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July 19, 2016
KRAIG KANN: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the 2016 UL International Crown, and our first press conference we welcome in the No. 2-overall seed in the competition, the top seed in Pool B, the United States of America. To my immediate left is Cristie Kerr. We have Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, and Gerina Piller. Thank you all for coming on this hot day. I know you were all out early practicing and seeing the golf course, et cetera. Cristie, I want to start with you. You're not the top overall seed but you are the home team. How much of an advantage and your thoughts on this course?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I think it's kind of a hard format to really predict who's favored. Match play is very unpredictable. But I think there's a lot of USA fans out there following us in the practice rounds and signing autographs, and it's great to be the home team.
I think this gives us an advantage.
The golf course is phenomenal. I played here in 2000 for the Women's Open and have some great memories of that, and it's just a spectacular piece of property. I mean, it's such a big piece of land, you feel like it's a really grand space when you're playing the golf course, and the condition is great. We're looking forward to it.
KRAIG KANN: Let's get some thoughts on the golf course from the rest of you. Start with Gerina and we'll work our way backward. Your thoughts on Merit Club?
GERINA PILLER: First of all, it's in amazing shape. The fairways are like carpet. The greens are rolling great. I definitely think it's going to be a good test of golf this weekend with the hot weather and it getting a little firm, and chipping is definitely a little tougher around the greens with the thick rough and the speed of the greens.
I felt like it's a little more generous off the tee, but just the greens with all the different slopes and tiers and places they can put the pin placements and stuff are going to be tougher.
STACY LEWIS: Well, I love the course. It's cool what they did with the setup. It's not set up like a U.S. Open. It's nowhere close. Cristie said, it's not even close to what they played for the Open. I mean, there's reachable par-5s and drivable par-4s and a lot of tee options, so it's going to make for great golf. You're going to see a lot of birdies. You're going to probably see a bunch of eagles on some par-5s. We're not going to be struggling to make pars, and it's going to look great on TV.
We kind of were joking, Lexi's caddie wants to get a skins game going because he thinks there's going to be so many birdies out there.
It should be really fun for this format and good for our team with these two girls beside me.
LEXI THOMPSON: I think they all covered it, but no, the course is in amazing shape. We were the first group out there today, and I swear there was like no divots in the fairways. It's such a pure golf course and layout. I didn't play in the U.S. Open that was here, but --
STACY LEWIS: You were what, five?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, five, so I wasn't playing the Open then. But like they said, they can get some pretty hard pin placements with the ridges in the greens that they have. But you can definitely take advantage if you hit it a little bit longer out here on some of the holes with the reachable par-5s and some of the drivable par-4s. It'll be a great week.
THE MODERATOR: Lexi, on the growth of the event because three of the four of you played in this competition two years ago at Caves Valley, how have you seen a change from players talking about it more, making this team or any thoughts you have on that?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I think it's grown dramatically, just on playing wanting to make this team. It's not just the U.S. against Europe, it's the U.S. against seven other countries which allows a lot of other girls to be able to play for their country, which is what they want to be able to do. There's a lot move media hype about it and a lot more people interested to be able to come out and watch us play.
KRAIG KANN: Gerina, you didn't get to play last time. Talk about being a part of this competition. What are your thoughts on joining Team USA?
GERINA PILLER: Super excited. I know this is a fun event for everybody, and to be able to -- obviously we have Solheim to try to qualify for the U.S., but I know it's pretty cool for the other teams that have never got to play in a team event.
As for me, I've said it time and time again, it never gets old, putting on the stars and stripes and representing my country. I think that's one of my proudest moments.
KRAIG KANN: Cristie, one more question about this team and the Solheim Cup experience. How much does that matter at all? You all were on the victorious Solheim Cup team and now you're going to play again in this. Do you come in with more confidence?
CRISTIE KERR: I mean, I think so. We all certainly play well together. We mesh well as a team, and we're going to ride that high from Solheim right on to this event.
Q. As the Americans you were the No. 1 seed in the inaugural year. How much disappointment was there in being eliminated after pool play, and is there extra motivation in that?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think we were all disappointed. I think the first year, I don't think we quite understood the format and how it all was going to play out, and I think what I realized is that you can't really take a match off. You've got to go out there and win every point you can get because there's not a whole lot of opportunities for points the first three days, and so to not make it to the last day being here in the U.S. was pretty disappointing.
But I stayed around and got to kind of see how things played out on Sunday, which hopefully we can use to our advantage.
But you've got to go out there and be aggressive on Thursday and win your -- you've got to get as many points as you can get early because we don't need to get into a playoff situation again.
Q. Usually events like this, it takes some time to gain tradition, early Solheim Cups, it looked like a club championship, and the Ryder Cup it took decades for it to kind of catch on. This caught on quickly, and I'm just wondering, what do you attribute that to?
CRISTIE KERR: I guess I can answer that. I think it's not just two countries playing, it's eight, and all the media coverage from each country coming to this event, all the visibility that it gets, all the sponsors that it brings, and you can root for your country. All the countries have a chance to qualify for this event, and the best eight are picked. It gains a lot of excitement, and it's a cool format. It's something different. So I think that's why it's caught on so quickly.
STACY LEWIS: And I think everyone was asking for this. Everyone wanted to maybe change Solheim Cup or do anything like that, and then people were kind of -- people wanted this event. They wanted to see how the different countries and Asia would play against each other and how we would stack up against those countries.
People were asking for it, so we just delivered on it, and it's been -- only being our second one, I think it's pretty obvious it's a success so far.
Q. How do you feel about playing when it's 98 degrees as it probably will be on Friday?
LEXI THOMPSON: I'm kind of used to that. I just came from home, and it was almost 100 basically every day, and 100 percent humidity. I'm used to that. I don't mind the heat.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, it's more disappointing for the fans. I think whenever it's hot at events, we kind of tend to lose the fans. But we're used to playing in it. I live it Texas, grew up in Texas, Gerina lives in Texas.
CRISTIE KERR: I live in Scottsdale where it's 115, so this feels pretty good to me. We all don't mind it. I'd much rather have this than like a 40-degree day.
Q. If you could turn the clock back like five years ago, when you looked at the schedule at the beginning of the year, you just had to get yourself all mentally for the four major championships both physically and mentally, and that's the way you planned your schedule. Just a month ago you played the KPMG, two weeks later the U.S. Open, now you're at The International Crown, next week you've got the British Open, then the Olympics. How difficult is it to keep raising yourself to a high level periodically the way you have to now?
GERINA PILLER: I think the key is just -- it's rest. For me, you don't tend to recognize how tired you are mentally and physically until you stop, and so for me, I find that taking a week off here and there has been huge, and during that week off, I don't touch my clubs at all.
Not only that, it just really refreshes my mind and I'm excited to get back out there, and I'm kind of -- like I've got the itch to play again. For me that's kind of how I kind of keep going. Obviously I've never played in this before, so that excites me, and with Rio coming up, I think that's really cool.
I mean, I think there is a lot going on. We have a lot of tournaments. But I think really just resting physically and mentally.
KRAIG KANN: Stacy, six weeks in a row you're in the midst of.
STACY LEWIS: I'm on week five. Yeah, I mean, all those events you named, they're all our biggest events and they're all opportunities for our Tour. I don't see it as a negative thing. I see it as a great opportunity for our Tour.
I've never done six weeks in a row, and we're going to get through it. You take every day for what it is, but I think it's such an opportunity for our Tour that it's not a negative thing, it's just the way this year kind of works out. We have five majors, so it's kind of hard -- they're going to be crammed in there some way, so it's just kind of the way it is.
KRAIG KANN: I want to get Cristie's thoughts on this, as well, because you've been on Tour as long as anybody. You've lived it two different ways. How do you like a schedule like this with all the added big exposure type of tournaments?
CRISTIE KERR: I mean, it's great for our Tour. As Stacy said, it's a huge opportunity. When I came out on Tour, we had a ton of events, and most of them were based in the United States. That's shifted to a lot in Europe, a lot in Asia, and the travel component.
I mean, I've seen it both ways. I think what Gerina said as far as getting rest, taking a week off here or there is huge. I played five weeks in a row this year, which I haven't done since my rookie year. It just tells you how many events and the Olympics have changed the schedule so much. Whatever way it is, you just have to get a little bit of rest.
Q. Following up on the travel stuff, do any of the girls on the LPGA fly NetJets or Wheels Up, and what one thing do you like most about Chicago?
CRISTIE KERR: I do for a few trips here and there, but usually we split between players. I do use Wheels Up, but it's whatever -- but it's literally like once a year, if at all. And yes, of course you like flying privately, but it's an expense.
KRAIG KANN: And perhaps the best thing about Chicago, maybe the Solheim Cup a few years back, but what else would you guys like to say about your trip here?
CRISTIE KERR: Wrigley is cool. Wrigley is cool. I've been to Wrigley and a lot of restaurants in Chicago.
STACY LEWIS: I love being down in the city. It's one of my favorite cities I've gotten to visit. Just being on the shore of Lake Michigan there, I just think it's one of the coolest cities I've ever been to. I've always said if I didn't play golf and I could live somewhere it would be in Chicago just because you can take a bus or walk wherever you need to go. I don't know, I got to come -- I've visited here quite a few times like playing amateur tournaments, and I've just always loved it.
Q. You guys know there's a major in the Chicago area in the next two years, so that's three years in a row. What do you think it means to get back in this market three years in a row?
STACY LEWIS: Well, maybe Kerr can talk because I think that Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest was huge.
CRISTIE KERR: It is huge, and this is such a huge sports town between the Blackhawks and the baseball and football. This is such a big sports town that I think the residents here kind of expect big events to come, and it's pretty cool that the International Crown is here.
STACY LEWIS: And we get to play some pretty great golf courses the next couple years, too. I mean, Chicago is kind of known for their great courses that we haven't been able to play, and so --
CRISTIE KERR: I can remember playing junior golf here at Exmoor Country Club and a lot of the clubs around the area and they're all fantastic golf clubs. It is amazing I can still junior golf, isn't it?
STACY LEWIS: Yes, it is.
Q. Korea and USA, 1-2 seeds. It was the same way in the inaugural event and then you guys ended up in a playoff immediately last time. Is there a natural rivalry there, and do you guys feel pressure to keep up with the Koreans week to week on the Tour?
STACY LEWIS: I don't know if -- I don't think there's a rivalry there, no. But gosh, I don't feel like we're trying to keep up or do anything. I mean, what they're doing is pretty amazing. To have so many players in the top 15 in the world that if one person -- Inbee is out, but the next option is really pretty good. It's amazing what the Korean team is doing and how well they play.
CRISTIE KERR: Not rivalry, almost like -- it's really just keeping up. If you look at the numbers of players they have on Tour that are in the top 65 in the World Rankings, we're just trying to keep up. They have the numbers versus us, so I mean, it's pretty -- like Stacy said, pretty amazing what they've done.
STACY LEWIS: But in this format there's so many teams that are dangerous. Look at the Thai girls and the way they roll it and the way Ariya hits it, they're kind of the team that I think is going to be really hard to beat.
I don't think you can always go off the rankings in a best ball format. It's a little bit of who can make the most birdies in a day. You know, I don't know.
KRAIG KANN: Point to make on Korea, three new players on their team. They're still the top seed. The other player was an alternate but played the last time around, that's So Yeon Ryu, and in Bracket B, where the United States sits, its Japan, Thailand and England.
Q. Was there anything about this event that surprised you two years ago, and then if you could make any suggestions for 2020, should golf remain in the Olympics for format, or would you like to see something like this?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I would say exactly how tough the format was. I mean, I thought we played pretty well. We lost one match, one or two, and we were stuck in that playoff, and then didn't get to play the last time. So I think the format was just a little difficult to understand, and I felt like nobody really should have been eliminated. I would say that was the one big surprise.
KRAIG KANN: Was it hard not having a designated captain the last go around in an event like this?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, the only part I thought was hard with not having a captain was when we had to decide the playoff because it's almost a decision -- if you have four people, we're all playing the first three days, and then all of a sudden you just have to pick two to go out there. I mean, you don't want to be selfish and put yourself, but you want to do what's best for the team, but you'd almost rather have an outside person make that decision for you. That was the only part of it I thought that was hard from the last one.
KRAIG KANN: And then regarding the format of the Olympics in 2020 --
STACY LEWIS: We might need to wait to play.
Q. Do you wish 2016 was something like this?
STACY LEWIS: I don't know, I think right now we need to get the best player to win because that's what's going to keep golf in the Olympics is having your stars win and the stars being at the top. That's what we need right now.
I don't know, going forward, I don't know. You can't really do a two-man team because not every country has two people and not every country has a male and a female. The qualifying criteria would have to change if they changed the format. I don't see it changing, though, anytime soon.
Q. Two questions for Gerina: Coming off of a top-10 finish at the U.S. Open, as the newest member of Team USA, what do you take into this week? And then obviously your husband is on the TOUR, as well. What is it like with travel for both of you not being able to see each other? I imagine there's a lot of FaceTime and Skype in there.
GERINA PILLER: Well, just bringing him this week, obviously playing well this year in general, just riding the confidence, and I think it's awesome, obviously, playing with these girls, being on the team with them. This is who the top golfers of our country are, and it's always an honor for me to be a part of that.
It's just kind of like a mini-version of a Solheim Cup. It's really cool just to hang out with them, play a practice round, and it doesn't feel any different than a regular Solheim.
As far as me and my husband, it's kind of -- we're a traveling circus. Last week I saw him for a couple days. He missed the cut, and it's kind of a bittersweet thing. I want to see him, but I want him to play well.
Next week I won't see him for two weeks, but it's kind of something that we kind of lay out at the beginning of the year, kind of -- my schedule is a little more flexible because I have better status on our Tour versus him. He's trying to keep his status. So if there's a tournament for him to play in, he needs to play, and I always encourage him to be out there and play.
Playing well has definitely given me an opportunity to kind of make my own schedule and be a little more flexible. Taking weeks off here and there to go visit where he's at and go to his tournaments, that's been nice. I just think with us both playing golf and we're eventually our own boss, we make our own schedule, so that definitely helps with seeing each other.
It's not like I'm working a 9-to-5 job where I have to request a week off here and a week off there. It's actually, I think, I see him more that I am a professional golfer than I would if I stayed at home or vice versa.
KRAIG KANN: Team England comes in here in just a little bit. There won't be another press conference for either of you prior to the opening matches on Thursday. Get some thoughts on the importance of a fast start because you talked about the format and you can't take a match off and all that sort of stuff. What are your thoughts on England and that match-up?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, England has a very strong team, but every team out here, I mean, they're going to be tough to win against, so you just have to go out there, play aggressive and make a good team with your partner that you have by your side and just go out there and stick to the game plan, just focus on your game. You can't really focus on them, you just have to pretty much predict that they're going to play very well, so you just have to go out there and do your best.
CRISTIE KERR: I mean, I think it's very important as a team to go out and set the tone, and we want to play well for each other. England is a tough team. They have a lot of Solheim Cup experience, as well, and yeah, that's what we're going to do, go out and play aggressively, play for each other, and we're going to have fun. This is a fun format, a fun event, and hopefully you see a lot of birdies out there.
KRAIG KANN: Stacy, any message to the fans you'd like because it may be hot on Friday?
STACY LEWIS: Bring some water. Yeah, there's not many trees on this golf course, either, so maybe a sun umbrella, too.
KRAIG KANN: Ladies, best of luck this week. Congratulations on being here. Thank you so much, Team USA.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports