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July 7, 2010

Steve Stricker


DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome the defending champion to the John Deere Classic. Steve Stricker, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. We know you're on kind of a tight schedule, so we'll get you in and out. Just a few comments on being back here. Obviously a special week for you.
DOUG MILNE: You won already once this year and just how you're feeling going into the week.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it's always exciting to come back to a place where you've had some success, and just driving in the gates and remembering some of the shots that happened down the stretch and the way the whole week played out last year is always fun to look back at and reflect on a little bit.
Coming off a couple of weeks off, and I feel refreshed and excited to play, and looking forward to this next run that I have here starting this week, and then heading over to the British.
DOUG MILNE: Okay. Without further adieu, we'll just jump in for some questions.

Q. Steve, last year heading into this stretch, it seemed like you had raised your game to a certain level. And also, this is the reason you were able to maintain it. Do you recall what was the turning point for you in stepping it up last year?
STEVE STRICKER: I think the number of close calls that I had, I think was the reason why I got better throughout the year, I think. I had some tournaments early in the year that I didn't actually win. You know, I finished second to Phil at Northern Trust, had opportunity to win at Bob Hope. There was one other one in there, too, that I can't recall.
But had a number of opportunities to win some tournaments and didn't do it. So it kept me, I think, focused and hungry. And I had a lot of confidence, I remember. And it just I seemed to play well a lot of the times that I came out to play. So I think that was it, just the number of close calls and learning from those mistakes and gaining the confidence, you know, getting in there a number of times last year I think led to me continuing to play well throughout the year and even a little bit stronger towards the end of the year.

Q. Does that show some kind of maturity? A lot of guys that have close calls that didn't work out kind of get frustrated and fall back. But it kept you hungry?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. I have always felt that even you get into contention with an opportunity to win and maybe you don't pull it off. You learn from those mistakes, but to get in that position you must be playing some pretty good golf to start with. So I try not to look at those as a negative situation. I tried to feed off of those and tell myself that I was playing well enough to win and just tried to keep putting myself in those positions to win.

Q. Are you 100 percent healthy? Are you playing now without pain and do you feel 100 percent?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. There's no pain at all. After taking that time period off, that six weeks or whatever I had off, I came back, you know, without any problems at all. No pain, no tenderness or anything. So it's been really good.

Q. So what do you expect of yourself now?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, you know, you expect a lot of the same, you know. Hopefully get right back into contention at some of these events.
My game has kind of slowed a little bit, I feel like, the last couple of months. I haven't played a lot. I'm surely fresh and rested and ready to play. But I've been working on some things, too, and hopefully some of these things are starting to pan out and get me going in the right direction.

Q. Is it possible to be just satisfied with a year where you're ranked fourth in the world and you already have one win comparing this to last year?
STEVE STRICKER: It's -- I'm not satisfied because I continue to work at it, and that shows me that I still have the desire to compete and try to play well.
I think the difficulty becomes when you try to maintain that level for a period of time, and you know, I'm looking back and, you know, this has been going on since really end of 2006 and 2007 season where I played at a pretty high level for four years. And that's hard to do in anything.
And you know, it becomes tiring. It becomes, you know, mentally draining at times. So I think that's the hard part is trying to maintain, you know -- hat's off to Tiger and Phil who do it at a consistent level and Vijay for a period of time. But that's just seeing guys. You know, you see guys maintain a high level for a period of time and then it's hard to maintain. It just is because it's -- you put a lot of effort into it, I should say, you know, to try to get to that point and to maintain it for a period of time. And something's gotta give at some point, you know. But we're all stubborn enough where we feel like we can reach another level and keep getting better and better, and it's tough to do.

Q. Does being not satisfied mean you're not having fun or if you're having fun, you're not satisfied?
STEVE STRICKER: No. You can have fun. You know, I'm in a position in my game and in life and out here on TOUR that, you know, it's been a lot of fun. And I continue to try to get better, and I continue to try to work on things to try to achieve another level. Even though I'm getting older and it's getting harder to do, it's still fun trying to do it.

Q. Just to follow up on that, why is it hard mentally? Is it because of the grinding or because you're trying to maintain it and you lose your mental focus or is there something else? Are you tired of the travel or obligations or what goes with that?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it's a lot of things. You know, you go home and you still have to try to maintain it. You know, you can't really take two weeks off and get away from the game for that two weeks. You know, you need to be out there still trying to work on things and trying to get better.
And I think it's the mental grind of it, too, expecting a lot of yourself on a weekly basis, trying to perform at that high level each week. I think that gets to you after a while, too, but you know, that's all competition. That's all what we're out here for is to try to do things like that. So that's part of being in sports and trying to do good things.

Q. Steve, how did you balance the hunger to get back out there with, hey, I gotta rest this thing and make sure I'm really fully healed before I go out?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. It's not hard for me to stay home. (Laughs). That part of it wasn't too hard. But the part -- it got to a point where I'm like, gees, I gotta get going, you know, and it still wasn't quite ready yet.
And I was starting to get frustrated and I would start to push things and play probably a little too many holes than I should. And that was the hard part, when it got closer to the end knowing that I was going to go out in a couple weeks.
I wanted to go defend at Colonial, and you know, as it got closer to that point, you know, I started getting a little itchy trying to get out there. So at first it was nice to be home, kind of a forced vacation, you know, to step away and do things at home, but then it got a little bit more difficult as it got closer to time when I had to prepare because I started getting itchy to get out there.

Q. Steve, I think you're eighth on the Ryder Cup points. Are you looking at the points or are you not even worried about that and just concentrating on week to week?
STEVE STRICKER: No. I've been looking at them. I knew I was eighth, and I don't have that big of lead on the ninth place person there either. So yeah, I got an important stretch, and obviously the majors are even that much more important this year because it is a Ryder Cup year.
So I got a lot of good tournaments to play in and hopefully play well in them to move up that list because I'd love to be a part of that team.

Q. As far as that grinding aspect and getting mentally tired, what are some of the things you do when you're at home or when you take a short mental vacation?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. I do a lot of different things. Go ahead.

Q. Like what?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I do a lot of family things, try to do some things with my kids, took my daughter fishing last week for a couple of days. You know, just try to get away from it and not play at all and not even think about it at all.
But then you know, when that's over you realize you gotta get back to work. And that's the part. You know, you can't just disappear from it, at least I don't when I'm home. So it's still there in the back of your mind that you gotta get back to work.
But you know, just do different things. You know, I do a lot of things outside, you know, whether it's from -- I do some farm work every once in a while and just hang out with the family.

Q. When you've got a line in the water or something, are you still mentally walking that 17th fairway?
STEVE STRICKER: No. I'm not there. (Laughs).

Q. Steve, how important are majors to you at this stage in your career, and with that how much are you looking forward to the PGA coming back?
STEVE STRICKER: They haven't changed, you know, as I've gotten older. I mean they've always been very important. I'm probably a little more relaxed going into majors now than I was early on. I mean I had a hard time functioning, you know, first few years on TOUR when you got into a major.
But you know, you gotta try to take it as another tournament, even though we all know it's a little bit more important, a little bit bigger scale. But you gotta try to force yourself just to play like you do at any other event. And that's hard to do.
But it's, you know, something that I think the best players, you know, they go in there with the belief that they can play well, and they know it's important. They get their games ready for that week. But I, you know, try to just treat it as a normal event.

Q. Can you talk about we have Mike Small here. Talk about having him here.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. It's really cool. I played nine holes with him yesterday, and you know, it's cool to see a friend doing great things, and he's done a lot of great things in the short period of time there at Illinois.
So I played one of his kids out there in the practice round, Scott Langley at the U.S. Open. And not only a good golfer, but a great kid.
So it's nice to see, and Smally shot everything in perspective. He gets his time out here because he wins the club pro championship every year, it seems like, and he gets his events out here. And he's comfortable with doing what he's doing, and it's showing not only in his game when he comes here to play, but also in coaching his kids. They have a lot of respect for him.
I talked to his kids, and they love playing for him, and he's doing a great job there. He's won another Big 10 championship, so it's a lot of fun to watch and follow what he's doing.

Q. Do you have a special approach to this tournament?
STEVE STRICKER: No. Not at all. I mean that's gone. That's last year's deal, and you know, I just gotta go out and try to do the things that I normally do, and that's, you know, keep the ball in play, drive it in the fairway and hopefully make some putts.

Q. Does it help that you won?
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, yeah. No question it helps. Any time you've done well at a venue or a certain course or tournament or whatever, you have good feelings, good vibes going into that week, and you can feed off of that from previous years.

Q. To kind of reiterate, how does it feel to come back as a defending champion?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. It's always nice to come back. You know, this feels like home to me. You know, we're about three hours away, drove down. Any time you can hop in your car and drive to a tournament, it gives you a good feeling.
And you know, I went to school at Illinois, just a few hours away and close to home. So it's always nice to come back here, and especially when you've had a good tournament or two here in the past. So it's always nice to come back.
DOUG MILNE: Okay. Steve, thanks for your time.

End of FastScripts

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