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September 9, 2009

Steve Stricker


MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome Steve Stricker. Steve took over the lead in the FedExCup point standings last week with his win at the Deutsche Bank Championship, currently has a 909-point lead over the second place player. If you'd kind of just talk a little bit about your win last week and your thoughts coming into tomorrow, and we'll take some questions.
STEVE STRICKER: Sure. Obviously it was a great win for me. It was really the first time I had won a golf tournament with probably all the top players in the field, Tiger Woods being there, Phil being there, you know, all the top players in the world were there. So it was a pretty special win.
I guess it was only a couple days ago. It's still very fresh in my mind, but yet getting ready for this tournament is at the forefront, and I've kind of got to put that on the back burner and get ready to play tomorrow.

Q. How much have you seen of the golf course, and what do you think of the changes?
STEVE STRICKER: I played nine holes yesterday afternoon. I played the back nine yesterday, and then I just finished the pro-am right now. I think esthetically it looks great. The changes that Rees Jones did I think were good. The framing that he did from the tee box looking out is phenomenal. I thought the course looked great.
The greens are typical Rees Jones greens except a little bit softer, I think. Not firmness-wise, but softer contours. Pretty similar. He's got a unique design to his greens. They're all pretty much the same. But I think here the ridges that he put in are just a little bit softer than some of the other places that I've played that he's done.
But very good. Very good-looking changes.
The course is playing extremely long. We played it all the way back today, 7,600 yards or whatever it is, and we're getting hardly in the roll in the fairways. So it's playing very long.

Q. The FedExCup Championship here with you and Tiger Woods, could you talk a little bit about that, and how perhaps this week is going to be a little pressure-packed as you make your way between this one and two weeks from now?
STEVE STRICKER: Sure. Well, it's an exciting time. We're halfway through this event, the FedExCup, and I'm just thrilled to be a part of it and to be right in the mix. That win last week pretty much guaranteed me the opportunity to win the FedExCup, you know, going into the TOUR Championship.
But it would really be nice to have the lead going into the TOUR Championship. So again, that means going out this week and playing well to maintain that lead. I have every belief that Tiger is going to play great, so that means that I'm going to have to play good.
It's just fun. It's neat to be a part of it. It's neat to have the lead at this point, knowing that there's a couple good weeks left to go. The pressure is getting bigger every week we play. And I realize that, but it's also a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to playing with him again tomorrow. We have a good time going out there and playing, and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. How difficult or easy has it been keeping track of the points as you go along? And do you just wait until the week is over and just see where you stand?
STEVE STRICKER: I kind of just wait when the week is over and see where I stand type of thing. Fortunately I've been playing well so I haven't had to sweat out any of those cut lines, the top 100 or the top 70. But I've looked at other where my projections would be, and different things like that, throughout the course of the tournaments that we've played. So it's kind of interesting. At one point at Barclays I was tied for 5th going into the last day and I had dropped two spots in the standings.
It's kind of interesting when you look back and see where you can fall to, and I've heard some other stories of where people have fallen to. But typically I just kind of play, play as hard as I can and see where I lie at the end of the day.

Q. What's your fatigue level like, and there's been the idea kicked around that with a Labor Day finish, to put a week off between this and then go Chicago, Atlanta, what would be your thoughts there, as well?
STEVE STRICKER: I love that idea. I haven't heard that, but I would love that idea. I don't think it's fair to the players or the tournament too much to whip us around in such a quick fashion and get us going again. It's a tough turnaround, it really is.
I haven't heard any player really enjoy -- say they enjoy the quick turnaround. You know, we basically lose our one day of rest that we have. You know, and for people that are in contention and finishing late on Sunday, it's even that much more worse.
But I'm tired. I haven't gotten a lot of sleep. I haven't slept good nights just because of the fact that I still can't believe I won, I guess. (Laughter.)
It's a quite turnaround, and I would love to see either a Sunday finish at Boston -- you know, I don't know if that Monday finish -- I know TV probably likes it. I know Deutsche Bank likes it. But as far as the fans go that are out there, I think the attendance was probably down on Monday compared to the other weekend days at Deutsche Bank. You know what, it would be nice to get a break in between, and that's a great idea. I would love that idea.

Q. Obviously you're from the area but not from Chicago. I mean, does it feel like a home game when you come here?
STEVE STRICKER: Totally. Having won this tournament back in '96 and going to school down in Champaign not far from here, a couple hours from here, and living up the road a couple hours from here, I get a lot of family and friends, college people that I've met along the way. Yeah, I get a big support group here, which is very cool.
I feel a familiarity with this course. Like I say, I won here, and even though they've changed it dramatically, still, the routing is pretty much the same. It's nice to come back, and it's nice to get the support and the feel of a home tournament for me.

Q. We've been waiting obviously for a true rival for Tiger for a long time, but judging by some of the things you've said here, you don't seem to think that it's you, and yet you're the guy with the lead. Why aren't you up there in your mind?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm up there. I know I'm up there. But I don't -- you know, I don't know. Maybe I'm playing it off. I don't know. I'm just doing my thing, and that's what my caddie and I keep telling each other, just do what I do and not worry about any of the other things.
You know, I just had a good run. The last four years have been very good on the golf course. That's what I'm focused on is just to maintain that consistent play and play well and really not worry about any of these other things that are going on.
You know, I don't know if I'm a rival to him or not. I've been playing well, and that's all I try to do is just go out and play well.

Q. Johnny Miller paid you a very nice compliment on Sunday about your golf swing. I know you really had like a crisis, or whatever it was, five years ago where you really had to rebuild it. I just wonder what your goal was going forward in terms of the mechanics that you wanted to achieve and how it all works now so well compared to when it wasn't working.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, when it wasn't working, I had ideas what was going poorly during the course of a swing. So I went to work on that and tried to fix that. I tried to come up with an idea that I felt like I could repeat on a regular basis, fairly regular basis.
And what was killing me before is my misses were pretty big. Knock on wood, that's what I've been doing a lot better the last couple years. My misses have gotten to be a lot smaller. And you can play from smaller misses. It's those big misses that end up killing a round or taking your momentum around and screwing up the score at the end of the day.
Yeah, I think my misses have been better. I'm driving more consistently. And I think I just understand my swing a lot better than what I used to. And I think part of that is because I went to work on that myself and I found out what I wanted to do on my own, and I asked my father-in-law for a little bit of help. I was the guy that took the time and put in the time to get the feelings the way I wanted them to and get the positions the way I wanted them so I could understand it when I'm out there playing.
So I have it pretty simplified in my mind, which in this game is a good thing. I continue to work on the same exact things that I did five years ago. I'm telling you, it's the same things. They're working, and I'm afraid to change any of them now at this point because I know they work. But yet there's always things that I feel like I can improve on.
So it's a fine line in this game, but I think I just understand it, my swing, a lot more. I understand what I'm doing out there, and I've simplified it to a point where I feel comfortable doing it.

Q. When you're paired with Tiger at an event like this, do you find yourselves kind of dragging each other up a little bit, matching shots and those kinds of things?
STEVE STRICKER: Sometimes. I mean, I played with him the last couple weeks, and he hasn't played his best. But, you know, he's still in there all the time, and you know he's very dangerous and he can be back into the tournament in a heartbeat.
You know, I don't look at me competing against him out there. I've gotten away from that, and I think that's why I'm playing a little bit better when I do play with him because I just don't try to compare anything to what he's doing. So I just try to go about my own business, talk to him, have fun with him. That relaxes me, too, just joking around with him going down the fairway or whatever, talking to him. And I think that's helped, too.
Being a friend to him and enjoying being out there with him, I think, has helped me play better with him.

Q. I want to go back to Jaime's question a minute. When you left the trailer, if you will, did you understand your swing?
STEVE STRICKER: Not that first year so much. I mean, I had -- my goal was to shorten it, shorten it and get it more on plane because I was long and across the line at the top. My goal was to shorten it and get it more on plane so I could repeat it better.
But that first year coming back, 2006, I still didn't know how I would handle the pressure and playing, and it was a process. It was a process for me to go out there, and I got some good early success right away after I came out of working at it, and it just kept building. You know, I felt like, you know, I am on the right track.
The shots weren't perfect and they're not perfect now. I still get away with some poor shots, but like I say, my misses are better. I've just progressively gotten better with the feelings that I have and the understanding of my swing, and I keep improving.

Q. Winning was big at Barclays in '07. But when you look back, can you identify the one tournament that turned the corner for you? I would imagine even if you started understanding your swing, you've still got to see results.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, there was probably a couple tournaments; one, the Houston Open in 2006. I ended up having a chance to win there. They gave me a sponsor's spot there, Steve Timms did, and I had a chance, was somewhat in contention. I think I ended up finishing 4th, I think. Played well there. Big boost of confidence.
Qualified for the U.S. Open that year. I had to go through sectional qualifying. I qualified for that. Had a great couple of rounds in the qualifier.
Got to the Open at Winged Foot, and you know, I don't know if I had a share of the lead at one time late on Saturday or middle of the round on Saturday, but in contention there and ended up finishing in the Top 10. So there were some good things along the line there that happened that I really drew a lot of confidence from knowing that I was in the right frame of mind.
And really at the U.S. Open when I was underneath the microscope a little bit more and under the pressure a little bit more, I was starting the drive the ball a little bit better. Even though I wasn't driving it as good as I am now, I started to drive it better. So I figured I'm on to some things. It was little building blocks and the confidence boost, for me just each little tournament that I played well, kept carrying forward.

Q. Just back to the idea of it feeling like a home game when you play in the area, have you given any thought to the probability of playing in the Olympics if Chicago if it came here, what that would be like?
STEVE STRICKER: Let's say, I'd be 50, I think. It's 2016?

Q. Yeah.
STEVE STRICKER: I think it would be a lot of fun. Hopefully I'm still playing the type of golf that I'm playing right now at 50. But odds are that I won't be, who knows. I think it's great. I hope that -- it has to pass one more step, doesn't it, before we go with it? Tiger and I talked about it at one time, and I know he's very excited about it.
I think it's cool just to see that it's finally going to make its way into the Olympics and golf will be a part of the Olympics.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you very much, Steve. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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