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June 2, 2011

Steve Stricker


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Steve Stricker, thanks for joining us after a first round 68 here at the Memorial. Maybe just a couple opening comments about your round today, a good start for you.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, good start. Great weather conditions. The course is in great shape. Happy to get off to this kind of start here and hopefully keep it going over the next three days.

Q. You've got an interesting record here. I think you've played here maybe 11 times, made the cut ten times, but not top 10s. So it's been sort of good, not great. Any particular reason for that? Does that come as a surprise?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, somebody said that I hadn't had a top 10 here. I knew I've never really contended here coming in. It doesn't surprise me because I knew that I've never been in contention to win, but I thought I snuck in the top 10 at least once.
Yeah, like I told him, looking forward to changing that this week.

Q. Is it too soon to start thinking the U.S. Open?
STEVE STRICKER: Not at all, no, I don't think so at all. I start thinking about it maybe a couple weeks ago after THE PLAYERS Championship, thinking about Congressional and what you need to do there. I had a couple weeks off right after THE PLAYERS, so I'm playing this week and then I'll go back home again and work on some things and then head out there to the Open.
So no, I don't think it's too early at all. It's definitely in the back of my head and thinking about and preparing for that.

Q. Do you like that course?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I do like it. I had a couple good tournaments there over the years. I had a good opening round in '97 in the Open. Didn't really finish it off that well the next three days, but had a good Tiger's tournament there one year, AT&T I think was there one year, finished second there.
So yeah, I enjoy the course. Good old-style course.

Q. Is there one thing in particular you have to do well there?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, just like any Open, I think you have to just drive it well and get it in play and obviously do all the other things well. You've got to fight hard that week, too, because there's going to be times where you're going to miss fairways and you're going to have to hack it out and try to get it up-and-down from under 100 yards type thing. So obviously you need all parts of your game working well, but you've got to get it in play off the tee and get it in the fairway.

Q. What don't you like about it?
STEVE STRICKER: I'm not fond of some of the changes that they've done really over the years, at No. 10, starting off with that par-3, is really not my favorite. But other than that it's a great old-style course.

Q. Not to interrupt, but I didn't mean Congressional. What don't you like about the U.S. Open, any U.S. Open?
STEVE STRICKER: It beats you up. You know, I mean, it's mentally fatiguing. You know, it's fun for one week, I guess. I want to be there. I don't want to be anywhere else. I've heard guys say that they don't even want to be there. But I surely want to be there. You can't win it if you're not there. So it's a different type of tournament.
I think they've done a better job of it the last few years when Mike Davis has been running it, making it a little bit friendlier for us off the tee. If you were to hit it in the rough they'd give you of an opportunity to advance it.
I think it's gotten better, but it's still very difficult. You've got to be very patient.

Q. What would you say are the odds -- with a couple of exceptions really, Pebble Beach being one of them, where a U.S. Open is not so much won but not lost, if that makes any sense?
STEVE STRICKER: Say that again. I want to see if you can repeat it.

Q. How often a U.S. Open is not so much won by a player as much as that it's not lost by a player.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that can happen a lot, but we've also seen some great play, Tiger -- I think you still have to play great to win.
But you're right, it happens a lot where guys just are going to make bogeys and worse coming in down the stretch. It's just that type of course, though. All U.S. Opens are that type of course where it's just very difficult to hang on. I mean, and that starts from the tee. You've got to hit it in the fairway, otherwise you're really struggling to make par.
So that's what makes it hard, I think.

Q. When you look back at '6 and '7, what went wrong for you?

Q. '06 and '07, Winged Foot and Oakmont. You were at both of them.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I was in contention at both of them. You know, probably nerves more so than anything. That was after I hadn't been playing very well and then getting right back into contention at a major at Winged Foot.
I thought I handled it pretty well, I did some good things, and that's what gave me a lot of confidence because I showed myself that even though I didn't win, I still top-tenned it and I did some good things. So that provided me with some confidence.
But it's just hard, it really is. You've got to have a big-time game there at any Open to win, I think, and you've got to suck it up. You can't let the nerves get to you because if you do you start seeing hundreds of times -- I don't know about hundreds, but a few times, Dustin Johnson last year. If you let those nerves creep in, it's over. It's just very difficult.

Q. Is this golf course reasonably good preparation?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think so. The rough is thick. I think it's playable where you can get some good lies and most times get it to the green, but you can get some bad lies, so it puts a premium on driving it in the fairway, and the greens are fast, they're undulated. They're probably going to be way better than what we're going to see at Congressional. These greens are pure.
But it gives you that type of feel where you've got to step up and drive it and hit some pretty premium iron shots into these greens.

Q. Do you think it's harder to win the U.S. Open or the Masters?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it depends on what kind of style game you have, to tell you the truth. We were talking about this last night. I think if you're a bigger hitter, a Tiger Woods, an Angel Cabrera, I think the Masters is easier to win. But you look at those guys, they won the Opens, too. You know, Phil --

Q. What about for Stricker?
STEVE STRICKER: For me? I would think the Masters is harder for me to win. It's kind of a big hitter's course. I think you get a lot of benefits by hitting it a long ways there at Augusta, and at Opens usually it gets pretty firm pretty fast where length really isn't an issue.
It comes down to more about scrambling, perseverance, guts, all that stuff, and I think that's why I've had some good U.S. Opens, because you don't need to be a bomber. You keep it in play, manage your way around the course, and most times if you do that and play smart you can be there at the end.

Q. Is there an element of dread heading to that thing?

Q. Because you know at some point you're going to get a tooth or two kicked down your throat and you're going to have to assume everybody else will too and deal with it?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you've just got to shrug it off, and that's what I was talking about patience before. You just kind of have to let it go because everybody is going to have some sort of problems along the way.

Q. Do you usually take the week off after the Open or have you played the week off after the Open?
STEVE STRICKER: I take usually a couple weeks off after the Open. This year will be two weeks off.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Steve Stricker, thank you.

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