What they said: Steve Stricker

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July 10, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: John Deere Classic transcript archive

THE MODERATOR: All right. Well, we'll go ahead and get started. Steve Stricker, I'd like to welcome you back, 2009, '10 and now '11 John Deere Classic Champion. With the win you picked up 500 more FedExCup points, moved to No. 2 on the list. I think I've seen more of you this week than I've seen any of these other guys this week, which is a good thing.

STEVE STRICKER: That is a good thing.

THE MODERATOR: Hopefully people think so. Anyway, congratulations on the win.

STEVE STRICKER: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Just what an incredible way to finish it off. Just a few comments about the week and we'll take some questions.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Unbelievable week and an unbelievable finish. Can't really believe that it happened yet, to tell you the truth.

Just kind of a roller coaster day today. It was a struggle pretty much the whole day, and I was just trying to hang in there and trying to make some of my birdies on that back nine and just found it to be a little bit of a struggle coming in. And I feel very fortunate and very lucky to have won. Really do.

THE MODERATOR: Okay. With that we'll go ahead and jump into some questions.

Q. Yesterday you said you had to fight the nerves, but you also said that you are a confident putter. How confident and how nervous were you on 17 and 18 over those putts??

STEVE STRICKER: You know, it's weird, when I get into a situation where I have to make a putt, I feel like my nerves kind of go away, and I focus extremely hard on trying to make that putt. And that's kind of the little zone I got in at 17 and 18, I guess. I had a good feeling at the putt on 17.

I've had that putt before and I know it breaks more than what it looks like. The green is running off to the front right of the green there. It just kind of pulls it over there, and I hit a really good aggressive putt there, best putt of the day really, aggressive wise, and made that.

And then we felt like the tournament was still within reach at that point, if I made that putt, because 18 is such a difficult hole, you never know what can happen.

You know, just like what we saw today, you just never know. A guy can make a birdie and the other guy make a bogey and it's a two-shot swing really quick. At that point after making birdie at 17 we were still thinking we had a chance to win.

Q. How tough was it at 17 after that bunker shot on 17, the fairway bunker??

STEVE STRICKER: On 18? Yeah, you know, I was just trying to get in there to make sure that I had a solid footing beneath me there. And at first I tried to have both feet out of the bunker, and my feet just slid right into the bunker. So then it became apparent that I had to keep at least my left foot in there and keep my right outside of the bunker.

You know, the whole key there was just making sure that I clipped it and not fatted it or bladed it into the lip in front of me. But I felt pretty confident. My footing was pretty good, and I took an extra club thinking that I could get it all the way back to the pin, to tell you the truth. And I had to hook it the way I had to take my stance. So I almost thought if I could get a hook in off that slope there, I could run it back toward the back of the green, and that's what ended up happening.

You know, it's probably a 1 in 10 shot or 2 in 10 shot of hitting that, but it came off, and then to make the putt, you know, was -- I don't know what to say about that.

Q. Were you at all worried about the water on that bunker shot on 18? Did that come into play?

STEVE STRICKER: If I clipped it cleanly, the water really wasn't in play. And the way I had to take my stance, I had to aim it on the right side of the green. So if it came off, you know, the water shouldn't have been in play, unless I fatted it or pulled it. But I had enough club to get over the water over that corner. So really, you know, the numbers were okay, were good. And if I just clipped it good, you know, the water really wasn't in play.

Q. What were you thinking over the putt? Obviously you want to get it to the hole.

STEVE STRICKER: I was thinking about making it. I really was. I was thinking about making it, you know, and I hadn't -- you know, the putt at 17 was a real good putt, so I got some confidence from that.

And I felt good about the read, you know, on the back of the green, and I had a little bit of fringe to go through, but it wasn't that bad. The grain of the fringe was kind of going with me, so I knew it wasn't really going to throw it one way or the other.

But I was trying to make it. Yeah, for sure I was trying to make it, and you don't expect that to go in, but I'm sure glad it did.

Q. Steve, when you were out there pacing around the bunker on 18, did you stand up at the top and watch Kyle's putt from the top, and if so, did that affect your strategy from there or did you have to do what you had to do because of the stance??

STEVE STRICKER: I pretty much had to do what I had to do because of the position I was in there. I could have backed off and hit 7-iron, but I say, you know what, I'm going to try and hit this all the way back there and get it back there. That's when I changed clubs.

We only had like 147 to the front, 187 to the hole. So that's when I reached back for that 6-iron. But I saw what happened in front of me. I knew that he made bogey, so I was really making sure that I made a par, really, and give myself I was thinking maybe a 30-footer or something at birdie. Just turned out.

Q. Can you talk about your ability to remain patient today after you made a couple of errors, that you made with the short irons, you got some bad breaks in the bunkers, and watching Stanley make birdie after birdie, how hard was it to stay in the moment and stay patient??

STEVE STRICKER: It was really hard. Yeah, it really was, and I felt no momentum going my way today. And it kind of seems like that's the way it was last year in last year's round, too.

And it's just a struggle. You get the lead, and I think I was up by four at one point, maybe five. I don't know. But you know, it's just -- after 9, making that bomb at 9, I really thought, here we go. I kind of righted the ship, and let's just play smart on the back, get a couple birdies and somebody's going to really have to shoot something low on the back to catch me. And I just ended up not making any birdies until the last two, and made a couple mistakes, buried it in the bunker, hit it in the hazard off the tee on 15.

So it became hard, real hard. But I didn't get down, and Jimmy was right there telling me the whole time, he's like, you know, it's not over yet; just keep plugging. You never know what's going to happen. And sure enough, he was right. Just play it all the way out and see what happens.

Q. When you say you that you reached back for the pitching iron. Did you have to reach back for something emotional today? You're at age 44 with multiple wins. Did you learn something about yourself today?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. You can always learn something, I think. You know, I've done this throughout my career, reaching back and trying to find something extra, I think. And I know it's in there. But it's hard. You know, it's hard to win golf tournaments. It's hard to keep staying positive and to keep up when things really aren't going your way. But I was able to, you know, keep plugging today.

I really -- I wasn't getting down as much as just the fact that, you know, I was feeling disappointed that things weren't going right. And you know, just a couple of mistakes that I made early on.

You know, I did the same mistake at 5. I kind of came off a wedge and buried it in the bunker. And then, you know, really a poor 8-iron at 16. And that ball we didn't even see. We were glad we found it.

You know, just a couple mistakes that when you're not trying to win a tournament, you know, you don't make those mistakes, but you know, under the gun, when you're nervous and trying to win, things become more difficult. And we reach back, and my hat's off to Jimmy, you know. I mean he kept me in there, kept telling me that, you know, it's not over, and he was right.

Q. Steve, now that you have a piece of history, talk about that accomplishment. And was it wearing on you at all on the back nine at all??

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I kept telling myself all week that it's not a big deal. And it really wasn't, until today, until that back nine trying to win. And it's just really hard.

You know, I don't know any other way to say it. It's extremely hard to put it away. And you know, when you watch some of the -- like Tiger put away all those tournaments, or anybody, you know, anybody just put it away down the stretch, it's a difficult thing to do. So I have a hard time with it. And but I'm happy to come out on top. You know, I was able to make a couple putts when I had to.

Q. Steve, as a pretty reserved guy, is it just sheer relief that let you exchange the fist pump with the fans after that approach on 18??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. It was really, getting it over the water, on the green. You know, at that point, you know, I'm trying to fire myself up, too, because you know, when I was playing 13, 14, 15, 16, you know, those are holes I should be making birdie at, especially 13 and 14, at least giving myself opportunities at it, and I didn't. And I was kind of getting a little down, you know. And it was hard to stay upbeat. I had no momentum. I really didn't.

And so I was just trying to get fired up, you know, get in it and get excited. And at that point I thought I had a chance to get into a playoff, if I could just two-putt, and lo and behold, we made the putt. So crazy finish.

Q. Steve, about the fans, did you feel responsible to them? I mean everybody was pulling for you. Did you feel like, oh, man, I let them down. Did that ever cross your mind?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Yeah. It got quiet out there for a while, you know, and they've been so good to me all week long. I've had all this momentum all week long, and on the back nine it just kind of stalls, and I could feel like I was dragging everybody down.

So it was fun to get back in to make a putt at 17. And you know, they were great, too. They kept trying to cheer me up saying that it's not over yet, keep plugging, don't give up. I heard a lot of positive thoughts going in between some of those holes where I was struggling on. So it was great. They really were great to me all week.

Q. Steve, you said all week about needing to keep your foot on the gas and really pushing for the birdies, and then today you said after the birdie on 9 you kind of felt like you just needed to just keep making par. That's a little bit of a change in mindset, isn't it??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. You know, but I wasn't getting conservative. I was just thinking if I can just go ahead and play my own game and make a couple of birdies, then it's going to be very difficult for anybody to get -- I'm thinking if I can make two more birdies on this side, get to 24-under, it's going to be pretty hard for somebody to catch me.

And that was my thought. And I have it right in front of the green at 10, don't make birdie; drive it right down there 80 yards from the green at 13, don't make birdie. I have 100 yards at 14, don't make birdie. Those are holes where I normally with a sand wedge in my hand where I at least get a good putt at it. And I wasn't even getting good putts at it. So that was concerning to me.

And that's when I could feel it kind of slipping away, you know, during those holes; and then to hit it in the hazard at 15 and plug it at 16, I thought, here we go, it's going to be tough to come back. Still can't believe I'm sitting here really.

Q. Can you talk about the momentum you have now going to the British Open??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Hopefully I can get some sleep. That just wore me out, I know that. The weather, the roller coaster ride, the emotions of winning, not winning, then back to winning again.

But I'm excited about going over there. You know, we'll get a good night's sleep tonight. I'll be tired. And we'll be right back at it tomorrow. We'll be out there getting a practice round in at Royal St. George's and trying to learn that course.

I haven't been there before. Jimmy's been there, and hopefully he can show me around a little bit, but it'll be a quick turnaround and tee it up again on Thursday.

Q. Do you feel it fits your game pretty good, that course??

STEVE STRICKER: I have no idea.

Q. (Indiscernible).

STEVE STRICKER: No. I mean we talked about it here and there. But you know, I don't really feel like certain courses, you know, for me or not for me. I just feel like if I play well enough, I can play well at any course. And I'll just go over there and see what it's all about, and I enjoy that style of golf. We do it once a year. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but I look forward to it.

Q. Steve, you're a veteran, you've got 11 wins now. You've been through a lot of things positive lately. Can you relate at all to what Kyle's going through? In two hours you're going to be on a plane with him to England. Any chance you might share some words of encouragement with him?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, you know, I've never had a tournament snatched away like he just had snatched away from him. And I'm sure it's very difficult.

But you know, he did some great things down the stretch, obviously to make some birdies and get in contention and then to take the lead, so he should really feel good about doing those things. He's a fairly young kid, isn't he? I really don't know Kyle very well.

Q. He's 23.

STEVE STRICKER: Oh, 23. Yeah, he's a young kid. So he's got a lot of years in front of him. And he'll only look back at this where he can take some positives from it. Not right now probably. But over time he'll look back and say, hey, he did some really good things when he had to.

Q. Any chance you'll be able to chat on the plane at all??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. I'm sure I'll look for him and tell him I'm sorry. No, I really -- you know, you feel bad. I mean I feel good, but you feel bad for the guy that got it snatched away from him.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to give him the trophy or the check or anything, but you know, it's gotta be hard. But he's got a long road ahead of him and he'll learn from it, I'm sure, and he'll be there in that position again.

Q. You mentioned at the Memorial, too, just how hard it is for you to close, but yet you're continually just doing that. Is that just confidence and those nerves? I mean you're closing like you're expecting to finish it. And even today, to come back after losing the lead and coming back for the win.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. You know, I wish I could just hit it down every fairway on every green and have like a 15-footer for birdie every hole and then try to win it that way. But today it got a little bit off line at times.

And you know, and then it becomes hard. You know, you're fighting against your swing. You're fighting mentally, you know, physical things. You're fighting everything.

But you know, somehow, you know, we've been able to dig deep a time or two and pull off the win. And it makes me feel good. I mean I have a lot of confidence, really, to tell you the truth. You know, that putt at 17 and that putt at 18, I really have a lot of confidence thinking that I have a really good chance at making these putts. So that makes me feel good.

I've been in those situations, whether it be a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, winning the tournament or whatever, and I've made some of those putts. So I can really look back at those tournaments or events and draw a lot of confidence from that, and that's what makes me feel good.

Q. (Indiscernible). Is this the kind of thing like the groundhog getting out?

STEVE STRICKER: You know, I really do enjoy coming here. I really do. The reason I wasn't here those previous years is because it's right up against the British Open, but I'm so glad that I came back here.

And you know, I won't miss this again. I really won't. I really enjoy coming here. The people are so good to me here. Clair's been great to me, his staff. Everybody here has been really good.

And this is the way tournaments used to be when I first got on TOUR. You know, kind of neighborhood tournaments. You know, smaller towns where, you know, the cities, the smaller areas got involved, and they really put on a great event.

Milwaukee had one, lost it. You know, we were up at the BC Open. You know, that's a senior event now. So there was a number of tournaments where it was that kind of feel, and this remains that close-knit feel where the town and the people really get behind it. So I really enjoy coming here. They put on a great show. So I'll keep coming back. I really will.

Q. Steve, you had two balls buried in bunkers today. You had an awkward stance in that bunker on 18. At any point were you thinking what is going on here??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. You think that way, but then I said, you know, I'm the guy hitting them in those spots. You know, I'm hitting poor shots in those bunkers. You don't expect to bury where you can't see them, but I was still hitting some poor shots. And that's kind of what I kept, you know, thinking about is I can do better and hit better shots. But I really did feel like the momentum was gone for a while.

You know, I felt like I got it back at 8 and 9 and then you know, slowly -- I played 10, 11 and 12 really good. But then you know, 13, 14, 15, 16, those four holes just kind of derailed me there, but yeah. I thought I'd lost it and the momentum was gone.

Q. Are you ready to talk about 14??

STEVE STRICKER: No.

THE MODERATOR: All right. We know you've got a plane to catch. If we could just get you real quick, obviously we're getting towards the season of the playoffs, the FedExCup Playoffs. That's obviously gotta be -- is that something --

STEVE STRICKER: No doubt about it, yeah. I saw up on the board that I think I'll jump up to No. 2 in FedExCup points. So it's always good to get yourself in position and get high on that points list, you know, come playoff time. So I'm excited about getting another victory and jumping to No. 2 in the FedExCup.

THE MODERATOR: Okay. If you wouldn't mind just running us real quick before we cut you loose, just through your birdies and your --

STEVE STRICKER: Doubles? (Laughs).

THE MODERATOR: The big double square.

STEVE STRICKER: I birdied No. 1, hit a 9-iron from like 140 to about five feet. Doubled No. 5, buried it in the bunker, didn't get it out of the bunker and then missed about an eight-footer for bogey.

Hit a sand wedge from like 82 yards at 6, made about a five-footer. Birdied No. 8, hit a lob wedge, I think, 89 yards to about four feet. And then made a bomb at 9, drove it in the left rough. Hit a 7-iron, kind of chased it up there to the middle back of the green, probably made about a 35-footer for birdie there.

And then drove it just in the hazard at 15 and made a bogey. Chipped it out. Then I had 133 yards, hit a wedge a little past the hole, didn't make that putt. Bogeyed 16 by burying it in the bunker. We couldn't even see the ball. We got up there, all we could see was a splash mark where we thought the ball was. So we went in there digging and it was probably -- shoot, it was probably a good half inch underneath the sand. So made a good bogey there.

And then birdied 17, hit a driver and a utility club left of the green and made about a 15-footer. And then you know what happened on 18.

THE MODERATOR: Yes, we do. Well, Steve, congratulations on the three-peat. Good luck next week.

STEVE STRICKER: Thank you.

Transcript courtesy of ASAP Sports.

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