What they said: Steve Stricker

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June 05, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: the Memorial Tournament transcript archive

CHRIS REIMER: It's my pleasure to congratulate our 2011 the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance winner Steve Stricker. Just a fantastic day. Obviously a great tournament on the front nine. Maybe we can start talking about how you dominated those nine holes this week.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know, I don't know what was going on on the front nine, but I -- what did I shoot on that front nine, 20-under for the week? But I needed them all, I guess, the way I played that back nine. It was a tough finish. You know, I went out back there -- back out there, I should say, after that rain delay and played pretty tentatively at times, had a good couple opportunities to start with, but I felt like I was just trying to hang on and get it in the house. It's a tough way to play.

I hit a bad drive at 15 that really made me feel pretty uncomfortable about this whole situation. But made a couple great putts coming in and was fortunate enough to get the win.

CHRIS REIMER: And talk about coming off the green and being greeted by Mr. Nicklaus there after winning the event.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you've seen so many guys do that over the years, the winners coming off the green and getting greeted by Mr. Nicklaus. And you always think one day that could be you. And it turned out it was me this year. It's a great thrill. It's a dream come true. It's a great place to win. The field is great. The course is one of our toughest tests, better courses that we play throughout the year.

The whole tournament itself is top-notch, from the way they treat you, the whole nine yards. So it's a pretty special feeling getting greeted by him walking off that last green.

Q. In terms of feeling or character or something, what is the essential difference between the front nine and the back??

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I don't know. It's very similar. There may be -- I don't know. There's still trouble on the front. There's trouble on the back. I think the situation was I got off to some really good starts the last couple of days, and you know, I got off -- had a pretty big lead yesterday. It's just a situation that I'm not too familiar with, having big leads and trying to increase those leads.

You know, I think yesterday I kind of played a little tentatively at times. It was a long, hot day yesterday. I may have lost my focus a little bit.

And then today I come out and do the same thing, you know, make the turn in 6-under and feeling really good about my game, and I was playing aggressively, and then we get the rain delay. You know, you sit in there for two and a half hours in the locker room thinking that you've got a three-shot lead or whatever you have, and you're just trying to get it in the house at that point and maybe make a birdie or two coming down the stretch.

You know, it's a long time to think about it, again, for another couple of hours waiting around. I just didn't play like I know I'm capable of playing coming down the stretch. I made some great putts, but some of the shots weren't really what I was dreaming of.

Q. Of all the things, all the shots and all the things that went on this week, when you look back at this win what are you going to remember the most do you think??

STEVE STRICKER: I think that stretch of holes where I finished up on -- what day was it, Friday, making the hole-in-one and then birdie and then coming out Saturday morning and making a couple eagles in five holes and making the turn yesterday in 31. You know, so played about ten holes in 9-under or something like that, in that stretch. And that really kind of won the tournament for me, that stretch of holes.

You know, and then coming out today and then just feeling really good about what was going on. Hit a couple really good shots to start the day and was feeling really comfortable with what I was doing, and good thing, because the scores were extremely low on the front nine. So it was a good thing that I got off to that good start today.

Q. And secondly, there was a lot of attention on your par saves on 16 and 17. Could you talk about the shot on 12??

STEVE STRICKER: The bunker shot on 12? Well, the bunker shot at 12, I had no other option. I was on a downslope, a little downhill lie. If I went to the front of the green, it was going to probably roll off the front of the green in the bunker. If I went at the pin I run the risk of running it into the water. So my only play was to throw it up there in the fringe and hopefully it came out and got it on the green, and I was just looking to get a 10 feet and under putt at it, and I almost made it.

It was one of those shots that just came off perfect. You know, you think about it, what you want to do. You pick your spot, but for it to actually happen and bounce through the rough like it did is really a bonus.

Q. I just wanted to get your thoughts on being the No. 1 ranked American in the world.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, shocking. I don't know what my thoughts are on it, to tell you the truth. I mean, the Europeans are playing some great golf, and they're dominating the top spots, obviously, but we know who the top guys are. They're just not on their games right now, I guess.

But I feel good about where I'm at. I feel good about what I've done here this week. It's a good feather in my cap heading into the U.S. Open, and I've got next week off and looking forward to a couple days of rest and getting back at it, getting ready for the Open.

Q. I saw a quote from you a couple years ago where it said you enjoy tournaments after the fact and it's fun then, but when it's coming down the stretch it's hard making the shots and all that. Is that the way it was today??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it really -- it's fun when you look back. Right now it's fun, obviously I'm sitting up here. But when you're going through it, you know, your stomach is in a knot. You just want to know what the result is going to be, at least I do. I keep thinking positive thoughts all the way. I keep thinking about that I'm going to come out on top at the end and all that kind of stuff. But it's still a nerve-wracking time.

You know, it gets harder. I mean, it just gets harder to win out here, and you don't want to blow the opportunity, and especially when I had the lead like I did yesterday and today. You don't want to give it away. That's when it becomes really hard.

Q. You've won tournaments before, you've won big tournaments, you've been in Ryder Cups, Presidents Cup. Those two putts on 16 and 17, how big, and you just talked about your stomach being in knots. What were you thinking out there??

STEVE STRICKER: I was starting to feel a little bit more comfortable at that time even though I was struggling to make pars. You know, I feel good when I've got the putter in my hand. I felt like if I could just have a 15-, 20-footer for par at 17, at worst I'm going to have a one-shot lead going down 17, and it wasn't the end of the world type thing. I had really no chance of going at the pin from the bunker on the back of 16, so I just played it out to the side.

And then 17, you know, that putt was probably the tournament. I felt like if I could make this going down the last hole with a two-shot lead, it would probably be doable. So I put a lot of emphasis on trying to make that putt, and fortunately it went in and just played down the right side at 18, played it in the bunker and tried to keep it out of the water.

Q. As was mentioned earlier you're now No. 4 in the world, the top-ranked American. Do you feel like a superstar??

STEVE STRICKER: No. No, I don't. I guess that's why I dodged that question over there when they asked about it. I've been up to No. 2 in the world, and I just go about my own business. I don't look at myself any differently. I don't -- I just go out and play, you know, and I try to play well. And I'm on a great run these last five or six years, and I just want to continue it.

I'm playing a little bit less, but I'm still getting a lot out of my game, and I'm enjoying playing a lot.

Q. Jack, do you think he's a superstar??

JACK NICKLAUS: Do I think he's a superstar? Yeah, but I think he's a superstar in more ways than his golf game. I've had him on, I don't know, four Presidents Cup --

STEVE STRICKER: Three Presidents Cup, but just one with you and I.

JACK NICKLAUS: Really, just one?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, up in Canada.

JACK NICKLAUS: Seemed like there were more.

CHRIS REIMER: You should have picked him (laughter).

JACK NICKLAUS: But even more, I think he's been a superstar from the way he's behaved himself, the way he handles his game, the way he handles people and the way he handles fans. He's always done that, and that to me is equally as important as how well you score. I've always felt that about Steve.

I remember when he was in college, he was a great kid when he was in college, and here he is 25 years later and he's still a great kid. Not a kid anymore, but he's still a kid to me.

Q. Historically here you've struggled on the front nine. This week you just blistered the front nine. Is it a point of emphasis here earlier in the week to really do well on the front nine, and once you started shooting well on Thursday on the front nine, did that boost your confidence for the rest of the weekend or was it more on Friday??

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I didn't have any emphasis. I didn't know that I played the front nine poorly over the years nor did I know that I played the back nine better.

Like I said earlier, I think it was the fact that the last couple days I got off to such great runs on the front nine and got off to a big lead yesterday and just kind of got a little sloppy. I didn't keep my foot on the pedal and keep moving forward. I kind of relaxed a little bit and didn't want to make mistakes.

And pretty much the same happened today. You're just trying to finish off the tournament, don't want to give it away, and that's a hard way to play, as you probably know.

It's a little bit easier if you're coming from behind, but if you have that three- or four-shot lead, it's tough, especially when we go sit up there for two and a half hours and I've got to think about it for that amount of time. It makes it a little bit tougher.

Q. I think it's your 10th win now, and I'm just curious, given all that you've been through and some of the struggles you've had, 10, getting to double figures, is kind of a number that I think resonates a little --

STEVE STRICKER: This guy has got 18 majors. (Laughter.)

JACK NICKLAUS: Yeah, I don't know why he hasn't won a major yet, but as long as he wants to play, the next couple, three years or even this year, the way he's playing, watch out at Congressional or watch out someplace. He'll get there.

STEVE STRICKER: Thank you.

What was the question?

Q. Just getting the 10 wins.

STEVE STRICKER: Well, obviously it's special. You know, from where I came from back in '04 and '05, it's well documented, we talk about it every week it seems like, but to be where I'm at today is -- I've got to pinch myself every once in a while really, to remember where I was and to see where I am today and the confidence level at which I play now is night and day from where I ever was, and that's a good thing.

I'm just enjoying the ride.

Q. What will be your preparation for Congressional? Will you go early, and how do you feel that that course in particular --

STEVE STRICKER: I enjoy the course. I've had some successes over the years there. I had an opportunity to win Tiger's event there a few years back. I'm not sure of the year. But I enjoy the course. It's a great old-style course, much like this course. You have to drive it well there. You've got to hit great iron shots there and you've got to putt well, much like this course right now.

I'll get there on Sunday. I am kind of a guy who likes to play four nine holes, Sunday through Wednesday, and not stay out there a bunch, but just get my work in over a nine-hole period and practice a little bit and get ready.

Q. For all the great golf you've played and all the reasons to have positive thoughts, were you standing on the 15th tee thinking about the tee shot there Saturday??

STEVE STRICKER: No, I was not. No. I didn't really have a negative thought going through my mind really, there, at all. That was one of my old shots that crept in there, and I hadn't hit one of those all week.

But you know, I was -- I wasn't happy about it, and lucky we found it and it was in the hazard, and I still thought we could make a par out of the situation. But yeah, it wasn't a very good shot really.

Q. From what you said outside about how you handle these trophy presentations, have you always been this emotional??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, usually I'm crying in here, too. So I think I'm getting better. I didn't cry in the TV interview, either.

Q. That's because they cut it short.

STEVE STRICKER: That's true.

I think you stick so much energy into the whole week, and you know, I don't let myself think about winning so much. But when it's finally over and all that emotion, I think, comes out and you have this guy congratulating you as you walk off, it's pretty special, pretty cool time.

Q. You talked about your thought process on 16 and 17 and also your tee shot on 18. I'm interested in your thoughts as you're in the bunker on 18 and also when you're in the rough short of the green you've got three to get down to win. What are you thinking there??

STEVE STRICKER: I had a great lie in the bunker off the tee. I was actually playing to those two trees right off the tee. I was just trying to get it up there, even in the bunkers because the bunkers aren't bad to play from there. I hit a good 6-iron out of there. I thought I hit it on the green, to tell you the truth. I caught it clean, it was going right at it. I thought I had enough club to carry the bunker. As long as it didn't get in the bunker up there on the green I thought it was all right.

I really didn't want to send that chip past the hole because I know how slippery and quick it is above that hole. So I figured if I just got it out there, got it on that upper tier, I could two-putt. I was just trying to make a 5 and get out of there. It was a long enough day and I just wanted to be done and get it over with.

Q. We asked you the other day kind of hypothetically what it would mean if you won here, and now that it's happened, what does it mean? It's the Memorial, it's a big deal, Jack is here, and is this your biggest win?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think it is. It's obviously right up there at the top, if it isn't. It's a great field. It's a great course, and when you have Mr. Nicklaus' name attached to it, it adds another element of importance. The list of champions here over the years is pretty cool to be a part of. I know Jack has won it how many times?

JACK NICKLAUS: Just twice.

STEVE STRICKER: So any time you can put your name on a tournament that he's won, it's an honor. That's what I told him, it was a dream come true walking off that green today.

Q. What did you actually do during the weather delay, and were you trying to keep your mind free of thoughts about the tournament situation??

STEVE STRICKER: I stayed in the clubhouse. I was up in the workout area just kind of sitting around watching TV, playing with my phone a little bit. You know, it's hard not to think about what I had left, and I knew how important the shot at 13 was, the first shot out, and I hit a good one there and had a good opportunity there, and at 14. If I would have made those two putts or one of those putts, I think it might have been a little bit different feeling for me, you know, might have calmed me down a little bit.

But yeah, it's hard not to think about those last closing holes and just the unknown. You don't know what's going to happen with the other players, you don't know how you're going to perform under the stretch, under the gun. You know, at that point you just want to get done. I don't know if you've ever felt like that over the years --

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, yes, I have. You just want to get it over with.

STEVE STRICKER: You want to know what the result is going to be and you want to finish it off, and that's what I was thinking about in there those whole two and a half hours.

Q. Was that your first time in the workout room all week??

STEVE STRICKER: No.

Q. I'm curious if you could expand on trying to hang on, as you said earlier. Was there ever any thoughts of don't lose this, don't blow this, and along those lines, at Riviera I want to say a couple years ago you had a big lead, had a few nervous moments and then pulled away at the end. Were you able to draw on that??

STEVE STRICKER: I didn't think about Riviera when I was going through this process, but the thought of blowing it and not performing down the stretch to win, it came through my mind. You know, and that's what you've got to keep trying to block out and keep telling yourself that you just continue to play the way you've played for the 66 previous holes or whatever you have left and continue doing the things that you've been doing to get you to that point.

Sure, those thoughts come in. I think they'd come into everybody's mind, but it's just how you deal with those thoughts and how you can get them out of there and get back to the game plan and what you've been doing.

CHRIS REIMER: Steve, just go through maybe holes 15 and 18 and also maybe -- you already went through the putt on 12, but maybe two of your key birdies on the front.

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I think that the key birdies on the front were right away at 1 and 2. To get off to a good start -- didn't realize the scoring was going to be so good on the front nine. It seemed like everybody was going low. There was a lot of low scores to start the day.

You know, to get off to a good start was important, and I continued that on, birdieing 7, 8 and 9 to make the turn at 6-under. Really, the up-and-down at 12 and 16 were huge up-and-downs for me on the back nine. 12, you know, I just tugged it a little bit left off the tee and I thought I still hit it on the green, but I just one-bounced it in the back bunker, and to get that up-and-down was really a bonus.

JACK NICKLAUS: That was the best shot you played.

STEVE STRICKER: Thank you.

JACK NICKLAUS: That was an unbelievable bunker shot.

STEVE STRICKER: There might have been a little luck involved in that.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you have to have luck, but the shot that you played and the position you were in in that tournament, you could leave it in the rough, make double bogey, hit it through the green, make double bogey. You got the right bounce out with a great shot and made par.

STEVE STRICKER: Thank you.

You look back at all these things that happened throughout the week, the hole-in-one and obviously the eagles and a couple up-and-downs at 12 and 16, and you really believe that it was your week to win when all those things happen like that. It happened for me at the John Deere like that a couple years ago. It seemed like I holed out maybe two or three shots from the fairway and went on to win there, too.

So I had a pretty good feeling that this could be my week when you start doing these hole-outs from the fairways and things like that, and those couple of key up-and-downs were huge for me on the back side today.

CHRIS REIMER: Mr. Nicklaus, any closing comments as we conclude here?

JACK NICKLAUS: This is Steve's press conference. I just think we're delighted with our winner and we're delighted for Steve, and it was a -- I thought it was a great week. I don't think we've ever had scoring conditions like we've had this week. The golf course never had its total fire in it because the wind never really dried it totally out, and the ability to be able to throw the ball at the pin and be able to shoot low scores, and the golf course was in wonderful condition, the greens were perfect, the ball just rolled perfect. It just was one of those weeks. It was just that the course was there for the taking.

I always like -- if the conditions are right, the golf course should be there for the taking with good play. If it's not, then the golf course isn't really set up properly or something is wrong.

CHRIS REIMER: Steve and Mr. Nicklaus, congratulations to both of you, and a great win.

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