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September 21, 2010

Steve Stricker


JOHN BUSH: Steve Stricker joins us in the interview room here at the TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. He enters the week No. 4 in the FedExCup standings with top 10 finishes in the first three playoff events. Steve, just a continuation of excellent play for you in the month of September. Just comment a little bit about the road here to Atlanta and then also your goals for the week.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, excited to be here. Obviously a lot riding on the line this week with the tournament up for grabs, the FedExCup up for grabs. It should be exciting. You know, it's pretty much a shootout. There's a lot of guys -- obviously the top 5 can control their own destiny. But I think even other than that, you can go down to maybe even 12th, 13th, 14th, maybe even a little higher, that could win it all. A lot of excitement and looking forward to it.
It's been a good stretch for me the last three weeks. Played well, finished in the top 10, and obviously the goal to start all this was to win the FedExCup. So I put myself in that position and I need one more good week.

Q. You mentioned everything up for grabs. Potentially with a win, No. 1 might be up for grabs, Player of the Year is up for grabs. Can you think of a week with more on the line than this one?
STEVE STRICKER: Except for next week maybe. (Laughter.)
No, you're right. There is a lot up for grabs, and I hadn't thought about that other stuff. But the main goal this week is obviously just to play well here and get a chance to win that FedExCup. Like I say, there's a bunch of guys that can win, not only the top 5, but if one of us in the top 5 don't end up winning, it opens up the door for guys further down the list. Yeah, you've just got to play well, and that's what these next couple weeks are about.
You know, obviously my eye is here this week, but also in the back of my mind trying to get ready for next week, as well.

Q. You've played 15 FedExCup events. You've won two, you've had eight other top 10s. Is it just that time of the year, or is it the FedExCup and the money, or do you have any idea why you play so well in them?
STEVE STRICKER: I feel like it's just a continuation of my years that I've played. When the FedExCup started is basically when I started playing well. I've played well each of these last four years, and I've kind of continued that play all the way into the fall, and I've had some successes on the courses that we've been at. So I go to each one of these events knowing that I've played well there in the past and feel comfortable going there, and I feel good about my game, and I know the end of the season is right around the corner. It's a good time of year for me. So I'm excited about playing golf, and that's, I think, a lot to do with it, too. Your mind is -- I don't want to say fresh, but I'm just excited. There's a lot rolling, a lot on the line, and I know that in a couple weeks, I can put the clubs away for about six or eight weeks. So there's a lot of motivation there.

Q. You mentioned that your resurgence has sort of mirrored the history of the FedExCup. It's got enough age on it now that we can pretty much have a report card. What is your assessment at this point of the FedExCup and its history? Success? Not a success? And what are the best and worst things about it?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it's been a success. I think it's done what it was set out to do, and that's to gain more interest in our sport during a time period where our interests kind of went away a little bit because of the start of football season and college and the NFL. And I think we still get a lot of media, we still get a lot of exposure because of the FedExCup, and it gains -- we have some interest later into the season, where at the PGA it usually stops. So I think in that regard, it's good. And it's been good for the players. We're playing -- who can complain about playing for the type of money that we're playing for?
So all that said, I think it's been a good thing. But on the other hand, I think the point system quite isn't right yet, and I think we're going to address that again at the end of the year. No matter what point system we come up with, I think you're going to have issues or circumstances that are going to jump out and not seem quite right. And we've had it -- you know, even the last couple years. I think if we can keep tweaking it where it's a little bit -- I don't know what the correct word is, but to represent more of a guy who plays well all year long, but he still needs to play well in the FedExCup to win it all.
Right now every shot doesn't matter. You could finish 120-something on the list and still win the FedExCup. I think we need to do a little bit better job of having a guy who plays well all year long, still kind of staying in there towards the end, but give a guy a chance maybe further down the list if he wins a couple of these playoff events that he could actually win it all. I think it's a fine line there no matter what you do.

Q. One quick follow-up. If you ask any fan who's going to show up today, as much as they like the FedExCup and enjoy this event, none of them are going to put it on par with a major. Do the players feel the same way? Where does this rank? How many FedExCups equal a major?
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, I don't know. I don't think it's looked at as important as a major yet. Maybe some day it will if we continue on with it. I know if you ask any one of these 30 players here if they want to win it, I guarantee the answer is yes. Obviously there's a lot of money at stake. But it signifies that you played well, and I think that's the bottom line. I think it would be a feather in anybody's cap to hoist that FedExCup Trophy at the end of it all. It's something more for us to play for. There's, like I say, a lot to play for, and I think it adds excitement for us and fans alike.

Q. When did you get so long-winded?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I know, I kind of rambled there, didn't I?

Q. I think you had close to $9 million career earnings when you came out of that slump. Is it kind of hard to get your hands around the value of $10 million?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it is. I mean, it's really unbelievable that we're playing for that type of money, to tell you the truth. Basically one tournament -- it's not winner take all, but it's --

Q. It'll feel that way.
STEVE STRICKER: It will feel that way, especially for the guys in the top 5 or top 10. So yeah, it's a little bizarre, and we're fortunate enough to be playing for that, I think.

Q. And secondly, was there ever a time in the last four off-seasons when you started to play nicely again that you were afraid that you'd start the next year and not have it?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. I mean, every year. Every year that I've been on TOUR, you have that -- a little bit of doubt how you're going to come out of the off-season, and I think that's just normal. You get another year older, so there's certain things that I try to do during that off-season to try to prevent that, and that's stay in tune with the game still, pick up a club every now and then when I'm not actually playing and practice a little bit and work out a little bit -- you're looking at me like I'm lying. But really, you've got to -- I'm getting older, so you've got to try to do things a little bit more and keep in tune with the game.

Q. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but looking ahead to next week, it seems in a lot of people's minds it's a foregone conclusion that because of the success you and Tiger had last year at the Presidents Cup that you're going to be paired together again. Do you have any insight or thoughts on that?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, it would be nice to play with him again. I don't know if it's going to happen yet. I think Corey is still trying to figure all that stuff out, and we'll know more when we get over there next week, I think.
But yeah, obviously we hit it off well last year at the Presidents Cup. We both want to play with each other, and now it's up to Corey to put us together. And if we are put together, you know, if we can continue that, what we had going last year, that's going to be hard to do. It's over there, it's going to be tough conditions, tough circumstances with us being over there on foreign soil. So hopefully we get the opportunity, though.

Q. Did you feel a chemistry last year, or was it just one of those weeks that you guys just played great together?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I felt like we had a great chemistry. Leading up to the Presidents Cup last year, we played like the last five tournaments together or five out of six tournaments together, so we had played a bunch together. You know, we developed a pretty good friendship, and just being with each other all the time made us very comfortable with one another, and it carried right into The Presidents Cup, and we had a ball. It was a lot of fun. We played well.
You know, I think the whole thing just being comfortable with one another, no matter who your partner is, and we were with each other.

Q. A little while ago you were talking about tweaks to the system, and although this really isn't the FedExCup's fault, one of the knocks has been that guys who make it here get into the first three majors next year and a couple who have made it here really didn't -- they had maybe one good week in the Playoffs. Just curious, are you okay with that, with guys getting rewarded to that extent? Again, it's not really the FedExCup's fault.
STEVE STRICKER: No, it's not -- it's the points system, I guess, lends itself to that, and I think that's what people are realizing, not only the TOUR but some players, that there's so much riding on finishing in the top 30 that -- like getting into the majors and all that, that it takes more than -- it should take more than just one good week, I guess. And nothing against the guys that have done it. It's really looking at the position where they came from.
If they're outside the top 100, should the guy who had a top 5 be in the top 30? I don't know if that's really right. Should the guy maybe win one and finish in the top 10 again if he's outside the top 100? Maybe. He's got to play a couple more good ones than just one. So I think maybe that's what everybody is seeing.
And I think because of the fact that there's so much riding on getting into the top 30 and getting into the majors and all that, that that's why we're looking at it.

Q. You've talked about the $10 million and it's unbelievable to be playing for that money, but the FedExCup, the sponsorship, kind of came along at the right time. The economy was okay at the time they signed with FedEx. Are you, as players, kind of looking at it now as let's take advantage of it while we can because who knows when FedEx is done if we're going to have this pot of gold there? Do you expect that sort of monetary value to change in the future?
STEVE STRICKER: I could see it changing in the future. You know, like I say, it's a heck of a lot of money that FedEx is putting up for us to play for, and we're all grateful for it. Should you expect that on a year-to-year basis? I don't think so. But I guess we'll see what happens. I don't know how long the deal is for. Is it for another year?

Q. '12.
STEVE STRICKER: Two more years. So hopefully it sticks around. Hopefully it's a long-term thing. But again, it's a lot to ask for, I think.

Q. You came into the post season here with second place points; is that right?

Q. And you've had nothing worse than eighth.
STEVE STRICKER: I think I finished ninth and third, I think.

Q. And dropped two spots.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, but all the winners went ahead of me.

Q. Is that kind of what we're talking about with how these things are evaluated and weighted and it seems to be pretty steady play like you've had all year long and you're obviously losing ground?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, and it's nothing against the guys -- I'm not complaining. I want to put that out there. But should a winner get more points no matter -- well, Ernie was leading with 1,800 or 1,900 points, and now the winner of the first playoff event got 2,500 points. I don't know if you've played all year and then go ahead and have one guy win, he could be 125th on the list and win and go to No. 1. And I don't know if that's quite right. I mean, maybe he needs to win one, that 125th guy, and have another top 5 finish even to get into the top 10. I don't think he should be leading the whole points system for one tournament.
Although it's a big tournament, it's a playoff event, but if we're putting any stock into our year, which in golf that's what we've always done is put some sort of stock or recognition into having a good year, this system has kind of blown that out of the water.

Q. I hate to switch gears since you're on a roll here, but I wanted to look 10, 11 days down the road. I don't know if you've seen pictures of the first tee that they've set up over there at Celtic Manor, but it looks like Lambeau Field with the boxes. They've got 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 seats. Can you talk about what the atmosphere on any Ryder Cup first tee is anyway, and if you're looking at maybe five times what it was at Valhalla and the pressure it puts on the guys and where that rates in any kind of extreme pressure situation for you?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I've only been a part of one, and that was at Valhalla, so it's here in the States. There's no atmosphere like it that I've ever seen. And I imagine over there it's going to be something that I have never experienced. I mean, it's going to be not pro-USA, so we've got to get ready for that, and it's going to be a tough situation, I think. I've kind of prepared myself for that.
And we're going over there, I think, as a little bit of an underdog, so we really have nothing to lose but be prepared. It's going to be a nerve-wracking and a tough situation when we're over there.

Q. I just wonder if you could tell me about two holes. The first is the opening hole, par-4, just take us through tee to green, the thought process, club selection, scoring expectations?
STEVE STRICKER: Par-4, it's a straightaway par-4 where you find the fairway, it's a legitimate birdie opportunity. I think I hit a wedge in there today, so you have a short iron in your hand. But a good opening hole. If you miss the fairway, it's tough hitting it out of the rough, tough second shot.
What was the other hole?

Q. No. 18, tough finishing hole, a little unique finishing on a par-3.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, very unique, and a very good hole just to get out of there with 3. I've been hitting anywhere from a utility club to a 4-iron, usually nothing shorter than that. So just trying to set it in the center of the green, and sometimes it's a very tough green to hold, too, if it gets going downwind and conditions get pretty firm. You want to knock it in the center, take your two putts, take your 3 and get out of there.

Q. Just curious, in the last 14 years, how many times has Corey brought up the bunker incident?

Q. Just talk about that, what happened, and the way he needles, kind of his style of humor.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, a lot of you probably don't know, but I played with Corey as a partner in the Presidents Cup in 1996, and my wife was on the bag for me. It was, I think, alternate shot. Corey drove it in the bunker, I go ahead and fat it out of the bunker, don't make it to the green, and I turn around and take a big swipe of sand and it flies right towards my wife and covers my wife with sand.
He hasn't let me forget it, and I haven't forgotten it, and my wife hasn't forgotten it, but he lets me know about it on a regular basis, that it was a pretty priceless moment.
JOHN BUSH: Steve, thanks for coming by, and play well this week.

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