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July 6, 2011

Steve Stricker


THE MODERATOR: All right. I'd like to welcome Steve Stricker, our two-time defending champion. Steve, if you want to talk about coming into this year and a chance for three, which has been done rarely on the PGA TOUR, and then we'll take some questions.
STEVE STRICKER: Obviously a very special week for me to come back, a lot of great memories over the last couple years, and you know, it's always -- when you drive down to the clubhouse and the course here, it always brings back those good thoughts of what's happened here for me. And excited about the week. The weather looks good. The course is in great shape again, and excited to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Questions.

Q. Do you feel any extra pressure to win a third or are you taking a little different approach this time?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know, I feel a little extra pressure probably to perform well here this week.
I can remember coming here last year and feeling a little bit the same way. You know, when you come back as a defending champion, and I suppose I feel a little bit like that again this year.
But that's a good thing. You know, you like that extra pressure, I guess, and you know, hopefully get an opportunity again coming down the stretch on Sunday. But it's a long road, you know, you gotta play good. There's a lot of good players here this week, so it'll be tough.

Q. Have you done any studying up on the whole First Tee thing?

Q. Do you know who the names are?

Q. You probably know one.

Q. Do you take a different mindset knowing what happened in the last two years on this golf course? Do you step on the first tee tomorrow thinking, okay, I gotta get to double digits by Friday, I gotta be here by Saturday?
STEVE STRICKER: No. No. I don't put numbers on it really. I mean we're in a totally different year. It's a little firmer this year. The greens are a little bit firmer, so I think that could, you know, adjust the scoring a little bit. All depends on the weather, but really I just go out there trying to play as best as I can, try to make some birdies, get it in the fairway and try to really, you know, take those memories for the last couple years. It gives me a lot of confidence here on this course, but you know, it's a new year. And you know, try to stay in the moment and try to do what I know I need to do this year.

Q. Last year one of the startling things about the round was after Paul posted a 59, you had the 60 and you came on the 18th I think you came within two or three feet of holing out for a 59. How aware were you of what he had done and what was it about that day that made it so special? No two golfers have done that ever on the same day, 59 or 60.
STEVE STRICKER: I watched Paul. I stepped out on the balcony to watch him finish up, so I knew he had posted a 59. So going out in the afternoon that day, you know, my goal was just to shoot something in the mid 60s to, you know, not be too far behind. You know, I had like a 65 in mind or 66, something like that, so I could keep in reach of Paul, but lo and behold, I go out there and start to get things going, make a few putts, hit some good shots and it turns into a 60.
And sometimes that's what happens out here. You kind of just go with the flow, go with what the course is giving you. You go with your good feelings, and you know, just start making birdies.
So you know, I was aware of what he shot. And I had no, you know, goal of going out there to shoot 60 that day. I had a goal of going out there and shooting something in the mid 60s, but that was it.

Q. Have you reflected at all on how amazing it was that there was a 59 and a 60 in the same day?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Yeah. And it's pretty hard to believe that he shoots 59 and has a one-shot lead where I shoot 60 and I'm down by one. Whatever way you want to look at it, it's pretty remarkable. But pretty special week last year for a lot of different reasons.

Q. Following up on that a little bit, you said you don't want to put a number on it, but you've spoken a couple of times this year, most recently at Memorial, that you're taking your foot off the gas a little bit and you don't want to do that. Does the history here make it easier to keep the mindset of keeping going and not taking your foot off?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, no doubt about it. You have to -- and you know, it all depends on the day. The weather, it could be windy, real firm conditions. Like I said, the greens are firmer than normal.
The last couple years here they've been really soft so you could fire right at the pin, so scoring average may be a little different, maybe a shot difference, but typically here you need to shoot low. You know, you need to get off to a good start and keep it going all the way through, and like you said, over the years, the winning score has been pretty low. So you have to have that mindset, I think, coming in here, especially if the weather is going to be good.

Q. If you're having a tough hole, how do you mentally prepare yourself to keep going knowing you're so close to your third title?
STEVE STRICKER: If you have a bad hole, you really just need to block it out and pick yourself back up again and start over and go to the next tee, next hole thinking, you know, positive thoughts again and moving forward, because if you dwell on something poor or something bad that happened, it kind of sneaks into your game and the rest of the round. So you need to block that out and keep moving forward.

Q. Paul talked about all the national attention he received for getting the 59. If you had shot one stroke less how that might have affected the rest of your drought last year?
STEVE STRICKER: If I would have shot one shot less?

Q. Yeah. That got Paul all the attention he did.
STEVE STRICKER: Well, we both would have shot a 59. I don't know. You know, it's hindsight, I guess, but you know, I thought we got a lot of attention for shooting 59 and 60. Obviously he got a lot more for shooting the 59.
But you know, it's a good question. I don't know. I don't know. But I'm sure we would have got a lot of attention and maybe a bit of a distraction, too. And maybe that's what happened to Paul, even though he played great the rest of the tournament. You know, just a little bit of distraction here or there can cause a missed shot or two.

Q. Steve, you've talked about the course being firmer. How does that change the way the course plays or the way you have to play the course?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, it plays shorter, but it also plays a little bit narrower. You know, the ball will roll out, find the first cut or the rough. There's a lot more release on the greens this year than there has been in the previous couple years. So you have to play for that.
It then becomes a little bit tougher to get the ball closer to the hole, especially on some of the long par-3s, so you gotta take that all into account, and it just becomes a little bit more difficult to hit the fairway and get it close to the hole.

Q. Does it make a lot of difference with the club selection or not?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, it can make a different -- you know, here or there you may have to take one less club off the tee, may have to pick a different line. It just tightens things up a little bit.
And you know, especially into the greens. You may have to, you know, just allow for that release. Like the previous couple years you could fly it right to the hole or even past the hole and suck it back. So you gotta do a little bit more thinking.

Q. Steve, as the highest ranking American, there's been a lot of focus with Rory's win and the way that the Europeans are playing on the Europe versus America. Do you feel a responsibility to kind of help these young Americans along, and how do you explain what seems to be a European edge?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't feel a responsibility, although that I'm open to help any, you know, young American or any player, European, American, whatever. I mean I've been around for I think the 17th or 18th year on TOUR, so if anybody comes up to me asking for advice or help, I'm willing to help.
But you know, as to explain why Europe has been playing so well, well, they've got a ton of great players, and they're playing great. And vice versa, some of the top Americans haven't been playing as well.
Some of our younger guys are starting to play really well. Great to see Nick Watney win last week. You know, Rickie Fowler was up there again for a while, and it just takes time I think. It's a cycle. And you know, even some of those European players right now aren't playing the way they were when they reached the top.
So it's just a cycle, and golf is a cycle, and you just gotta wait it out, and you know, we'll make a push again, the Americans will. And you know, when Tiger comes back, I'm sure he'll be getting right back up there again, and Phil, you know, he'll be back up there again. So I think it's just a cycle, and right now they're at the top.

Q. Is college a reason Americans don't seem to come out as fast maybe as McIlroy and the young guys that are starting on the tour in Europe at a young age?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think they grow up a little bit faster, the Europeans. They turn pro really early. Like at Matteo Manassero, what is he, 18. He just turned 18, I think, and he's been pro for a couple of years.
You know, I think they get out, they mature faster. They learn where their games are at. They work at it, and I think that may lead to a little bit of an advantage early on in their careers than some of the Americans.

Q. Steve, you're a Titleist guy. I know a lot of players are putting in new irons. Nick won with them last week. Are you going to switch them into the bag this week, and if so, is it normal for you to make equipment changes this time of year the week before a major?
STEVE STRICKER: I hit them last week. I'm not going to put them into play this week. I wasn't able to hit them all that much the last couple weeks, so no, I'm not going to change.
But you know, they're good, for one. I hit them and I really liked them, but I want to hit them some more at home, so probably after the British I'll give them some more time to hit.
And yeah, I'll change. If it's good, I changed earlier this year to a different set of irons, different shaft, different ball early in the year. So yeah, I'm open for change, but I want to make sure and have the repetitions in with them before I make the change.

Q. Steve, you certainly have the Stricker fan support in the QC the past couple of years. How much of a boost does that help you out, to see the Illini shirts out there? Does that give you a little boost while you're out there?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. No doubt about it. Illini Day again this Friday, and I'll be wearing my orange and I'm sure we'll see a lot of other orange out there too.
It's always great to come here, and I get a lot of support from the Illini fans, and I see my old coaches coming up from school. I know Mike Small is playing this week, Scott Langley, D.A. Points. I think there's five of us total former Illini playing this week. So it's always pretty cool to see everybody and get the support here in the area, it's always a lot of fun.

Q. Does that give you a boost maybe after a tough hole or do you see that and think I gotta pull it back?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. You know, it can work both ways. If you're going well, you know, you can really ride that momentum. If you're playing poorly, you know, you feel like you're dragging everybody down with you. So it's hard. You want to play well and there's that little extra bit of pressure, but it's good to have that support.

Q. Can you look ahead one week to the British Open, how much you know about that golf course and what that tournament is like, what the experience is like?
STEVE STRICKER: I know nothing about the course. I wasn't qualified for it I think in '03 when Ben Curtis won there. So I don't know anything about it.
But the experience over there is always a good one. Different style of golf. We have to -- you know, guys playing here have to go over there and get acclimated pretty quickly and learn the course.
It's tough to do in a three-day period, but you know, it's part of the fun, too, going over there and trying to learn that type of golf. It's one of the best tournaments in the world. You know, the fans over there are great. They're very golf knowledgeable, I guess you would say. And it's fun to play over there.

Q. Do you have any family members that golf, and if so, have any of them beaten you?
STEVE STRICKER: I do have some family members that golf, and my brother-in-law is a good player. He played out on TOUR in 2005. His name is Mario. And he's beaten me.
But my wife plays. She hasn't beaten me. (Laughs). She's come close. My daughter plays. Actually, my littlest, my five-year-old is starting to pick it up a little bit and play, so yeah, it's kind of a family affair.

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