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February 20, 2009

Steve Stricker


MARK WILLIAMS: Steve Stricker, welcome to the media center at the Northern Trust Open. 66 today to go with a 68 yesterday. I think they are the two lowest scores you've had on Riviera. You finally worked out how to play this golf course. Just talk about your round and your week.
STEVE STRICKER: It was obviously a good round. I got off to a good start. I birdied the 10th hole and just kept the momentum going, all the way through the round pretty much. We had a great day to play and it was actually probably warmer this morning than it is now.

We didn't have very much wind. It was just perfect playing conditions, and the course is in great shape.
MARK WILLIAMS: You tied for 11th here last year, looking to improve on that obviously. Open up to questions.

Q. You birdied 6.

Q. How did you do that?
STEVE STRICKER: I hit a 4-iron.

Q. That's a hard hole today, isn't it?
STEVE STRICKER: It is. We all hit 4-irons. Justin Leonard hit it first. He hit it right at it to about ten, 12 feet.
Vijay hit next, 4-iron in there. He was a little bit closer and I hit a 4-iron in there to about four feet.
So all three good shots. And when you see good shots in front of you, it kind of makes you, you know, it gives you some good positive feedback before you even hit it. So I saw two good ones before me, and hit a good one myself.

Q. How many birdies on that hole?
STEVE STRICKER: Two. That's not bad.

Q. You and?
MARK WILLIAMS: Good bounce back after the hole before.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I bogeyed the hole before so it was a nice birdie to bounce back and get it going in the right direction again.

Q. Were you behind a tree on 5?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I pulled my drive, my 3-wood, a little bit, and went down in that kikuyu -- tall kikuyu grass. I to play out sideways, couldn't even get it back into the fairway. I had to go back towards the 17th fairway and knocked it on and 2-putted about 20 feet.

Q. How long was your eagle putt on 1?
STEVE STRICKER: About five feet. Driver and a 7-iron.

Q. Did you change up your schedule at all this year in terms of -- you've been off for two weeks now, right?
STEVE STRICKER: I was off for two. I figured I didn't want to go back to Wisconsin, back and forth from the West Coast. I thought about maybe playing San Diego, but I bit the bullet early and played the first three tournaments, Hawaii, the Hope and then Phoenix, and then decided to go home for two and come back out for two.
So that's just the way the schedule worked, I guess, and I decided to go home and get a good break in there in between the two stretches.

Q. What do you do now?
STEVE STRICKER: This week and next week, Honda off, and then Miami and Tampa, no Bay Hill and then Houston and the Masters. So kind of two on, one off, here on out for a while.

Q. It's early in the season, but how do you think your form at the moment stacks up to when you were the come back of the year king, those two years in a row?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, it is early in the season. And I feel rusty. Two weeks at home, when I can't play, I can hit a lot of balls, but I don't do anything with my short game. I putt a little bit, but you know, it's good. It's refreshing to come back out and play, because I haven't played at home. But I feel rusty at times.
You know, I've been doing this now, you know, since -- it's my 16th year on TOUR and I've been dealing with Wisconsin and early season and winters and snow and everything for a long time. So I'm used to it. I deal with it. I give myself a little extra time when I come to a tournament, practice a little bit harder when I'm here early on, and try to get some sort of form going.
I enjoy it. I go home and I can actually get away from the game these last two weeks. Even though I continue to hit balls, I hit balls probably an hour and a half, two hours, every day. That's it. And then I can go back, pick up my kids at school, spend time with the family, so it kind of forces me away from the game, too, this early part of the season, which is good.

Q. Did you send Tiger a text yesterday?
STEVE STRICKER: I thought about it. I didn't.

Q. Thought about it. What would you have said if you did?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I was trying to think of something cute. We had a couple text messages while I was home for the couple weeks, and you know, that guy, you can't really repeat what he says half the time. (Laughter).

Q. We won't tell anyone. What do you think about him coming back next week?
STEVE STRICKER: It's great. I thought either next week or Miami. And like I told everybody, it's just nothing but good things for our TOUR when he comes back, and now the spotlight of the whole world focuses on the Match Play next week, because he's back there playing. That's great things for us, and the rest of the TOUR, when he's playing. I'm glad he's coming back and I hope he's healthy, and I'm sure he's ready to go.
I'm looking forward to it, and I'm sure he is, too.

Q. Would you like to meet him next week?
STEVE STRICKER: Would I like to beat him?

Q. Meet him; play against him next week at some point.
STEVE STRICKER: I hope I'm in the opposite bracket of him and I'd like to meet him towards the end.

Q. After 16 years, when you have a tough Sunday like at the Hope, do you banish it from your mind quickly or does it stick with you for a while?
STEVE STRICKER: That one stuck with me. You know, the next week at Phoenix, I shouldn't even have played. I should have just gone home. Mentally, I wasn't in it, down in the dumps. You know, it just felt like I threw a tournament away with a real good opportunity to win.
You know, it hard, but I've had to pick myself up a number of times out here on TOUR, so I'm used to it. You just need to go on, you need to move on, and just try to keep doing what you know how to do, and for me, that's just keep working at it and keep trying to get better and try to get myself in that position again.

Q. That two-week break you built in at start of the year probably was good then, in hindsight?
STEVE STRICKER: In hindsight, it was. I even thought about taking three off at the start of the year. Played Hawaii and Hope and then take three, but yeah, like I said, it ended up being a good couple of weeks where the first week, I didn't even really think about golf that much, and then the second week off, I started to get back into it again.
MARK WILLIAMS: When do you usually start to feel more comfortable in the year when the rust has shaken off; is it April, before the Masters?
STEVE STRICKER: Usually we don't start playing at home until April. So I guess now I only have one week in between most tournaments, and so I won't get that far away from my game and I'll continue to practice at home.
But it's always nice when you go home and play. I like to play. I like to play more than hit balls. I like that opportunity.
So April, May, courses start to get a little bit nicer and the weather starts to turn a little bit. Like I say, I come out here, and my work is out here, so I give myself a little bit of extra time to come out here and work at it out here.

Q. What is your setup at home as far as hitting balls? Do you have a dome that you go to?
STEVE STRICKER: I've got mobile homes that are put together, two mobile homes it's three-sided. It's at a golf course I play at that my father-in-law owns. They are three-sided and there's a big tarp and it opens up and you can hit in there in pretty much any conditions. We've hit in there when it's been below zero. The heat struggles there a little bit when it's below zero. Your hands get a little cold, if it's 20 or 30 degrees; last week, I was hitting in short-sleeved shirts. So you can really loosen up. You can sweat at times because the heat is that good.
So it's good practice. You're hitting off mats, but it still keeps you into the game and keeps you swinging.

Q. Do you get much feel for ball flight and stuff like that?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know, it's pretty identical. I mean, the balls that we have there, the range balls, they are yellow range balls.
It's pretty true flight from what I see out here.

Q. You couldn't get like a batch of Titleist?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, they are white, so they blend in with the snow. Yellow is for a good reason.

Q. So I didn't understand that, you were actually hitting them from the trailer park?
STEVE STRICKER: Outside, yeah.

Q. This is going to sound silly, but can you give us an idea of what a typical day is like when you're home?
STEVE STRICKER: When I'm home?

Q. Yeah.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I take my kids to school, or my oldest to school. The range doesn't open until noon, so I can't really hit balls until noon. The last week I was home, I could go pick them up, pick my daughter up from school and I would end up hitting balls after school, probably 3:30 to 5:00. But I started to play tennis, too, while I was at home, so I was trying to work on my release, my tennis release.

Q. Indoor?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, indoor. I need work in that department.

Q. How long have you played tennis?
STEVE STRICKER: I just started.

Q. Just last week?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, basically. Started playing. My wife has taken it up, so I feel the urge to try to beat her. She's gotten good. (Laughing) But I thought it was good exercise. I don't like a lot of cardio and hitting the weight room, so I figure, you know, this would be good, running around the court for a little while.

Q. And the results?
STEVE STRICKER: It wasn't bad. Like I said, I like to get it where I can get that little hump back over the net, but I'm struggling with that part.

Q. Who won?
STEVE STRICKER: We haven't played yet. We are just working on the game.

Q. The saying goes that no one is bigger than the game but some have argued Tiger is bigger than the game. You were saying earlier all good things about Tiger coming back, but is there something sad about what happened yesterday, TV coverage unfolds, Tiger's announcement, and it's as if this tournament just drops off the edge of the earth; what are your thoughts on that?
STEVE STRICKER: Like I say, I don't think it's a negative thing at all. I guess if you're the title sponsor here, maybe took offense to that a little bit, I guess, Northern Trust. But again, it focuses the attention on the game of golf, and he has not only brought a lot of attention to our sport and to our game, but he's helped raise the purses here dramatically on TOUR.
I think we owe him a lot as a player. I've thanked him a number of times, I really have. It's just I don't see how it's a bad thing unless you have such a big ego that he took the limelight away from you or something, I don't know. But I just think it's all positive and it's a good thing.

Q. How long does this good thing last? We still have a number of courses closing all over the place, some other issues going on, title sponsors, Stanford and what have you; is it almost great that he's coming back, but we still have some issues out there.
STEVE STRICKER: There's a lot of issues.

Q. He doesn't make those go away, does he?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. I don't know. He's a pretty powerful person I think. I don't know if he has that much power in what's going on with the economy of golf, and it is tough times.
Sometimes it's hard to believe that somebody can even justify putting something like this on at times. So I feel for all of the people that have been hit by this, but there's been some bad decisions made, sounds like from a number of people. I'm not that smart about the whole situation, but it seems like they have made bad decisions. We just need to take care of what we can do out here; and that's do the media requests, do sponsors, whether it's stop in the sponsor's tent or anything that we can do to help promote the tournament and to lend a hand with their customers or whatever. We just need to step up and do that. It's just tough times, and we need to be careful of what's going on out here. We have to step up to the plate ourselves as players.
MARK WILLIAMS: Thank you for coming in and talking to us, and good luck on the weekend.

End of FastScripts

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