MORE INTERVIEWS: John Deere Classic interviews archive
DOUG MILNE: Clearly somebody that doesn't need an introduction into this media center of all places, but with that, we'd like to welcome Steve Stricker to the interview room here at the John Deere Classic.
Steve, certainly an unprecedented career, you have your three wins, making your 12th start at the John Deere Classic this week. With that, I'll turn it over to you for comments.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, thank you, it's always nice to be here and always nice to come back and kind of re‑hash some of the memories I've had here, especially over the last three or four years. Exciting time to come back. I'm excited to get ready and practice for this event.
Yeah, it's a fun tournament. It's like I've always said, it's kind of the way the TOUR used to be, kind of in a smaller market, the way the Greater Milwaukee Open used to be. The way the town and the volunteers really rally behind it to have an event, and this is one of the more fun events that I come to every year, and I always look forward to coming here, so I'm excited to be here.
Q. Last year you played well and were in the hunt but didn't pull off the fourth straight. What was the difference?
STEVE STRICKER: What sticks out in my mind is a hit a couple wayward shots, drivers, coming down the stretch that ended up costing me the opportunity to win, especially the last couple holes. That's what sticks out in my mind.
I really don't remember too much how I played leading up to that, but except for the fact that I think I hit one left on 14 and 15. Just didn't execute some shots that I had been doing.
So that's what sticks in my mind, and hopefully I can get back in that position again, and you know, produce some better shots down the stretch.
Q. Have you seen the replay and whose bunker shot looks better?
STEVE STRICKER: That shot‑‑ well, I don't know. They are both really good. And Zach hit his in there to, you know, a foot. He had an easier stance than I did, for sure. But to hit that shot to a foot, you know, is pretty incredible. I was just walking past that bunker just a couple minutes ago, and I thought about exactly those two shots. It's funny you brought it up.
There's been some drama out of that bunker, you know, over the last few years, so it's kind of a little bail‑out area off the tee, knowing that you still have a play out of that bunker to the green, and right is dead. So that's why that bunker gets some work I guess, or gets some attention, because we as players bail out over there.
Q. Reducing your schedule seems to be improving your game.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I have been playing well. I don't know if my game's improved. My attitude is fresher. I'm excited to be at each and every event that I tee it up in. I still work on my game at home. Just not as much.
There's times now that when I'm home for two or three weeks, I can set the clubs down for a week or two and then pick them up the week prior to coming to an event. That's what I'm enjoying. I'm enjoying the down time at home where I don't feel like I have to practice every minute that I'm home. That's been fun.
So I've enjoyed it, and I just think getting it right in my mind at the start of the year that this is what I've wanted to do is a big step in my own mind knowing that I am doing the right thing and I feel good about what I'm doing, and that helps me the way I've played, too, I think.
STEVE STRICKER: No, I'm doing a lot of things. I don't feel like I'm working at it as much when I'm at home, and to play 20 events a year, you're basically‑‑ I put in a lot of time at home when I come out and play.
So you put in another week at home sometimes prior to going out on the road. So you know, that's 30 weeks. So I just didn't want to do that as much. I wanted to be at home and have more time with my family where I'm not having to practice at home to do things that they wanted to do; where I can kind of put the golf game on the back burner for periods of time when I'm home.
So I think that was the biggest thing, and just to be fresh. I want to make sure‑‑ this is my 20th year on TOUR and I want to make sure I'm fresh when I come out. I don't want to get to the point where I dread coming out. I'm too old for that. I've seen guys through their career, just feel like they have to come out and play for some reason, and I don't want to be that guy.
I want to be the guy who comes out, excited to play, want to be there, and put all my effort into playing well that week that I am there, and then is just not do it as much and look forward to that Champions Tour and play maybe, you know, a limited schedule out there, too, and be excited for when I turn 50.
There's a bunch of reasons that I've thought about it over the years, especially the last couple, and just felt like this was the right time to do it.
Q. This plan, this approach, since you've played so well‑‑
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, it is, it's amazing that I am still playing well, but I think like I kind of made mention to it, that as long as I had it correct in my own mind that this is what I wanted to do and that I was okay with it and my sponsors were okay with it, that that was half the battle.
Feeling good about it and knowing that in the back of my mind, it is the right decision for all the right reasons, you know, I think it just enabled me to keep playing the way I have been playing. There really has not been a change to the way I've been playing.
I think the big thing is just getting it correct in my mind and just doing what I feel like is the right thing to do.
Q. How long did it take you to do that?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, you know, there's always some doubt I guess, you know, to see if that's the right thing. But I came right out of the chute in Hawai'i and played good, and had a couple good tournaments right away. The Match Play, I got into the quarters I think. I kept playing well, and that was just reassuring that what I was doing was the right thing.
Q. This could be the last time we see you here at the John Deere Classic‑‑
STEVE STRICKER: No, not at all. I'll be back. I really enjoy coming here. It's a place that, you know, even when I wasn't playing, they welcomed me here, and I've had some great success. A quarter of my wins have come here at the John Deere, so I owe a lot to this place. It's a special place for me, and yeah, so I'll be back as long as they have me.
Q. I heard Wisconsin, a lot of chants out there; what would you say you feel more of here?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, I'm going to be political here‑‑ I get about 50/50, Wisconsin and Illinois. (Laughter) I saw Illinois hats out there today. I saw some Wisconsin people out there in hats today.
Probably by the time the tournament rolls around, though, it's probably more Illinois people. But I do get a bunch of people coming down from home and friends and family coming down, that they get a chance to come and be here and take in the tournament. I get a lot of that, too.
Q. Being able to travel‑‑ is there anything you've done this year?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, we've already been on vacation during a tournament that I've played usually, and next week we are going back up to north Wisconsin. Typically I'm at the British Open. It's my wife and I's anniversary, which I always miss, because I'm at the British. There's a lot of things.
I'm planning on taking another trip during the Playoffs this year. There's a lot of things that I haven't done in the past just because of the commitment to playing full‑time out here, so it's been a good period of time in my life and my kids and my wife enjoy me at home more. They haven't got sick of me yet, so it's all been good.
STEVE STRICKER: No, no chance.
Q. How comfortable is it‑‑
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I'm friends with both of the guys, Zach and Davis. I was a player for Davis when he was a captain at The Ryder Cup this last year at Medinah. He was an assistant captain at Wales when I was on the team. Been a teammate of his on some teams back in '96 and Presidents Cup teams, so I've known Davis for a long time, and we are friends and same with Zach; been on teams together.
Those are the times you really get to bond with these individuals and other players and become friends, because you're in the heat of the battle and you're pulling for one another. Not that you're rooting against a guy at a normal tournament, but it's just a different atmosphere during these few events. But I've been able to get to know both of those guys better over the years.
Q. No regrets not going to the British Open‑‑ will you reconsider the Playoffs?
STEVE STRICKER: A little apprehension about not going to the British. I've played in a lot of Majors, consecutive Majors over the last six or seven years, and to not go over there, it will sting a little bit when I'm watching it on TV. But we are going to be in a better place. I'll be around up north, like I said. We'll be doing some fun things. So my mind will get off that rather quickly.
But for a guy who has not won a major and trying to win one still, that's probably not the best way to go about it, but that's the way I made up my mind earlier in the year and sticking with it.
Q. And the clubs will still stay in the garage after the PGA Championship?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't know, depends where I am on The Presidents Cup list and if I'm going to make the team. Of course, if I make the team, I may throw in a couple Playoff events. I won't play them all. I guess the trip I scheduled is right during THE TOUR Championship, so I won't be there.
Q. What do you think your legacy is? One of the things we do as reporters is the best player who has never won a major and over the years it was Phil, Davis Love; what would it mean in your own mind?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, obviously we would all love to win one. They are hard to come by. You know, I'm not disappointed in my career if I were not to win one. Obviously it would be icing on the cake for me, but I'm kind of‑‑ I went through a period of years there where I put a lot of pressure on myself to try and win one, and I'm kind of over that now, too.
Golf is what I do. It doesn't really define me as a person or anything like that, so it's more about enjoying things more a little bit lately, more so this last year, being home with the kids and the wife. Not to say that I still don't want to win one and I still have another chance this year, and I'll be in the Majors again next year to try and win.
But my time is ticking, it's running out for these Majors and it gets harder and harder every year. Again, I'm not disappointed if I weren't to win one. I've done a lot of great things these last six years or so, and it's really been an unbelievable come back for me.
To see where I was seven years ago to where I am today, I take a lot of pride and enjoyment out of where I was and where I am today.
Q. Do you think the scoring will be as it has been the last five years?
STEVE STRICKER: The greens are soft, so you can be aggressive. The course is playing longer but we've got great weather, so I'm sure it's going to firm up a little bit. I think the scores are going to be pretty good.
Q. Is there a different mind‑set not being defending champion than previous years?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think the pressure is off me a little bit. I know people still expect me to play well here and I expect to play well here, but you know, it's kind of the focus and the attention is a little bit more on Zach I would say. So that's nice. Like you said, it's been three years. But you know, it doesn't really affect me the way I still got my head down and try to do the things I've been doing here over the years and try to play well and have a shot at winning again.
DOUG MILNE: Steve, best of luck this week. We appreciate your time.