Shell Houston Open interview: Steve Stricker

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March 27, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Shell Houston Open transcripts

JOHN BUSH: Okay. We welcome Steve Stricker into the interview room here at the Shell Houston Open, making his 13th start at this event and his 4th start of the season. Three Top-5 finishes, Steve. This selective schedule is working out pretty well for you.

STEVE STRICKER: It's been fun. It's been a nice start to the season. Looking forward to playing again this week. This is always one of my favorite events to come and play. I enjoy coming to the Houston area. It's spring break for us and my family is here and the kids, and so we're having a good time so far.

JOHN BUSH: Let's go right into questions.

Q. Steve, sort of a two-part question. Have you altered the plans for that schedule at all; and second part of that is, do you think this could be a blueprint for other players in your situation, in this part of their careers, can they go ahead and do the same thing you've done?

STEVE STRICKER: I haven't altered it. I still have 11 on the schedule. That can change, I guess, depending on how I play the next 7 events or 8 events. If I'm up high on the FedEx Cup or if I have an opportunity to make the President's Cup team, I maybe play the playoff events, something like that. I still plan on playing my 11 and going from there and I guess it could.

You know, I enjoy coming out every once in awhile. You know, I always have come out and done fairly well when I'm fresh, and whether that's a mental thing, you know, I don't know. But I enjoy coming out. I feel like I'm a little bit easier on myself, I'm fresher mentally.

You know, I feel like there's a little more bounce in my step. I'm used to it and I'm used to coming out of bad weather at home. I mean, we still have snow on the ground and I really don't feel like I have been away for two weeks, really, and so it's something I'm used to.

I don't know if everybody could do it because they weren't born and grew up in the Midwest, you know, and I think like Jerry Kelly and I and other guys who live in cold climates, you're forced to do it. So you learn to adapt and go from there.

Q. Steve, does it make you treasure the weeks you're playing that bit more because you know it's not necessarily next week to fall back on if things don't go for you in that particular week that you're playing?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. If they don't go well for me, it really doesn't matter. You know, that's my thinking lately. I'm out here to have fun, compete. If I play well, so be it. I anticipate playing well. I feel like I should play well, but if I don't, you know what, I go home and spend some time at home. It's taken some of the pressure off of me, I think.

I felt a little bit looser out on the golf course, been easier on myself, and it's been a lot -- I shouldn't say a lot more fun to play, but it's been more fun to play this way so far. It's only been three events, but I notice the change in myself playing so far and, like I say, I feel like there's a little bit less pressure on me to perform well for whatever reason.

It's been fun. I enjoy coming out here. It's like -- it's like a new tournament for me every week. I don't see most of these guys very often anymore and we're on different schedules. Some of them -- this is the first time I've seen Jerry Kelly since December.

It's fun to see everybody and get caught up. I get a lot of ribbing, it seems like, lately because of my short schedule, helping Tiger putt (laughter), guys lining up for a lesson (laughter). I'm still trying to compete and play well. That's my focus. But it's fun coming out.

Q. Do you anticipate that mindset prevailing when you get to Augusta?

STEVE STRICKER: I hope so. You know, that's the goal, I guess., you know, to go in there with a little bit relaxed attitude. You know, have fun with the week. We got some friends coming, hopefully my oldest daughter is going to come. So, my wife is going to be there, we're going to go to the Final Four on Saturday and then work our way down to Augusta on Sunday.

So, it's kind of throwing in some different things, things we haven't been able to do in the past. We went to the Big 10 basketball tournament for a couple days while I was home, which I've never been able to do. So doing some different things, which has been fun, also. And golf has kind of taken a little bit of a back seat, which is nice, too. It's still important to me, though, you know, and I still work hard trying to play well when I do come out, though.

Q. I'm sorry you won't be seeing Wisconsin or Illinois in that Final Four. Speaking of that putting lesson, since you gave Tiger that putting lesson, I think he's made like 35 putts over 8 feet.

STEVE STRICKER: That's great, isn't it?

Q. Can you explain that? Could you have seen that coming?

STEVE STRICKER: No, I didn't see that. It's a little blown out of proportion, I think. Not that his -- not his putting stats and that he's putting good. But we've talked putting a lot before and whether something really clicked this time for him, I don't know. I mean, he seemed happy when I left him on that Wednesday, and to throw me a bone like did he at the end of the tournament, it was very nice. He doesn't do that very often, so that was nice.

But, yeah, no, I didn't see that coming. You know, it's something, like I said, something really hit home with him there when I spent that time with him, and it's good to see.

You know, like I've always said, it's great for our sport, it's great for our game, brings a lot of attention to our sport every time he's playing. So he's playing well, you know, the PGA TOUR does well. It's all good things.

Q. Can I ask a quick follow. Mark was in here and said something, the same thing like, I got this text out of the blue from Tiger, good playing today, and that it does seem that he's more light-hearted or more just comfortable, just happier.

When you now know what you know about what's going on in his life off the course, does it all makes sense what you saw there at Doral?

STEVE STRICKER: For sure. That's what I said at Doral, too, it seemed like he was in a better place mentally. Seemed happier. He seemed a little more at peace or at ease with himself. I don't really know too much about his personal life, but it just seems like he's happier. Whether that mean his golf game or his personal life are in better order or all of the above.

Yeah, it just seems like I think he's got some confidence going in both areas, you know, and he's playing well and putting well and feeling good about everything, seems like.

Q. What did you tell him?

STEVE STRICKER: Can't tell you.

Q. Steve, you mentioned getting some ribbing from other PGA TOUR players. What are they saying to you and have more of them started actually lining up asking you for advice?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. I get guys, I've had three, four, five guys come by today and ask if they could get a putting lesson (laughter). I'm hearing it all over the place.

Q. Is it serious or joking?

STEVE STRICKER: Some are joking. I think some are serious (laughter). I talked to Dave Stockton, Senior, last night on the putting green. He said he experienced that same thing when he was out on Tour; that he would give some putting lessons and guys would have some success. So he did a lot of that when he was out on Tour. And he said, what you have to do is, if you're going to help a guy is just tell the guy you never got help from me, so the word doesn't get out (laughter). That's not the way I am, I guess.

Makes sense that you still have to pay attention to what you're doing, otherwise you get up in everybody else and what they need to fix in their game and your game goes by the wayside all of a sudden.

There's a fine line there watching out and taking care of yourself and making sure if somebody asks for help that you still can give it to them.

Q. Thought the secret was you start charging him.

STEVE STRICKER: That would be a good secret, charge him a lot of money.

Q. Getting back to your short schedule, what have you done since Doral? How much golf, practice time is there? Have you kind of adjusted to how much you practice at all or how much golf is in there, I guess?

STEVE STRICKER: Little bit. I went down to Jim Furyk's Pro-Am last Monday in Jacksonville. So I played them and came down a day early to play a little bit there. I think I condense my playing time a lot more now. If I'm off for two weeks, I don't pick up a club for probably eight or nine of those first days I'm home and then get back to work at it the four, five days before I leave.

I practice hard leading up to the tournament. That's kind of what I've been doing is, is getting away from it a little while and getting right back at it.

Q. Houston is not the lead in to the Masters this year, there's a week between. Are there any kind of specific shots that you like to work on here that you know, given the course set-up, that kind of prepare you for what you will see there? Anything in particular?

STEVE STRICKER: I typically try to spend a lot of time on my short game here and try to work on that. This is, last few years been leading the week before Augusta and the conditions here are pretty similar to Augusta, you know, firmer greens, fast.

So I tend to do a lot of chipping and putting to try to get ready. Try not to really do anything different with my golf game. If anything, maybe, you know, try to flight the ball a little bit higher, but this is not really a good week to work on that. We get some wind here. You end up flighting the ball a little bit lower at times. So, yeah, mainly for me it's always been about short game and putting and trying to get that ready for Augusta.

Q. This tournament always be on your schedule? I know you have a really personal connection here because of what Steve Timms did for you.

STEVE STRICKER: I enjoy coming here. Yeah. It brings back a lot of good memories. He gave me a spot in '06 when I needed a spot. Played well, finished 4th, and went on the play well that year and ever since really.

So it's -- I owe a lot to him and we've become, you know, little bit closer over the years. And he's a good guy and they run a good tournament here, and I've always enjoyed coming here. As long as I'm eligible to come here, I probably will.

Q. Steve, the youngest player in the Masters field is not that much older than your older daughter.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Scary.

Q. What is that like to contemplate?

STEVE STRICKER: I can't fathom that. We watch LPGA golf every once in awhile at home and watch some of these younger players, Lydia Koe, the Thompson girl there, Alexi Thompson. They're not much older, either. I'm telling my daughter there, you got to get going if you want to play, you got to start to work at it.

No, it is, it's hard to comprehend that they're that good at such an early age, but kids get started early nowadays and they work hard at it and there's some unbelievable talent out there and a lot of opportunities for them, too, so -- it's still hard to believe.

JOHN BUSH: Anything else? Mr. Stricker, thank you for your time.

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