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August 11, 2010

Steve Stricker


KELLY ELBIN: Wisconsin native and the fourth-ranked golfer in the world, Steve Stricker joining us at the 92nd PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
This will be Steve's 13th PGA Championship, best finish, 1998 when you finished second. Steve, you've had two wins this year at Northern Trust and John Deere, but for this week it must be awfully special to be playing a major championship in your home state.
STEVE STRICKER: It is very special, yeah, to tee it up here at a major championship, especially one that I missed back in the 2004 season. It's obviously very nice to be here and excited for the week. Hopefully the rain stays away from here on out, but yeah, very excited to be here.
KELLY ELBIN: Can you talk a little bit about the golf course? Obviously very wet out there. What you've seen from the practice rounds so far.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, we just finished playing nine holes, it's very wet, very soggy, very humid, but I think that it should drain well. Like I say, hopefully we can miss the rain. It looks like Friday rain, Saturday, but tomorrow I'm sure will be hot and humid.
But course is in great shape we just need some of that water to go away. The greens are really good. They're obviously very receptive and somewhat slow because of the rain, but overall the course is in great condition.

Q. In 2004 not being here, how tough was that on you that it was being played here and you had to watch it on TV? What was that like for you?
STEVE STRICKER: It was difficult. My game though is not in any situation to be put on display either, so I watched the tournament from home. I remember watching what happened with the playoff and everything, and but it was kind of a shot in the arm too, showing that I needed to get better and needed to put some extra work in. But it was tough watching and not being a part of it.

Q. How have things changed for you? Your game pretty much completely different than 2004, how is your feeling about your game going into this major and what do you think of your chances?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, yeah, my game has changed a lot over the last five years since the end of the 2005 season. I've seen a nice steady progression and not only my game, but my confidence level, my thinking out there on the golf course, everything is gotten a little bit better each and every year.
And it -- you always try to think that you have a chance to win a tournament, at least I do going into a tournament; but you try not to put that added extra pressure on yourself having to play well and this week is no different.
I mean, I would love to play well here, this is, to play well in front of the home fans and family and friends would be an unbelievable experience, but you can't try to do it. You just got to go about your business and take each shot each day as it comes and try not to put that added extra pressure on myself and hopefully I can do that. It's hard to do.
Especially when you're playing in front of shall here, they're rooting hard for you, there's a lot of expectations, but you just got to take a step back and try to do the things you normally do.

Q. Following up on what you were saying, have you felt any extra expectations from your friends and family because of the fact you're playing here in your home state and in view of the fact that you missed out on playing here in 2004?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah do I feel extra expectations? Yeah, I do. I feel them not only -- I think more so from myself than anything. I want to play well here. Like I do every other week I want to play well, but I really want to play well here, you know what I mean?
And there's a lot of expectations from myself I think more so than other people and you can't do that, it's hard to play golf when you expect something. So again, I'm just trying to take that step back and trying to enjoy it more than anything and I've had another good solid year and just hopefully get off to a good start tomorrow and get it rolling.

Q. Since you are here in your home state, is it more comfortable to play here or is it more pressure?
STEVE STRICKER: I think there's a little bit more pressure. Always in a major you're feeling a little bit of extra pressure, but because of those expectations, I'm feeling a little bit more pressure, I think; because you want to perform at a high level and you want to be around on the weekend and you want to be in contention coming down the stretch.
And my majors haven't been that great this year. I've made the cuts but I haven't threatened the lead or anything. So it would be a nice one to do it at.

Q. How many times have you played this course and what types of things are you trying to do to treat this like a normal major, and I'm assuming staying up around the course, are you limiting your contact with family and friends like you might do if it were to be played somewhere else?
STEVE STRICKER: I haven't played this course very much. I played it two, 18 holes prior to yesterday. I came in last Sunday and played 18 holes or a week ago Sunday, before going to Ohio, and that was my second round. And then I played nine yesterday and nine today.
So I haven't got a lot of looks at this course, as far as treating it any differently or trying to -- I'm trying to treat it the same. I came in here on Tuesday, which I normally do on a regular TOUR event, I come in on a Tuesday morning or Monday night, so I'm trying to treat it the same. We played a lot of golf last week in Ohio and just took Monday as rest day, which I normally do too. So I try to do a lot of the same things like I do every other week.

Q. Sometimes that phrase is used an expression, 'best player to not have won a major,' can be both a compliment to the player and maybe a bit of something hanging around your neck; when you hear that used in reference to you, what does it make you feel? And you've contended in a number of majors since '98, been there in that final round, what have you learned as to maybe being that key to unlock the door to winning?
STEVE STRICKER: If I knew the key hopefully I would have won by now, but I haven't had a lot of looks at trying to win a major. I've been in contention in some, not as many as I would have hoped to. If that label is put on me, I mean when you say that, I think Lee Westwood right away.
But if, you know, if it were to be said to me it's an honor, really, it tells you that you've been playing some pretty good golf and you just haven't been able to win one of the big ones, I guess.
So other than that, what was your second part of your question?

Q. About what you learned.
STEVE STRICKER: It's a little more difficult in the final round of a major. Everything's a little more intense, the pressure's a little bit greater. You need to handle that. First of all you need to get your self in that position but then you need to handle that pressure. It's a little bit tougher. And hopefully being part of these teams these last few years, the Presidents Cup Teams, the Ryder Cup Team, you get to feel that sort of Sunday pressure during those team events like you would in a major.
So hopefully the more times that I've been put in that situation and I've had some good performances in those team events and finishing off some tournaments the last couple years, hopefully I can use that to my advantage, if I were to get in contention and hopefully pull it off.

Q. In a sport where the stars seem to be skewing younger and younger, especially this year, how do you explain your career where you keep getting better and better into your 40s?
STEVE STRICKER: I like to think I'm wiser, you know, I'm definitely older and I would like to think that I've learned a lot in my years out there.
And this is my 17th year already and I've had obviously my ups and downs and I've learned a lot through both those periods. But I think that you can't replace experience. I mean, you learn a lot throughout a course of your career.
And like I say I've been out here a number of years where I've been able to experience a lot of different things and you can use those to your advantage as you go along and my game has progressed as I've gotten older; so it's been a good run and I would like to continue it.
I've still got a few more good years in, I hope, and see what I can do from here on out.

Q. With Tiger's been struggling lately; Phil's had some health issues the last couple of months; Lee Westwood is not here. Kind of go down the list, and you're next up there. Do you feel like maybe there's an opportunity there that this is a very wide-open chance at this major to take a good shot at it?
STEVE STRICKER: There's no doubt about it it's, this is probably as wide open a major as we have seen in a long time. And I still think though Tiger and Phil are going to be there come Sunday.
I mean, they played last week and not very, very good to their standards, but I imagine they will get their games going and they will be there. I have that sneaky feeling they will be there.
But other than that I think there's a number of people that could win and I think that's what's exciting about this year's major is that it is wide open, and I think that as players we all sense that too. I've talked to some other players and they have said the same thing.
So I think we all have that sense that if you can play well and get it going, then you have that great opportunity to win here.

Q. You shot that fabulous 60 at the John Deere this year, where, how can you describe where that came from an do you think a barrier with all these 59s has been broken perhaps psychologically this year?
STEVE STRICKER: As far as how that came about shooting 60 there, I was just rolling with it. I feel very comfortable on that course, I've had a number of good rounds on that course, and a 59 had already been shot, so it was like I was still trying to catch Paul that day. So I think that's what led me to continue on trying to make birdies.
As far as a barrier being broken, I still think it's a very special score to shoot. Even though lately there's been more attempts, couple guys shooting them, and a number of other guys having opportunities to do that. I still think that it's a very special score to shoot and I still think that if you were to ask those players that they're as probably as nervous as they have ever been trying to finish it off.
I think that it is maybe just a product of course conditions, at the time, you know, the rough has been a little bit limited this year, we haven't had a lot of rough, the days that these scores were shot were perfect days, the courses are in perfect shape, and guys get it on a roll and when they start thinking that they can shoot low scores and prior to Greenbrier, I heard that they thought a 59 was capable there.
So when players hear that and they start to see other low scores being shot, everybody gets kind of on the band wagon and they feel like they can do it.
So I think that -- I don't think you're going to see that happening a lot, I just think that it was just a specific little time period where people got it going for a while and the courses were open to shooting 59s and but it's still pretty cool. Still a pretty cool event that it happened.

Q. You're at home this week, but does this course feel like it's home? Have you had enough time to really gauge how it sets up for you and your game?
STEVE STRICKER: When I drive here it feels like home.
(Laughter.) I'm staying about 25 minutes away, and all I see is corn, soybeans and cows.
(Laughter.) But when I get here it doesn't feel like home at all. When you look out over the course it looks like we're overseas somewhere playing in a British Open.
So it's funny, I feel at home but yet when I get out on the course I don't. And it's a little bit different style than what we're accustomed to, hopefully I've got all the lines down that I need and I know I do, I have the spots where I need to hit it, especially off the tee.
The grasses are a little bit different than what we normally play on, we're playing out of some fescue grasses here that we normally play on like over in a British Open. So it's all a little bit different. But the fans are here and reminding me where I'm at and it's been a lot of fun these last couple of days.

Q. Knowing you're such an emotional guy, do you think if you won here you would even be able to do an interview afterwards?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think I would shed a tear here. I really don't.
(Laughter.) No, you know, I don't know. I don't like to think that far ahead. Obviously it would be an unbelievable feeling and result if I were to win here being in my home state and family and friends around. And I'm feeling so much energy from the people here I get a lot of well wishes just walking down the fairways in these practice rounds and people clapping when we come up on the green; and I played with Jerry the last couple days too, so we're getting so much support here early on, it's been really neat.

Q. How exactly did you come back from the struggles in the middle part of the decade and what were the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it was just a dedication again, trying to make it right in my mind first before getting to work. And knowing that this is really what I wanted to do for a living and I had my wife telling me that this is what I needed to do, and I figured I wasn't really capable of doing anything else and just had to put the work together.
Start hitting balls and start changing things, because what I was doing wasn't really working all that well. And I think that a lot to do with it was my attitude. I had a poor attitude going. I didn't have a lot of confidence. And I tried to change those things first and along with my swing, so I had those couple of things, my mental approach and my physical game had to change and that's what I went to work at at the end of the 2005 season beginning of 2006 and I still continue to work on the same things today as I did back then.
And that's what I think has been very helpful in my progression is that I'm still continuing to do the same things. I don't jump around to different things. I still work on basically the same things I did then. And that's what I have done, I just put in more work and more emphasis on having a better attitude while I'm out there playing.

Q. Why do you think with the economy and how great golf has been for the economy, why do you think that the annual PGA TOUR event is not around anymore and how can you do, what can you do to get it back?
STEVE STRICKER: Good question. I mean, it's just a tough time for businesses in our area to stick in a lot of money. The date that we had opposite the British Open the fee for a business to put up money for that week is a lot less than, say, a better date that's not opposite a major. And that fee is in the $7 to $9 million range, and that's a tough pill to swallow for a lot of companies, especially during this time. And we're still hopeful that we'll get one back some day.
But in the meantime, we got great events like this here, we have I think this is coming back here in' 15 again and then we have the U.S. Open in '17, we have the U.S. Amateur next year at Erin Hills. I think that the Ryder Cup is here in 2020.
So I mean, when you start looking at that, I'm not sure and I've said this before, I think to Rob, I'm not sure our area can handle two of these big sporting events in a year. And it's sad, but I'm happy that we're able to get these majors.
The support that I've seen out there from 2004 I think it was very well attended, it looks like it's very well attended so far, and I think that people will gravitate towards these other every year events a little bit more than opposite the British Open event where we weren't getting very good fields, it was tough for the top players to come there, and I think it's just a tough time during this economy for some company to stick in $7 or $9 million. I mean, we're still hopeful, we're still working on it and it maybe a Champions Tour event down the road. But for right now I think we're very blessed to have these great sporting events like these majors and other majors coming to our area.

Q. Speaking of Erin Hills I was out there the other day, what do you think of the course, does it compare much to this place, with the exception of Lake Michigan and apparently you made some suggestions about the ninth green; can you talk about that a little bit?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I played it a couple times. I'm a friend of Bob Lang's, the previous owner, and it's somewhat similar to this, but it doesn't have obviously the like there. But it's got its own beauty there. You're out in the middle of farm country, basically, and it's got its own natural beauty. So it reminds me -- some of the holes remind me of Shinnecock hills out on Long Island to tell you the truth.
But it's a great piece of ground. The course is great. I think that -- I walked around there a couple years ago with the USGA and Bob Lang and we went around and they asked for some suggestions and we talked about what would have to be done I think for as a player's standpoint for the U.S. Open to come there, and I think that they made some of those changes.
So, yeah, I think it's very exciting that it's going to be there and I think it's going to be a great venue for it. It's got a lot of space for everybody to be and it should be good.

Q. The ninth green, they expanded that green, the downhill par 3?
STEVE STRICKER: Downhill par 3? That's the extra hole. Yeah, yeah. They took away the blind one, right.
And then, yeah, I don't know. I haven't seen the changes since they have done it. Like I say, it's been two years since I've opinion there. But I know they shaped I think back of number 10 too I think was supposed to get done. And flattened out a little bit.
So there's a lot of changes, a lot of money that had to be put into it again and I'm happy for Bob, I think it's, it was his vision and his goal to get the U.S. Open and it came. So I'm more happy that Bob got his dream.

Q. Just a follow-up on the major question. And this might be another one you don't really know the answer to, but you've been playing at a high level for a number of years now, what do you think has held you back from wining a major?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. I don't know. I don't try to put any extra pressure on myself, even though there is some, I guess. I really don't know. I guess I've had some tournaments where I have gotten up around the lead, nothing really with a legitimate chance to win, I wouldn't think, but I had some Top-10s along the way, but nothing real significant. Good question.
If I -- obviously I want to play well in them just like I do every other week and maybe it's just that added extra little pressure that I put on myself that's holding me back, I don't know.

Q. Like a lot of other American players this week Tiger has one more event remaining to become an automatic place on the U.S. team for The Ryder Cup. I know you enjoy playing with him last year at The Presidents Cup, can you talk about what attributes he brings to the team environment apart from being the world's best player?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, he brings a lot of things. He brings his desire to win. And that feeds off of everybody. And I know it did with me when I played with him in that Presidents Cup. I mean there isn't a guy that wants to win more than he does. Some of the things that he was saying to me down the stretch of one of those matches at The Presidents Cup he's got a strong belief and desire to win and he believe it or not, he's a great guy to be around.
The reports that come out aren't really fair; that he's not a team player; that he's not there. He is there. He does, we're all in this together, he's there playing ping-pong with us. He's around; everybody's around.
So sometimes I think he gets kind of the bad rap for not being a team player, and I think that vice versa, I think he leads by example more than anything. I think he wants to win very badly. I enjoy being around him. I know other guys look up to him and enjoy being around him. So I think he brings a lot.

Q. How many family and friends are you going to have out here this week, and can you talk about what the Stricker's Soldiers, the shirts are that kids have been wearing around the last couple days?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I saw that. I think they're from Steve Howe, who is a club pro in the Wisconsin area here and I think that's where they came from. I talked to a couple of the kids and signed a couple of the shirts. Which is pretty cool to see some that have stuff going on. Like I say, I don't get that at any other TOUR event ever, so it's pretty neat to see.
And I'm not sure how many family members. I got a bunch of tickets, I got about 50 tickets that I put at will call, and I didn't realize --- The PGA has been great. They came up to me before the tournament and they said, you know, whatever you need we'll give you, which, you know, is pretty nice to hear that they will give you whatever tickets you needed.
So in the meantime I told a lot of people that I didn't know if I could get a lot of tickets, but I was able to accommodate quite a few family and friends and they will all be here. It will be nice.

Q. There's a discussion about the possibility of the Ryder Cup players having to pay taxes in Europe. Are you aware of that and if so, do you have any thoughts on that?
STEVE STRICKER: I was not aware of it, no. And you know, we pay taxes every where else. I'm surprised that we haven't been taxed before there already, I'm sure we have, but I wouldn't doubt that we would be taxed there too.
KELLY ELBIN: Steve Stricker off at 1:15 tomorrow with Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott. Thank you.

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