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February 7, 2010

Steve Stricker


DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome the 2010 Northern Trust Open Champion Steve Stricker. Steve, very well done.
DOUG MILNE: 1-under 70, easily enough to get the job done. With this win you take over the No. 2 spot in the World Ranking, move to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings. So just comments on the week overall and the victory.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, obviously it was a very special week. After sitting here after, we know what transpired and all this. But it was a tough day. It was a grind. I knew it would be. I knew it would be hard.
You find yourself playing a little differently than you normally do when you have that sort of lead, and I've made had one other lead like that back in '96. It was so long ago I couldn't really remember how I handled it.
You know, it's just difficult playing with that sort of lead, and it was tough, and a lot of guys were making birdies and applying the pressure; one of them right in my group, Luke Donald, he played great.
I'm just happier than heck to be here and be the champion.

Q. You seemed pretty emotional out there on the course when you were talking to Roger. Is it just winning, is it this tournament? Is it the effort?
STEVE STRICKER: You don't know me very well then, do you? That's a common thread for me. I tell myself every time I'm not going to cry, and maybe it's seeing Roger that makes me cry. (Laughter.)
I don't know, it means a lot. I work hard at this, and when it finally -- you pour everything into it for 72 holes, and there's a lot of emotions through the course of the round, and I typically don't show any emotion. So I think it's just the ending of it all and finally coming out on top that I lose it.

Q. Besides the winning of any tournament, what does this specific one mean because of its history?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, it means a lot. I'm in that locker room and you look at some of the old photos of previous champions here and a great old course that has produced those champions, it means a lot to be a part of it and to have my name on there. Yeah, I don't know what else to say. But it means a lot, and it won't -- I'll never forget it, obviously. It was just a special week.
I knew some good things were happening throughout the week. I didn't know if I was going to win the tournament, but some kind of magical things were happening along the way. I chipped in a bunch and I putted good, and I just was able to hang on this last 18.

Q. When you talk about the number of emotions you feel, was one of them the feeling that you could do nothing but fail given that everyone had pretty much thought you were going to win?
STEVE STRICKER: No question, and I knew that coming out before I started. The position I was in was -- it was a good one. I mean, a six-shot lead. But no matter -- if I don't win the tournament, you're going to be looked upon as the guy that didn't finish it off. Those thoughts run through your head, and the guys from behind, they have nothing to lose, and I knew that, too. They'd be firing at the flags.
Here I go out there and I'm playing pretty cautiously, and it started really at the first hole where I hit a 4-iron where it probably should have been a 5-iron, and I just tried to take the bunker out of play and hit it on the back of the green. Well, I went through the green and didn't get it up-and-down.

Q. Trying not to make a mistake there?
STEVE STRICKER: Exactly. That's the way I kind of started the round was trying not to make a mistake, and that's tough to play that way. That round seemed to last forever. It just was very difficult. It's much easier coming from behind and trying to apply the pressure than it is to try to hang onto a lead.

Q. Secondly, where do you consider kind of the swing holes for you today? The birdie at 8, but were there other spots?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, 8 and 9 were huge. Those are typically not birdie holes, and to make 3s there was a huge lift. And then really the par-saving putt at 15. You know, I didn't hit a very good 4-iron in there, and I struggled with my swing at times today and didn't hit a very good 4-iron in there and had a very difficult chip. But I made a great putt and a great save there, and I think that was really the -- my father-in-law always says there's a defining moment when you're going to win a golf tournament, and I think that was it right there. It allowed me to keep a three-shot lead going into the last three holes.

Q. On 10, was that your intended line where you laid up, or was that a mistake?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I played --

Q. That's where you play it for that hole location?
STEVE STRICKER: I would have rather have been a little further to the left where Luke was over there. The mistake was, and I did it in I think it was the pro-am round, too, they had the same pin location and I flew it past the pin there and it rolled down in that chipping area and I did the same thing today. I told myself not to do it, and I did it again.
You know, it was just testy situations all day today, and it's a course where if you get behind a little bit, it's tough to make up. All the other three days I was always ahead of the game. I was in a comfortable position where I was shooting some pretty good scores, and it freed me up to keep going.
And today I never really got that free. Being in that position, being the leader, I just never really felt that comfortable and really didn't feel that loose and free out there today.

Q. In 2005 you slipped to 337 in the world, and now you're No. 2. What does that rise mean?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, it shows that I never really set that goal when I was 337th. But I did set goals to win again and just to work harder at my game, and to be in this position now is truly unbelievable. I would have never have dreamt -- I think if I would have set this goal back about six years ago, if I would have told anybody they would have said you're crazy. But I put a lot of hard work into it. You know, it just means a lot. I don't know what else to say, but I continue to do the things that I do. I put the time in. I've got a great family at home that supports what I do and allows me to work at it hard.

Q. You came close last year and came up a little short. How much did that make you this year kind of be able to get over the hump and win it this year?
STEVE STRICKER: I thought about it at times today. I think not winning it last year helped me last year, and even this year, I guess, looking back at it I learned from those mistakes I made coming down the stretch last year.
You know, you put them in your memory bank, I guess, and you look back at them and make sure that you try not to do the same things. But I was in a position today that was unfamiliar to me, just like Dougie said, in a position not to make mistakes, and that's very hard to do and hard to play that way.
So it was a different challenge from last year, but again, I learned a lot from last year, and I think it is helping me today and allowed me to do what I did out there coming in.

Q. You mentioned a minute ago about putting the time in. Were you not putting the time in back during that stretch, or could you just --
STEVE STRICKER: I think it was my focus. I knew that's where I had to find my game was I knew my putting would always be there, I knew my short game was there, I just needed to start driving it better. I went to work on my swing at that time, but I think prior to that, I think I was kind of -- I don't know how to say it. I would work at it, but I don't know if I worked at it with a purpose. I think I just went through the motions, and I just really never had a purpose.
You know, I went to Tour school in 2005 and I didn't make it, and it was a reality check. It was a humbling experience, and I just decided I needed to bear down and fix a couple things that were really bothering me, and I took it upon myself really to do that. I think that was really the turnaround is when I determined myself, like I didn't listen to anybody else, I didn't listen to psychologists or my swing coach or anybody else, it was me who decided what I needed to do and what needed to be fixed. And I think once I took hold of that responsibility on my own, I think that's when it started to turn.

Q. If you hadn't had that finish this morning with the birdies and gotten yourself into that lead, do you think if you would have only had a two-shot lead or a three-shot lead, would your approach then have actually been different in your own mind?
STEVE STRICKER: I think so. Yeah, I think I would have actually been a little bit more aggressive. I knew when I was getting that lead, five or six shots, I knew it was going to be hard. But I said, let's just keep going. Let's just try to get more under. But I knew -- I bogeyed 18, which was fine. My goal coming out this morning for those four holes was to get one more birdie on the way in, and I got two but then bogeyed 18. So I still accomplished my goal. But I just knew it was going to be hard.
But you're right. If I would have had a two-shot lead or a one-shot lead you go out there with a totally different approach than a six-shot lead. I don't know how to put it, it was just hard. You're just playing a different game than what you normally play. You play scared, at least I did there for a while. You know, I was just playing defenseless all the way around.

Q. Was that second shot at 8 and the putt afterwards the point at which you stopped playing not to lose and started playing to win?
STEVE STRICKER: Yep. I told Jimmy we've got to start hitting at some flags here. That's what I did all week long, and the first seven holes I'm just trying to get it on the green at 30 feet and two-putt for my par and get out of there and not try to short-side myself or make a mistake. From that point on, it got a little bit better.
But then ran into some more problems when I have a four shot-lead with about five holes to play, now you're back in the same position again just making sure you make pars so you don't let anybody else in the game. So it was a challenge to say the least. It was difficult.

Q. Two things: Do you have a Super Bowl pick? And do you have any memories of Jerry West as you watched him play basketball at all when you were growing up?
STEVE STRICKER: I did not. Obviously I know who Jerry West is, and I've run across his path a couple other times prior to this week, and he's always been an outstanding gentleman, and we're very fortunate to have him as our executive director here for the Northern Trust tournament. He's only going to add credibility and his involvement means a lot, not only to the TOUR but to the area. Like I said, it can't be any better than having Jerry West here as part of this tournament.
And as far as the Super Bowl goes, I really don't care. I wanted to see the Vikings in there because I wanted to see Favre in there again. But I kind of hope the Saints win just because of what the city has gone through, and I think it would be pretty cool down there for that area.

Q. So you're for Favre over the Packers?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm actually a Bears fan. I kind of liked when Favre was sticking it to the Packers.

Q. Are you going to Pebble this week?

Q. Is one of the reasons because of the fact that it's not really a test for what it's going to be like at the Open, or no?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know, it could be totally -- it could be soft and wet this week. It could be soft and wet when we go back there for the Open, too, who knows. But I've played there enough where I don't feel like I need to go there for that reason alone. I just don't care to go up there and fight with that weather too much.
It's sad. I mean, they've got a great place, a great venue for the tournament, and if it was in the fall or somewhere else, I think it would be a better date. But I'm not going.

Q. You'd rather go home to Wisconsin and hit balls?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's much nicer there. (Laughter.)

Q. Do you allow yourself to think about trying to get to No. 1? You've been No. 2 before. Does the circumstance of this season change at all if that's a goal?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't allow that. We all know who the best player in the world is, and I went down that road when he came out on TOUR. I tried to compare my game to his back in '96 or '97, I guess, and it's just -- he's just -- there was no comparison for my game to his back then. You know, he does what he does, and I do the things that I do, and that's what I've gotten down to is I just try to do what I'm good at, and that's sometimes not the flashiest thing in the world. It may be grinding it out, making putts or getting it up-and-down, but it's my way, it's my style, I guess.
But no, I mean, we all know who the best player in the world is, and I'll just continue to do what I do, and that's practice hard and work at it and try to improve. I'm not saying that I'm going to just not try to work at it anymore, but just continue to do the things that I do when I'm trying to -- and that's to try to get better. That's all I can ask.

Q. Two questions: Now that you're No. 2, you're the No. 1 best player in the world that's actually playing right now. Do you feel like there's any added pressure or responsibility maybe outside for you to do more, to win more?
STEVE STRICKER: No. You know, I don't. I was asked that question earlier. I mean, I always put pressure on myself to play well, and I think that's the most pressure anybody can deal with. I'm the guy who's got to answer to myself, and I just know that there's expectations from outside people. But I still -- I don't worry about that. I've been around here long enough where you just kind of let that slide off your back.
But I still have a lot of expectations, and I still want to do a lot of things in golf. I turn 43 this month, but I still think I've got a lot of good golf left, and it's a Ryder Cup year, there's majors to be won, and I would love to have the opportunity to try to get in contention at a major and try to see if I could win one down the stretch.

Q. How many people do you think would recognize you at a Laker game now?
STEVE STRICKER: Two. (Laughter.)

Q. Kind of two completely different questions. What was the most -- I don't know if nervous was the right word. Do you remember what the most afraid was you felt out there today, the most scared, at what point in the round?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, probably there was a couple spots. Probably in that -- when I made bogey at 4, and Luke was I think about three behind me there. That little stretch in there, 4, 5, 6, and I knew 7, 8 and 9 are pretty good holes. That little stretch in there after I made bogey at 4, I felt a little nervousness there.
And then again Luke stuffed it in there at 13, and I had just put a horrible swing on it at 12 and really not that good a one at 13, that little stretch there. But getting it up-and-down at 13 was huge, and then that putt at 15 was also big.
But when he stuffed it in there at 13, I knew I was going to have to play hard coming in.

Q. And secondly, you've never been mentioned as being the best player to have never won a major. Why is that? There's probably no avoiding it now.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I don't know, there's a lot of other good players that have not won majors. Sergio hasn't won one, Lee Westwood I know is looking for one. There's a lot of other great players that have not won a major, and it's hard to do. You only get four cracks at it a year, and there's definitely a higher intensity at those majors. The nervousness level is up. Everything about it is to another extreme. So it's difficult to do.

Q. You've heard that label for years, and as I said, it's probably going to find its way to you before too long. Do you see it as a compliment or as a burden?
STEVE STRICKER: I see it as a compliment, I would think. Can I be done there? (Laughter.)
I don't know where I'm going with it.

Q. Do you feel like your comeback is complete?
STEVE STRICKER: That's a good question. I don't know. You know, one of my goals trying to come back was to obviously get my game in order and to win again, and I've done that. I hate to say the word complete because I feel like I still have things to do. I came back from one part of my career that wasn't so good to where I'm at now. But I still want to continue on. I don't want to quit what I'm doing, and I still work very hard at it. When I go home, I work just as hard as I did back in 2000, at the end of 2005 and 2006 season. It's not like I'm resting on my of any laurels that I've done lately.
I don't know, it's a good question, but I still feel like I can do some more things in golf. I keep surprising myself I guess is the biggest thing. As long as I keep doing that and surprising myself and working hard at it, it's been a great ride the last four years, so I can hopefully continue.
DOUG MILNE: Lastly if you wouldn't mind just taking us through the birdies and giving us some clubs and yards.
STEVE STRICKER: No. 8 was 141-yard 9-iron to about eight feet.
No. 9 was a 7-iron. I think we had 157 to about 10 or 12 feet.
And then No. 11 was a sand wedge from 102 yards to about 15 feet.

Q. Just for the record, this makes you eligible for the fourth World Golf Championship, the HSBC. Any thoughts?
STEVE STRICKER: Can we be done there?
DOUG MILNE: Congratulations, Steve.

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