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March 27, 2005

Nancy Lopez


JOEL LAMP: Thanks for stopping by and joining us today. Talk a little bit about the streak that Annika is reaching here today. Kind of relate it to what you went through then and what she's going through now at this point.

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, my rookie year, which was I guess pretty brand new for me, I probably didn't feel as much pressure as she's probably feeling right now, or at least when she woke up this morning.

Trying to win my fifth in a row, I remember trying to do that in Rochester, New York, I was very nervous that day. I woke up nervous. I had won the other four and really didn't think about it. I was hitting the ball great, everything was down the middle, everything was on the green, hole looked big. And then when I went to Rochester trying to win my fifth in a row, I was very nervous because I was thinking about it a lot.

But at that time, I was playing very well so I just kind of let my golf game take over and went ahead and played very well on that final round. I know the back side of Rochester kept giving me a problem because I never played it well so I kept thinking, if I shoot even par on the back side, I can win the tournament. I think I was a couple shots behind Jane Blalock going into that final round. I shot even par I believe and won the event.

I know with Annika, I think she's more used to what I was going through at that time because I was only a rookie. But I think she's probably a little more comfortable and I'm sure she's very, very comfortable with her golf game. I've been watching her the last two weeks, and she just hit the ball so pure, straight down the middle. She's just not feeling afraid of anything, and I only relate with what I was feeling during those times when I won golf tournaments that when your golf game is that good and you feel that good. You know, you go out there knowing that you're going to hit the shots well and win the tournament.

Internally I really felt like I could win the events I was winning and I think that Annika feels that way. When she's out there as strong as she is, she knows what she can do and if she hits a poor shot, she's surprised and when she misses a putt, she's surprised. So even if she does have a bad side, she know that is she's got the ability to hit the next shot on the green and make a putt for birdie. So she never feels down. I never felt down. You always feel up and I think that that's what she's experiencing now.

She's won so many golf tournaments and she's just made herself even better than she even was in the last year. She looks more physically fit than even she did last year. I think she's awesome. I don't think anybody in the sports world gives her enough credit for what she has done and what she's accomplished and I think really, and truly she's better than Tiger Woods. She's a great athlete, works very hard, very dedicated. She just doesn't say what's going to happen; I'm going to work on it and she does. She knows what she wants and I admire her for that.

Q. When you say that she is better than Tiger Woods, that image in your mind, what is it? Why do you think that she is better than Tiger?

NANCY LOPEZ: Because we have a lot of great players out here and nobody is even coming close to her. I know when Tiger first came out it was like that, but she's so dominant right now, and I think she will be for a long time unless some of the players out here really step up and start working extra, extra hard on their game and their physical -- the physical part of their body, because she's just so strong. I think she will be in the winner's circle again and again and again until somebody steps up and takes her out of there.

Tiger, he was awesome, he's won and played great golf, but I just don't think he dominated the way she has.

Q. What are the pros and cons of her dominating this much versus having enough people rise up? There's interest in competition, we saw that last year on the PGA TOUR, and it's always debatable whether more people want to just see one person dominate or four or five people contend. When you look at it, what do you think the pros and the cons are and is this good for the Tour overall?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, the only negative, and I would not call it negative because she said it herself. The only way it would be better is if she was American. That would be the only best thing for the LPGA Tour would that be that she would be American because everybody wants to watch an American win.

But Annika I think has stole the hearts of all the fans now. She has -- I think Colonial did a lot for her. It brought her personality out even more. I always thought she was personable but unless you knew her you don't feel that way and I think a lot of people really don't know Annika. But at Colonial it just brought something out about her. I think she realized she could have fun in between shots and still be able to focus over the shots she was hitting.

I think that's the only negative is that I wish she was American, but I think she's great for the Tour. She's a good person. She's a good roll model for young children, young kids to watch just because of her dedication to her sport and I think that she's just done an awesome job. I would say that she's been great for the Tour.

I know that when one person dominates, it's tough, but I think people root for her to win. I think they want her to win and to have somebody follow to see how many more records she can beat and how many more records she can break. I think that's something for people to watch.

Q. Can you compare the difficulty and challenges of winning five in a row with potentially winning the Grand Slam, which is something Annika has talked about and obviously today would be 1-down, three to go?

NANCY LOPEZ: I would say that the Grand Slam would be more difficult than five in a row because you're going to play different golf courses that -- when you're on the Tour, you play the same courses all the time, and I'm sure that courses Annika plays are better than other golf courses we play year-in and year-out. Some courses like the U.S. Open now she has to go there with her game, but she hits it so straight and so long, she doesn't fear any golf course. Back in my days, I hit it so straight and so long I could not wait to get on a really tight golf course because I could not wait to hit my driver. When you have something in your bag that hits it down the middle all the time, you have a big advantage over everybody because everybody else is hitting an iron off the tee to put them in good position in the fairway.

But she hits that drive, I mean, straight down the middle and long and nobody can compete against that. I went out yesterday and watched her and, you know, Rosie Jones isn't a long hitter, but she hits it straight and she's out-hitting Rosie by 40 yards. She needed to turn ahead a few times to try not to swing too hard, you have a tendency to do that. Long is great, but I don't think anybody hits it straighter than Annika.

Q. I was talking to a couple of LPGA founders this week about where Annika is in the pantheon and they said it's not really fair to compare because the Tour and the game and the eras are so much different. Do you think you can compare Mickey Wright to Nancy Lopez to Annika or has the game changed too much?

NANCY LOPEZ: Well, it has changed for sure. I think that golf clubs, technology has been -- definitely changed game. Back when I played and I mow when Mickey played, I think Mickey in the last tournament she could win, the Coca-Cola Classic, I think it was Upper Montclair, New Jersey and I was averaging about 265 off the tee. She was playing in tennis shoes and out driving me, that's how strong she was. Great player, strong, and comparing with clubs, technology has changed. I know players are carrying four wedges. I remember, I think there was more shot-making back when I was playing and even before me because there weren't clubs that were for every distance or easier to hit or -- I remember when Ray handed me his lob-wedge, I had never hit a lob-wedge till probably about five or six years ago. I still was trying to play that shot with my sand wedge and when I hit the lob-wedge, I was like, this is cheating, it hits it for you, darn, this is easy, golf is easy, I thought. The lob-wedge made a big difference and now I have one in my bag and it makes a big difference in the way that my short game is. It makes it easier.

But it's hard to compare, but I think that all you can do is compare -- when you look at the person, you look at Annika, when I think about how I probably appeared to everyone and the way Mickey Wright, you see the way that person is thinking. When I watch Annika out on the golf course, she's got such a strong mind. I can see, I feel like I know what she's thinking, I feel like I know what she's feeling because I feel like I was there at one time in my career.

It's just a great feeling what she's feeling. There's no -- unless you've been there, you have so much confidence, and even when you're not playing well, you still have confidence. I think sometimes even Annika might try too hard because she knows how good she is and she probably feels like she can win every tournament by ten shots, that that's how good she is and she knows that in here but sometimes if she doesn't hit that shot and she doesn't win by a bunch, she gets frustrated because she's that good and she know that is internally that she is.

Q. Again, talking about some of the players of a select group like Kathy Whitworth and yourself and Annika who have just won hundreds of tournaments, how do you that besides having the skill to do that, how do you accomplish just winning so many tournaments? What does it take to get to that level?

NANCY LOPEZ: There's just a feeling inside -- I know when I was playing my best golf, it was like when I was talking about that earlier today because you know Annika is going through this divorce, but she goes into the ropes and she's in her world now. There's nobody that can touch her, fans can't touch you, nobody is there except you walking down the fairway, and she can focus on what's going on inside the ropes.

Because I went through a divorce at the same time, I went through a divorce about three years after I got married. I was 21 when I got married and I was still playing very well and it was a tough time, but when I walked inside the ropes, there was a -- sanctity is the word I want to use -- forming when I was in there, it was peaceful, nothing was going to bother me. I was just going to play golf. Once I walked outside the ropes, all of the pressures and everything else that was outside the ropes fell upon me, and it was hard because I remember crying and going through a very, very tough time through that divorce and I'm sure she does the same thing. When she goes back in, she's probably her happiest inside those ropes.

And winning the tournaments that I won, I mean, I loved it. I still love golf. But she loves golf the way nobody else does. She's never miserable I think inside the ropes; I wasn't. I mean, I was so glad to be inside the ropes and golf was just fun and easy and I just didn't feel like there was anything that can keep me from winning except myself if I didn't win. I think that she has that ability with watching her, you look at the way she thinks, you can see her thinking out there.

Q. When you won the five in a row, was that something that people were making a big deal out of at the time?

NANCY LOPEZ: Yeah, it was a big deal because nobody had really done that and I was also winning -- I was No. 1 on the Money List and I think I made $100,000 that year after winning nine tournaments, and that was a big deal.

Oh, yeah, the press, it was like -- that's when I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated that year, but as I won, the crowds got bigger, the press got bigger. Everybody was there to see if I could win my fifth in a row, everybody from all over the country, from Japan, everywhere. And then when I went to try to win my sixth in a row in Hershey, Pennsylvania, I played horrible. I was so tired mentally, because it wasn't just the playing, it was the attention and all of the autographs and all of the press that you have to do while you're trying to do that and when I went to Hershey, I had no concentration left. I had a fried brain, I was so tired. I would step over putts and I always joked, but I really was -- I would be thinking about the quarter pounder with cheese at McDonald's standing over a putt; I just couldn't concentrate anymore; it was just too much anymore. And.

I was really sad that I didn't win my sixth in a row. I was really hoping that I could do that but was not able to accomplish it.

Q. Annika has already accomplished so much in the game, is this more logical -- inaudible?

NANCY LOPEZ: I was really a baby. I was 20 that year and it was an experience for me and it was really kind of different because I didn't really have the pressure except for myself because I don't think anybody really expected me to do that well. So I just really played and had fun doing it. I think she and everyone else expects her to do it because she's won so many and I don't think anybody wouldn't think that she couldn't do it.

Q. How realistic is it for her to win the Grand Slam?

NANCY LOPEZ: I think it's very realistic. I think, like I said, her mind can put her there and I think she could do it, definitely.

Q. (Inaudible.)?

NANCY LOPEZ: Different about majors, I think just the building up to the major; knowing the golf course is going to be very tough; knowing that there's a lot of other things to do besides just playing golf during a major, a lot of press. A lot of times you don't really have time for yourself anymore.

So there's a lot, because I know after every major I played, I was totally exhausted. It was like Monday was just -- I was starving on Monday and I was so tired on Monday. It's a big emotional drain, mental drain, physical drain when you're playing in majors.

Q. There are a couple amateurs, Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel, what are your thoughts on those two? Do they have a chance to be consistent winners on the Tour someday, and do you see that for the two of them?

NANCY LOPEZ: Michelle Wie is a great talent. She is a super player; and Morgan, great little players.

I think for Michelle Wie, I'll be curious to see if she can win yet. She hasn't won much. It's not the same as -- she can play great golf, but you've got to win your way into that final group, and you've got to be able to stay under pressure of that final group and I haven't yet seen that.

I think she'll be fine eventually, and I think she'll win a lot, but I'm curious to see how she will react to that kind of pressure eventually. I think she could win a lot for sure when she comes out here whenever that is. She would be one of the Americans that I would say would be able to do that.

Q. I was talking to my wife and asked her to name an LPGA Tour player and she said Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie. Are you surprised how popular Michelle Wie is, considering she has not won? She hits the ball far and she wants to play on the men's tour.

NANCY LOPEZ: She's just amazing but she's 15 years old and she's six-foot tall and she looks like a baby and she still thinks like a baby. She's 15; I have a 13-year-old and I think my 13-year-old is as mature as she is, that's how young she is. I think that just kind of excites people, to be able to see somebody come out and play with the pressure that she's playing under, maybe not so much the pressure because she doesn't really have the pressure except from herself. She is really kind of showing everybody -- she is really kind of showing off, which I remember I did that a few times. I played in the U.S. Open when I was 15, I was showing off because I didn't have any pressure on me. Nobody really expected me to do well, but when I did, that was fun and everybody thought that was kind of cool and it was just something different.

It's a different kind of pressure right now, not a bad kind of pressure that will make her play bad, but once she steps into the Tour, that's a different pressure and now you're supporting yourself, trying to win tournament because it's expected that you will.

Playing with the guys is great for her, it's been fun watching her, but to me, you know, I think she should be concerned about beating Annika, be the best woman player in the world. I've never believed that women should play against the guys and they are much stronger than we are. If she wants to go on the men's tour, maybe she'll accomplish that, but I don't believe she'll ever win a PGA event. The guys are too strong, and playing from the men's tees, it will be very long, she does hit it long but it's just a different type of golf game. I'd like to see her putt the LPGA Tour No. 1 on her list of goals because I'd like to see her out here building the LPGA Tour where I think she really should be.

Q. Your five were in a lot shorter period than that, do you think five in a row is five in a row, or does having a few months off in the middle --

NANCY LOPEZ: I'm always going to think my five in a row is better -- that's a joke. (Laughing).

I think five in a row is basically five in a row. You win five tournaments in a row and I think that has a lot -- that's saying a whole bunch. Where is she playing next? If she wins six in a row, that's pretty awesome. Five in a row is great but six in a row is awesome.

JOEL LAMP: Thanks, Nancy. Appreciate it.

End of FastScripts.

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