An Interview With: STEVE STRICKER
KELLY ELBIN: Making his third consecutive Ryder Cup appearance, Steve Stricker joining us at the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. Steve has a lifetime Ryder Cup record of 3 3 1, but Steve, you were 3 1 0 two years ago in Wales. I'm sure you'd like to carry that along here at Medinah.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, excited to be here. It's always a lot of fun to be here and take part in this team competition. It's always a lot of anticipation leading up to it and excitement. Just a lot of fun to be a part of it, and happy to be back.
Q. When you were a rookie in the Ryder Cup in 2008, I was wondering if there was a veteran at that point that took you under their wing and kind of showed you what to do in this thing and what you may have witnessed from guys like Phil, Jim and Tiger who have played in so many of these things, what they bring for those rookies, too.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah. Well, back in 2008, Tiger wasn't a part of the team, but Jim and Phil. But we had our little pods, and we kind of really hung out with our three other guys in those pods.
My group was Ben Curtis and Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell, and Stewart had played in couple of those, so he was a little bit of a guy that I would talk to and try to get an idea of what to expect.
But yeah, you're always looking whether it's your first time, second time or third time, you're always trying to look for some help on what to do, what to expect. I'm still learning. I mean, this is my third one, but every one of them is a little bit different, you know, because there's a different chemistry of players there, and you just want to make sure you're doing the right thing.
But most definitely you're looking up to those guys like Tiger and Phil, Jim, who have played a bunch of these, just to gain a little bit more insight on what to do.
And I feel like I'm there, too. I'm an old I'm 45, and this is my third one, but I feel experienced. I've played on some Presidents Cup teams.
So I feel I know what to expect a little bit. But there's always a little bit of something that you want to make sure you're doing right for your teammate. So there's always those little dynamics that you're trying to work out throughout the course of the week.
Q. You've had success with being paired with Tiger in team competition. Why do you think his Ryder Cup record is not better?
STEVE STRICKER: Why do I think his is not better? I don't know. I really don't.
You know, everybody wants to beat him; I know that. He's the best player in the world over that period of all these past Ryder Cups. Obviously Rory has been playing well now, but every time Tiger goes out there, guys are gunning for him, and they want to beat him. He's kind of a marked man every time he tees is up in one of these events.
Hopefully we can get off and get him going on a good run this week and get some where he's going to get some points, because when that happens, when he was a part of Wales and we were gaining points, that's big momentum when Tiger is gaining points, and guys feed off of that.
But we need the whole team to play well. But it's good and important that Tiger gets off to a good start, I think. We can all generate some positive influence from that, too.
Q. To that end, Tiger has had a very good season, but by his standards relative to some of his other seasons not as strong. Where do you see his confidence and his game right now, and how much have you noticed his knowledge of this course and the success he's had as he's been here this week?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I think his confidence level is growing all the time. We can see it just from his year that he's had and the way he's going about his business, the way he's carrying himself, the type of shots that he's hitting. And he's won three times. So you can see that growing.
When we compare it to the Tiger of old, I don't think he's quite there yet. And he'll probably be one of the first guys to tell you that because what he did back in the early 2000s where he was really dominating the game is something that we may never see again from anybody. So it's hard to compare him back to those years.
But I definitely think he's gaining confidence, moving in the right direction. I've talked to him a bunch the last month or so leading up to this, and he's very he feels good about where he's going and what he's doing.
That's the main thing as golfers is we try to gain some inner strength from what we're doing, what we're practicing on, and I can see that in him, that he's starting to really feel comfortable with what he's doing with his game.
Q. There seems to be a lot of cross winds on the course this week, and I think the wind is going to stay steady. I think up to 10 holes turning right and left, have there been many discussions in the team room about pairing players based on how they move it off the tee?
STEVE STRICKER: No, no, and we really haven't talked much about pairings. I think we're still trying to get our bearings, our feet underneath us, whatever, just to make sure that what we're thinking so far is what's good for everybody on the team.
But no, we haven't talked about that particular thing with right to left winds. The wind has changed today compared to what it was yesterday. So the course is playing totally different than it has been the last few times I've played here.
Q. You touched on your age. You're the oldest guy on the team, but there's three other guys who have a lot more Ryder Cup experience. Have you taken on more of a leadership role or do you still defer to Tiger and Phil and stay in the background? Where do you see yourself that way?
STEVE STRICKER: You know me; I do my thing. I'm quiet. If somebody asks my opinion or asks me a question, I'll offer it up. But I'm not one who's going to be overbearing and be at the forefront.
Yeah, I just kind of do my thing, try to be a good team player, and if somebody were to ask me a few things here or there, I'd surely love to help anybody out who's asking for it.
But yeah, I just those guys have been around the block way more than I have, Jim and Tiger and Phil. So like I said, I feel like I'm an old kind of rookie, even though I've played in three of these, it's still a learning experience. I think even those guys will tell you it's a learning experience every time we play in one of these events you learn, and if you didn't, I think you're missing something.
Q. Two questions for you: One, if you could describe Phil as a teammate, how would you describe him? And also, going back to playing with Tiger, even guys like Paul Azinger have said it's really difficult to do, playing alongside him, with him. Why do you think guys find it difficult, and how have you been able to manage that?
STEVE STRICKER: I think Phil is the best. I mean, he's funny, he makes everybody feels good, he'll poke fun at you, and he wants to be jabbed back.
He's a great guy in the team room. He loves to have fun. But he also is very serious about what we're doing here this week and wants to win as much as any other guy on our team.
But he's just very easy to be around. I've seen that get maybe just because I've gotten older, but I've seen that to be a lot easier to be around him over the last, you know, five or ten years, and I think he's taken on that role of being the guy that anybody can come to and ask anything, any sort of advice. You go to Phil, or he's very approachable and makes you feel at ease and very fun to be around.
What was the other
Q. The question about playing with Tiger and how you've had success.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I don't know why guys have struggled. You know, I've enjoyed playing with him. We've had a good time. We've had some good matches, and we've gotten beat up a couple of times, too. But it's always fun. We get along very well together.
You know, I think our games are totally different. He bombs it, I'm more of a control player. But I think our ability to scramble, to get it up and down, to make some putts here and there I think is our one connection. Like I say, we get along very well together, and we enjoy each other's company. We hang out in the team room a little bit and we talk a lot, so it's a comfortable pairing for the both of us. So I think that's why it's been good.
KELLY ELBIN: Steve and Tiger with 2 1 in team matches in 2010.
Q. Fred Couples is assistant this week and you've played under him twice in the Presidents Cup. Your thoughts on him as a captain and how his role maybe has changed what his approach is this week being an assistant to Davis as opposed to being the lead guy?
STEVE STRICKER: Freddie is one of the best people you'll ever meet. He, again, is a lot like Phil, but even a little more relaxed, but a very tough competitor, a guy who really wants to win, who's got a lot of passion for the USA and his teammates. That shows through. And it's very easy to be a player for him. He makes it very comfortable. You know, it's Freddie; he brings his same demeanor that he has on the golf course into the team room, and it just carries over.
It's fun to be on his teams. Like you said, I've been on two of his teams, and it's been a treat to play for him, because it's very easy. He just says, go out and do what you want, and then we get together, and like I say, he's very serious and very passionate about the team and wanting to win, but there's a nice calming influence that he brings to the table there, and much the same as this week, like you've asked. He's not in the forefront like our captain, Davis, is, but he's still there. He's funny, he's fun to be around, and he's just a great guy to have in there.
If you're stressed about anything, just go hang out with Freddie for a little while, and that'll change around rather quickly.
Q. I wonder if you could talk on the quick transformation of Rory, who was a Ryder Cup rookie in 2010 and now he's the No. 1 player in the world and in the words of Jim Furyk, kind of a "marked man" this week, and do you agree with Jim?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, for sure, sort of like I was saying about Tiger, when Tiger was at the top of his game and No. 1 in the world for all those weeks, he was a marked man. I too feel the same as Jim; Rory is the guy that's playing the best golf in the world right now, and I agree, he's a guy that we all want to beat, and he's a great kid, first of all. He's very easy to be around.
I've played a few rounds with him over the years, and it's fun to see his progression. I mean, he's always had this talent, but I think his ability to win and win a couple of majors, he's just gained all this confidence in the world that he can do it, and he's shown it.
It's fun to see his progression. He's just a great kid. I mean, what is he, 23 or something like that, and playing some great golf.
But he is. I think it's no different. Whoever it be, the No. 1 player in the world, playing the best golf in the world, we're going to go we're going to want to beat that player no matter who it is, and it so happens to be Rory. But it's going to be tough. He's playing great, and he's obviously got a lot of confidence from the playoff run, too.
Q. Phil said he and Tiger as a duo are rocking the ping pong table in the team room. I know Phil would never exaggerate anything, but how accurate is that?
STEVE STRICKER: It's somewhat accurate. They've played maybe yeah, they haven't gotten beat yet, but I don't think they've played but maybe two or three matches against some other teams.
You know, Phil and his imagination sometimes gets a little out there. He likes to think that he's we all know who the ping pong player in our team is, and that's Kuchar. And I know Phil is not playing Kuch until Sunday, I think, just because he doesn't want to get any bad mojo going before the tournament starts.
Q. You're from Madison and played at Illinois. Do you have maybe more friends and family here maybe cheering you on, and have they given you any advice, and what do you expect from the fans?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I've used up my allotment of tickets and plus some. It's fun. I hear a lot of Illinois chants, I've heard a lot of Badger chants today, so I'm getting a lot of support here, which is pretty cool.
This is kind of right in my backyard, went to school like you said, and just a couple hours from home. I'm excited to be here, and it's I've got a lot of family and friends coming down. Hopefully they can all have a good time and experience the Ryder Cup. We just think we're seeing it already.
This is the second day of practice rounds, and the crowds out there are unbelievable. They're a little more boisterous today than they were yesterday even. You can tell that every day I think it's just going to ramp up a little bit more prior to the first tee shot.
There's a ton of people, you know, and Chicago fans are the best. They're one of the best. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I expect a boisterous crowd, and we're going to need it. We need that 13th man on our side with the home crowd and that energy to help us because it's going to be tough for us. It's going to be a tough match.
KELLY ELBIN: University of Illinois's own Steve Stricker. Thank you, Steve.
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