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April 8, 2013

Steve Stricker


MODERATOR:テつ Good afternoon.テつ We are pleased to welcome Steve Stricker to the interview room.テつ Steve is making his 13th Masters appearance this week.テつ With a limited playing schedule, Steve started 2013 strong by finishing in the Top‑10 of his first three events.テつ His best Masters finish was sixth in 2009, and he's currently ranked No. 8 in the world.
Before we open it up to questions, Steve, if you can give us an assessment of your preparations for the Masters this week.
STEVE STRICKER:テつ I was at home last week enjoying a couple spring‑like days at home finally.テつ Gary can attest to that.テつ We are finally starting to break grass.テつ We can see grass now (laughter).テつ So still the same for me last week, hitting balls from inside the trailer and although I threw a couple out on the grass, there was some shots off the grass this week.テつ Courses are still closed up there, so it's still the same preparation for me at home and came down here yesterday.
We drove down from Atlanta yesterday morning and played about 14 holes yesterday.テつ The course is in great shape.テつ Always a fun and exciting time of the year to be here and looking forward to the week.テつ It's always fun to be here and the anticipation is always at a high level here, and it's fun to be a part of it.

Q.テつ Just so I can focus on the negative, this seems to be the one major where you haven't really seriously contended in the last hour or two.テつ Why do you think that is?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ Yeah, good question.テつ I don't know.テつ I've had a couple decent tournaments here.テつ For the most part I've struggled here a little bit.テつ I'm starting to feel a little bit more comfortable going around here, but there's still a few things I haven't figured out.テつ Or I've gotten in my way, I think, a few times here, too.テつ Just not committing to shots, not committing to lines.テつ You know, feeling a little overwhelmed about this place at times, I think.
So there's been some issues, not only physically, but I think mentally here, as well.テつ It's a challenging spot and it's a challenging course, and you've got to suck it up on a lot of shots and hit quality shots, and I haven't done that at times.

Q.テつ You seem to pick the ball, usually.テつ Wouldn't that be an advantage for you here, or not necessarily?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ You know, the fairways are probably‑‑ the last couple of years have gotten to be the best I've ever seen them.テつ They are fuller, they are lusher.テつ You need to spin the ball here, and I'm not a spinner of the ball.テつ I bring it in with some height, but I don't put a lot of spin on it, and I think that's a negative for me here.テつ And I'm coming in with usually a club or two more than some of these big hitters.
But you know, shorter hitters have proven to have done well here over the years here, too.テつ Weirsy winning and Zach Johnson winning, and if I hit it a little further‑‑ no, I blow it by those guys (laughter).
I hit it just about the same distance as them.テつ They have proven that you don't need to bomb it to win here.

Q.テつ You have so many otherwise articulate players who almost get tongue‑tied talking about their awe and reverence of the grounds, the course, the tournament.テつ For you, what feeds into that?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ I don't know, maybe it's always been from day one, when you got out on Tour, that this was the tournament that was most looked at in a way that you wanted to be a part of.テつ It meant probably the most when you qualified for it.
I can remember which tournament qualified me for this tournament.テつ It was the '95 U.S. Open, I finished high enough, I don't know, 12th, I think that that qualified me for the '96 Masters.テつ It's a tough tournament to get into.テつ It's one that's deep in history.
And guys keep telling you, before you even come here, how nerve‑wracking, how intimidating some of this course can be.テつ So this reputation that it has, and it's rightly so, I guess.テつ It gets in your head, I think, at times.
It's like I said before, I think I've gotten in my way mentally here I think more times than not.テつ That's the stuff that you have to overcome here, and it's a tricky course.テつ You have to‑‑ you've got to know where to hit it and where not to hit it.テつ Otherwise, you're in for a long day.

Q.テつ Mr.Stricker, you gave Tiger a few lessons a couple weeks ago on putting, maybe not lessons, but a few tips.テつ Did he return the elevator, giving you some tips for here?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ Ah, no (laughter).
You know, we talked about some‑‑ I played 14 holes with him yesterday and we were talking about pitching and chip shots and little wedge play.テつ We were talking about that a lot.テつ I was asking him what he does and what he tries to do, and his action on the way back and on the way through.
Yeah, it's mutual.テつ We try to help out one another every once in awhile.テつ It's not like we do it every time we play or talk to one another.テつ It's just when things pop up, you know, I'm not afraid to ask him.テつ He's the best player in the world.テつ He's ranked No. 1 now again, and it's fun to bounce some ideas off him here and there.テつ Yeah, so it's nice in that respect.

Q.テつ Of the many difficult shots that are out here, obviously the answer to this might vary with conditions, but to you what is the hardest shot at Augusta National?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ There's a lot of them, there really are.テつ And depending on where some of the pin locations are, it could be every hole has got a challenging shot.
You can't really fake your way around this golf course.テつ You have to drive the ball well.テつ You have to hit premium iron shots, or at least commit to the proper lines.テつ You can't get away with a lot of misses here.
Or you'd better know where you can miss it to have an opportunity to get away with it.テつ But if there was one shot that is probably the most difficult, you know, like I say, I could think of one almost on every hole.テつ I mean, there's some challenging pin locations.
No. 11, second shot in there, when you're really forcing yourself to play away from it; a front left pin on No. 4, the par3; No. 6 up on top on the right‑‑ you can go through every hole, maybe even some of the par 5s, but even then they have some tough ones.
You have to hit quality shots if you're going to make a birdie, and they are difficult shots at times.

Q.テつ The prep work for this tournament, was that a result of the weather or the reduced schedule?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ It was a little bit of both.テつ And plus, I like to play Houston, and usually Houston's been the week before Augusta, and this year, San Antonio was the week before.テつ But I still played Houston a couple weeks ago, and then I didn't play San Antonio, so that's why I was home.
So it was really the switch‑up in our TOUR schedule that led me to play at home the week before.

Q.テつ So is this the least amount of prep work you've had a chance to do?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ Yeah.テつ And I hit it great today and I feel great with what I'm doing.テつ That's been typical of when I've come out this year.テつ It's been a little bit strange, I'm coming out really fresh, really relaxed and I don't feel like there's any pressure on me at all, which is a good thing.
And I'm hitting the ball nicely, so I just hit some putts and chips and just continue to work on that short stuff, the short game areas that I can't really do at home yet.テつ Because I hit plenty of balls every day; I hit probably for a couple hours a day when I'm at home, especially this last week.テつ And that's all I can do, and maybe hit some putts in my basement, and that's my practice, about three hours a day, and then I'll do some other things.テつ But I'll pay attention here more and do a lot of the short stuff game that I can do.

Q.テつ People are wanting to make Tiger a prohibitive favorite; what's your take on that?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ Yeah, I played with him yesterday and he's hitting it nicely.テつ Looks like he's got a ton of confidence in that putter, too, which you need to go around here or anywhere if you're going to win a golf tournament.テつ It looks like he's comfortable in his game and what he's doing, and yeah, I expect him to be in the mix come Sunday for sure.

Q.テつ Given his overall success here, are you surprised he has not won in eight years, has not won the Masters in eight years?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ Yeah, I am surprised.テつ I was reading an article the other day and it was talking exactly what you're saying.テつ I didn't realize it's been that long.テつ And everything about this course is suited for his game.テつ So, yeah, it's surprising.
He's had a couple opportunities in there I know.テつ But like I say, that can all change over this next week, and I'm sure he's going to get right in there.テつ Like I say, it's in a good spot it seems like.テつ He's happy and he's relaxed and he just feels good about what he's doing with his game, and it's showing in his attitude, too.

Q.テつ I just need to follow up on the previous question; what's the most treacherous putt?テつ What putt do you just never want?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ You know, if you get above it like on No. 16, and the pin is down below, you can't stop that within probably six or eight feet.テつ If the pin is anywhere on that left side and you're up above, you know you're going to have a probably 6‑ or 8‑footer on that one.
You know, there's, again, if you put yourself in a poor spot, there's almost every hole, there's putts that you don't want.テつ You know, like on No. 1, they are going to have a pin up there on the front left over the bunker there somewhere and if you hit it long, it's a very difficult putt.
You can go on and on.テつ It's all about putting it on the right spot on the greens to give yourself a putt where you can 2‑putt and get out of there, or a putt where you have somewhat of a chance to make it, and at worst you're going to make par and move on.
Yeah, that's the tricky part of this course is always making sure your distance control is right on and spot on where you can be putting a little bit more aggressively than always being on defensive.

Q.テつ For the fans here or the Patrons, there are a lot of nice things they do, like the low prices on the pimento cheese sandwiches.テつ For the players, can you name one or two or three things that are differently done here than other tournaments that you appreciate.
STEVE STRICKER:テつ Well, I think from the time you get here all the way to the time you leave, it's a special tournament.テつ It's a special place and they treat you that way.テつ The people are very nice to us.
They bend over backwards and do anything for you.テつ From giving us a Mercedes for the week and to feeding us great food; I just polished off some crab I think before I came here.テつ I don't eat that in Madison, Wisconsin, too often.テつ Everything is top‑notch and you know it's a special place when you come here and the way they treat you is special and nice here.

Q.テつ Is there some detail or like a tiny little thing that's unexpected?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ You know, I just think they do everything very well.テつ You know, they take care of every need you have, if you have one.テつ I guess if anything, you're protected in the fact that when you go out on the golf course side, there's no autographs and it makes it very nice and easy for us to do our job and practice and get around.テつ And if you want to sign, you go over to the other side of the practice area side, and it's very cut and dried.テつ The line is there; people know not to bother you over there for an autograph most times.テつ You'll take pictures with people and stuff like that, but that makes it nice for us.
We are trying to prepare and it's a tournament that needs a lot of preparation.テつ The course demands a lot of preparation.テつ So it's nice to go over there and still, you interact, and I think the players are even more at ease, because they know they don't have to sign and you can just interact with the Patrons and have a better time with them.テつ And you actually end up, you know, conversing with them a little bit more than usual, I think.
So it's nice in that regard.テつ I think that makes it special for everybody, too.

Q.テつ There's a player in the field that is as old as your daughter.テつ Wonder if we can get your thoughts on that.
STEVE STRICKER:テつ Yeah, how old is he, 16?

Q.テつ 14.
STEVE STRICKER:テつ He is 14.テつ What's his name?

Q.テつ Tianlang Guan.
STEVE STRICKER:テつ Yeah, I knew he was playing.テつ I knew he was young.テつ I didn't know he was the same age as my daughter.テつ I thought he was 16.
Yeah, that's remarkable.テつ And I've been telling my daughter the same with this Lydia Ko who has been playing on the LPGA Tour, I think she's 15, and that's a year older than my daughter.テつ I just can't imagine being that young and competing at this level at such an early age.
It will be interesting.テつ I'll be interested to see how he does and how he handles it and how he plays.テつ It's remarkable that he's even playing.

Q.テつ If I can follow really quick, do you wonder, as the age gets lower and lower; we had a 12‑year‑old qualify for a European Tour event recently, if you get to some of these amateur competitions, would there be anything wrong with having a minimum age requirement, to play an amateur event, U.S. Amateur, Asia‑Pacific, should there be an age requirement?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ I don't think so.テつ If a person or little boy or little girl is good enough to compete at a high level, why should you penalize them for being young, and it just gives them an opportunity to compete at that level and gain more and more experience and confidence if they do play well at an early age.テつ And maybe they, you know, come out and be the next Tiger Woods‑‑

Q.テつ Steve Stricker.テつ Oh, Tiger Woods, sorry.テつ (Laughter)?
MODERATOR:テつ Last question.

Q.テつ When you're at home practicing and especially this last week, when you're hitting balls, you said a couple of hour sessions, what are you trying to accomplish to get ready to come here?
STEVE STRICKER:テつ I'm just trying to keep the club in my hand for the most part.テつ Work on the same little things that I always work on, my tempo.テつ Lately I've been trying to work on setting the club a little bit more.
That's one area I would like to improve on is get a little bit more set position at the top.テつ I'm not overly concerned with it but something I still kind of continue to work on and I have for a number of years.テつ Doesn't seem to get any better but I continue to work in that direction.テつ It's always a lot of little things.テつ I feel like my swing is pretty repeatable, and it's been simplified in my brain.テつ And I think that's good when it comes to golf.テつ And I just kind of do my same little things when I'm at home and I haven't really deviated from those things for six or seven years to tell you the truth.テつ So I continue to do those when I'm in the trailer.
MODERATOR:テつ We wish you all the best, thank you.

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