Steve Stricker on almost giving up, not threatening Tiger, and his least boring asset
When you finished second to Vijay Singh at the 1998 PGA Championship at Sahalee, could you have imagined you still wouldn't have won a major in 2012?
It's important, but it's not life-defining. I would love to win one, but it's given me a lot of satisfaction to compare where I was seven or eight years ago with what I've been doing the last five or six years. I pulled myself up and brushed myself off and got to be a better player.
Do you consider yourself a major talent? There's a lot of responsibility that comes with it. Do you want to be bothered? You've seen what Tiger goes through.
Yeah. I feel like I can handle it.
Toward the end of your slump, I watched you make par from the footpath at the par-3 17th hole at Sawgrass before pull-hooking your tee shot into the water on 18. What was the low point?
Those two years, '04 and '05, weren't a lot of fun. I was making around $400,000 a year, which wasn't good enough to keep my card, but I was getting into some tournaments as a past champion. I tried to trick myself. I told myself, "What else could I be doing and still making this kind of money?" Even though it wasn't good by PGA Tour standards.
Did you think about giving up?
Well, I did. But then I thought about those things. What else could I do? I don't remember the low point, but I remember the tournaments where I started playing better. The Shell Houston Open was one of them. They gave me a sponsor's spot in 2006, and I finished third. The U.S. Open in 2006 (tied for sixth) was very important to me. So there were stepping stones along the way that made me think that I was on the right track toward coming back. And it's been a progression since.
How many guys tell you they're inspired to see someone peaking at age 45?
I have gotten that a lot: "Do it for the old guys." I feel like I'm not that old. There are guys who have proven that you can play good golf into your early 50s and even later, like Tom Watson has.
You won Comeback Player of the Year two years in a row, which is sort of hard to figure out.
Yeah, they're taking away that award. Maybe because it was a scam that I won it two years in a row.
Have you taken Tiger aside and coached him on how to win Comeback Player of the Year?
When he wasn't playing well last year, he'd take me aside and say, "I'm going after that Comeback Player of the Year award." I told him, "Well, that's one thing you've never won that I have." It's all good fun. It means a lot because it was voted on by your peers, who know where you were and where you got to.
Hank Haney says in his book that Tiger befriends people who are not a threat to him, like Steve Stricker. Is that a slap in the face?
It's not. I don't really care what Hank says. And I would maybe agree with that. I think Tiger wants to have something to dislike about a person so he can go out and whip him. I would agree that I'm not a threat to him. I'm a friend of his.
What's the least boring thing about you? When was the last time you got a speeding ticket?
It's been a while. I do speed, though. I drive faster than I should. I'm an aggressive driver.
What's your ride?
A pickup truck. I guess that's probably the least boring thing about me. I've got flat black rims, it's just all flat black. I stole Davis Love's idea, because he's got a truck that's flat black, and I'm like, "Oh, that's really cool."
That's very gangsta of you.
[Laughs] I don't wear a big, flat-brimmed cap, though.
You ever race the cars on the track near Doral?
No. That's why I'm boring, dude. I'm a pretty conservative guy.