick me, I guess. But he knew for quite a while that I was going to be on that team.
He said he kind of liked that in a sadistic kind of way, not telling me.

Q. Let you sweat a little?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. But I appreciate that, too, because it kept me on my toes. If he would have told me -- if that's true, if he would have told me when he knew, I could have relaxed a little bit, which is not a good thing. It kept me on my toes wanting to play well and wanting to prepare myself getting ready for this.

Q. You're one of six rookies on the team. Do you get a sense that that matters at all in this Ryder Cup? I don't know how much you've talked to any of the other guys, but U.S. experiences have not been very good recently. Do you think it might be better to have some new blood on there?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I do. I think it's going to be good that there are some guys that haven't been there, haven't experienced the losses of previous Ryder Cups. You know, we're just going to have to see how we all handle it. You know, from what I understand, it's a difficult week as far as pressure and everything goes, so going in there, you try to prepare yourself and realize that it is going to be a little bit different. You know, just try to play as hard as you can, to the best of your ability, and yeah, I don't know if the rookie thing really matters.
I mean, obviously they've got a lot of confidence in this event. They're going to probably be the favorites. We'll be the underdogs, which is fine. It should take some of the pressure off us. All the last few Ryder Cups, the Americans have always been the favorite, and the Europeans have won. So maybe it's time to make the turn and make a switch and we come out as the underdogs.
I know we're all fired up, we're all looking forward to it and excited to get there and get it going.

Q. Do you see any -- I keep asking this question, and I've never really gotten a concrete answer. If the U.S. keeps losing, it's five out of six already, do you think it loses its luster to the sport's public, because people don't necessarily support -- they don't embrace losers in this country I guess would be a blunt way of putting it? It's been this huge event for a long time. Would the lopsidedness take the luster off?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think so. I actually think that -- I know we've lost the last, what --

Q. Five out of six.
STEVE STRICKER: We won at Brookline last, right?

Q. Yeah.
STEVE STRICKER: But we had gotten beat before that, right?

Q. '97 and '95.
STEVE STRICKER: So I think those times, those weeks when we did get beat, you know how rowdy it was at Brookline. I mean, I watched it on TV and it was crazy. I think that just adds to it, to tell you the truth. Even though we've been getting it handed to us the last few times, I don't think it takes any luster away at all. I mean, I think it adds to it. Like I say, I have never experienced one.
I know I look forward to it, watching it every year, as a golfer. Along with the Masters and the Ryder Cup, those are probably my two most fun events to watch on TV.
I would imagine, you hear it out here in the crowd, go get 'em, at the Ryder Cup. You hear a lot of support already. I don't think it detracts from it at all.
I think this year is an important year for us to come and try to win, but I don't think it detracts from it at all.

Q. Do you think The Presidents Cup translates at all? I mean, it is the same format basically, team, all that. But do you think that that will be of any help to you whatsoever, or are the events too different to give you any help there?
STEVE STRICKER: I think there is definitely valuable experience in the Presidents Cup that you can learn and take to the Ryder Cup. I'm hoping so, anyways. It's a team competition. You have a partner, you rely on your partner sometimes. You need to hold up your end of the deal, you need to help your partner.
You know, I played on one of the first -- I think it was the second Presidents Cup team and then just this one last year, and the way that's grown over the years has really been remarkable, too. It was kind of a nice little event to start with back in '96 when I played, and then this last year in '07 it was a big-time deal up in Canada.
And some other players have agreed with me with that, like they feel The Presidents Cup has taken on another level of excitement and pressure. Yeah, I think I can definitely take some of that from The Presidents Cup, those experiences, and apply it to this.
JOHN BUSH: Thanks for your time.

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