What they said: Steve Stricker

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January 05, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Hyundai Tournament of Champions transcript archive

JOHN BUSH: Steve Stricker joins us here at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Coming off of another great year, 2011, with two wins there at the Memorial and John Deere Classic. Talk about your year last year and your aspirations and goals for this year.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, obviously another good year when you can win a couple of times and make your way back here. It's always icing on the cake. You know, it was a consistent year. I didn't have a tremendous amount of top 10s. I think I only had about five. But I finished in the top 20 or 25 quite a bit, and I look forward to the same.

I look forward to getting off to a good start here and doing much the same as I did last year, trying to win again. And we've got a Ryder Cup at the end of this year, so that's always a goal, to make those teams. And being close to Chicago has gotten my attention a little bit more to try to make that team.

Q. How is the elbow??

STEVE STRICKER: It's been good. It's been real good. I've been doing some physical therapy at home, mainly some massage treatments is what it's boiled down to or some pressure treatments. I did about six of those in a two� week period leading up to the Christmas, and then continued that over here, and it's been feeling good. I got another cortisone shot right before Christmas, and I think that, too, has helped a lot. So it feels pretty good.

Q. How many shots have you had now??

STEVE STRICKER: Two.

Q. Was it any easier the second time??

STEVE STRICKER: It's still a little nervy situation. It's not painful or anything, but knowing that they get real close to your spinal cord kind of brings the attention to something that� � but they've never had any problems there at that facility, so I feel like I'm in pretty good hands when I'm there.

Q. Are you doing strength building??

STEVE STRICKER: I haven't. I'm going to take four weeks off after Sony, and at that time they kind of gave me the go� ahead to start trying to strengthen and things.

Q. What have you noticed about your distance??

STEVE STRICKER: Actually I feel like I'm hitting a little bit further. Last year at this time I wasn't, so I� � you look at the way I felt a year ago compared to now, I'm in much better shape.

Q. I want to ask you about the 20� somethings coming out. Last year I think you were one of only six guys in their 40s to win. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that.

STEVE STRICKER: Sure. Yeah, it's fun to see. There's kind of been a transformation of players out here, and it's going to happen eventually. But you know, we saw Tiger and Phil slip out of the top 10, and we see some European players coming in there, young European players and young Americans coming in there and playing well and stepping right up early on in their careers and playing well. So it's fun to see. And they come out with a tremendous amount of confidence and talent. And it makes it harder. It makes it harder to compete out here for sure, because they are so good and� � on the American team, sending out Bubba and Webb first right out of the chute at the Presidents Cup shows what kind of faith that not only Freddie but as a team that we had in the young guys sending them out early. So it's good to see. It's fun to see, too, and they're good kids. There really isn't a bad apple in any of the group there. It's nice to see.

Q. Seems like it's always been like you reach your 30s and that's kind of your prime. Do you see that maybe a little bit younger now??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you know, I don't know. I think having knowledge and experience, the older you get, is always worth a few shots here and there during the tournament. But I think the kids are coming out more prepared all the time. They look at some of these younger kids, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, you know, these young guys that have had some success early on, and they know where they fit in the whole scheme of things as a player, and they see that they've played well, and I think that gives them confidence, too, and then they can come out and perform at a high level, too.

You know, right now it seems like young is good. I mean, it's like� � they're playing well.

Q. Were there guys in the field this week that you didn't know last year, never heard of??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, probably, like� � do I have to name them?

Q. Sure. Do you know them now??

STEVE STRICKER: I know them now a little bit. Brendan Steele I didn't know too much about. Chris Kirk is here, too, isn't he? I didn't know too much about him. I have a question: Did Bo Van Pelt make it here based upon that win at CIMB? I knew there was a whole bunch of discussion whether that gets him in, and I didn't know where that ended up being. So that winner doesn't get here?

Q. But you know Bo??

STEVE STRICKER: I know Bo.

Is that it?

Q. I kind of wanted to ask you, your optimism is always there I think for everybody at the start of the year; does it get any different the older you get??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it probably does. I think you may be a little bit more patient early on. You know that it's a long year. You know, you're still excited to get going and play well, and you want to play well. And I think experience here at this course proves to be a lot, too, to tell you the truth. I can remember coming here one of my first few times, and the scores the guys were shooting here, like wow, how are they shooting those scores. It's hard to get the ball close. There's a lot of course knowledge here, and I think the more times you play here, the better off you are, too.

Q. Do you ever think about the window closing on you??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah.

Q. How old are you, 44??

STEVE STRICKER: I turn 45 next month. Yeah, I think about it. But I also think about that I've played so well over the last six years that there's no reason that I can't continue to keep playing well. I'm not seeing any really changes in my game, and that's the nice part. I'm not hitting it shorter this year. I actually feel like I'm hitting a little bit longer. You know, so it's� � I keep telling myself there's no reason why I can't continue on to do what I've been doing.

Q. If you get lucky with the putter??

STEVE STRICKER: Every once in a while.

Q. So many near misses here and at Sony the last several years. Do you come here with lots of confidence knowing you can play well or do you come with a little frustration wondering when it's going to be your time??

STEVE STRICKER: No, I come here with a lot of confidence knowing that I've been close not only here but at Sony. I keep telling myself one of these years I'll get a win over here in Hawai'i. It would be a great way to start the season. So no, I come here definitely with positive thoughts. I don't think that� � I'm not frustrated about what happened here in previous years.

Q. How do you play well at two courses that are so radically different??

STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. I've always felt, my game, if I'm playing well, if I'm hitting the ball well and making putts, I can play or compete at any type of course. And you're right, these are two totally different types of courses. You know, I'm not sure� � Sony next week kind of favors a straighter hitter, good short game. Here this week it kind of favors the guy that can really hit it out there a long ways. But still, you've got to be able to putt and think your way around this course, too. I've always felt if I'm playing well, I can play any type of course, and these are two different styles for sure.

Q. Going back to when you first came out here, how dramatic has the landscape changed? There's almost no off� season anymore.

STEVE STRICKER: Right.

Q. You're a guy who will still put the clubs away for a while, but there aren't many guys who will.

STEVE STRICKER: It's tough. It's tough to find the time. You know, this year I had a little bit of time. I had about five weeks in between the TOUR Championship and the Presidents Cup. But it flew by. As it is, you can play all year long. But I think you've still got to find the time. You've got to still get away, find the time where you can set the clubs down for a little while and get refreshed and ready to go for another year because it is a long year and there's so much big things at the end of it all that you want to make sure you're fresh and still able to play at the end.

Q. Going back to '99, you probably couldn't fathom 11 guys not playing.

STEVE STRICKER: Is that what it is this year, 11 guys not playing?

Q. Possibly 12. But as a player now can you almost� � can you understand it more than maybe the average person??

STEVE STRICKER: Well, I can see it� � a lot of those guys are European players, I think, too, or that were playing the Race to Dubai all the way up through December, I think. A lot of them were, weren't they? A lot of the European guys didn't make it here or didn't come. So I can see that. I can see where they want to get away and get the time, and usually that's their break. Their break is usually over the Christmas holidays and the first couple weeks in January they don't play, either, do they, the majority of them? Maybe all of January, I don't know.

But yeah, it's important, just because the shift, I think, of the TOUR schedule and their schedule, especially theirs, has gotten to be later into the year, into November and December, and same with us this year with the Presidents Cup, Tiger's event. Some guys don't play in December. So there's still some opportunities to keep playing later into the year.

Q. Just to follow up, in essence they've got to build an off� season somewhere??

STEVE STRICKER: Got to do it somewhere, yeah.

Q. This is sort of a casualty, right??

STEVE STRICKER: Totally, and unfortunate for everybody involved here. But yeah, at some point in time everybody has got to take the break and resharpen and at least get away from the game for a while. I learned that early on in my career, and I think most guys do. It's just� � even during the season when you take a couple weeks off, you're really not getting away. You're really not� � you probably play a little bit to keep somewhat into the game where you're swinging the club. A two� week break during the season really doesn't get you away. You're still mentally in it. You're still thinking about it. You're still wanting to make sure that you're working on some things to get better for the next tournament you play in. And everybody looks for that maybe three� , four� week window where they can set the clubs down and not think about it at all, and that's when I think you can get recharged.

Q. What's this four� week break coming up for you going to be like??

STEVE STRICKER: A little bit of both. I'll probably switch off for a couple weeks and then get back at it for a couple weeks leading up to LA. I mean, I think that's what I was trying to explain, that you need to get away from it. Just because it's so mentally grinding I think throughout the course of the year. Just like everybody's job, even if they take a short vacation or something, it's hard to get away from work. And I think golf is a good example of that, too. We're always thinking about ways of getting better and trying to improve, so there is no real time except when you can build in a four� or five� week period where you can totally get away from it and switch it off, like you said.

Q. Do you think the TOUR or the board or anybody, something will have to happen to sort of protect the field of this event? Is there anything that can be done?

STEVE STRICKER: I don't know if there's anything that can be done. Put it at the end of the year? I don't know. You know, I don't know if that would work, either. But it's a special� � a lot of guys feel like it's a special place to start the year when you do win and come here. But I understand the frustration that a lot of guys don't come here, and it's a topic of discussion every year here, I think. I mean, Tiger, the years that he's won, and Phil, they usually don't come here. But again, everybody is trying to find that break. And the schedule is so long and demanding at some times, especially toward the end of the year, that it's just hard to play them all.

Q. You're the highest ranked player in the field. You have such a low� key personality. Do you see yourself as a main headliner??

STEVE STRICKER: No.

Q. When you don't have people, maybe the bigger names, do you feel any more responsibility, or do you just go about playing??

STEVE STRICKER: No, I go about it the same. I don't feel any more responsibility or pressure to perform any differently than what I normally do. You know, I just really never think about that ranking too much. I try to play well, try to play consistent and let all that other stuff kind of take care of itself.

Q. Just want to get your thoughts on the major rotation. I know you want to get one here.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Obviously Augusta is always a fun way to start the majors, a great place. Olympic is one of my favorite courses. We used to go out there in college and play. My coach was from out there. We used to go out there and play just for fun on our break, our spring break. And then� � when was it there last, '01? Is that the last year it was there? And I finished 5th there. It was there more recently than that, wasn't it? No? '01?

Q. When did you finish fifth there, '01 or '96, the year Lehman won??

STEVE STRICKER: I was in Janzen's group. What year was that, '01?

Q. You're talking about Lytham??

STEVE STRICKER: No, you're jumping way ahead. Have you been listening to me at all since you've been in here?

Q. Lee Janzen won and Payne Stewart finished second.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah.

And Royal Lytham is where I played my first British Open so it's kind of a nice stretch. I enjoy those courses. I've never played Kiawah Island so I can't tell you anything about it. I know that the Ryder Cup was there and all that happened there, but I really don't know anything about it. But excited to go there and try it and play.

Q. I was just curious if it was easier for you to envision what you could accomplish in your 40s after what Vijay did or

STEVE STRICKER: Sure, no doubt about it. Seeing all those guys, Vijay and then Kenny Perry did it, Jay Haas played well leading into the Senior Tour. I don't know, he was 48, 49, 50 year old. Loren Roberts played well. There was guys that I looked at, I'm like, God, they're playing great still into their late 40s. So there's no question you look up to those guys and see what they're trying to do and believe that it can be done. So yeah, there's no doubt I looked up to those guys thinking as I got closer to that age.

Q. What did Nicki do out there??

STEVE STRICKER: Played about six holes. She made one birdie. She played all the way up. I think she had a couple bogeys, one birdie.

Q. Do you recall either late '90s back when you were winning early or even '02 when you came back here how long your off� season was??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. You know, where I really learned about it is the year in '96 I won twice and then the end of '96 I played a lot in the fall. I went and played the Dunhill Cup. I played some funny events, money events in the fall or in November, December. Then I came out in January and felt like I had been playing for four years straight and just no rest, and it showed. I was frustrated. My game wasn't good. And mentally I was tired. And I had a horrible year.

So I learned early on.

And then there were years where I wasn't playing good all year, and then I just said, screw it, I'm going to take a bunch of time off anyways, and actually it helps. It helps to get away and get refreshed. It helps sometimes to do that. So I learned early on.

It's important, and I've tried to pass that along to some other players. Webb came up to me at Shark Shootout talking about scheduling on the West Coast. I'm like, you know, you've got to do what you feel is right for yourself, but speaking from experience, you need to get some time away, and you just need to make sure that you're fresh and rested and ready to go.

Q. Lastly, do you think you've got a recipe for scheduling yourself to get optimum performance in the majors? Have you figured that out yet do you think?

STEVE STRICKER: I've always done the same thing. I don't know if it's� � it must not be a good recipe. I haven't won one. But it is a recipe. There's tournaments I play beforehand. I usually play Houston before Augusta, just because I haven't been able to play that much at home. I can't play at home at that time of year.

Q. You play in Florida??

STEVE STRICKER: I don't mind playing in Florida. I can't play at home at that time of year, so I've got to feel like I've got to play Houston. Usually before a U.S. Open I don't play, try to get ready for that one. John Deere I've been playing before the British. You know, it varies, I guess, what I like to play beforehand.

JOHN BUSH: Steve, we appreciate your time.

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