What they said: Steve Stricker

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January 08, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Hyundai Tournament of Champions transcript archive

JOHN BUSH: Steve Stricker joins us, not a lot going early in the round, but that's the way to finish the round. Talk about the last four holes.

STEVE STRICKER: Thanks, John. It was pretty stagnant out there for me today. I was not doing anything very special there for the first, I guess, 14 holes and then just, you know, hit a couple good shots at 15, the par 5, and kind of stole a birdie at 16 after spinning it off the green and chipping it in.

After that chip shot, kind of felt like I got a little momentum, even though there was a couple holes to play. I got aggressive off the tee at 17 and hit a good iron approaching there, and hit two good shots at 18. So it was definitely a good finish.

I think -- did I maintain the five-shot lead? That was key, key to finish that way. Looking forward to tomorrow. Sets me up for some Momentum going into tomorrow.

JOHN BUSH: Pretty tight there for a while. Were you watching the board today?

STEVE STRICKER: I guess it got down to one. I thought it got down to a couple of shots. I just kept telling myself that I had the lead still and just to be patient. Things were not really going the way I had hoped, but I just kept telling myself to hang in there, I've got some birdie holes left. I was frustrated but still trying to be patient.

Q. You're 13-under on 15 through 18 this week. How much confidence does that give you going into tomorrow??

STEVE STRICKER: And you're still wearing that Ducks hat, aren't you. I'm just kidding you. (Laughter).

Hopefully I don't have to wait to the end like I did today and the first day. You know, it's comforting know that I played those holes well. Hopefully I can get off to a little better start tomorrow, make some birdies early, get my comfort level in a little bit better position than what it was today.

That's hopefully what I'm going to do.

Q. Coming here now, a couple of years in a row, and I think you've had Top-10 finishes in the two years prior to this. In your lead-up to being here this year, does your game feel the same as previous years, or is it even better? How do you compare the last four years here?

STEVE STRICKER: I feel like I'm a little further along this time around, which is a good thing. It wasn't much of an off-season, but that's why I feel like I'm further along. We had the Presidents Cup in November, and I tried to stay with my game after THE TOUR Championship leading up to The Presidents Cup.

I tried to at least hit balls a couple of times a week or play a couple of times a week, but never really set the clubs down like I normally do for a six- or eight-week period of time, and then a couple of times in December.

I feel like I've worked on my game quite a bit the last month; so I feel like I'm a touch further along than I am normally here.

Q. Everybody obviously concentrates on how well you putt and the stats bear that out, you're leading in putting after two rounds, but do you think that maybe the other parts of your game have been really, really good, too? Like today, it's really the putting that got you going.

STEVE STRICKER: No, I think my overall game is pretty solid and I actually felt like I was hitting it pretty good today, until like 1, 13, 14, that little stretch of holes, but I just really never got anything going in those first, you know, 11 holes.

And a couple little funky things where I laid up on the par 5s, I put myself kind of in bad position. Didn't even get them on the greens. Didn't even get a birdie putt, look at birdies on 5 and 9. So I felt like things were kind of slipping away, when you're not birdieing those holes.

But you know, I drove the ball well again. I hit more fairways than I have in any of the days. I'm given myself some opportunities, not today as much, but my overall game is pretty sharp I think. And I worked hard on my putting the last couple of weeks and that seems to be paying off.

Q. What happened today to bring the birdies??

STEVE STRICKER: What happened?

Q. What changed??

STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. Just being patient I guess. I hit two great shots on 15. I hit probably my best 3-wood of the week. I had to kill it to get it there and got it there right underneath the hole.

Finally I got it under par for the day, and you know, I think the chip-in at 16 was a huge turnaround. I go from -- it's a tough up-and-down there, too. And Webb didn't get it up-and-down. Just really uphill, up into the grain. I knew I had to hit it hard, and you know, it's like stealing one when you chip-in there like that. And really, 17 is, too. It's tough to get it close there. But it's just, you know, things got a little momentum at the finish.

Q. The Commissioner was in here earlier and he said, "There was nobody I would rather watch play golf than Steve Stricker, personally as a fan." Your reaction to that??

STEVE STRICKER: Tim said that? (Laughter) Oohh. He did, huh? That's nice of him.

I'm on that policy board and I've gotten to know Tim and a lot of the other senior staffers at the PGA TOUR, and you know, that's very nice. I've gotten a lot of nice compliments from him over the years and he's been very good to me and he's done a lot of good things for us, too.

Q. Does knowing how well you've played the final few holes here keep you from feeling too frustrated after 14??

STEVE STRICKER: I really didn't think about it. I really didn't look ahead. I really didn't. I was trying to make birdie at 15. I mean, that was my goal, get it under par. And I told Jimmy, I'm like, as we're walking down to our 16 shot at 15, I'm like, let's get two, at least, on the way in.

I figure if I can get two or three, and salvage the day and have a two- or three-shot lead, that would be all right. But like I said, we stole one at 16 and it was a good finish.

Q. What was the club on 17??

STEVE STRICKER: 9-iron.

Q. Why did you chip it on 5??

STEVE STRICKER: I don't like putting it through a lot of fringe, and I thought I needed to spin it a little bit. And really what happened there, the wind -- when my ball got about halfway, it turned straight downwind and it just picked up speed and just -- I knew I had to barely just land it on there and check it and let it run down there. I've done that there before.

You're afraid of leaving it short, because I've done that, too, with practice rounds. Just chip it barely on it and it stays about ten or 15 feet short. So it's a really fine line. Either get it short -- but I think the wind kind of switched on me there and got me going straight downwind and just carried that ball right off the green.

Q. You didn't hit it bad, but you didn't look terribly comfortable out there, is that a fair assessment??

STEVE STRICKER: I didn't feel comfortable. I didn't hit it bad but I didn't feel as aggressive at times. I got that way coming in, but again, you know, you're playing with a five� shot lead. It's a tough situation. I've been there before, and it's hard. I find it very difficult.

You're in a position where you don't want to screw up, but yet you're on a course that birdies can be made and guys can come from a ways back. You know, you need to make birdies. It's kind of that fine line. This course is a fine line, and it's easy to come from behind here; I've done it here, too, and I've also been up around the lead, and it's difficult.

Q. The last thing, the most frustrated you looked was after the tee shot on 12, was that just because of the tee shot, or was it just an accumulation of all the day??

STEVE STRICKER: A little bit of both. I just tried to chip that 3-wood down and get it up there in that top corner by that bunker and just pulled it a little bit. You know, I didn't want to run down where Webb was, where I was the other day, even though he just chipped it up there to a gimmie.

That hole is giving me fits to try to figure out where to hit the ball. I've been in the bunker up by the green. I've been down to the right with no shot. And today, I hit a really good sand wedge out of that bunker. I thought I was looking at a bogey there for a little while but ended up having a good birdie putt at it, but yeah, I was frustrated at that point.

JOHN BUSH: Thank you for your time and play well tomorrow.

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