An Interview With: Cristie Kerr

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Cristie Kerr, who is a top-ranked American players in this field. She's second on the LPGA money list. She has a total of five LPGA victories and I guess you are having the time of your life, aren't you, Christie?

CRISTIE KERR: I am. It's definitely a little bit more demanding when you play well, having some other obligations as far as doing more media all that stuff. I am trying to do the best I can with it and it's an adjustment period, and I think I am starting to kind of ease into getting comfortable with doing more stuff, and it's just if you are not used to it, it's a little different at first.

MODERATOR: Do you feel as the top-ranked American, that you are kind of carrying the banner in trying to usurp Annika from her current role as No. 1?

CRISTIE KERR: That would take quite a bit. I think when I won Kingsmill, and I got close to her on the money list, I put more pressure on myself to maybe play more events, to try and catch up a little bit money-wise. But I have realized to kind of beat her out to be No. 1 in the world is going to take quite a lot.

I have to do better. I think just focusing on what I have to do and just enjoying playing professional golf and not putting so much pressure on myself; every putt is this important, every shot is this important. I don't play well like that. I am if I am going to be No. 1 in the world, I think whenever it is, maybe five years from now, or next year, ten years from now, if I am still playing, who knows. But I think if that's going to happen then it's meant to happen. I have just got to keep doing the things that make me perform at my peak level and at my best. It's really just going out and you know, taking care of my own game and you know, I feel like I am, you know, definitely one of the players carrying the banner.

We have a lot of great young American players coming out, Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, whom I played practice round with today. I am really proud of them. It's good to see the insurgence of Americans women's golf again back on the tour and I think for the Americans this week. I think it's going to be a good week for them.

Q. What do you think of the course so far? You think over par could possibly win the tournament, even par?

CRISTIE KERR: Well, I kind of did a little research for the USGA Championships that were held here previously. I think when Palmer won when he shot that 7-under, 65, or 6-under, 65, he won at 4-under for the championship. When Nicklaus won here, I think he won at 6-under. So I think that's right in the ballpark if the conditions stay the same. If the greens get a little faster, and a little bit firmer, I think you know, I think if you are shooting under par, even par, under par everyday, I think you are going to be very, very pleased at the end of the week.

Q. You beat Annika head-to-head so to speak. When somebody wins week after week, like she has and like Tiger did in 2000, is there an intimidation factor? Are some players a little intimidated?

CRISTIE KERR: I would say some players definitely are. I played with her enough to be comfortable playing with her and to know -- I mean, ultimately you can only control your own game, so at first years and years and years and years ago, I probably was intimidated. I am not now, you know, and I would say she intimidates a lot of people, but I mean, honestly if you look at what Tiger did and what she's done, I think she's been a little bit more dominant through the years than maybe even Tiger.

I mean, Tiger is amazing and, you know, on the men's tour, he was very dominant for a long time, but to win seven, eight, nine tournaments a year is pretty incredible. I don't think we're going to see another player like her more another 50, 100 years. Definitely when you see her name up on the leaderboard, you know, I think she intimidates a lot of people. When she's playing well she doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes, so I think that's the intimidating thing to people. Me, I know it. I know that she's not going to make mistakes. A lot of times just because I played with her so many times and I know her game. It just basically challenges me to be able to take my game to the next level and she's made me better over the years by playing with her.

Q. ADT last year, were you intimidated or trying to do something that you felt like you had to do or just a bad shot?

CRISTIE KERR: No, it with as a bad shot because first of all, the way my end of the round kind of went, it was a little awkward. I got pulled right, as you know, she was kind of on 18 and had, whatever, a 12-footer for the win, or whatever, and I was kind of standing there, getting ready to walk off to the putting green to go hit some putts and I got pulled to the side - I don't know who was covering it at the time - but for an interview, it was like the camera kind of got right in my face, Can you do this? Can you do that? I felt bad not doing it. That kind of threw me out of my mental state a little bit.

I went to go to the putting green to hit a couple of putts or balls on the range. I really had to go to the bathroom. I went to the clubhouse. By the time I came back, she was already in a cart halfway down the 18th fairway. It was kind of like, I hit a good drive, she has such a length advantage over a lot of us which, you know, I mean she's really long, that on 18, on that hole, she got way down there and I had 7-wood, I think, off of a left-to-right lie. I hit a great shot, hit it solid but it blocked.

Then about two weeks later I was down playing I dropped about 10, because I aimed more left and more left and more left. And I hit seven out of the ten balls into the water hitting it solid. So I think it was a case of a little bad timing on where I put the ball in the fairway there. So I think I hit a good shot in the playoff. I just hit it right off that lie, which, if you sit there with a bucket of balls you are going to hit over half of them in the water.

It is kind of the lie that if you aim more and more left, it will start more and more right. It was, I think, just a tough break.

Q. Have you guys, I mean you as a field, have you guys made it easy on Annika the first two majors in that she's had such a big lead, that there's been no real pressure applied to see if there's any kind of hitch in the swing as you get down to the pressure moment?

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I think so. I didn't, what was the first major, Kraft I played well at Kraft but she got way ahead. The same thing kind of happen at McDonald's.

Let's go back to ADT last year. I played really well on Sunday and a lot of people said that her ball was really fortunate on 17 on Sunday at ADT to not have gone in the water. So when I was playing well, I put a little bit of pressure on her. It wasn't as easy for her to win. So I think if she gets way ahead, a lot of people kind of mentally kind of let up a little bit saying, oh, it's, you know -- I mean Mark on the Golf Channel said "It's over. She's won the golf tournament on Saturday night," which kind of discredits the rest of us.

Bottom line is we can't let her get too far away because it's really hard when you have a player of her caliber that doesn't make many mistakes. If somebody is going to be in contention come Sunday and assuming she's there obviously, you know, we're going to have to keep the heat on.

Q. Do you see a need for more of the stars on the LPGA Tour to do things, like Phil Mickelson gets involved in youth programs, David Duval has gotten involved, and Tiger has the foundation, and they do a lot of things off course, which enhances the image of the tour. I don't see that many things happening with the women. Do you see a need for that?

CRISTIE KERR: Well, frankly I have to say this frankly because I think it's just not published, a lot of our LPGA players have foundations, I have a foundation that raises money for breast cancer research. We started last year we have raised over $100,000 and we're in our second year and we're going to have a huge event I think somewhere in Orlando in October. Kelli Kuehne has raised over a million dollars for juvenile diabetes. Natalie Gulbis has started a foundation in Las Vegas to help underserved kids, youth. So I think you really just need to find the stories.

I think with your help, the media, to publish those stories, those stories will get out there more because we have a lot of people who have foundations out here started to help kids, or help breast cancer, so on and so forth. I think you guys really need, if you ask a question like that, that's not because maybe you don't think it's because you are not informed, I think you really need to kind of ask around and try and dig those stories out because those are great stories and they are stories that should be published and told about our LPGA golfers, because we have a lot of LPGA golfers that do stuff like that.

Q. Your take on Michelle Wie? Has she been good for the LPGA Tour?

CRISTIE KERR: She's been great for our tour. Not only Annika, but she, for some reason, is kind of the chosen one that people just want to turn the TV on and watch, and that's good for the rest of us. Whether her career pans out like everybody thinks it will, only time will tell. But I think she's been great for us. She's made a lot of new fans of her and also the LPGA Tour players. When you have a talent like that, you are always going to have a little controversy around it.

But overall I think she's been very good for us.

Q. You talked about the media exposure, now that you have to do more, has that made it more difficult on you to actually perform inside the ropes?

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, absolutely has. And I was telling, was it Mike from the Golf Channel, Mike, yeah, I was telling him, he was following me around on the golf course today, what I really want to get across to you guys, when I am out there and from the time I step out of the car when I get to the golf course to the time I step back into the car, I have got my game face on, and sometimes I think people misread that. And I just want you guys to know sincerely from my standpoint, if I don't take an interview and I want to do it in the press conference, it's not because I am trying to brush you guys off, I really want to, I am trying to get better at this stuff and with your help I can get better at it. But it's definitely, you know, since I have been more at a top level since I think I finished maybe 13th in the world, then I finished 5th last year and I have done so much better this year, it's definitely an adjustment period. And it takes a little bit getting used to.

If people would have a glass of wine with me they would really get to know the real me. When I am on the golf course it's really that's kind of my game face and sometimes it's hard to turn on and off. I have really got to do what I am good at and be intense and be focused 100% of the time when I am out doing my work because that's how I perform well. And with your understanding and helping to know that and keep that in mind would help me to better serve you guys.

So it's definitely been an adjustment for me. I am getting better at it and learning to do it better and better.

Q. Following up, is this a hurdle that you think is part of the growing process out here?

CRISTIE KERR: Absolutely, but I mean, if you look at historically when a lot of us have won tournament out here, we get a lot of the media stuff thrown at us and that's expected, but it's a lot to handle. And I am not the only one that has not done well after they have won some big tournaments. I know Karen Stupples last year had struggled with it after winning the British. She got so much stuff thrown at her. I had a conversation with her in New York about that.

It's really tough and we do the best we can with it, and you know, as things get a little better organized and we get to know you guys better, it's going to make it easier. We can only do so much. We have got to know personally for us what is best and how much we can handle and if we know that and we can relay that to you guys, then it's a win/win situation.

Q. You invited us all out for drinks a minute ago, didn't you?

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, sure. If you are buying.

Q. On Michelle, did her second-place finish at McDonald's cause you to look at her any differently? Was she just a teenage kid who is doing really well and did that performance make you say maybe she can actually --

CRISTIE KERR: No, I have played practice rounds with her since she was 12. I have seen the talent. I was Jim McLane's assistant for two years when he was teaching Jacobsen and Kite. I don't think he ever taught Norman, but technically, I kind of historically, I am a student of the game as well as a player of the game and I see the amount of talent that she has. What she's doing now definitely does not surprise me and she's going to be playing with us out here and, you know, for whatever reason she's, you know, like I said, she's able to have people turn their head and go, "Who is that?"

Q. Why do they do that?

CRISTIE KERR: Because she's so young, and she's so talented and it's really not a normal, you know, situation that somebody that young would be that good, and, you know, in a sense tournament tested. But she's very, very talented and I think she's going to be great for us.

I just hope she wants to play on our tour because we really need her and she can bring in so many new sponsors and fans and in a sense, you know, not to discredit Annika. Annika does an amazing job, but sponsors look at certain people differently. For her, she's just got this aura around her that makes people want to pay attention and Annika has done that for a lot a lot of years, but people are always looking for something new and fresh and she's it right now.

But we also have a lot of great stars on the LPGA Tour, Natalie, Paula. I just think this is a really good time for the LPGA and the USGA, and women's golf, and I think with the new commissioner coming in and - granted, I will put out the disclaimer out there, I don't know much about her right now - I think this is a really good time for the tour.

Q. Could Michelle win this week?

CRISTIE KERR: I don't know. I have got to worry about me.

Q. 1 and 18 seem to be really interesting holes. Do you think anyone can drive 1? And then is 18 almost too long to be a par 4?

CRISTIE KERR: No, I don't think 18 is too long to be a par 4. We're playing it with no wind. I hit driver, 7-wood to the green. It's pretty long. Granted, I think the way it plays it's longest par 4 that we have.

1, you know, I am sure Laura Davies will try and drive the green and maybe Michelle one day, but you know, on the whole it's not very reachable for most of us.

Q. You mentioned kind of off the top that you got into the situation where you looked at the money list, you wanted to move up a little bit and started adding some events. When did you start doing that and when did you realize that wasn't you?

CRISTIE KERR: I think after Kingsmill I rode the momentum a little bit. I had a great last day in Atlanta, wasn't playing that great until the last day ended up finishing third. You just think, okay, I am rolling along. I can do anything you want to do, but golf really kind of humbles you sometimes and kind of knocks you down. And, you know, for most of us, I mean Annika is a total exception to the rule, Tiger, exception to the rule, for most of us, it's a game where it comes in cycles; you play well, then you dip down, you play well, then you dip down.

So I have just got to again refocus on having fun, not putting pressure on myself, don't go out there and expect too much. I have always played better when I have done that versus putting too much pressure on myself.

Q. Curious about the WD last week, was that injury related?

CRISTIE KERR: Yeah. I struggled with a little neck issue with a disc thing in my neck. When it gets a little bad, it kind of goes down into my arm and my elbow and into my wrist with my ulnar nerve, and I get really bad tendinitis. I withdrew from a Pro-Am in Mobile last year with the same thing.

After I played the Wendy's, it hurt me on the golf course. I got on the plane and it started kind of swelling up and just kind of getting bad, so, I withdrew. And then I was surprised I even played in Mobile last year. It was so bad. I was not having a good time on the golf course last week, the way it was feeling. With my neck, I am like, oh, I better take care of this before it becomes a problem.

I saw my guy, went home, got it treated, took a day off. I feel a lot better. I came down with the flu on Sunday and I had antibiotics.

Q. In Miami or New York?

CRISTIE KERR: In New York. My guy that works on my stuff is in New York.

Q. Natalie and Paula have used their appearance to promote themselves. Do you think it's important for the LPGA to use players for sound marketing, itself?

CRISTIE KERR: I think it depends on who it is. I think we have a lot of good people out here that prefer not to do that with their appearance. I think there are a lot of people out here that celebrate it. I think if it's done tastefully I don't think it is a problem. It can do nothing but help us.

Q. What category do you put yourself?

CRISTIE KERR: The category of "I need to get back in the gym," so I feel better about myself. I am kidding. I don't know how to answer that.

A lot of people think I am beautiful. A lot of people think I am sexy, whatever. I don't view myself that way because I was the other way a while ago, so I don't view myself that way. But I take great pride in how I look now in my appearance. I am wearing capris, skirts and stuff. If people think I have got it going on, more power to them.

Q. How often do you look at pictures old pictures?

CRISTIE KERR: Only when they get printed in magazines now. (Laughs) You keep putting them in there, I will keep looking at them.

Q. New York, is that your primary residence?

CRISTIE KERR: Part-time. Not full-time. I have a condo in Miami as well. But my doctor, he does this thing called ART. Dr. Stefano, he works with the Giants.

Most doctors are like structural bone, tendon; he's a muscle and a nerve guy. So he just keeps kind of everything in balance. He's like a kinesiologist.

Q. How much do you spend in New York in a year? Half and half?

CRISTIE KERR: Less than half. I don't spend the winters up there.

Q. You just don't see a lot of golfers living in New York these days.

CRISTIE KERR: No, but my boyfriend is up there and I see a fair amount of him, so New York is a fun place to be.

But it's definitely less than half, if that. I don't have a place up there. I don't live up there. He lives there, so I spend time with him.

Q. Where do you play?

CRISTIE KERR: Trump courses mostly. I have been kind of going to Hamilton Farms in the last couple of months just to check it out because we have a tournament there next week. But no, I don't play out of there.

Q. Any of the players have started talking at all about Solheim Cup or is it still too far out there?

CRISTIE KERR: We have already met a couple of times and gotten the team and whoever is in the top 16 right now together and kind of getting revved up and, you know, starting to bond as a team.

MODERATOR: Cristie, lots of luck this week. Thanks so much for doing this. We really appreciate it.

End of FastScripts.


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