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June 4, 2011
CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome our 54-hole leader Steve Stricker, three-shot lead, just obviously talk about the eagles to get the day started after finishing the day strong yesterday, what that was like.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it was a perfect start. If you were to draw one up. It was a great start, hole-in-one out at the second hole and then making another eagle at No. 5. You couldn't ask for anything more, really. Just kind of a little disappointing that I kind of let it slip away on the back nine and didn't really finish the round like I had hoped.
But all in all, a good day, 69 around here is a good score, still got a three-shot lead, so I'm in good position heading into Sunday.
Q. What's your best career victory or what do you consider your best career victory?
STEVE STRICKER: Good question. You know, maybe the Match Play, Deutsche Bank, maybe even being on the Ryder Cup teams. I look at those pretty highly, too, being a part of those, being a part of one of those winning teams. So maybe those couple, two, three things.
Q. Where would this rank if you got this one tomorrow?
STEVE STRICKER: This would rank right up there, no question. It's a great tournament. You know, it's Jack's tournament. I've gotten to know Jack over the years. He was the captain of one of the Presidents Cup teams I was on. Played against his son Gary in college. You know, so he's a friend, greatest player of all time, and to win his tournament would be pretty special.
Q. When you missed the short putt at 14, it seemed like -- did that take a little gas out of you? Did that carry over to 15?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know, just missing that putt and then sitting down at 15 tee, not getting -- going after that miss, you know, the whole back nine seemed to kind of drag on a little bit. We waited a lot it seemed like. I started missing some putts. Things seemed a little bit more difficult. My lies all of a sudden turned out to be a little more difficult.
I hit a good drive at 18 and ended up in a divot. I hit a good shot out of there, I thought, and then ended up in a pretty tough lie over the green. All of a sudden things seemed pretty hard, when at the start of the day things were really going my way.
But I understand that and I understand that that's the nature of this game and golf in general, so you add them up at the end and it was 69 today, and it was a good score.
Q. Can we get the details on the eagles?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. It was a 3-wood, sand wedge on No. 2 from about 114 yards, and then it was a 3-wood off the tee at 5, and I hit a 3-iron in there to about probably seven, eight feet.
Q. How far for the 3-iron?
STEVE STRICKER: I had -- good question. I can't remember. It was upper 220s or 230 or something like that.
Q. What are you thinking after the hole-out on 2?
STEVE STRICKER: (Laughing.) Things are going my way. That's what I was thinking. (Laughter.)
Q. Just curious, Kuchar is one of the guys right on your tail. I'm struck by the similarities in you guys' game and even in your career trajectory. You both kind of went down and not out. You're 1 and 2 in consecutive cuts and top 10 machines. Similar games.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, and similar people, I think, similar type person, both pretty reserved, I think. Kuch is a little more outgoing than I am though. I've seen him do a few things that I wouldn't do.
Q. And you're probably not going to tell us what they were.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, he threw a diamond cutter -- I don't know if anybody knows what that is, but he threw that at the Ryder Cup. I wouldn't have done that.
But no, he's a good guy. Yeah, our games, I think, are very similar, and our careers have been fairly similar over the years. He's obviously been playing great golf, and I've been playing some pretty good golf over the last five or six years, so yeah, it's pretty similar styles.
Q. For a long time the face of American golf has been Tiger and Phil. Do you feel like that window has opened now, especially this week, we see guys like yourself and Byrd and Kuchar up there?
STEVE STRICKER: I think it's always going to be Tiger and Phil. They're the drawing power. They're the guys, the face, I think, of American golf. Not to say that we can't jump in there and grab some of that, too. But those guys, they're -- like I say, they're big-time. They draw. They draw a lot of people.
You know, we just kind of live in their little world. I've said that before. Like I say, it's nice to jump up in there and win a tournament here and there and hopefully have another good round tomorrow and do it.
Q. 15 wasn't very pretty for you, but you had three awfully gnarly lies, didn't you?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, the drive ended up kind of sitting down and I just turned my club over, and then up there in the hazard was not a good lie. You know, it was a good 6 after that. But really, you know, that was okay. If I just get it up-and-down at 16 and make that putt at 17, you know, I shoot even par on that side. So it wasn't as bad as it turned out to be, but just missed out on a couple opportunities.
Q. When Matt was talking about the comparisons between you, he said that you were the two-time comeback Player of the Year, and he wasn't sure how you did that in back-to-back years, and then he said he wasn't sure whether he wanted to do that or not. Can you speak to that, how that happened, how you did it two years in a row?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know how it happened, to tell you the truth. To win it once was nice and special, and I think the second time was a little bit of a joke. I'm not 100 percent sure. But I don't know if somebody was campaigning for me the second time around or what.
I guess what I've always said is that shows you how far down in a hole I was to win it twice. (Laughter.)
Q. The heat, the course conditions, guys are talking it's a different Muirfield than they've played in the past. Brandt Jobe said he hit 3-iron, 8-iron into 18. It's different this year, isn't it?
STEVE STRICKER: Uh-huh, very different. It's getting faster.
Q. What for you is a hole that really sticks out in your mind as far as --
STEVE STRICKER: How different it is?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, 17 today was really different. 18, you know, I hit utility club and should have been a 9-iron. You know, even No. 2, hitting sand wedge in there today, I've never hit a sand wedge in there. But the wind is dictating that.
So there are some holes that are playing fairly short, and it's been so warm, so the ball is really going. So I think that's why things are playing pretty short, because of the warmth. We're not typically used to seeing no rain and firm conditions and a lot of warm.
Q. I don't want to ask you a question as far as which player -- if you're wondering which player is going to start tomorrow morning, the one who started today or the one who finished today, but I'm wondering, is any of that coming down the stretch, was any of it technical, or was it just like you said, seemed like it lasted forever?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I don't think there was any problems there with me hitting it. You know, I really gave myself a couple opportunities. I missed a couple greens. I hit it in the rough, laid it up in the rough at No. 11 and I wasn't able to go for the pin there. 13, I hit a good second shot in there, the ball just went forever through the green. Missed a little putt at 14. I had some opportunities there.
I missed a little putt at 16, lipped out at 17. So there were some things there, maybe a concentration level that wasn't there like I had at the start of the round. I don't know.
But like I say, you add it up at the end, and that's all I'm worried about really is the final outcome. You know, 69 around there, like I said, is okay.
Q. You're trying to regroup after 15. Could you run through 16 and the shots you played and how that worked out?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, 16 I was aiming right there at the end of the bunker and if I turned it over, fine, and if not I'll take my chance getting up-and-down out of the bunker, and it didn't turn over. Just didn't commit on that little three-footer. It looked like it wanted to turn left.
It's a little bit different type of surface there. It's a brand-new green. It rolls a little bit different. Wasn't sure. Just didn't commit to the putt and missed it.
Q. As you reestablish yourself, a two-time comeback Player of the Year and you got to No. 3 in the world, has winning a major become more of a goal over the last few years?
STEVE STRICKER: It's always been a big goal, probably more so now than a few years ago. I feel like I've done a lot of nice things in my career, especially the last five or six years, that that would really top off my career, and the window of opportunity is probably getting smaller and smaller each and every time I play in a major.
Yeah, it's become a little bit more of a goal, something that I strive and look forward to, those majors. So yeah, you could say it's a little bit more on my mind.
Q. Have you played much with Byrd, and is he a good pairing for you tomorrow?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, he's a good pairing, good guy. We played Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the first tournament of the year, the last day, and he ended up winning. Yeah, I enjoy him. He's easy to play with, a good kid.
Q. The fact that you've taken time off, you had two weeks off, does that help you going into final rounds pretty much rested or doesn't it really matter?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think it matters. My final round scoring average this year I know hasn't been too good, so hopefully I can erase that tomorrow and put up a good one. No, I don't really think it matters.
You know, I feel like I'm in shape and I can handle the 72-hole tournaments. Even the weather today was hot. It was a little bit more difficult, but I still felt good at the end of it all.
No, I feel like because I've been taking the time off that I'm a little bit mentally fresher each and every tournament, and I think I'm actually playing a little better, to tell you the truth. I haven't won this year, but I feel like I am playing really consistent golf.
Q. Any idea why your final round scoring has been like it has?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I don't know why. No idea. Because the first three rounds are sub-70, and then that final round is 71, and I've just had some poor final round showings, and I don't know why.
Q. A couple years ago after you regained your touch, I remember at the British Open people were all asking about how did you do it and why and you got a little leery of the question. Do you ever look back and say, how did I get back there? In other words, why was I there and do you even think of five, six, seven years ago?
STEVE STRICKER: Why was I bad?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't --
Q. I didn't use the word "bad."
STEVE STRICKER: I know, but I wanted to make sure which section of my career you were talking about. (Laughter.)
I understand why I was there. You know, my commitment to the game, my swing wasn't good. I understand why I was there.
To get to where I am today and all the things that have happened since like the '05 season, I can't believe where I am today, to tell you the truth. And that's a good thing, because I keep striving to do bigger and better things. I keep working at it. I don't take that for granted anymore. I think I did at times early in my career.
Now today -- I've seen all the ups and downs that can be had out here, and I appreciate where I'm at right now, and that's why I think I work harder at it and stay patient and do the things I've been doing.
Q. I know or I believe that you talked about tweaking your swing just slightly and if you could talk about how comfortable you are with your swing.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it feels really good. I continually try to do little things every week that I'm home, really. I continue to work on it when I'm not out here. I did some things last week, and those things have really paid off. I'm hitting the ball really solid. It's starting straighter on my line. I'm not curving it as much.
And I switched equipment about maybe five or six tournaments ago. I switched shafts and the ball, and that combination has been really good for me. I'm hitting it further. Just the things I am doing with the ball are better.
The things I've been working on have been good.
Q. The putt at 14, you backed off on that, didn't you?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah.
Q. What was the cause of it?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, a couple times. I was worried about the guy teeing off at 15. They were sitting there. And then when I was ready to go again, a big gust of wind came up, and I had to hit that putt so soft that I was worried about any amount of wind would push it off line, so that's when I backed off again. You know, I don't like to back off putts once, let alone twice. But I just wasn't comfortable, and I didn't make it, either. I wish I would have had that one over again.
Q. I remember hearing the story about Jerry Kelly, you and him hitting balls out of a three-sided trailer. Do you still do that?
STEVE STRICKER: Uh-huh, wintertime, yeah.
Q. So that wasn't just a temporary thing because --
STEVE STRICKER: No, it's a yearly thing.
Q. Jerry joined you?
STEVE STRICKER: Jerry comes in there every once in a while.
Q. Are there more young golfers in Wisconsin doing that now or are you still the only one?
STEVE STRICKER: No, there's quite a few people that come in there now and hit balls. A lot of kids, they do a lot of lessons now in the wintertime up in Wisconsin, believe it or not, right out of the trailers. So it's becoming a little bit more and more popular.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports