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June 26, 2007
SOUTHERN PINES, NORTH CAROLINA
RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, we would like to welcome the two-time United States Women's Open champion, Karrie Webb, who won her last -- she won the last time we played the Pine Needles. Karrie, you said you had an opportunity to play nine holes yesterday. What do you think of the changes to the course or did you notice them at all.
KARRIE WEBB: I did notice them quite a bit, actually. I played the back nine yesterday and a couple of the holes I felt like I was playing a different course.
And just trying to -- my vision of what I remembered from the two times I'd played here before to yesterday was a lot different, where bunkers used to be now and now chipping areas.
The greens for the most part are a little bit different. I felt instead of having to just cruise around for a couple of practice rounds to refresh my memory, I think I'm having to learn the course all over again.
RHONDA GLENN: You've had a wonderful year in the Majors, you really have. How do you rally yourself for the Majors in a different way or do you or do you just approach it the same as you do every tournament every week, fairways and greens, fairways and greens?
KARRIE WEBB: I think basically it's the same procedure. You've got to get the ball in the hole as quickly as possible. But I think -- all your senses are heightened a little bit. I think I'm a little bit more excited to play the U.S. Open than a regular LPGA event.
And of course coming back to Pine Needles is something I've been looking forward to since the last time we played here. I'm really excited to be back here and hoping that I can at least have a shot on Sunday.
RHONDA GLENN: Your first U.S. Women's Open was here at Pine Needles in 1996.
KARRIE WEBB: Yes.
Q. You were talking about it being a different course. Is this the first time you've played it this week or did you come in early to play it?
KARRIE WEBB: No, this was the first time.
Q. You talked about being surprised. I guess it's not a pleasant surprise to see a whole different golf course?
KARRIE WEBB: Well, I guess it will just keep me sharp and not take anything for granted. Obviously, take notice of the different runoff areas. I think the greens are a little more severe. They're going to play a little more severe than they did in 2001.
There's a premium on good ball-striking, obviously. And good ball-striking will be rewarded with where you don't have to try to get up-and-down from some difficult areas.
Q. Do you guys play any other courses on Tour regularly that have these types of green complexes where you've got probably six choices of how you can putt it, hybrid it, 3-wood it, scuff it, whatever you want to do to get it up close?
KARRIE WEBB: Not really, I don't think. Especially not the speed and the firmness of the greens. I don't think we play anything near that.
But because we played the last two U.S. Opens at Pine Needles at the end of May I think there was a lot more options for chipping. I found yesterday that because the Bermuda is in probably a little more at the end of June than it is in May, it's probably not as tight around the greens as it was. And it's a little more grainy.
I found that you don't have the -- for me, anyway -- the fairway wood shot or the 5-iron chip up the slope. I don't feel like it was consistent enough. I don't feel like you can judge the bounce as much. So certainly there's shots where you pitch it two or three feet short of the green into a slope and let it bounce up to take some speed off it, but I felt like there wasn't as many options, on the back nine, at least, yesterday, than what we had.
I think the only time is around some of the greens there's a little -- once it slopes off the green, it slopes back up. It could be the only time that that's the only option you have, because you can't get a sand wedge up there because it's a little tight.
I guess my recollection was that the Bermuda didn't play as strong a part around the greens as it's going to this week.
Q. Another aspect of a month later, it will be more heated -- there will be much more heat and humidity. Do you feel like that will be a factor this week?
KARRIE WEBB: I guess so. Obviously you're going to have to keep yourself hydrated and not spend too much time at the course, or more time than you have to, I guess.
But I grew up in this sort of heat. Last week we played in Rochester and we had a couple of days in the 60s, and my body just works so much better when it's 90 than when it's 65 or 68. I really felt the difference yesterday when I was playing.
As long as I don't over do it I think I'm going to enjoy the temperatures much more than if they were cooler.
Q. Can you assess the state of your game right now?
KARRIE WEBB: Yes, it's pretty good, actually. For the last two months I think it's probably the best two months, probably in the last four or five years, that I've swung it for a two-month period where I haven't had to do tons of work on the range. I haven't gotten a lot out of the good swinging. I've putted fairly inconsistently. I had a good showing at McDonald's, which was a huge confidence boost for me and I'm going to take that into this week.
Q. Geoff Ogilvy was saying at the Men's Open he thinks that the Majors on the tough courses are easier to win than regular events because so many people are just either intimidated by it and they're sort of out of it before they tee off because they don't think they can win. Do you see it the same way in the Women's Open?
KARRIE WEBB: I don't think so. I think it's the toughest test of your game. I think if your game is there and you have the experience to know not to set scores and just to fight it out, I think the difference between my '96 Open here and winning in 2001 was in '96 I think I finished in the top-20 but the whole time, if I made a bogey, I just didn't have that patience.
Sometimes I still don't have that patience, but I think I have a better grasp of it now, that you've just got to hang around, hang around, and at the very worst don't shoot yourself out of it by losing your temper or patience.
Q. Do you think there are a lot of players that don't have that?
KARRIE WEBB: Yeah, I think so. It's just not a shootout. As well as you have to putt at U.S. Open I don't find it just a putting contest. You play courses where 15-under or something wins and 10th is 13-under, where there's tons of people who have a chance to win. Especially U.S. Open, I don't view it as a shootout or a putting contest. I think all facets of your game have to be in tip-top shape and I think if you're driving it well -- and I know I look back, I watched the last round of the '01 Open here, my last week off, and the thing that made me take notice was I was fairly well up there in fairways hit and greens hit and I think that's a big key to playing well around this golf course.
Q. Is that a regular thing for you to go back and watch big tournaments that you've won or was that just sort of an isolated incident?
KARRIE WEBB: Well, we don't -- U.S. Open we don't get to play the same course very often. So I guess because I had such good memories and I won here, I went back and watched it.
As I was watching it I realized that if we played that same golf course now there would be more than one person under par. And I was like, I don't really know -- besides getting good feelings, why I'm watching this, because the course is going to be so much harder than what I'm watching. And then of course the greens are different now.
It was good to revisit and just get a little bit acquainted with the course again.
Q. Do you have to use old technology to view that, VCR or DVD?
KARRIE WEBB: I actually just changed my whole entertainment unit. I don't have a VCR anymore, so I had to get someone to bring it over to the house, and then it was a process of plugging into one of the TV's.
Q. In all the Women's Opens that you've played, what would you describe as the difference between a tough test and an unfair test, have you experienced both?
KARRIE WEBB: Blackwolf Run was unfair.
Q. What made it unfair?
KARRIE WEBB: The course setup. It was -- well, I guess the thing I remember was there were a lot of areas that the course could have played a little bit more fair if they'd just marked as hazards, rather than leaving areas of really long grass that you either attempted to play, but if you attempted to play it you were there all day. Or you went back to where you last hit it from, which was a very daunting shot in most cases. And then of course it got really windy, which is typical of that area.
And I know a couple of the holes, I don't remember the number of the hole, but there was one hole that we played as a par-4, which was designed as a par-5. It was all right if we played it downwind, we hit 8-iron in. On the Saturday round I hit 3-wood into it. It wasn't designed to accept 3-woods. So that was unfair.
But I really think that's the only U.S. Open that has been unfair that I've played. I think all the others are just really tough tests and you have to hit fairways and you have to hit greens.
Q. Secondly --
RHONDA GLENN: Blackwolf Run, as I recall, I know what you were talking about on that windy day and the par-4. They set the hole locations the night before and the wind switched on them and it was not predicted and that's what happened on that particular day.
Q. Do you have any recollection of being here in '01 with Morgan -- not with Morgan, but the circumstances surrounding her?
KARRIE WEBB: Yeah, I remember meeting her in the hospitality and just marvelling at what -- she was 13 at the time. She qualified as a 12 year old. And she carried herself so well for a 13 year old. I tried to think of myself as a 13 year old and how far away I was from ever thinking about competing in U.S. Open.
It was one of those things where you thought that's like a one-off, you're not going to see a 13 year old play the U.S. Open very often. And now I've seen another two 13 year olds play the U.S. Open. Golf is definitely becoming a younger game.
Q. Do you remember at all, was there an Open, specifically an Open where it seemed like they were all over the place, where it wasn't that much of a novelty to have someone that young?
KARRIE WEBB: Has there been a lot more 13 years old? I thought Michelle --
Q. How old was Meena --
RHONDA GLENN: I think this is Meena's first U.S. Open.
KARRIE WEBB: 15, 16 years old are commonplace at the U.S. Open now. And I think again when I was 15 or 16 I was so far away from playing in a U.S. Women's Open that it's hard for me to imagine what that experience would be like.
Q. Why is it happening, do you think, that there's more and more?
KARRIE WEBB: I think definitely in this country there's a premium on picking one sport, so that you get a free education. So at a very young age kids are choosing one sport to play and focusing on that.
Whereas, I grew up playing tons of different things. When I chose to cut those things out it was just because I wanted to be a professional golfer and I decided that for myself. It wasn't a college education that I was thinking about. So I think there's a premium on that.
And then obviously a lot of the Asian girls, their families are relocating over here and I guess for the same thing, the free college education or to have them ready to turn pro when they're 18. Again, there's only a focus on one sport. So I think that's one key.
I think coaching is so much better today than it was even when I was growing up, even though some people think I'm a veteran, it wasn't really that long ago (laughter). And I think technology obviously helps, as well.
Q. Just curious, you keep talking about '96 and what were your hopes, dreams, expectations, and have you far surpassed them?
KARRIE WEBB: Oh, definitely. I think I surpassed them in my rookie year. To win four times and win the money list. I think that was a career year for me, what I would have thought was a once in a lifetime year. So I've long been surpassing my dreams out here.
Q. Could you talk to me about the significance of the British Open being at St. Andrews, and the fact that you'll be able to use The R&A clubhouse?
KARRIE WEBB: I'm so excited to play at St. Andrews. And obviously it's definitely a huge step for women to be allowed in the clubhouse. I'm glad that it's on such a big occasion that we're moving forward in the right direction in the game of golf.
But to play St. Andrews, I don't know if it's going to be something that's in the rotation on Tour for us or if it's just a one-off thing. But I'm really looking forward to it and it will be -- I think all the players are. It's something that everyone has been talking about for the last year, trying to get accommodations. You never plan that far in advance for any tournament. I don't think there will be anyone that has a bad time that week, doesn't matter how the weather is, just that we're playing on The Old Course.
Q. You said you played better the last two months than you had in a few years?
KARRIE WEBB: I swung it better.
Q. Can you be a little bit more technical or just explain it a little bit?
KARRIE WEBB: There's nothing really technical to say about it. It's just that the things that I have been working on over the past two years have been something that come a little more naturally to me and I'm able to -- I have an understanding of them. So I'm able to make corrections on my own now.
I'm able to work the ball both ways fairly easily. Therefore I've hit the ball really well. I've swung it better than my results have shown. But it's definitely -- as much as it is frustrating, it's been rewarding to feel that it's that good. I know at any time I could go on a run.
Q. In the interview before yours, Michelle Wie was in here and the room was packed. You're in the Hall of Fame, you've won The Open. Are you like some of the other players, mystified or surprised, by this fascination with her career? She's never won a LPGA tournament, never won an Open.
KARRIE WEBB: I think you guys created that, didn't you? No, I'm not mystified by it. For what she's -- I think people forget she's 17. Everyone, including the people around her, I guess, have expected bigger things by now.
But for what she's achieved, if I was 17 -- again, speaking about 15 and 16 year olds playing in the U.S. Open, I was so far away from that possibility at that age. So for her to have had as many top-10's and seconds and thirds in Majors that she's had out here it really is unbelievable for a 17 year old to achieve.
Now we've had some 18 year olds, like Morgan, win Majors. So now the comparisons are getting tougher on her, because we've expected so much of her at a young age. And obviously playing in men's events, that's saying that perhaps she's a step above people and people are interested in seeing male versus female and to see a female make the cut on the PGA TOUR.
Ultimately I don't think some of the decisions that have been made for Michelle have been made by Michelle. And now she's starting to be old enough to probably know what right decisions are or wrong decisions are or what's best for her. But I think ultimately everyone has been quite tough on her knowing -- I think everyone in the room knows the situation she's in and the amount of pressure that's put on her not only by the public and the expectations that have been written about her, but all the people around her.
Obviously she's dealing with an injury right now. I don't know the circumstances of the injury, but perhaps she should be resting it rather than playing, but she's here this week and I'm sure she feels like she's got a chance to win.
Q. Michelle said a few minutes ago that technology helped the young ones. I asked Michelle a few minutes ago a reference that was quoted by Mac O'Grady as saying, "What Michelle Wie is doing is not humanly possible. It's technically possible because the balls go too straight, they go too far." Are you women hitting the ball further and so on because, as Mac says, it's technology, not skill?
KARRIE WEBB: Is that what you say about the guys, too?
Q. It's part of a story in which he claims Tiger Woods is not the driver that Nicklaus or Palmer were in their hey day?
KARRIEWEBB: Well, I think it's hard to compare -- even if we were using the same equipment, as they used in the '60s, '70s, '80s, it's hard to ever compare generations. Pete Sampras used a different racquet than Bjorn Borg or Rod Laver. But Pete Sampras is known as probably the best player to play until Roger Federer came along. It's hard to compare eras, I think.
I think the PGA TOUR or the top male professional gets more out of technology than anyone else on the planet. I think that it definitely benefits top female players, but not -- we are hitting it further, but I don't think the increase in distance on the Women's Tour compares to the increase in distance on the Men's Tour.
Q. I'm just wondering if you think that Lorena needs to win a major to validate her World No. 1 ranking?
KARRIE WEBB: I don't think so. I think that's a really tough call. She's definitely been the best player, besides the fact she hasn't won a Major in the last three years, she's definitely been the most consistent player, and has probably -- I'm not sure exactly -- but I would say she won the most tournaments.
I think she has been the best player. I don't think any of the players question that. I know she's trying very hard to win her first Major and I'm sure that's a milestone for her that she's hoping to achieve as soon as possible.
Q. Obviously not being super golf intensive as a youngster worked for you, I'm wondering if it would still work today and if it doesn't, is that kind of sad for you? You know what I'm saying?
KARRIE WEBB: Yeah. I think it still works today. I think, to me, it's whether you have the natural ability. And then the love of the game to work hard yourself. That's the biggest key, I think.
If you're doing it for somebody else eventually you may start off well in your career, but eventually it's not going to be long lasting, I don't think. I think one day if you're not doing it for yourself you're going to wake up and say, "Why am I doing this? I hate it."
I think you have to have the love of the game in your own heart rather than someone telling you that that's what you should feel.
Q. Along those lines, do you have the perception that Michelle is doing it for someone else and not because she loves the game?
KARRIE WEBB: No, I think she loves the game. But I think that it's more -- the questions are whether she should have played more junior golf and more amateur golf and been allowed to be a kid.
But that's not just singling out Michelle. There's a lot of young girls out here that I often wonder that, whether they're playing for themselves or playing because that's what they grew up dreaming to be. Michelle definitely has grown up dreaming to be a professional golfer.
I don't think -- I just think it's tough when someone else is making the decisions for you. I think that's -- my parents have always just been supportive. At 16, as well as I was playing in the amateur scene in Australia, if I had come home and said, "I don't want to do this anymore", as long as I wasn't doing it for someone else, quitting for someone else, as long as that's what I wanted to do, they would have been fine with that.
I think I couldn't have been the person I am or the golfer or the player that I am if my parents had been any other way.
Q. You were talking about all the teenagers in the U.S. Open. I'd like to broaden that. What's been the impact of the players that have come out in the last 6, 8 years, not only their skill, but the style with which they walk the course?
KARRIE WEBB: I think the last three or four years have probably been -- well, I guess every year it's gotten a little bit more exciting, there's been a little bit more focus on women's golf.
The last three or four years I think with three or four young Americans coming out, young Americans, along with young foreign players have really added to the interest. And I think for a while there that's what the LPGA was lacking, was that there was no young Americans to carry on from the Juli Inksters, the Beth Daniels, they're not going to play forever. And I think you guys were looking for some young Americans to write about. And I think that's the best thing to come along for a long time.
RHONDA GLENN: Speaking of young players. A long time ago, 1996, many great things have happened to you. How have you changed as a person since your first Women's Open here.
KARRIE WEBB: I think I'm still basically the same person. I just think I've matured. I've matured and just grown up, like anybody does. But I think I still have the same great friends at home in Australia and still maintain close friendships with them. So I really don't feel like I've changed a whole lot.
Q. You were just talking about young players, both American and from around the rest of the world. I'm wondering, though, where are the young Australians?
KARRIE WEBB: Yeah, that's a good question. As many young Australian guys are out here doing well it's definitely a question that has been addressed by Golf Australia. When I was playing the Australian Open this year I spoke to Tony Hallam, who is the CEO of Golf Australia and I'm going to try to get involved a little bit more with Golf Australia and get to know a lot of the younger girls and hopefully give them good advice and hopefully will get the same amount of young Australian women coming out and playing in the States and being successful as the Australian men.
Q. With all the talk of the youth movement and it's getting to be a younger game, does the U.S. Open give it more of a -- is it more of an equalizer in terms of the older players, like yourself, in terms of the difficulty, the experience, the patience, all those things you talked about on an Open course, is this the one course where the youth is a little bit negated and the older players can still make a stand?
KARRIE WEBB: I think they can still make a stand even if -- I think there's not a course that an older player can't compete on or win a golf tournament. I think Juli Inkster, and I'm sure she's happy that I brought her name up. (Laughter) I'm playing a practice round with her in half an hour. But she has just as much opportunity as winning last week as she does this week. And I guess this week I think she probably has more opportunity than -- just because of her experience. I think in the U.S. Open, not that you can't -- you saw at Blackwolf Run, where I said was the -- and I think that's where youth and having absolutely no idea had its advantage. Because Jenny and Se Ri were both young players, and they weren't bitching about how unfair the golf course was and, "This just sucks, get m!
e off the course", they played hole for hole for hole and obviously that led to a playoff.
So I think sometimes youth -- the no experience has its advantages, but I think this course -- and most U.S. Opens -- I'm say saying that, but there's Birdie Kim and Morgan Pressel out in Denver, but I think more often than not you have to have played a few U.S. Opens to understand that birdies don't come along very often, and you try to eliminate as many mistakes as possible.
RHONDA GLENN: Thanks so much, Karrie.