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August 11, 2011

Steve Stricker


KELLY ELBIN: With his 7-under par round today, Steve Stricker has become the 23rd individual on 25 occasions to shoot 63 in a major golf championship, the 11th player in PGA Championship history to shoot 63. That score also ties the competitive course record here at the Atlanta Athletic Club that Mark O'Meara established in the second round of the PGA Championship in 2001. Steve, congratulations.
KELLY ELBIN: Comments on everything that must have gone well today.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it was a good day. Obviously, I got off to a good start. I came to the course really not expecting too much. I really hadn't made too many birdies in the three previous practice rounds that I had. You know, and I don't take a lot of stock in those practice rounds really. But I really felt like I was in trouble coming into this tournament. I really didn't feel that good on the course.
Got off to a good start birdieing those first three holes really kind of set the momentum for me for the day and kept that throughout the round.
KELLY ELBIN: Could you go through those birdies, please, the club you hit and the distance of the putts starting with 10.
STEVE STRICKER: Started on the back side, hit a driver and a sand wedge to about 15 feet.
A 3-wood and a 9-iron to about five feet at 11.
12 was a driver and a rescue club a little past pin high in the right bunker and hit my bunker shot out to about four feet and made that.
Birdied 15, the par-3, I hit a utility club to about eight or ten feet.
18, I birdied. I hit 3-wood off the tee and a utility club to probably 25 to 30 feet, somewhere in there.
Birdied No. 1, I hit a 3-wood and a 7-iron to probably 20 feet.
And then No. 5, the par-5, I drove it and then hit a 3-wood up in the left greenside bunker and blasted out to about three feet.

Q. Before the round, were you aware that 63 was the lowest round ever shot in a major championship, and at any point on your last hole did you think about birdie maybe being the lowest score in the history of a major?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I know 63 is that number that no one has gotten under. But I really never thought about it at all today. Jimmy told me after I missed the putt; he's like, you know, that was for the lowest competitive round in history of major championships, and I'm like, oh, shoot, it was. It really never registered. I was just trying to make a birdie and finish 8-under, and I really was concentrating on the putt but never thought about the history part of it.

Q. What's the closest you came to a bogey today?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, probably on No. 2, my 11th hole. I blocked it way to the right, right of the bunkers, and I probably had about 230 to the front of the green down in the rough. I drew a good lie in the rough and I cut a utility club out of there, and I hit it up in front of the green and then chipped to a couple feet. But walking off that tee, it didn't look so good. But I got it back in play, back in position, and was able to get it up-and-down.

Q. We've heard all week about how difficult this golf course is, everyone who came in, particularly the last four holes, and you go out and shoot the lowest round in major championship history. Have we been misled? Are you that good?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I don't know. They set it up real fair today. They moved some tees up. You know, we're playing those practice rounds from the very back of every tee, and it's a very long course. And they gave us some breaks today. They moved the tees up, like I said, on some of the holes, and they have a lot of room to do that here. They can really adjust the tees on a number of holes and still make it very tough and enjoyable to play.
But no, it's still very difficult. I was just able to get through that stretch, 15 through 18, play them in a couple under. That's like stealing probably three, four shots from the field there. It's a tough stretch.
You know, that probably set up the whole round, really, just getting through that stretch making a couple of birdies.

Q. To follow that, this is supposed to favor the longer hitter, this golf course. Should we consider you a long hitter now?
STEVE STRICKER: No, no, you shouldn't consider me a long hitter. You know, but you have to put it in play. Although I think I only hit like 8 out of the 14 fairways, and maybe I was in the first cut a couple of times. You know, but you have to play from the fairway here. I don't care if you're long or short; it puts a premium on playing from the fairway. Some of the drives that I missed today, I ended up in some pretty decent spots. I had some good lies in the bunkers. The bunkers are very difficult here. You can get lies that the ball really nestles down, even when the ball just rolls in there they seem to nestle down, and I didn't have any of those today and drew a couple good lies in the rough.

Q. You know, it's still very difficult. You'll see it all week. The scores -- you'll see some guys shooting some good ones, I think, but then you'll see the high scores, as well.
KELLY ELBIN: Officially Steve hit 9 of 14 fairways, his two major drives averaged out to 280 yards.
STEVE STRICKER: That's not long. That's not long. (Smiling).

Q. A couple of clean-up questions on your round. 3-wood off the tee, why 3-wood at 18?
STEVE STRICKER: They had us up 18 yards there today.

Q. You're playing short of the bunker then?
STEVE STRICKER: No, I'm still playing in between the water and the bunkers. It just gets really narrow up there, and I don't have really the length to carry and cover the corner of the water. So I still have to take it down the fairway, and if I hit driver straight away, it will go into a bunker.

Q. What did that leave you for your second shot into 18?
STEVE STRICKER: I had 201 to the front, I think, and then the pin was on like 17 or 18. I had like 220 to the hole.

Q. And then, if you could, please tell us the club and yardage for your last two holes because I think you had a birdie putt at 8 as well as 9.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I hit 3-wood in the bunker off of 8 and hit a 6-iron to maybe 25, 30 feet.

Q. From how far?
STEVE STRICKER: I had 190. And then I drove it in the left rough, drew a great lie on No. 9, and I had 168, and I hit an 8-iron.

Q. What did you have there, about 15 feet, 18 feet?
STEVE STRICKER: It was about 10, 12 feet probably.

Q. Your reputation as a putter is well established. What is it about your putting game that you think makes you stand out on the greens? And the second thing is, it's well documented your winter routine of hitting balls out of a trailer, but in that same climate, what do you do for your short game through the winter months?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't do anything with my short game in the winter months. I can't. I hit little chips off the mat out into the snow. If that constitutes working on my short game, then that's what I do.
You know, I don't know. I don't spend a great deal of time on my short game. I spend a great deal of time putting. I have a technique, I think, with my short game that is unique to me. I'm very comfortable with it. It's a simple thing for me, my technique. I don't spend a lot of time chipping and putting, I don't. But I do spend a lot of time putting. What sets me apart? I don't know. I have a lot of confidence when I putt. I feel like I can make just about anything, and that's a good feeling to have when you walk up to a putt. You have that feeling like this could go in, even if it's from like 25, 30 feet.
I don't know if that separates me or not, but that's what I feel when I walk up to a putt is that I have a lot of confidence and I feel like I should make it.

Q. Speaking of putting, these greens here, this is the first major played on this variety of Bermudagrass, ultradwarf, which is champion ultradwarf. Could you describe how the greens played today?
STEVE STRICKER: The greens are unbelievably perfect. Getting out this morning with not a lot of footprints on them, not a lot of marks, for Bermuda greens, and I'm not a big Bermuda fan, growing up in the Midwest, we strictly play on bent, but these putt as close to bent as anything without being bent.
So they're very good. They roll fairly true. There's not a lot of grain in them yet it seems like, probably because they are new. So the grain isn't a huge issue here, which is untypical of Bermuda greens. They putt pretty close to bent, but they're very good.

Q. Can you speak to your desire to win a major, and maybe how your approach has evolved over the years?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, obviously we'd all love to win a major. And I'm no different; I try extremely hard to play well at majors. I've probably tried a little less harder the last few years than I had earlier on in my career. I think that's just my game and my nature the last few years has been to take it easier on myself while I'm playing.
So I come in here with expectations to play well, I guess, but not that added extra pressure that I have to play well. I just try to go out and do my best, and that's what I've been trying to do each and every tournament throughout the year, and I try to treat this the same way as I do any other tournament.

Q. What's the most meaningful thing about the round today to you?
STEVE STRICKER: The most meaningful -- say that again?

Q. What is the most meaningful thing about your round today?
STEVE STRICKER: That I shot 63. It was a simple question, I gave you a simple answer.

Q. How do you handle the pressure of majors now compared to the way you used to do it earlier in your career, perhaps?
STEVE STRICKER: Like I was saying, I think I just tried to, you know, come into them -- I'm more nervous in them. I think everybody is a little more uptight in them. I am. But I try to downplay it. I keep trying to tell myself it's just like any other tournament, we're playing against the same guys we play against on a weekly basis. Try tricking yourself into thinking that there's really nothing extra or different about this event. But knowing deep down that there is. That's the trick. And really that's the way I've played the last three or four years. I'm very comfortable with what I do on the golf course, and I just -- I take it easy on myself. I really try to enjoy it more.
You know, I'm older and I'm probably a little bit more wiser, and I'm just enjoying them more so than I did earlier on in my career, I think.

Q. Playing off of that, you've been in this position before. You've been the leader in a major. You've been in the big room. You've been a guy who people have said, he probably should win a major and yet you've never been able to seal the deal. Not how do you do it, but when do you think you'll be able to do it?
STEVE STRICKER: That's a good question. Hopefully I've got that opportunity this weekend. You know, that's -- I don't know, I can't answer that, I guess. I feel like I prepare well. I prepare well for each tournament I play in. I really don't take any tournament for granted.
And this is just the start; I mean, we have three more days, and it's a good start, and that's all I'm really trying to think about it as is a good start. Trying to put this day behind me tomorrow and come out and start a new day and try to do the same things like I do each and every day I go out there and play.

Q. I could be wrong, but I believe you're the highest ranked American. A lot has been made of America being in a drought and winning majors, but do you feel you're the best American player right now?
STEVE STRICKER: No. Why not? I don't know. That's just who I am. I don't want that pressure. (Laughter.)
No, I just -- whatever it is, I don't know. I try to downplay all that stuff, I really do. I try to get away from it. I just want to go out and play, try to play well, let all that other stuff take care of itself. You know, it's flattering when somebody says it, but really, I'm just trying to go out there and play well and let my play do the talking instead of me standing up here and telling everybody what I think.

Q. Just to go back to 15 for a moment, you didn't sound like you were a big fan of it going into the tournament. Talk about how you played it today and if you have changed the appraisal.
STEVE STRICKER: It's a great hole, isn't it? (Laughter.)
No, it's a long, tough hole. I think we played it at 254 today with not much wind, and the pin is right up there in the front today, towards the front, in between the water and the bunker. I'm not a huge fan of playing a 260-yard par-3 with water and bunkers, but like I said yesterday, we all have to play it, we all have to suck it up and try to hit a good shot there. You know, you're going to see some big numbers there and you're going to see some birdies there. But it's very difficult.

Q. You said before you didn't let yourself think about that number during the round, but now that you've shot it, what do you think about that magic number, 63? Do guys talk about that, think about that number, 63?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I don't think guys talk about it, but it's just a -- I don't know. You know, I haven't given it much thought. It's a good start. I am happy to be part of that group. I wish I would have been able to make that putt to be one better than that group of guys. But 63 is a heck of a start, and I'm happy to get off to that start.

Q. Can you name some of the players who have shot 63?

Q. It's probably factored in with some of your attitude, things you're talking about, taking the pressure off yourself and whatnot, but why are you playing the best golf of your career at this point when a lot of guys are down around the bend and gone?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I put that time in about five or six years ago to try to get better, and I found something that works for me, and I've kind of given myself a break. I'm a little easier on myself. I really have nothing more to prove out here except maybe to win a major.
You know, it would be great. If I don't win it, it's not going to change who I am or what kind of player I have been, to some extent, I guess. But I guess I accomplished what I set out to accomplish six years ago, to get back in the winner's circle, to play well again, and I've done that, and all this other stuff is really just icing on the cake, and that's the way I treat it, I really do. I'm just enjoying it a lot more than I used to, I guess.
KELLY ELBIN: In with a major championship tying round 63, Steve Stricker, the leader at the PGA Championship.

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