BMW Championship interview: Steve Stricker

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September 11, 2013

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MARK STEVENS:  We'd like to welcome Steve Stricker.  You just got done with the pro‑am.  If you want to start off talking about the course and then we'll have a few questions.

STEVE STRICKER:  Nice place we're at this week.  It's in great shape.  It's a nice layout.  I think depending on the weather, the scoring is going to be pretty good, I think.  It's pretty generous off the tee where you have a lot of room to hit it off the tee.  The green complexes are the challenge where you have to put it in precise areas on the green, and a lot of movement in the greens.  So that's going to be a real challenge, I think, is the green surfaces.

But if the weather is okay, depending on how bad the weather gets with the cool temperatures and the wind, I kind of expect the scoring to be pretty good here.

Q.  You're definitely playing next week if you're making arrangements to play with Jordan?

STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, I'm going to be playing next week.  I had a good talk with Nicki on the way home right after Boston and thought it was pretty important for me to go and play and not go hunting instead.  Even though I'd rather go hunting, I think it's pretty important, being in the position I am in, top 10 going into this week.  I still have the opportunity and the chance to win, which I didn't think I'd be in this position starting the year with the limited playing schedule.

Excited about playing and excited about the position I'm in.  Yeah, looking forward to next week.

Q.  I'm just curious, and I know you're not like this, but was there any concern that someone ‑‑ it's such a task and a big deal to get to East Lake that if you got there and said, I'm going elk hunting instead that it would look bad with the rest of your colleagues?

STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, there was a lot of things that went into my decision, but that ‑‑ it's our marquee event.  It's the Super Bowl of our year, and for me to just kind of say, you know what, I'm in the top 10, I'm not coming, to walk away from that I think would have been foolish.

And another underlying factor is I kept thinking about, it's a 30‑man field, and if I don't come there's one guy that's going to be going out in a single every day, and under his breath he was probably going to be cussing me.  I didn't think that would be fair to the field or the other players.

Yeah, there was a lot going into the decision, and like I say, I think our Super Bowl, you know, to our year, and for me just to shun that and walk away from that I think would have been wrong.

Q.  You said that you were going on this trip with some really good friends of yours, the hunting trip.  Are you catching any good‑natured grief for backing out on them at all?

STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, I am catching a lot of grief.  They were actually rooting against me at Boston if you can believe it.  No, but it's all in good fun.  You know, and I told them going into the Playoffs, I said, you know, something really strange is going to have to happen for me not to go on this hunting trip.  I'm going to have to be in the top 10 of the FedExCup, win one of these next events or finish high up for me to not go on that trip.  And maybe that's why I did finish second.  I didn't have a lot of pressure on me.  It's a good problem to have to try to make the decision between the two things.

Q.  Could you talk about where you were at age 20 relative to your career compared to the kid you were just talking to, Jordan Spieth, and what he's accomplished at 20?

STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, it's remarkable what he's accomplished.  20, I would have been ‑‑ let's see, what year would that have been?  '87.  I would have been just finishing my sophomore year or starting my junior year in college.  Sophomore year.  I can't even imagine doing what he's doing at that time.  I was still going to Illinois and playing college golf, not even knowing I would ever be good enough to play out here at that time.

So it's cool to see.  It's remarkable what he's done.  Excited to get to know him a little bit, and maybe pair up with him next week.  But looking forward to being with him.  He seems like a great kid.

Like I said, that's as much as I've met him right there, going by and shaking his hand.  Look forward to spending some time with him and getting to know him.

Q.  Is there like a sense of fascination about him among veterans and TOUR pros that have been out here for a while to do what he's doing?

STEVE STRICKER:  No one has ever done it, I don't think.  Has anybody ever come out on their rookie year and made any team?

Q.  No, not the Presidents Cup.

STEVE STRICKER:  Has anybody done it on a Ryder Cup?

Q.  I'm not sure.

STEVE STRICKER:  That tells you right there, I don't know if anybody has done it or maybe just one or two guys ever have done it.  It's a pretty major accomplishment.  Yeah, I just can't imagine doing that.  Going from no status to playing on the Presidents Cup in one year.  His head has got to be spinning.  He's got to be flying high on cloud nine and just taking it all in and excited.  You know, he's been playing great all year long.  I think he's a great pick.  I think he deserves to be picked, and I think he's going to be a great addition to the team.

Q.  Is getting into the top 5 going into next week a major concern?

STEVE STRICKER:  Not really.  I don't know why I say that.  I guess maybe just based on history of the event.  I mean, we've had guys come from, what did Bill Haas win at, 23, 25?  What did Snedeker win at?

Q.  He was in the top 5.

STEVE STRICKER:  Oh, he was?  That blew that, out of the three.  Furyk was 11.  So it's kind of been a split.  Yeah, obviously you can control your own destiny, but the big thing is next week.  You've got to win next week, whether you're in the top 5 or sitting outside the top 5.  I mean, it all comes down to that one week and trying to win that tournament.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about Conway Farms and how it's different than Cog Hill?

STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, Conway Farms is, I think, a little bit more generous off the tees.  The green complexes are totally different from each other.  I mean, the green complexes here are I would say a little bit more old school, even though the course is not that old.  It's got kind of that old course feel.

Everything is right in front of you.  There's really no tricks to it.  What you see is what you get, I think.

Cog Hill is a little bit harder green complexes, I think, a little bit more manufactured, a little bit tougher to get to some of the pin locations, where here I think you can get to a lot of them.  I think this venue is ‑‑ I think the scoring is going to be a little bit better here than what we've seen at Cog Hill.  But this is going to be a good test.  I think this course, when I was talking, I came down Sunday and played, and I was talking to the head pro and the director of golf, and wind and firm conditions are what make this course challenging.  So that's ‑‑ hopefully that's what they're hoping for is some wind and some firm conditions to challenge us.

Q.  If you had known a year or two ago that you could play this well on this kind of schedule, would you have gone to a shortened schedule earlier?

STEVE STRICKER:  Back in the '90s I would have gone to it, I think.  (Laughter.)

No, it's been good, and it's been a pleasant surprise.  I didn't know what to expect coming into the year.  I'm excited that it worked out well.  Like I said, I didn't have any expectations on the Presidents Cup team or anything at the end of the year, TOUR Championship, any of that kind of stuff.  I was actually kind of looking forward to the time off and being at home and watching my daughter play, doing a lot of hunting and all that kind of stuff.

But it's worked out well, and I've really enjoyed the year.

Q.  Coming back to Chicago, this is a scene of one of your first wins on the TOUR in '96.  Does it put you in a reflective mood to come back to this area and play, given the journey you've been on since that year?

STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, it always feels special when I come back to the Chicago area.  Even though we're at a different venue, but every year when we come back to Cog Hill, it always brought back a lot of memories.  My wife was on the bag and we had a great time winning.  So yeah, I reflect on it often going back there.

This week I hadn't thought about it too much just because of where we're at, but still, I see a lot of familiar faces with the Western Golf Association, and that in turn reminds me of what happened in '96.  It's always fun to come back here.  I get a lot of support here from Illinois people and Wisconsin people, so it's always fun to come here.

Q.  Given your schedule adjustment, would you say that you're more mentally fresher or physically fresher right now?

STEVE STRICKER:  I think both.  I think I'm definitely mentally fresher.  I'm excited to be at each and every tournament that I come and play in.  You know, I get to set the clubs down when I go home for like a two‑week break.  I'll set them down for the first week and then slowly get back into it the next week, so I'm always fresh.  I'm always fresh, and my body feels better.  Yeah, so it's been a good combination.

That was one of the goals is just not to get tired of coming on the road.  As you all know, you guys are out here as much as we are, the travel is a tough part.  So getting away from that has been a help, too.

Q.  But you've never had a problem at this point of the year because you usually play pretty well during this playoff season.

STEVE STRICKER:  Say that again.

Q.  You usually play pretty well during the playoff season, so it seems like you haven't had a problem staying focused this late in the year.

STEVE STRICKER:  And I think ‑‑ I've never been a guy who plays a lot.  I think I average right around 20 or 21 events or 22 or whatever at the most.  So I've always tried to keep that freshness throughout the whole year.  It is a long year, so I try to pace myself, and a little bit more so this year, I guess.  But over the years my thing is to not play a lot and stay fresh.  I think that comes from just growing up in Wisconsin and getting away from the game for a five‑month period and getting the itch to come back again.

That's what I'm trying to focus on and trying to achieve, I guess, when I'm playing this limited schedule.

Q.  It's been well documented you've given Tiger a couple of timely putting tips this year.  Just curious if you yourself needed some help, any particular player currently that you would go to first?  And who have you learnt most from with your putting, whether past or present, player or coach?

STEVE STRICKER:  Tough question.  Who would I go to first?  I'd probably go to Tiger first because we ‑‑ he's looked at me over the years.  But he watches me putt a lot, as well, and we've been partners on these teams over the years.  So if I went to anybody, I would probably go to him out here.

I don't know if he'd help me, but I'd go to him.

No, he would.

My father‑in‑law for sure at home.  I've spent the most time with him.  I trust what I'm doing in my swing with him, and he's seen me swing at it since I was a junior in college in the late '80s, so 25 years' worth of him and I being together.

Yeah, I've learned a lot from him, and yeah, that's the guy I trust the most when I need the help.

Q.  How do you think your schedule will change next year?

STEVE STRICKER:  Yeah, good question.  I don't know.  You know, I still want to do this 10 or 12 events, probably closer to 12 is what I'll probably do.  But I really hadn't thought about it.  Usually we've started the year off in Hawai'i, and I haven't won yet, so if I don't win we probably won't start off over there, and we'll do something different.  I don't really know what my first event will be.  I won't play any of the fall events.  I'll play probably Tiger's event and the Shark Shootout, but then I guess they're not Fall Series anymore, they're part of our schedule.

But yeah, I don't know what I'm going to do.  Gear myself up towards those World Golf Championship events and the majors and throw in a couple other tournaments that I really like to play.

MARK STEVENS:  Thanks for your time, Steve, and good luck this week.

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