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April 7, 2014

Steve Stricker


THE MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to welcome Steve Stricker to the interview room in what will be his 14th Masters appearance.  Steve had a very steady 2013 season which included four runner‑up showings in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the WGC Cadillac Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship and THE TOUR Championship.
He has 12 career PGA victories to his credit and still the only player to win multiple events in each season from 2009 through 2011.  Welcome back to Augusta.  Before we open to questions, can you comment on how your preparations have been coming into this year's Masters?
STEVE STRICKER:  Last week was my preparation.  I had just played Houston.  I had been off for a few weeks since Miami, and needed to get some competitive rounds under my belt.  I have not had a lot of those yet this year, so played Houston and got some good practice in, good rounds, got to learn a few things about what's going on with my swing and obviously with my eyes towards this week.  So it was good to get some play and work on my game.  So I haven't been playing a lot, as you all know, but it was good to get out last week and work on a few things.

Q.  As the thunder rolls, can you talk about, did you get any work in this morning?  The guys we saw sort of out and about today, just kind of rushing around to try and get something done today.  Did you get anything done today?
STEVE STRICKER:  Didn't get anything done.  Had some club work to do.  I put a new set of irons in play last week with new shafts.  Didn't really feel all that comfortable with them, so kind of went with some‑‑ I had to go back and redo the shafts and get my old set of shafts back in there, and so I was busy doing that.  Hoping to get out just to hit some balls on the range but never got there because of the weather.

Q.  It's such a big deal getting ready for this for so many players and wanting to play their way into shape, and you seem to take the opposite approach.  Does that concern you at all, because your game is maybe not exactly where you want it to be?
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, it's not as sharp as where I would really like to have it coming into here, but it never seems to be, even when I was playing full‑time.
I think you want to be prepared here, but you know, being from where I am from, in Wisconsin, our weather is just not that good, and I've never been a guy who plays a lot of tournaments back‑to‑back.  So now, even more so, I don't play a lot.
It's just something I'm accustomed to.  I deal with it.  There are some positives to being this way, though:  I'm fresh.  I let poor shots kind of‑‑ they don't affect me as much, and I just give myself a break.  I'm much easier on myself out on the golf course because I am fresher, so that is a positive.
I've got a couple days here.  It's even good for a lot of players to have today off.  Guys, especially, who played last week, kind of forces them in a way to rest and get two good days of work in before the start of the tournament.

Q.  Playing your schedule the way you did last year, how did your body feel in the end of the year and in the off‑season, did it go well?
STEVE STRICKER:  It has.  It's been much better.  I've had some issues over the last two or three years.  I've had a herniated disk both in my neck and in my back, so I've gotten through those without surgery.  I've kind of done a lot of physical therapy and treatment on that, so I didn't have to do surgery.  And I think the lack of play has definitely helped in that department.
I feel as good as I've ever felt to tell you the truth.  I've worked out a lot more over the wintertime, lost some weight.  Physically, I feel a lot better.  So it's all going good in that department.

Q.  You just touched on this, but as a fellow Midwesterner, how did you deal with the winter?
STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, it was tough even to hit balls inside our trailer like we normally do because it was so cold, but we are still able to get out there most days and practice and to get ready for a tournament.  But yeah, it was a long winter.  I know people are frustrated up there.  I've been fortunate to get out of there a few weeks at a time to go play or practice or go do something else, go to a Badger game, something like that, but I know people are climbing the walls.  They're ready to start the golf season and get some warmer weather.

Q.  What's it like for the players with Tiger not here?  What do you think his absence will mean for the tournament?
STEVE STRICKER:  Well, I think this tournament is‑‑ just like any other year, I think is wide open.  There's so many good players here that if you can get it going, it's anybody's tournament to win, I think.
I think the absence of him not being here is tough on the tournament.  Any time he's in the tournament, he draws so much more attention.  We're all going to miss him here.  The tournament, I'm sure, is going to miss him.  Players to some extent will miss him but then they are like, hey, he's not here, so it's one less guy you have to beat, too.
Any time he's in the field, it makes it a better tournament.  More attention, like I said, is on the tournament.  So we need him back.  For sure we need him back, and playing golf and being healthy, and I think that's the biggest thing is to get him back healthy.  Because I think he's been struggling with his health for quite a while‑‑ I mean, it showed up last fall in The Presidents Cup, too.  So he's been dealing with this for a little while.
We need him back healthy and playing good again.

Q.  As people mourn the passing of the Eisenhower tree, do you have an experience you'd like to share?
STEVE STRICKER:  I've hit it a few times and I know it's a thorn in most players' side.  I don't know if any of the players are sad to see it leave.  I'm surprised that there isn't a bigger one in place there already to tell you the truth (laughter).  I'm sure over the next year or two, there will be something there.
Like I said, I haven't seen it since its disappearance, but it will be interesting to see what actions the club takes to put a medicine tree in its place‑‑ and what are they going to call it (laughter).

Q.  You talked about the experience last week of going back and forth between the Houston and the Final Four‑‑
STEVE STRICKER:  I was thinking about that, because I was looking at the weather for today, and I'm like, well, if the Badgers win and it's supposed to be really bad in Augusta, we could stay and come in, but all those plans got shot out the window when they ended up getting beat.
It was a lot of fun.  My kids and my wife had a great time.  My caddie went up with us along with Jeff Overton's caddie, so there were six of us.  At the time going there and in the game, I'm like, oh, this is really cool, I'm so glad we came.  And then when they got beat, I'm like, this wasn't such a good idea, because we had to get out of the stadium with 79,000 other people, so it took us a while to get back (laughter).
It was a short night, Sunday morning, I should say; it was a short morning before I had to get back out there and play again.  It was a great experience.  We got to see the stadium.  It was a great experience for me and the kids and Nicki, and we would definitely do it again, it was fun.

Q.  With Tiger's back and your back, is it just a cost of doing business in your living; is anyone who hits balls as much as you do going to have some back problems?
STEVE STRICKER:  I think so.  If you look through the history of a player or any player, I think you're going to have to deal with some sort of injuries over his or her career.  I think just our body is not meant to take that rotation on a daily basis over an extended period of time, and something's going to give, especially as you get older, I think.
For guys like Tiger, or I can remember Bill Glasson, Keith Clearwater, guys that keep themselves in really good shape, it almost seems like they are more prone to injury, whether they don't give their bodies a rest or a break; you don't see too many overweight guys or guys that don't take as good of care get hurt, for whatever reason.
It's like they are getting away, they are getting their rest, and it's the guys that continually pound the balls and continually hit the gym that sometimes seem to have some of the issues.  Whether that's the case with Tiger or not or if it's just all the practice over the years, I just don't think the body is meant to withstand all that repetition.
MODERATOR:  That's very interesting because that's counterintuitive to what the trend has been in golf.
STEVE STRICKER:  I think there's a happy medium, though.  I think if you stay flexible and do stay in fairly good shape; but I think there's some guys that have gone above that and I don't know if it's very healthy to some extent.  I'm not saying that's what Tiger did or Bill Glasson or any of those guys did, but you have to wonder if it's too much.  Too much of one thing is not always good, so I think there needs to be a happy balance to maintain that.

Q.  You mentioned you had some neck and back issues yourself.  Do you think that it's a product of overwork or overpractice or just congenital maybe?
STEVE STRICKER:  You know what, it's a good question.  All of the doctors that I've seen just kind of reiterated what I just said about, you know, it's the nature of your job, and maybe I didn't take care of my body enough in my 20s and 30s.  I'm not a very flexible person.  I never worked on flexibility, and I have a lot of tension in those areas that I have issues with, so maybe that was some of my issue is that I didn't do those things of getting stretched and getting flexible and getting those problem areas taken care of, and it led to those disk problems.
So I don't know.  I think everybody is a little bit different and you've got to kind of kind your weaknesses try to get better in those areas.  It's hard to say.  I think everybody is a little bit different.
MODERATOR:  Thank you.

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