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September 7, 2009

Steve Stricker


DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome 2009 Deutsche Bank Championship winner Steve Stricker to the interview room. Steve, a great day against a great field. You pulled it off. You got the victory, and with the win you move to No. 1 in the FedExCup points race, halfway through the Playoff season. Just a couple comments on the day and how you played.
STEVE STRICKER: It was a lot of fun. You know, it was a tough day. I mean, there was a lot of guys in the mix. The course was still difficult, even though we had very little wind. And I just found a way to get it done.
You know, I didn't hit a whole lot of greens on the front side. I drove the ball great but just had a hard time getting the ball on the green. I mis-clubbed a few times. There wasn't a lot of wind out there, but there was just enough wind to kind of throw it off a little bit, and the ball just didn't seem -- my ball anyways, didn't seem like it was going very far today, and the Retief even made the same comment. It seemed like we played a lot of holes on that front side into the wind. Believe me, it wasn't blowing that hard, but it must have been a heavy air or something.
But we were having a hard time getting them on the greens.
I made the turn in good shape and just decided to start getting it on the greens and going from there and letting my putter try to make some 20-footers. I'm just happy the way I hung in there, and when it came down to the end, I gave myself a lot of opportunities there those last three, four, five holes. Knowing that I needed to make a couple birdies coming in and actually doing it means a lot.

Q. How aware were you of all the drama that was going on, all the birdies being made in front of you, and did it affect you at all?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I could hear the roars going up from groups ahead of us. But yet I really didn't know who was making them, where I really stood. You know, I didn't see a lot of scoreboards. I saw a board at No. 9 at the turn and knew that I was still right in there, maybe one shot back, at the time, maybe two at the time. And then saw it at No. 12 where I was tied, I think, at the time. So I knew I was in there and I just had to be patient, hit the fairway, hit the green and not worry about what else was going on and just hopefully make some birdies coming in, which I did.

Q. I've got a couple for you. You're going to move up to No. 2 in the World Ranking it looks like. Could you just comment on that, given that you were all but dead and buried not that long ago and here you are almost on top of the world, and what the playoff win at Colonial did for you confidence-wise after letting a couple slip away early in the year, whether you're still kind of riding that.
STEVE STRICKER: Sure. As far as the World Ranking goes, that's just something that's a bonus, I guess, for playing well. You know, it's a nice honor to be up there. But that's all I really look at for that. I mean, good play takes care of a lot of things, and that's what I'm focused on is just to play good.
As far as winning at the Crowne Plaza and doing what I did there meant a lot, hitting that 8-iron in there on the second playoff hole and converting the birdie there.
But really the John Deere Classic really gave me a lot of confidence and it showed that I could finish off a tournament. I had the opportunity to do that, and I did it. I made a birdie at 17, hit a couple good shots at 18 when I had to, and you know, slowly I've been gaining confidence when I'm under the gun.
It's just a totally different feel out there. You know, I mean, you're numb at times, at least I am. It's been a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun getting in contention like that, and it's even more fun when you can pull it off like I did today.

Q. You had about the same yardage in as you did yesterday at 18 needing a birdie. Can you talk about your thought process as you were hitting that shot?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, you know, I almost had the same exact yardage. I had a little bit shorter to the front today. I had 219 to the front today and I had 230 to the front yesterday. So I felt very comfortable that I could get that utility club over the hazard if I just hit it solid, which I did. I actually put it in a good position.
I didn't really want to miss the green to the right in the bunker, and too far left is no good there, either. But it just ended up in a good position.
The lie wasn't the best of lies there, but able to just get it out, and it was pretty much downhill to the pin. I figured if I could just kind of chunk it out there and let it run down to the pin, it would be all right, and that's what happened. I had a comfortable yardage to go for that shot, and I hit a good one.
I was trying to hit it right in there and stuff it, but you know, under the circumstances kind of had a hanging lie and I still hit a pretty good shot there.

Q. Were you aware of the score when you were on the 17th, and how significant was that birdie knowing that you had to at least have a share?
STEVE STRICKER: I was aware of it, and I heard the roar go up when Verplank must have made birdie on 18 to get to 16 there. So I knew the score there was 16.
I figured once I made that birdie, which was key -- I hit a good wedge in there just underneath the hole, and I got lucky. Retief had almost the same exact line putting up the hill as I did, so I got a pretty good read on it, and I hit a good putt. It kind of took a little bit of pressure off knowing that I could par and still get into a playoff, but I really wanted to make birdie and end it.

Q. You answered my question a little bit, but how beneficial was it to get Retief's line on that putt on 17?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think it was huge. I mean, I watched it very closely. You know, that's what you need sometimes, for things like that to work out, to win a tournament, to get little breaks like that. So I was able to take advantage of that.

Q. Did it remind you at all of 18 last week with Heath giving you a read?
STEVE STRICKER: No, it didn't. And he was a little bit on a different line last week than I was. But no, it didn't remind me of that.

Q. Talking about last week, I know you said earlier that you needed a couple days to get over that and that it was a loss that really stung. I'm guessing that this kind of removes that feeling?
STEVE STRICKER: (Laughing.) I don't even remember last week.

Q. What does it mean to you to have pushed past Tiger and climbed to the top of the FedExCup standings?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, it means a lot. It solidifies myself, solidifies my chances of winning the FedExCup. It ensures that I'm going to be in that Top 5. I can control my own destiny come that last TOUR Championship, and that's what my goal was coming into these first three events was just to make sure that I played well and remained in the Top 5 so I could have a chance to win it all. I think this pretty much does it.
But we've still got a lot of golf left to play. We still have two tournaments left and a lot of things can happen. There's a lot of points still involved. I've still got to play well and I've got to get over this real quick and get ready to play in a couple more days.

Q. When you were talking to NBC, you were saying that Tiger is still the man. However, you really are the man because you're at the top of the FedExCup points. Do you feel that, for instance, Player of the Year is something that you would strive for as much as the FedExCup or any other sort of award, and do you feel now that you've got some momentum going in that direction?
STEVE STRICKER: I really don't think about it, Player of the Year honors, or anything like that. That has never entered my mind. We all know who the guy is out here. You know, I'm just happy to be in the position I'm at and with the opportunity to do something special for myself. He's done enough other special things, maybe let somebody else do something special. (Laughter.)
We all know what he's about and how great a player he is, but this format adds a lot of excitement, you know, for a guy like myself or anybody else to kind of challenge him in this format. And that's what we got. Whoever is going to win this, whether it be him or me or anybody else, I mean, you're going to have to play some pretty good golf for two more events, and it's going to lead to a lot of excitement for the fans, the media and the players alike.
I think it's a lot of fun.

Q. Sticking with the FedExCup, there are a majors and there's the FedExCup. I mean, would you rather wear a green jacket or -- never mind about the $10 million. Would you rather wear a green jacket or would you rather say, you know, I played against the best golfers in the world and I won the FedExCup?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, you're playing against the best players in the world when you win that green jacket, too. At this time I'd rather win a major. I think that holds a little more value yet at this time. You know, I guess time will tell with this FedExCup. But it's very gratifying and satisfying to know that I'm atop that list right now.
But we are only halfway, and that's what I keep telling myself, to keep looking forward to next week and doing the things that I know how to do myself and not -- I can't control anybody else except for myself, and that's what I've been looking to do and aiming to do.

Q. Where does this victory rank among your victories?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. It means a lot. I don't know if I could rank it in any order of any sort, but it means a lot. I mean, to win two of these Playoff events in the short little history, to win three tournaments in one year is something I've never done, means a lot. But like I say, I hate to look at what I've been doing and the good play that I've been doing, and I just keep trying to look forward. That's my bottom line is just to keep grinding it out and not keep thinking about what I have done but look forward to tomorrow and next week and to play well again.

Q. After missing that putt on 18 last week, what does it say about you that you had another putt on 18 to win it all this week?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, this one was more my length, I'll tell you that. (Laughter.) I liked this one-footer. (Laughter.)
Last week was disappointing. I tried to blow it off and tried to say, you know what, I've had a good year, don't worry about it. But you know, a couple days went by and I was still thinking about that bunker shot out of the 18th fairway and not really pulling that off like I thought I should have. But that's the great thing about what we do for a living. I mean, we're able to come right back out here, we have a new week, new tournament to play for, and I was able to forget about that in a short period of time, and it was nice to be able to go home, and that helped. Able to forget about it and get right back into the moment and play well here this week.

Q. I want to look back for just a second because you've had the windswept troublesome back nine at the Hope, and I want to say Riviera, you had a good chance there and had a little blunder late. Not suggesting you're getting old, but you are at an age where maybe you start wondering how many more chances you'll get. I wonder if you could put these three wins in perspective coming off two really good chances early in the year.
STEVE STRICKER: You know, when I didn't win early in the year at LA and the Bob Hope, I was starting to -- you get doubts. I mean, it's just normal, I guess. I was doubting myself, I was doubting whether I had the ability to win again. And that's just natural. But I figured if I just kept putting myself in those positions with opportunities to win that a break would go my way or I'd pull off the shot that I needed to to win the tournament.
So I still kept a very positive outlook. I still thought -- I didn't look at those tournaments as a negative. I didn't feel like -- I didn't beat myself up over those events. I thought the Bob Hope was a little flukey. I just kind of blew it off, even though it hurt.
LA hurt a little bit more because if I make par I'm in a playoff with Phil on the last hole.
So really when I finally won at Crowne Plaza and hit the shot on the second playoff hole and ended it like that, that boosted my confidence, and slowly and surely, my confidence was getting better with the more times I got into contention.
It's just a process with me. It always has been. It's a process with me no matter what I do, whether I didn't keep my card at the end of the 2005 season, you know, it was a process for me to start working at it and gain momentum to -- you know what I'm saying, I need those steps, those ladders to build on, and that's what I've felt like it's been for me this year with the confidence and being in contention a lot.

Q. How do you feel about playing in Chicago next week, being close to your home city, Madison? Are you familiar with that club?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I'm excited. They've changed it now so no one is really familiar with it, but I did win there back in '96. I'm very excited about going there. I imagine I'll be paired with Tiger again, which is always a lot of fun. I'll have a big following there. I'm close to home, and I went to school at the University of Illinois, so I'll get -- I'll be double dipping from both States. It will be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it, and hopefully I can keep my good play going.

Q. Is there a swing or a putt from today that you can look back on and say that was a big-time key there in your round?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I didn't think it was a bad shot at the time, but on No. 13, I thought I hit a good drive, and it was about 270 yards to cover the rocks that are up there on top of the hill. And I was going down to pick up my tee, and I'm heading right for those rocks, but I thought I had enough to carry, we thought it was downwind, and it bounced right off the rocks and it headed up the fairway a little bit. I out-drove Retief there. Usually I'm about 30 behind him.
So I got a good bounce off the rocks, which I -- at the time looking back, that could have done anything. It could have bounced left, it could have bounced right back at me. Who knows? But I thought I hit a decent shot, and I got a good break.

Q. On 17 after you hit the birdie, did that create an adrenaline rush that you had to grab hold of, or in some respects as some athletes talk about it, did it slow things down?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I sprinted over to the next tee. I had to slow down. I just wanted to get it going and hit the tee ball on 18, but I had to slow down. My mind was racing, my body was racing. So it was definitely a rush.
But I hit two good shots, which are key under those circumstances when you've got an opportunity to win. I hit a couple good shots and pulled it off.

Q. I noticed earlier that Jerry Kelly was waiting for you outside the scoring booth on 18 after you came off. It seems like you two really support each other out there on TOUR. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, we do. We're very close friends. Our families are friends together. We have -- his son is the same age as my daughter, so we usually take a family vacation during the Bay Hill time. He plays at Bay Hill and I usually go to the parks and be with the families. But we have a good time with one another, and we're very supportive of one another.
He was very supportive of me when I wasn't playing well, and he's always been playing well, and he's never had those really dips in his career. I've always been there for him if he's won a tournament. I was waiting for him at the 18th green at New Orleans, and he does the same when I happen to win a tournament.
We've got a nice relationship. We're very competitive with one another. We still want to beat each other, but we're still good friends.

Q. Could you sort of bring me up to date on your wife's caddying history, when she stopped or whether you anticipate my kind of a comeback there, and also Steve Stricker Day in your hometown, I was curious about that.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, my wife is not planning on coming back. She's got a much bigger job now taking care of the two kids. But yeah, she stopped at the end of the '97 season.
As far as a Steve Stricker Day, this year you're talking about?

Q. They were talking about it on television. There was a sign in your town and there was a day and all this stuff.
STEVE STRICKER: I helped them raise some money this year, and they may have called it the Steve Stricker Day, but I helped raise some money for the golf course in town there, and it was kind of a nice event. We've had a couple over the years. I mean, the town is about 4,000 people, and it's where I grew up, and they're very supportive, and rightly so. I love going there.
But the people there are great. I don't know what else to say. I don't know what you're talking about, if it's this year or a couple years ago.

Q. When you go back, do you still get kind of a lump in your throat or goosebumps when you see the home of Steve Stricker sign on the Bay City limits?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it is kind of weird. We live right next to the golf course, and there's a sign at the golf course, too, that says, "Home of PGA TOUR player Steve Stricker," which is very cool. I mean, I'm flattered by it. It's a unique place. Like I say, there's only one stoplight in this town, and I loved the town growing up there. It was a small town atmosphere, and it's a cool place.

Q. Your driving stats, this is kind of "Inside Baseball," your driving stats this year are astronomically better than they've been almost over the entire arc of this decade. Is there any simple answer for why you needed to pipe two on the last two holes and made birdies on both of them and you got exactly what you needed?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it's just confidence. I think slowly over the last, when my stats were the worst, I just have slowly gained a little bit more confidence, started driving it a little bit better, and I think my stats have gone up a little bit progressively each other or have gotten a little bit better each year. And this year I think this has been my best driving stat ever out on TOUR.
They're generous fairways out here. But still, I don't hit any more crazy ones usually, and I was usually good for about three of those a round or so. My misses have been a lot better, and that's all you can ask for in golf. Everybody is going to miss a shot here and there, and as long as it doesn't kill you or put you in a position to make a bogey or a double, you can play from there. But my misses are a lot better, and my confidence is better. I think I'm swinging at it and I understand my swing a lot better and I'm just swinging at it with more confidence.
You know, it's showing in those stats.

Q. Just for the record, you don't want to be considered again for the Comeback Player of the Year Award?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't. (Laughter.)

Q. Seriously, if your name came up for it, do you think you'd go for three in a row?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. It's flattering to have won it twice, but I feel like I'm over that now, I really do. (Laughter.)

Q. Kind of along those lines, since you speak with such great experience, would you consider Tiger a candidate for that award this year?
STEVE STRICKER: No. Where did he go?

Q. Knee surgery. He missed the second half of the year.
STEVE STRICKER: No. The guy won with one leg. No. (Laughter.)

Q. Not to belabor the Tiger point, but I will. Your other two victories, as great as they were, did not come in events that had this caliber maybe of players, and certainly Tiger wasn't in either of those, either. So can you talk a little bit about how it feels to win a tournament where you've got all these guys who are all playing well and Tiger Woods?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, to tell you the truth, I don't know if I've won an event with him in the field. Yeah, you might be right. It might be the first time that I won with either him, maybe even Phil in the field, too. No, but it means a lot. I mean, it's a great win for me. And to do it at this time when I needed to play well again, where I was on the points list coming into this event, the FedExCup point list, it means a lot to show that the work that I've done is paying off.
But yeah, you're right, when I sit back and think about it, it was a good field, and it means a lot to me to have won here, to beat the guys that are here.

Q. Fatigue, some guys are coming off saying playing Bridgestone, PGA, having to play two more, going into Chicago, does that factor in at all?
STEVE STRICKER: Sure. Yeah, I'm kind of cringing, and I've only got two days and a lot of stuff to do in these two days to get ready to play Chicago.
You know, I wish this tournament would end on Sunday. I know TV wants it to end on today, and I know I think Deutsche Bank wants it to end today is what I've heard. But it's just a short time frame for us to get ready and prepared and move on to the next week. You know, it's in a long stretch as it is. But yeah, it's going to be a quick turnaround, and I think you've got to try to pace yourself. I don't even know if I'll pick up a club tomorrow.
You know, I probably was going to play nine holes, and I don't know if I'm going to do that now. I might just go back to the hotel and rest and play the pro-am and get ready to go. But yeah, you've got to pace yourself, and that's kind of what I did leading up to this event. I didn't do anything on Monday or Tuesday of this week, or prior to this tournament. So I think it's important during this stretch to get away for a day or two when you can and get rested and fresh and ready to go again.
DOUG MILNE: If you don't mind running us through your birdies and bogey and then we'll cut you loose.
STEVE STRICKER: Birdied No. 2, hit it pin high in two just to the left of the green and chipped up to about a foot.
Birdied No. 4, I drove it on the green with a driver and two-putted probably from 40 feet.
Bogeyed No. 6, it was one of those club selections where we came up just short and rolled back down the front of the green and didn't get it up-and-down.
Birdied No. 7, driver and laid it up with a utility club and a lob wedge to about four or five inches.
And then birdied 17 and 18. 17 was 3-wood off the tee and a wedge to about 15, 18 feet.
And then 18, driver and a utility club and that chip to a foot.
DOUG MILNE: Steve, congratulations. Best of luck this week.

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