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June 15, 2010

Steve Stricker


BETH MURRISON: Good afternoon, again, from the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. We're honored to be joined by Steve Stricker. Steve, you're playing in your 15th U.S. Open, you played in 2000 here at Pebble Beach. And tied for 27th. Can you talk a little bit about being back at Pebble Beach and what it means to have the U.S. Open here playing again?
STEVE STRICKER: Sure. It's great to be back. This is one of the courses that there's been some great history at with Watson winning here and Nicklaus winning here and then Tiger doing what he did back in 2000. So it's got a lot of history and a lot of good history and it's great to be back.
The course is in great shape. It seems to be set up very fair too. The fairways are probably a touch wider than what we have seen at other U.S. Opens. The greens are getting firmer every day, a little faster every day, and the weather looks like it's going to continue to be like this every day. So it doesn't look like weather should play a part in it. And everything looks good for the week ahead.

Q. What is it about your demeanor that enables you to be such an effective player in the U.S. Open and have such a good record in the U.S. Open? What is it about your personality or game that lends itself to that?
STEVE STRICKER: I think first of all you've got to have patience when you come and play in a U.S. Open. You have to realize that you're going to miss shots and be in positions where it's almost going to be impossible to get it up-and-down. So first of all you need to have patience.
And I think you need to have a good short game. You're going to hit it in the rough, you're going to have to lay it up short of the greens at times, and then it forces you to get it up-and-down. And it's kind of a grind it out type of tournament.
So you just need to have that patience and be prepared for the worst to happen at times and take your lumps, try not to make doubles, because it's very hard to come back from double bogeys and just limit your mistakes as much as you can and keep moving on.

Q. Do you see anyone reaching double digits under par this week and if not why not?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think so. I think the greens are going to be very, very firm. They have gotten progressively firmer every day. The type of weather we're having lends itself to getting them dry, I think. We have got some wind, there's not -- we haven't had any rain to speak of. The course is in great shape. But I just think that the greens are such that they're small enough and going to be firm enough where it's going to be difficult to get the ball close to the holes and even though it's short at times, there's still enough good holes out there where you have to pay attention and try not to make mistakes. But I just think the firmness of the greens are going to stop the scoring from being real low.

Q. Secondly, you mentioned the history here. And I'm curious if you ever get to 17, do you find yourself talking more about Nicklaus on the tee or Watson when you get around the green?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I always -- it's like two-fold, because you - when you're the sitting there hitting that tee shot, you look over there to the left I always remember seeing that shot on TV that Nicklaus hit the pin with I think it was a 1-iron or 2-iron? 1-iron? 1-iron.
And then when you get up on the green, I mean it's nine times out of ten I'll look over there in that spot where he chipped in from. So you remember both those shots, at least I do, equally, and remember how all that took place and how Watson was holding off Nicklaus coming down the stretch there and I think Jack had a couple shot lead, I think, going into 17 and then stiffing it to make birdie. So yeah, I always remember both those shots at that hole.

Q. Which was better?
STEVE STRICKER: Which one is better? I don't know. I think Watson, because he called it. He said he was going to chip it in. And I've read what Jack has said about his 1-iron and he really didn't like the way he took it back he said, which is, which is, you know, pretty amazing when you think about it that he actually remembered how he took it back and how he had to compensate on the way through to hit the shot. So pretty cool situation both of them.

Q. I think the world wants to know what did you order at Denny's the other morning for breakfast?
STEVE STRICKER: Were you there too?

Q. I was.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you were the one I saw there. That's right. I had an omelette. It was good too.

Q. Is it nice to be one of the top three or four golfers in the world and to still be able to go out and eat at Denny's and do whatever you want?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's, obviously it's nice to be arranged up there as high as I am and it's been a great run over the last four or five years, and I live pretty much in anonymity, not a lot of people recognize me. I can -- so I got the best of both worlds, really. I hate to be in some of these other guys' shoes where they can't even go out, but, yeah, it's nice. It really is.

Q. Did you play with Scott Langley today?

Q. Had you met him before? I was just curious what you thought of his game and his demeanor?
STEVE STRICKER: Great kid. I have met him before too. I do a fund raiser down at Illinois and I've been able to see him there over the last year or two. So I was looking forward to meeting up with him today and obviously he's riding high from winning the NCAA and first of all he's a great kid.
And secondly, he has got a great game. He looks very consistent. What I really like about him is that he looks like he's a great putter. He made some good putts today. Him and I teamed up against Leonard and Verplank and we ended up clipping them. So that was good.
But really the kid is a really nice kid. And his game is strong. I'm happy for him. He's going to be busy. I talked about it with his schedule this year, he's going to be all over playing in big amateur tournaments, he's going next week over to Ireland, so he's fired up. It looks like he's playing a lot of confidence too. It's nice to see.

Q. If you go to Denny's shouldn't you have the Grand Slam breakfast?
STEVE STRICKER: No pancakes, no bread, can't be eating that stuff.

Q. Two things. One, given the firmness of the greens, which holes do you see as being really the most difficult as far as how much carry you're going to have to take hitting into maybe 9 or 14 or maybe you could expand on that.
STEVE STRICKER: 12, first of all. That was a tough hole back in 2000, if I remember right. I don't remember trying to or even trying to hold that green, were you trying to hit it in a spot where you could get it up-and-down from an very few guys were able to hold that green back in 2000 and I kind of see that happening again this year.
The green's not very deep, you're hitting downhill with a long iron and it's just tough to stop it there. So there's going to be a couple of -- 9s going to be a tough one to stop. 17 could be a tough one to get in the correct little spot there. Depends where the wind is, obviously. But there's a few holes out there that it's going to be difficult to stop the ball on the greens.

Q. Secondly, Phil was in earlier and of course he set a record that maybe not a lot of people would be really happy about which is five runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open. You finished runner-up in a Major before and probably know what that's like. Your satisfaction of being close but disappointed that you didn't win. I'm wondering if maybe you had a perspective of what he might be feeling of five in this event and how do you approach that type of a situation?
STEVE STRICKER: Sure. Well I haven't been in his situation where he's finished runner-up here in the U.S. Open five times. But it's got to be somewhat bittersweet. Knowing that he plays well in this type of event and probably one of the toughest tests we face all year long. And to come that close five times. And the one, really, you know, at Winged Foot has got to bite him the most. I'm sure that it disappoints him the most. But he's won Majors, he's won three of them. He probably sees them as huge disappointments, even though you're that close. But on the other hand you got to -- I would think you would have to try to take something positive away from those events, finishing second, playing well for the week, but just coming up just a little bit short. But it's kind of bittersweet, I think.

Q. Tiger dominated here 10 years ago, he's been a heavy favorite just about every year since in this event, but maybe not so much this year. Do you have a different feel or do you get a sense that there's a different feel among players that it's anybody's ball game nature to this tournament that's absent when a dominant Tiger's in the field?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think that -- well I think always these tournaments are wide open. Obviously Tiger's going to be there, Phil's going to be there, but other than those two guy, I think that it's wide open. I think anybody can get it going for the week. I think the fields are so talented and so deep that there's a number of guys that could jump up and win the tournament. So I've always felt that way and I think a lot of players have felt that way. But knowing in the back of your mind that those two guys will probably be there in the end.

Q. Is there just a different feel as a player when you're in contention in a tournament that Tiger's also in contention in?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't think so. It hasn't happened it me a lot where you're up there in the same tournament as Tiger. But in contention, whether who is there or not, I think is the same. At least it is for me. The nerves are the same whether you're playing against Tiger or anybody else. So you've still got to execute the shots, you've still got to be in your own little world. I think that's the most important thing that I learned over the years and when I was younger when I did get up in contention or just playing with Tiger. I was out of my element, out of my own little world. So I've gotten to learn that over the years and you've just got to be in your own little space and worry about what you're doing and not worry about what the other guys are doing in your group or around you.

Q. Anyone recognize you at Denny's first of all?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah he did.

Q. Any non-press people?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, there was some other people there, but I think they were volunteers in the tournament.

Q. More importantly, is there any detriment to being a veteran in the U.S. Open where you might be hesitant because you've been around so long that you might -- is there a chance that you might know a course too well I guess is what I'm trying to say?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think so. All the experience that I've had in U.S. Opens I can look back at and take as things that I can learn from going into this week. And I think the more that you play in Major tournaments, whether it's the U.S. Open, the Masters, whatever, the PGA, you can draw on those past experiences.
We rotate around these courses so much that although I still remember some of the shots I hit back here in 2000, a lot of them are out of your mind. It's a little tougher when you go each year to the same course, whether you played well there or if you played poorly in the past, a lot of those shots seem to creep into your mind. But here it's been 10 years since we have been here, so it's kind of a fresh new beginning here this week and so you can draw on all the past experiences from previous Opens, really.

Q. You've expressed some concern about your iron game at different points this year, how is that right now shaping up especially given the small targets you're hitting into this week?
STEVE STRICKER: I would say it's mediocre. I haven't had great practice sessions the last couple of days. It was a little bit better on the range today. But I keep telling myself it's only Tuesday. We have got one more day and I would rather start hitting it better as we got closer to the tournament and not really worry about too much how I'm hitting it in the practice rounds. And that's one thing I learned over the years too is not to really fret over it. And that's what I've gotten better at is just being more patient, and I could come out Thursday and start ripping it and it's just such an up-in-the-air thing sometimes with this golf. So I don't put much stock into how I play the practice rounds anymore and just try to learn the course and figure out what I'm going to hit off the tees and go on.

Q. Did you have a shoulder injury that you were dealing with recently?

Q. What was that?
STEVE STRICKER: It was an SC joint, right where the sternum meets the clavicle. And I was out for about six weeks, tried to play New Orleans and didn't make it there. So I missed from -- I played Augusta and then my next event was at Colonial and everything's good now.

Q. Had you had how did that occur?
STEVE STRICKER: Don't know. Don't know how that occurred. I really don't know. Just progressively got worse leading up to New Orleans and I tried to go there and couldn't do it.

Q. Given your ranking and your record do you think you should be one of the favorites this week?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. I like to think that I'm going to be around come Sunday. I hate to look at it and put that added extra pressure on myself. I just, you know, like I said, I learned a lot and I just like to go out and do my own little thing and take each hole as it comes and try not to put anything in my mind about results. The final ending. And just try to take it as it comes and play each hole as it comes, each shot as it comes and add them all up at the end.

Q. Some of the U.S. Open golf courses all being really challenging and hard, big rough, we hear about that, but for example Oakmont or Torrey Pines, the length seemed like it was also a major factor but here not nearly as much. Do you think that sort of sets up a little bit better that this U.S. Open even is a better opportunity for somebody like yourself or Zach where you don't rely on length off the tee to be sort of the weapon of choice for you?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah I do. I think it brings a lot more players into the equation. And like I said, the fairways are fairly wide. But I also think that plays into some of these longer hitters' hands too. And that's why I think there's a number of people that can win because the longer hitters they can even take less off the tee.
Like No. 9 today we hit driver and there's probably going to be guys that are just going to hit 3-wood down there and then probably they will just be down there just as far as our driver. So I think that guys that aren't driving it well, all of a sudden they can take the driver right out of the bag almost. There's holes that you don't even need -- that you can get away with hitting 3-woods on. So I think that's what's going to be very interesting about this tournament is that it's going to bring a whole array of players into the game. Different types of styles of players that I think are going to be able to compete here.
BETH MURRISON: Steve, thanks so much for joining us today. We wish you well this week.

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