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January 24, 2009
LA QUINTA, CALIFORNIA
MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Steve Stricker into the media room.
Thank you for being here. And he is our leader after four rounds today after shooting a 62 on the Nicklaus Course. Steve, just start out and give some general comments. You also set a TOUR record for consecutive rounds with your 123. Give some thoughts on last couple days at the Bob Hope Classic and your thoughts going into the final round.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, it's been good. I don't know what else to say. I've done a lot of good things. I haven't made too many mistakes. And I've been trying to make as many birdies as I can. And fortunately I have been.
I've been driving the ball well, putting it in play, and giving myself a lot of opportunities at birdies, and I've been rolling the ball well.
So we got one more day, and that's what my sights are set on, is to go out and play just as well tomorrow.
Q. What would you have shot if you played an entire practice round on that golf course?
STEVE STRICKER: Sometimes it's good when you don't play a practice round. You don't see all the trouble where you hit it in the practice round. So you just see the area where you want to hit it and hit it to it.
So I'm not a big proponent of playing a course over and over and over again, to get many practice rounds in. It's just, we all play the game, we have all played a ton of golf, and you have a yardage book in front of you, and that's what we went off of, and it worked out.
Q. Was it just that the golf course is so much just right in front of you?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, there's some tricky holes, and there's some good holes. The last hole coming in, you have to hit two good shots there to make a birdie, and a third to make the putt, I guess. But there's some holes you have to be careful on, just like the Palmer Course, and keeping it out of the trouble is the No. 1 objective for me all this week, and I've done a good job of that.
Q. What does 33-under sound like to you? Having been out here for a long time, does it sound like an incredible number, a number you would have taken for the whole tournament going in?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, to tell you the truth I haven't even thought about 33-under par. I've just been thinking about each hole as it comes.
We did -- when we flew over from Hawaii, Joe Durant was on my flight, and I asked Joe what his winning score was here, and he said 36-under. And I'm like, That's unbelievable. It almost seems like that you can't reach that goal. But here we are. We're one day away from making, maybe breaking that record, which is incredible.
But the weather's been great out here, the courses are in good shape, the greens are slow enough where you don't have to worry about putts getting away from you, and it's just a number. And you're just trying to play as good as -- at least I have been, I've just been trying to play each hole the best I can.
Q. You went from 2-down to 3-up. How much more comfortable is it knowing that you're going to be the chased instead of the chaser?
STEVE STRICKER: It's always tough to win a PGA TOUR event, and I try not to make things too complicated. I try to simplify things as much as I can. I just know that I got to go out and play another good round tomorrow. I know coming in, at one point, I was one behind. I saw he, Pat, had finished, or was at 30, and I just told myself, Let's just keep going, let's just keep making birdies, the more I make, the better off it's going to be.
And that's what I was trying to do, and, fortunately, I was doing it. And again, tomorrow, I'm just going to do the same thing, same game plan, step up on that first tee and try to hit it in the fairway. And if I do that, try to hit it as close as I can and try to make the putt and just try to make it as simple and easy on myself as I can.
Q. The old adage is it's tough to follow-up a low round. This week we saw a guy shoot 61, and then follow it up with a 63, and now I'm seeing what you've done the last two days. Does all that stuff just go out the window here? Does all the other rules just go out the window at the Hope?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it's just you got to have a different mentality here, and that's one reason why I usually don't play here is I don't have that mentality of shooting low a lot of times.
I came here this year with a little bit different attitude. I've been playing well, I feel good about my game, and I wasn't putting any number on anything. I wasn't going out and saying, You know what, I need to shoot 5-under today, or 6-under today, or 7-under today; I was just going to go out and see what I could do, and take one shot at a time.
I know it's a statement that we make over and over, but that's all I'm trying to do is try to simplify it and take one shot at a time and go on and go from there.
Q. Is it easier said than done, this taking each hole? You said you didn't think about 33-under, but taking each hole as it comes or taking one shot at a time. Is there an art form to that, and have there been times in your career where you would get ahead of yourself or think of the last shot, be affected by other stuff?
STEVE STRICKER: This week here it might be, there's a couple courses where I didn't even -- I'm not too familiar with, SilverRock and then this one here, where you really can't get ahead of yourself because I didn't know what was coming. I played maybe nine holes on Nicklaus Course, and then I drove the other nine and played late in the afternoon, so I really didn't have a feel for what kind of holes were ahead of me.
And the same goes for SilverRock. I played 18 holes there, but when you're not familiar, when you don't play it year after year, you just -- it's easy not to look ahead because you don't know what's ahead, I guess.
And the Palmer Course, you can kind of look ahead and it kind of can hurt you at times. You think, Well, I got a par-5 coming up, but it all depends how you're playing that day, too. It's just a funny game, and, like I say, I just keep plugging and just try to keep doing the best I can.
Q. You and Pat have both shot 61 at the Palmer. Does that help you tomorrow or is that something you try to put out of your mind when you're playing such a match-play situation tomorrow with the third place seven strokes back?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm not going to think about yesterday when I get out there tomorrow. I'm just going to go out there and, like I say, I don't know how many different ways I can say it, is I'm trying to just get on that tee and hit it in play. If it comes down to where it's one or two guys going after the title the last few holes, then I guess it then becomes a match-play situation.
But early on in the round, I'm just going to play my own game. There's going to be guys from behind that are going to go out early and put up some good numbers. They're going to be aggressive, and Pat may get off to a hot start and birdie, eagle, birdie, or something like that. He could be in the lead after three, or you don't know what's going to happen. So it's a crazy game, and then we just got to -- I just worry about myself. That's the easiest way I can say it, and I just got to keep plugging.
Q. You played this tournament before on Sunday after four rounds with the amateurs, and then now you're playing with the pros again. Does that change the atmosphere at all?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think so. I think it's a challenge to play with the amateurs at times. I had great groups every day this week. But the pace of play is a little bit different. You're standing around a lot more. We were probably out there close to maybe five hours 45 minutes today. So it's a little bit longer.
But there's some good sides to that, too. It relaxes you. You can talk with the guys. They're having a good time. There's a lot of chatter. And tomorrow there probably won't be a lot of chatter amongst the pros. They're trying to win a golf tournament. So there's some goods and there's some bads, but I've always enjoyed playing in some of these amateur events that we have and I'm glad I finally came back. I haven't been here for maybe, I don't know, 2004, five years, so I'm glad I'm here.
Q. In breaking down the 61, 62, what was it built on? Everything? Obviously you had to be pretty good, but what was the best part in there? Making long putts? Making a lot of putts? Ball striking?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it was my ball-striking, to tell you the truth. I think I may have missed only one fairway today and maybe only a couple of greens. So again, I gave myself a ton of opportunities. And really today, looking back, a chip in on Number 5 really got my round going. I had a birdie opportunity at 1 and 2, I parred 3, and I hit it over the green in four on the par-5, just right next to the hole, and I don't get it up-and-down. And I'm walking off 4, I'm like, that's really not the way I wanted to start and knowing that we got to keep this low-score thing going, I didn't want to fall too far behind. And I missed the green on the next hole. After driving it in the fairway, I had about 137 yards and missed the green to the right. And I can't even see the bottom of the hole. I'm down maybe eight, nine feet below the surface of the green and end up chipping it in, and then birdied the next two.
So that kind of righted the ship for me and got me going in the right direction after starting off with four pars. Normally, starting off with four pars isn't a bad thing, but here you got to keep it going.
Q. You referred to your mentality being a little different before this. How so?
STEVE STRICKER: Meaning what?
Q. How is your mentality a bit different, you said before this tournament?
STEVE STRICKER: I just feel like I'm playing better, I feel like I've got more scoring opportunities. When I can drive it in the fairway and get short irons in my hands -- that's the strength of my game is short irons and putting, and the more I can get it in play off the tee, which have I been doing, the better this type of -- these types of courses fit my game.
So I think that my mentality has just gotten to be a little more aggressive here, instead of years past where I didn't feel too good about coming here because there is a lot of water out there. There's holes that you have to pay attention on and steer away from the water.
But there's also plenty of driving area. And I've been driving it better and I feel like my game is better suited now for coming here.
MARK STEVENS: You covered pretty much the first four, but go through the rest of your birdies, please.
STEVE STRICKER: Number 5. That's the one I talked about the chip in.
No. 6, hit a 3-wood and an 8-iron to about three feet.
7 is a par-3. I hit a 9-iron to about 12 feet.
Birdied No. 9. What is number nine?
Q. Par-4, lake to the left?
STEVE STRICKER: Drawing a blank. Oh, yeah. Hit a 3-wood off the tree and a little 9-iron to about three feet there.
Birdied No. 12.
Q. Par-4, lots of sand in front of the green.
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, yeah. I hit a driver off the tee and -- I've only played this course one time (laughter).
Q. And only half of it?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. I hit a driver and a little wedge to about a foot.
13 is a par-5. Hit driver and a 3-iron to the front of the green and 2-putted from about 25 feet.
Q. Par-4 dogleg left up the hill.
STEVE STRICKER: Driver and a wedge from about 110. I hit -- made about a 15-footer there.
16, par-5, driver and a utility club just left of the green, chipped it up to a foot.
17, I hit a 5-iron from 195. I hit it to probably about 15 feet.
And then birdied 18, another 15, 18-footer from 3-wood off the tee, and a 6-iron from 188.
MARK STEVENS: All right. Thank you, Steve.
STEVE STRICKER: Thanks.
End of FastScripts