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March 28, 2017

Stacy Lewis

Rancho Mirage, California

CHRISTINA LANCE: We are joined by Stacy Lewis, 15th ranked player in the world. You have played in five events so far in 2017. How is your game setting up coming into this week?

STACY LEWIS: Well, it's been a really good start to the year. I had two kind of close calls already, and played some really solid golf. It's nice to sit here feel like I'm playing well and not searching for my golf swing and not trying to make things better.

Now it's just about playing the golf course and shoring up some little things. It's not looking for a golf swing or a putting stroke. I feel like everything's there and I'm really excited, because this is one of my favorite courses we play all year.

CHRISTINA LANCE: You're the 2011 champion, had a close call a few years ago, you've been here nine times and never missed the cut. What is it about this course that suits you?

STACY LEWIS: I think having a great experience as an amateur when I played when I was in college. I think that was a lot of it. Kind of fell in love with the golf course. It just really sets up well for me. You know, it's hard. I love it when the rough is up and when it's playing firm and fast. I just love being here, and I come here with a good attitude and good memories of winning in 2011. So it's just a really good place for me to be.

CHRISTINA LANCE: Do you play well on a challenging golf course?

STACY LEWIS: I do. I've been kind of disappointed on this golf course the last few years because it's been so soft and the rough hasn't really been what it was, call it maybe five or six years ago.

I've heard -- I haven't been out on the golf course yet but I've heard it's a little bit firmer this year, which I hope stays the rest of this week because that's how this golf course should be played. It should be played firm and fast where you have to worry about how far your drive is going. It's a major. It should be hard.

Q. The scoring the last few years -- was that the condition of the golf course, the weather? Has the play gotten that much better?
STACY LEWIS: I definitely think play has gotten better. But I've also noticed over, I'd say, the last year and a half, is our golf courses have gotten a lot softer. Softer golf courses mean you don't have to think as much. You can be more aggressive and you can go at pins. There's not as much penalty for a bad shot.

You know, I've kind been on our agronomist on our tour a little bit about things being so soft. It's hard to separate a field that way of who really is playing the best. But all golf courses are different. I mean, last week was a lot softer, and that's why I think you saw low scores. Phoenix we are always going to have low scores because they are the most perfect greens we play all year.

I would just like to see golf courses firmer in general that we play.

Q. What score would you like to see --
STACY LEWIS: Here I would say ten to 12, just because there's par 5s that are reachable and there's definitely some birdie holes. But I think the year Morgan won, I think she was 6-under or something crazy. I would love to see it that way.

I would love to see a field be separated. Even the year I won, Yani and I were so separated from the field because of how hard and how firm and how fast it was playing. I think I would like to see that at a major championship versus low scores and a stacked leaderboard. I would like to see people separate themselves.

Q. We had a heartfelt emotional press conference a year ago, and a lot has changed a lot in your life. How are you doing?
STACY LEWIS: I mean, definitely things have changed a lot. I'm definitely more, just doing more things for myself. Being a little bit more choosy on where I'm going to play and when I'm going to play. I guess I feel more confident in that, and the decisions I've made.

You know, I know what I need to do to play my best, and that's -- I just feel much more comfortable with what I want to do. I have a better plan of how I want to approach the year. Happier and enjoying life. Things are really good.

Q. Going from last week to this week --
STACY LEWIS: Definitely, I mean, I would almost rather see the schedule switch so we play San Diego, Phoenix and then here, just because Phoenix is a much better prep to come play this golf course.

It's hard when you're playing the week before and you don't see putts go in. You always want to see putts go in prior to coming here but the greens are just, you hit great putts there and they bounce out of the hole, and that's just part of that golf course. I've moved on pretty quick. I feel like I've hit the ball as good as I've hit it on that golf course probably ever.

So I took that out of last week and these greens are perfect this week. So I'm not even thinking about that.

Q. You say you're not searching for your game coming in here. Does that mean Thursday morning you go out there and you start to attack the golf course the way you can or are you thinking about Sunday?
STACY LEWIS: No, you're not thinking about Sunday at all. It's more just thinking more strategy and thinking more about different shots you can hit.

You know, just when you're comfortable with your golf swing, you tend to worry about things a lot less and you're more relaxed, can go have a little bit more fun. But just see the ball start on line; that's a good way to start a week and just being able to hit a lot of shots is good on this golf course.

Q. Lydia had struggled the before she won here, I think Top-25 was her best. How long did it take you to feel like you understood this golf course?
STACY LEWIS: Pretty quick. I think I had a top-five finish the first time I played. You know, it's a different golf course. I think like I said the last few years, it's been soft. And that was definitely to her advantage last year, being a little softer, because then you lose some of the nuances of this golf course of certain parts of greens that are very firm and you have to be careful on; or hitting it in certain parts of the fairway.

You know, the golf course has changed a lot over the last few years, and when it's firm and fast, it's completely different and the advantage goes to players that have played here more.

Q. The weather this week -- how do you think it will play in windy conditions?
STACY LEWIS: I love it. It just adds to this golf course. That makes it play even harder.

And that was the year I won. I remember driving to the golf course and seeing the clouds in the path, and I'm like, here we go, we're going to get the true test here today. I love it, because that way you this golf course how it should be playing.

Q. I'm just curious how the depth of the Tour has changed in your mind.
STACY LEWIS: It's crazy how good everybody is now. You know, everyone talks about the American players maybe aren't doing as well, this and that, and it is so hard to win out here. It is just -- it's the best players in the world. The entire world are cleaning up on this tour every single week and it is hard to win out here.

The talent has gotten better. Everybody's younger. They are fearless. There's no -- they are not scared. These girls are coming here and they are here to win, whether it's their first time or their 10th time. It's just players are good. And you have to play your butt off to win a tournament.

So that's the way it should be, too. And we have some great American players that are playing really good right now, have come off some good finishes last week. You know, Brittany -- I feel like we've gotten off to a good start.

Q. The last time a junior qualified for a major, and you were very honest --
STACY LEWIS: You know, I think it's good what they are doing with the Junior Inspiration. I do think it's good to give the kids an opportunity to play in a major.

My only -- and I like how this tournament has given exemptions to top amateurs over the years. I benefitted from that; Michelle, Lydia, a lot of us have benefitted from that. I would just like to see it go more towards those college-age players. Just because I feel like they get more out of it and you're more -- they are looking for the next step more than, say, a 12-, 13-, 14-year-old is. I would like to see it go back to that, of being more college players than necessarily the juniors.

But for those junior players, what they got to do this past weekend of playing with the legends, that's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And for those legends players to come back and do that for those kids, you know, I don't think they quite understand what it means. But it's just really cool to have them around this week, too.

It's really trying to make them understand that they don't need to turn pro at 18. They don't have to rush into this. It's okay to go to college. It's okay to go have that experience. You know, I try to do as much as I can with those college kids to help them be prepared for the next level because I feel like that's right now, is where I think some of our American talent is kind of getting lost is the jump from college to professional golf.

And so I think a better job needs to be done about whether it's getting the college kids more invites in the tournaments or whatever it is, somehow they are not getting quite prepared for that next step. That's my thing. I'm trying to figure out right now is how do we get them better prepared.

Q. You've been battling against Inbee Park for awhile. Last year some of us weren't even sure how long Inbee would continue playing out here with the Olympics and then the long break, and then Singapore happened. What's your thought on what we might see from Inbee the rest of this year and how she might challenge?
STACY LEWIS: I see her just focusing more on the big events and focusing on the majors, and just playing events to be ready for a major championship and not necessarily going and playing 20 or 25 weeks. I think she'll play a lot less.

But she's going to challenge at every major. That's what she does. She seems to get her game ready for those weeks. She'll challenge at majors. She'll probably win another tournament. As good as she putts, it's bound to happen.

CHRISTINA LANCE: What's some advice you give the amateurs this week?

STACY LEWIS: It's to enjoy the moment and look at the people around you, and learn from it, and see how they practice. See how they go through their routine and how they get ready for a major and know that you can come here and you can be competitive and you can play well, and that's okay to be on the leaderboard and play well and have a goal to come here and win. I mean, why not. I would just tell them to be aggressive and have some fun.

CHRISTINA LANCE: Thanks so much for joining us. Have a great week and we'll see you out there on the golf course.

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