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Stricker to Cut Back on Tournaments but Is in Maui to Defend Hyundai Title
With his win in last year's Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Steve Stricker guaranteed himself a spot in the winners-only event for 2013. The PGA Tour's season opener starts Friday at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii.
That victory was the only one of the season for the Wisconsin native, but Stricker, who turns 46 in late February, still had a nice 2012 campaign. In 19 starts he had 12 top-25 and seven top-10 finishes, and missed only one cut en route to earning $3,420,021.
He also made his third appearance on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. But it wasn't his best performance in the biennial competition at Medinah as in four matches he went 0-4-0 as the Americans lost to the Europeans.
Stricker plans to cut back on his tournament play in 2013. On Thursday, he noted that after Maui he won't return to the Tour until the Match Play Championship at the end of February. Stricker said during his session with reporters that he plans to devote more time to the foundation he created in his hometown of Madison, Wis.
"(I'm) just going to scale it back a little bit, probably 10 or 12 events," he said. "I've started, co founded a foundation with American Family Insurance . . . I'm excited about that. I want to put some more time in on that. And I'm 46 in another couple months, a month and a half. So it's time to spend a little bit more time at home I think, do this foundation work, and just come out fresh and ready and prepared when I do play.
"I still think I can play well and to a high level," Stricker added. "I just probably won't be out as much as I have in the past years, but excited about it, too. I'm extremely excited about it. It was kind of a weight lifted off, when I've made the decision, and so it's been good. And this foundation is really an exciting thing for us in the Madison area, too."
Usually the weather on Maui's northwest coast alongside the Pacific Ocean is blustery, but sunny. But that won't be the case this year as rain is forecast for the first three days, with temperatures in the mid-70s. Yet it's still Hawaii, and Stricker and the other 29 players in the tournament won't be deterred in their quest for the $1.2 million that goes to the winner of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Here's the full transcript of Stricker's Thursday afternoon session with the media.
MODERATOR: We welcome our defending champion, Steve Stricker, here to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Slightly different conditions it looks like, at least it's going to start this year, than last year. Maybe talk about coming in as the defending champion here to Kapalua.
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, always great to be here. You know, when you come back here that you've had a success here because you've won on Tour. Fortunately I was able to do it right here at the first event last year. Didn't win the rest of the year but I had a pretty good, solid year. But overall, it's just great to be back. The family loves coming here and we enjoy the time over here. You wouldn't have known it was Hawaii here today, but typically it's a beautiful spot to be and we're happy to be here.
Q. Just with your knowledge of this course and its forecast to be through Monday, does it change things with the wind and the rain, this course?
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, yeah, for sure. It's played extremely long today, a lot of clubs that I've never hit into some of these par 4s there, hitting drivers off some of these holes that you typically don't hit drivers off of, also. Yeah, a little bit of an adjustment period there where you had to learn some things today. The ball is not moving as much on the greens as you're typically used to seeing it move. Yeah, so it's a little bit different. It's a little bit challenging. It's difficult. Today was very difficult I thought with the wind and the rain but it's still manageable. The course is built for bad conditions, especially wind. So it's still very playable and you're still going to see some good scores I'm sure, but just a little bit different than what we're accustomed to.
Q. How did you come to decide to pare down your schedule this year? Was it a culmination of one thing or a lot of little things?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, a lot of little things. I've been talking to Nicki and my kids the last couple of years thinking about trying to cut back, and I thought I was going to do that a couple years ago and I still ended up playing 19 events and doing all the other things. But you know, just going to scale it back a little bit, probably ten or 12 events. I've started, co founded a foundation with American Family Insurance; Jack Salzwedel is here, too, and we are going to start this foundation, try to raise some money. I'm excited about that. I want to put some more time in on that.
And I'm 46 in another couple months, a month and a half. So it's time to spend a little bit more time at home I think, do this foundation work, and just come out fresh and ready and prepare when I do play. And I think - I still think I can play well and to a high level. I just probably won't be out as much as I have in the past years, but excited about it, too. I'm extremely excited about it. It was kind of a weight lifted off, when I've made the decision, and so it's been good. And this foundation is really an exciting thing for us in the Madison area, too.
Q. You all are independent contractors, so it's not as if you have a boss saying that you have to play 19 events?
STEVE STRICKER: Right.
Q. What makes it so difficult to actually make that decision to scale back?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, you have sponsors. I checked with every one of them, and you know, for the most part, they are all on board. That's the cool thing. I think what they see is a relationship there, and you know, there's service days and I'm going to give more service days to them because I'm not playing as much. So those things still exist, and I still interact with their customers and their client base and so they see a value in that. For me, you know, it's a day, rather than a week, that I have to go on the road. So that's what I'm looking forward to is staying home a bit more, do some of this other work and spend some more time with my family.
Q. Talk more about the foundation -
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, we are just getting it going. It's all new to me. It's new to Jack, too. We are going to help adolescent kids in some shape or form, we're not quite sure. The name we have come up with so far is "Driven For A Dream." What's unique is that two people have come together with this, a Madison based company is American Family Insurance, and then myself and we are going to kind of work together. We see it as a good relationship, a good fit, same values, same core ideas, and for a common goal of raising money in our area there.
We are all excited about it. I just had the first meeting before coming over to Hawaii before Christmastime. We are going to meet again in January and we are just in the process of putting things together. So we'll probably have an event of some sort this year, probably a golf related event to some degree and maybe something else. And we are not closing our eyes to an idea of maybe having either a PGA Tour event, a Champions Tour event, something down the road. So it's all about raising money for kids and trying to do something good for our community.
Q. Can you give an idea of your comfort zone with Hawaii and the different style courses?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, you have to learn here. It takes a while to learn here. It's a little bit different than what we are typically used to. But again this week, it's again another learning curve think. It's different from what we are accustomed to. There's big undulating greens, a lot of slope in the fairways. But I think the biggest challenge is the greens and the wind once you get on the greens. The wind can blow and make putting very difficult, and even the roll out in the greens that we typically have, which we are not seeing as much here. So it's a challenge to hit some of these shots, and you expect that ball to roll out or release a lot, and it's not now. So that's a little different, too, and something to get used to. But it's a course where a lot of local knowledge helps you out a lot, and the more times you play here, the better off you are.
Q. Compared to Waialae?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, totally different place. Waialae is flat, greens are fairly flat. You're a little more protected from the wind, but the wind can blow there, too, and a lot narrower fairways than what we have here. So it's totally two different courses. You know, I feel like I can play well at either place, or any place we tee it up any given week. So that's a good thing. But it's totally two different courses.
Q. The scale back, is that a multi year plan?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, this is a commitment for me to do this from here on out. You know, I'm not quitting. I don't want to quit. I still enjoy the game. I still enjoy competing. It's just time for me to be home a little bit more and maybe focus all my attention to this foundation and do that a little bit more. But yeah, I still plan on playing this year, the majors, and maybe not the British, but the majors, the World Golf Championships events and I'll throw in a few other ones here or there to get ready for those. That's the plan.
Q. The baseball player, Tony Gwynn, once said that he knew that it was time to retire when he looked at his daughter's closet and she had a dance costume and he didn't even know she had a recital. Have you had any of that and did that play a roll in the decision?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, for sure. I'm in a sport where it's a pretty selfish sport. You have to take care of yourself because you have to put in the time; you have to practice when you're home. It takes a lot of time. Even I play 19 events or whatever, you're still putting in another week at home to prepare to go out on the road again. And that's kind of what I want to cut back on is those times at home where I can devote some of my other time to my daughters. My oldest has asked to come with me a number of times, and it always seems like it's not at the right time, because I need to go and practice and try to get ready for a tournament and all that. You know, that's what I want to change a little bit is spend a little bit more time with her. She's interested in the game, to get a little bit better, or whatever she wants, and maybe take some of the focus off what I'm doing and put it more on the other three.
Q. When you came out here on Tour, did you ever think you would be 46 and still this competitive? The landscape has changed that much, guys are still playing and competitive?
STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I think you see it with players before you, like Vijay played great, Kenny Perry played great, Jay Haas played great. Not everybody does, but you see other players doing it, and you feel like you can do it as long as you stay in fairly good health and injury free. So yeah, they give you some motivation to continue to play and play hard, and I think equipment has made a huge deal in that, too. It's kind of brought everybody into a pack. Everybody hits it well. Everybody hits good irons. It's the little things that can kind of keep you going, like chipping and putting, getting it up and down and just the course knowledge or all of the information that you've learned throughout your career, being a veteran, you can always use that to your advantage. I think if your heart is in there and your desire is in there, you can play well all the way until you get to the Champions Tour.
Q. When do you play a golf course that wasn't a tournament or your own or related to a tournament or an outing -
STEVE STRICKER: Good question. You know, I didn't even go down and play my home course in Edgerton this year. Usually I get down there and play once or twice, but I don't think I even made it down there this year. Usually once or twice a year, I go down there and play with some buddies and hack it around and have some fun. But I don't think I did that this year.
Q. We talked about this on the conference call, but the fact that this is the last time this event is going to be the opener, does that come into play this week at all in your mind? Does it change things for next year?
STEVE STRICKER: I don't think so. I think this event will always have this kind of field. Each tournament that we go to has its own special little feel, special little qualities about it, and I think this one always will have that. For the guys that come here, it's always a special place to start the year and it's still going to be kind of the start of the year I think. It's the start of the year to some degree, even though we will have six or seven events prior to that that's going to count towards the FedEx Cup. I think that it's always going to be a special place to come for the guys who come here and still have that start of the year feeling.
Q. Talking about the guys who come here, obviously there's some notable guys who are not here, just like last year. Is there anything this event can do to maybe get the Rorys and the Lukes and those type of guys to come; Tiger.
STEVE STRICKER: You know, it's tough. I think the location is tough for a lot of the guys. You know, the European players play all the way up through December, so I think it's hard for them to come here, because they are looking for this big window, a break, some time off before a lot of those guys start up in Dubai or over there in the Middle East somewhere. So I think they are looking for that big block of time where they can get away from the game, and this happens to fall in that time for a lot of those guys. Yeah, I don't know why they don't come. I'd love to start my year here every year. It's a special place for us, for sure. Really can't answer about how they feel.
Q. A grow the game question. Young kids throughout the world, you run into that person, what would you say to a young person good b the game of golf?
STEVE STRICKER: Well, I think it's a great sport that you can play late into your life. You know, you continue to play it and learn from it. It's a great sport to go out and play with your friends, family. And it's a great learning sport to learn about what kind of person you are, what kind of values you have. You can tell a lot about a person from the game of golf and how they are on the course, how they handle some of the situations. I think those three things are vital to our sport and if someone is really interested, they can really learn from our sport. I know I have throughout my career and I continue to learn on a daily basis about yourself when you play this game. So it's a unique sport in that sense I think.
Q. Curious, Hal Sutton went through a slump, not unlike yours. When he finally pulled himself back up, I remember him saying he was afraid to not touch his clubs for more than two days for fear of taking a step back. Did you ever a stage like that, like in 2006 or 2007, to stay away from the clubs for an overly long time for fear you would lose what you got back?
STEVE STRICKER: I think as golfers we are always afraid of that. I'm not so much afraid of that anymore. I have a really good understanding of my swing and what I do. And I think I'm just old enough, and I don't know if I'm smarter or dumber in that regard. You know, it's something that as golfers, we are obsessed with it. We are obsessed with trying to be perfect and it's a game of imperfection, really, and you can never get perfect. So we have all gone through it as golfers I think. And I'm not as worried about it as I once was. I think just because of the fact that I'm comfortable with what I do in my swing. But you're always trying to improve and you're always trying to work on things to try to get better, and again, you can point to this game of golf being unique in that way that you're always working to try to do something a little bit better.
Q. After 2006 -
STEVE STRICKER: Oh, yeah, I'm in the trailers every winter, and I still do it today. I was in there before Tiger's event, I was in there a good, solid week trying to practice and get ready for Tiger's event, and then again before coming over here before Christmas, I'm in there. And I love it. I actually look forward to hitting out of those trailers. I hit more balls in the wintertime at home than I do in the summertime, because that's all I can do is hit balls in the trailer in the winter, and in the summer I end up playing a lot of golf. I go out and my practice is actually playing on the golf course. So yeah, I just kind of flip it around. I enjoy going in the trailers. I get away and usually I'm in there by myself sometimes and it's me and a mirror looking at what I'm doing, and I get a lot done in there.
STEVE STRICKER: They have a little pellet gun, but it's not for big animals. It's for little birds that crap all over the floor (laughter).
Q. You talk about the reasons you're looking forward to cutting back your schedule; are there some downfalls or things that you'll miss out on?
STEVE STRICKER: You know, not right now. I can't think of any. I'm really looking forward to it. When I made the decision, I made the decision during Tiger's event, and I contacted all my sponsors. Because the biggest thing was that I had to be prepared to lose every one of my sponsors, and that's where I was. I was like, well, if they don't want to stick with me through this, then I can see why. If I'm not out here playing full time. But I still see a value that I'm going to be playing ten or 12 events, and we added some more service days for these sponsors, so there's still a value there.
Once I got through that with my sponsors and everybody was okay with it, that was the burden lifted off me really. I'm fine with it and my kids and my wife are really looking forward to it, and so am I. I'm cutting my schedule in half, basically. I've been playing 19 events, and getting it down to ten or 12. But I still plan on trying to play them as quality as I have been over the last six or seven years and trying to play well and win tournaments still. So that's still my objective is to go out and play well, so that has not changed.
MODERATOR: And you know that when you have your own PGA Tour event, you'll have the very best media center out there.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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