What they said: Steve Stricker

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May 30, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: the Memorial Tournament transcript archive

COLIN MURRAY: We'd like to welcome our defending champion, Steve Stricker, to the interview room here at the Memorial Tournament. If you could give us a few opening thoughts on being back here.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, thank you. It's always nice to come back to a place where you've had some success and have won, and this is no different. Looking forward to this week. Course is in great shape again. Hopefully we dodge a little bit of rain it looks like on Friday, but other than that, yeah, I'm very happy to be back, and it brings back a lot of great memories from what happened here last year for me.

Q. How are you with your game right now? Where is it compared to a year ago or even from winning earlier this year in Hawai'i?

STEVE STRICKER: I don't know. It doesn't seem as sharp for whatever reason. The last few starts have been a little-- played good in New Orleans, but TPC I just didn't have really anything. I hit the ball fine, just scoring clubs, around the green, putting-- my putting has been actually giving me some problems here and there. I don't feel like I'm that far off. I've been hitting a lot of good putts. They're just not going in kind of thing. And I've been putting a lot of effort into that at home the last couple weeks trying to figure out what's been going on there, if anything. Sometimes you just go through periods of time where the ball doesn't go in.

So not overly worried about it but yet kind of a little concerned. By putting some extra time in and trying to do that a little bit better-- but my long game has been good. My iron play has been good, but just not doing some of the little things as good.

Q. I think your eighth start this year so far--

STEVE STRICKER: Ninth.

Q. Eight starts so far, so this will be nine.

STEVE STRICKER: Right.

Q. Just wondering if that's part of maybe not being as consistent, that you've been home more, and I'm also wondering if your neck is 100 percent, how the rehab is going, and does that play a part in not playing as much because you're trying to rest it??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, kind of all that. My neck is feeling better, and I think partly because I'm at home, probably not playing quite as much, but I'm getting some stuff done at home, too, on a regular basis and working out at home. It's feeling stronger. The weights that I'm doing are increasing, so it shows that my arm is getting stronger.

And really, the schedule is really no different from last year. Maybe one event different. But this is all part of my plan to play a little bit less. And from this point on, I'll play another-- it's pretty busy. You know, I'll play probably ten more tournaments, and that's if I make it through all four in the FedExCup. Really I have no two-week stretch anymore at home. So I have one week at home and then come back and play a week, stuff like that, but no long breaks anymore. So it'll be a busy summer.

Nicki and the kids are going to go a couple times, so that'll be good, get them out, but yeah, it'll be a little bit busier from here on out.

Q. We were asking you a second ago about the '98 U.S. Open. Do you expect that venue to be considerably more difficult than what you had last year at Congressional, and do you think the USGA wants it to be more difficult than what it was last year??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think-- I don't know if they were disappointed last year in what happened. They got a great winner out of it, obviously. But conditions were pretty soft, I think, and it just wasn't like a U.S. Open really. It was pretty playable out of the rough.

But it's been kind of leaning towards that way over the last few years. They've been getting a little bit more generous in the rough area, you know, where they're doing the graduated rough, so if you just miss it you can play. If you miss it big, you're in deeper rough. But I expect Olympic Club to be tougher than Congressional.

I think it's-- they're both very difficult courses, they can be, but I have a feeling that they didn't really want to see that many under and that many guys under par last year. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling it's going to be difficult, and they changed No.1 into a par-4 I heard, right? But 17, par-5?

Q. Yeah, two par-5s in the last three holes.

STEVE STRICKER: Which I think that's going to provide some excitement down the stretch, and I think they've realized that over the years, too, that that's good for the game, and they're making drivable par-4s. Are there any holes that are drivable?

Q. 7 can be.

STEVE STRICKER: So that's all part of it, too, I think, which is kind of fun, kind of refreshing, instead of that-- I watched it last night on TV, and it--

Q. Survival??

STEVE STRICKER: It was. And I played with Lee, and I can remember how well he played, but just to watch the guys just struggle on hitting it on the green just to make pars was pretty amazing.

Q. What makes it so tough??

STEVE STRICKER: You know, it's just one of those courses, there's not a lot of trouble as in water. There is no water. I think there's one fairway bunker. But it's just slight little doglegs all the time. The fairways slope, tough to get it in there sometimes in the fairways, got to work the ball back against the hill sometimes. Like 17 I remember was very difficult to hit that fairway in '98. So it's hard to hit it in the fairway. Even though I think they-- what was the yardage I heard last night? It was under 7,000 yards? I think it was like--

I imagine it's going to be difficult. It should be a tough test.

Q. Rory has had a few bumps, and he talked about how he maybe lost some focus in terms of practice time. Can you remember back, how long does it take to get that mix right on practice, focus, rest for you??

STEVE STRICKER: It's a challenge. Every week, every segment of the year, whether it's early in the year, summertime, that's always the balancing act that we're forced with out here. You take two weeks off; what do you do? Do you get away from it for two weeks, or do you kind of play a couple times in the first week and then get back at it in the second week? So that's always the struggle and the act, the balancing act, that we've got to try to figure out out here, because if you're not ready, if you're not prepared, it shows. I mean, everybody is so good, and most guys come prepared and ready to play. So if you're not, it makes it just that much tougher.

You go through spurts, you know, and sometimes you go home and you feel like you want to get away from it and not practice or play at all, and then there's times where I'll find myself, even though I have a week or two off, I end up playing a lot, working on my game a lot. It's just like your job. I am sure you want to get away from it at times and maybe you want to get away from it all the time, I don't know (laughter), but I think it's just kind of how you're feeling at the time.

Q. You just crushed the front nine here last year, and you kind of hung on on the back. Just wondering with the Presidents Cup coming up here next year how those holes on the back look from a match play standpoint, definitely provide a lot of challenge and opportunity.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think it's a great match play course. I think it's going to be a great venue for it next year here. There's a lot of risk-reward out here if you want there to be. No.12, even 11, you can try to bust driver down there if you want or play it as a par-5 and a three-shot hole or be aggressive and make it into a two-shot hole. 12 you can either play it safe or be aggressive. So there's a lot of that.

14, you know, they've moved it up there over the years where it could be drivable. 15 could be reachable. 16, I played that today for the first time this week, and that's-- hopefully that green softens up over the next year because right now you can't hold the green, downwind you can't hold it. And we're back there a couple hundred yards hitting a 6-iron downwind, and you just can't stop it. It's a hole where you have to bail out or be aggressive.

We all know 18 is a good hole and can provide a lot of drama there, too, because of the green complex or even getting it in the fairway is tough sometimes.

I think the back nine is great. The whole course is that way, too. If you want it to be, there's some other holes on the front the same way. I think it's a great match play course.

Q. I think you're about ninth in Ryder Cup points right now, but at what point in the calendar do you really focus on that? Do you care about that? How does that match up with trying to play a little bit of a reduced schedule?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, no, I pay attention to it every week. Even if I'm not playing, I see where I'm at on that list. I knew that I had fallen out of the top eight this last week. But there's so many tournaments left, important tournaments, majors. We have three majors left. You play well in those, just one of them, you can solidify your spot on the team. So I am not in panic mode or anything.

But yeah, I pay attention to it a lot. I want to definitely be a part of that team. I think Chicago is going to be a great place for this Ryder Cup. I hear everything is sold out, and the fans there in the Chicago area are great. They're going to support it, I hear, and it should be a lot of fun. So I want to be a part of that team.

Q. It's almost a home game for you, isn't it, with the college just up the road??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, a couple hours from each place.

Q. I'd like to ask you about a couple of holes on the back nine. The 12th hole, can you talk about the variation in club selection based on wind, pin position, tee locations??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. That 12th hole is a lot like the 12th at Augusta. You know, the wind can swirl in there. Today we played it a little helpy-hurty. We didn't know which way it was going to go, if it was downwind or into the wind, so it was tough. You can play it like the 12th at Augusta by just taking on the left side of that green or even the middle of the green and to the left and playing safe there and trying to make your par and getting out of there, because it's a tough hole.

Club selection is tough when you're obviously coming from an elevated tee and you provide a little wind in there to make it a little tougher.

Yeah, I think guys just want to make 3s and get out of there.

Q. And the 15th hole, the last par-5, what's the key to scoring there? It's pretty tough around the green if you miss it in two. What's the key?

STEVE STRICKER: Well, if you could hit it as long as like Dustin Johnson, hit like a 4- or 5-iron in there, that would be great. But for me it was a driver and a lay-up and a wedge. So there's times when I can reach it, but obviously it's better if you can hit it long and straight and get the opportunity to get it up there around the green somewhere in two, because you're looking to get a good birdie look there. Maybe if the wind gets downwind, guys are making eagles there, too, so it's a good scoring opportunity there at 15.

Q. You've been out here long enough to see some of the differences that technology has made over the years. You're probably hitting a driver that's two inches longer and twice as big in terms of club head size. Would you like to see the ball rolled back at all? Does it go too far? The old-time guys are pretty much unanimous in voice on that when you hear Jack and Arnold and Gary, basically three-part harmony, what it's done to some of the old golf courses.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I could see scaling it back a little bit. I am sure there was a time where it just jumped up astronomically. I don't know when that time period is, but there are some courses that have become very short. Even the course at home that I play on a daily basis, I can remember when I first started playing there when I first turned pro, where I was compared to where I am now, and I'm 25 years older.

But everything has gotten better. You know, not only the clubs but the course condition. It's tighter, it's faster. They're trying to dry it out most times, and there's been years where we play courses that are wet all the time or softer. So there's a lot of variables there, too, not only in the golf ball but clubs. I could see scaling back on clubs, too, the drivers.

We've come so long and the game is so exciting for the average person, they want to hit it long, and that's-- maybe the TOUR players play something different, or who knows. I don't know, it's a tough question.

Q. Has your success at the John Deere or even just playing the tournament hurt you in any way the following week at the British Open, or do you carry momentum over from winning those events when you go over there? Obviously less preparation time, but is there a trade-off for you there or do you find yourself wishing I wish I could get over here without the tournament the week before?

STEVE STRICKER: I kind of wish that I would peak maybe a week later (laughter), but it's always good to win. Winning takes a lot out of you, or it takes a lot out of me. You put everything into it. You ride-- you've got your emotions riding in every which way, so it drains you mentally and physically. You're tired and then you're making the trip over there, and only a couple days' rest.

But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Those have been some great times there at John Deere. But yeah, I wish I'd maybe peak one week later and win the next week.

Q. How much does that charter help??

STEVE STRICKER: Helps a lot. Yeah, it helps a lot. I can remember playing that event and then driving to Chicago one year to catch an 11:00 or whatever flight, 10:30 flight over. Now you can go back to your hotel, shower up, take it easy, grab something to eat and then meander over and get on the plane right there in Moline. It makes a huge difference, a lot easier. I think that was the year I went over there I couldn't get on, too. My passport was expired that day that I drove all the way to Chicago, get there, and like, Oh [expletive deleted]. I guess I'm not going.

Q. One year did your clubs not make it or clothes or something? Carnoustie maybe?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, we waited an extra day, which wasn't too bad, because you couldn't-- just forced you to rest on that Monday getting there anyways. And then I don't know what year, if it was Carnoustie or not, but it happened one year. That happens to somebody every year it seems like.

Q. What was the passport year? I don't remember that one.

STEVE STRICKER: I can't remember. You know what, Chicago was the week before, so it wasn't from Moline. We were in Chicago.

Q. For the Western??

STEVE STRICKER: For the Western.

Q. So it was like 4th of July time.

STEVE STRICKER: I remember when the Western was the week before. It was one of those years, and then I had found out like on that weekend, though, I think. I looked at my passport, and--

Q. The 10 years were up??

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah.

Q. So you didn't go??

STEVE STRICKER: I got it done on that Monday. There was an express deal downtown Chicago somewhere.

Q. Just takes half a day and extra money??

STEVE STRICKER: Uh-huh.

COLIN MURRAY: Thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

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