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July 6, 2010
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a former U.S. Open Women's Open champion, Cristie Kerr with us. As, you know, she was in contention last year right until the end.
Cristie, with your recent victory in the LPGA, 12-shot margin, which was incredible, are you playing the best golf of your life?
CRISTIE KERR: I think so. And I'm grateful actually, because I'm still fairly young and I have a lot of golf ahead of me in my career.
MODERATOR: How do you determine it's the best golf of your life? What part of your game has changed a little bit?
CRISTIE KERR: I just think everything's gotten better. I think putting, you know, I switched putters three weeks ago. I knew in my heart that - I felt like I was putting well, but I wasn't hitting the putts the right speed.
So I switched putters and putting got better; my short game has been great the last couple of years after working a lot on that. Got a great driver; great fairway woods; great irons. Mentally I'm great. We're working on everything.
MODERATOR: There was a nice article about you in the Wall Street Journal recently, and it was dwelling on your life as a New Yorker. How hard is it for you to live in Greenwich Village and still go practice hopefully every day or every other day or whatever your practice schedule is?
CRISTIE KERR: It's part time. We only spend probably four or five weeks in New York. We have an investment property there. I actually represent the golf course Liberty National that hosted the Barclay's last year.
They have actually - I'm pretty spoiled - they have a boat that goes back and forth to Manhattan, so I don't have to fight the Holland Tunnel traffic too often.
And the Firemans are great people, great sponsors, and so they make it easy for me. We wouldn't be able to spend any time, you know, even -- we spend very little time in New York but, we don't get to spend -- we wouldn't get to spend that amount of time if they didn't make it that easy for us.
MODERATOR: How do you like Oakmont?
CRISTIE KERR: Oakmont is pretty cool. It's probably the coolest golf course I've been on. It's certainly one of the most penalizing if you miss the fairways.
The fairways are definitely hittable, but you can see why the scores have been what they have for champions to win here over the years.
Q. So you are officially world No. 1 ranking American ladies golfer. How do you feel about it?
CRISTIE KERR: I feel great. I feel like I've worked for this my whole life. I feel like I've worked for it and it's coming true. So it's great that I got there, but now it's time to just keep doing the things that got me there.
You know, I can't control what other golfers do, but I can control what I do. And if I can control what I do well enough, then I will stay there.
Q. When you were here in whenever it was, late May or whatnot, you said at the time that maybe you thought the score could be anywhere from 5 to 10 over. I know the course is playing differently than what you saw then. Does that change at all? How difficult do you think it will play?
CRISTIE KERR: I think it will play about as difficult as I said. I mean, I said that winning score of anywhere from 4 to however many over -- I mean, you never know. It could be lower. Somebody could have a great performance.
But I knew the course was going to play like this going into it. I can only remember playing Newport Country Club where the course was soft, and that's only because they had 30 inches of rain in five days.
Otherwise, U.S. Open courses tend to play this way. That's the way the USGA wants them to play. When I said the winning score, these conditions, I was envisioning these conditions.
Q. What are some of the most difficult spots out there, do you think, the most difficult holes?
CRISTIE KERR: Honestly, I know I've kind of been very vague and ambiguous about that this week, but they're all difficult. There's however many, 180 bunkers on the golf course, and they're all like pitch out. Right and left of every fairway, sometimes can you see them off the tee; sometimes you can't.
Once you deal with that, then you have to deal with your approach shows into the greens, placing them in the right spots and missing them in the right spots, and then the putting.
So from tee to green on every hole it's difficult. Um, you know, there's definitely gonna be some holes you can make birdie on, but I think it's really who eliminates the amount of mistakes this week.
And, you know, you're going to see some good bogeys out there where you'll hit it in a bunker and you have to pitch out, you get it on the green, two-putt, and get out of there. You're going to see some good bogeys. That's what the U.S. Open is about.
There's not going to be any 19-unders on this golf course. I'd be willing to bet everything in my bank account on that. If there is, then I'm not paying out. I'm not giving it up.
Q. Yesterday Mike Davis, the USGA setup guy, was talking about 17 and why he likes that hole. Just the hole itself and where it's at right before 18 here; a lot of drama could be on that hole. Just your thoughts on playing 17 and also the 18th hole, finishing hole?
CRISTIE KERR: They're great finishing holes. 16, par-3, is also amazing. It's a very long par-3 that they can play from 220 or they can play it from 140 yards, which you know, when I played my practice round yesterday my caddy is like, Hey, let's hit a shot over here on this tee. I'm like, Oh, we're going to play up there? It was a completely different hole.
So 17th hole, whether you lay-up or you go for the green, you know, it's just that hole is really about strategy. It's got a small green; a lot of deep bunkers around the green.
You saw when Jim Furyk was here last time he went for the green and ended up making bogey. It's probably is one of the best holes in golf, one of the best short holes in golf.
Because, you know, you kind of look and say, Well, if I'm going to lay-up off the tee I'm gonna have a 5-iron. But, you know, the way that fairway is - and it's a somewhat blind tee shot even with a 5-iron - you have to get the line off the tee correctly or it will bounce to the right in the rough or bounce to the left in the rough.
In that regard you say, Well, why not go for the green? But when you go for the green, you can only really hit it in one spot where you're going to have a fairly good chance of getting up and down. So really it's really one of the best short holes in golf.
Then you come to the 18th, and it's probably one of the best finishing holes in golf. With the clubhouse in the background, you've had blind shots all day, and you come to the tee and you're like, I can see where I'm going. Then you get up to that green and you're like, Wow. So it's a pretty amazing golf course.
It's probably the most unique golf course I've seen in the respect it's an inward links course that you have blind shots, you can see some of the bunkers, you can't see others, and then you get to the greens and you're just amazed.
I mean, I love these greens. I think, you know, if were to design a golf course I would design greens similar to this. I love Donald Ross. I love greens that slope away from of you. So it's a pretty cool course to me.
Q. When you get to holes like 2 and 17, do you go in with a strategy and you don't waiver from that, or when they dangle that carrot maybe like with the pin up on 2, does it change? Are you tempted? Or do you go in and stick with what you had decided?
CRISTIE KERR: That's a good question. We're trying to figure that out now. (Laughter.)
I think that pin position will have a lot to do with that. I think, you know, how the wind is, if it's downwind or into the wind on both of those holes. I said from the beginning that, you know, even playing here a month ago, it may just be better to hit a 5-iron off the tee and have a sand wedge in because you can put some spin on it.
You kind of know -- you know, you're not faced with an awkward pitch or chip or something. So we just gotta kind of see. At the end of the day, it would be great to go for both of them. But I'm going to stand on that tee a driver and I'm going to stand on it with a 5-iron, and whatever feels better at the time I'll go with.
Because you don't want to stand over it, going, Am I making the right play? Am I comfortable with this? It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you're comfortable with what you're doing.
Q. Considering the bunkers and the church pews and all the things out there, how's this gonna affect what you put in your bag, and what's your bag gonna look like this week?
CRISTIE KERR: I think it will look fairly similar to what it has the last couple of weeks. My Ping hybrid goes almost as far as my 7-wood, so I would take my 4-iron and my 7-wood out, have my hybrid so can you have a gap wedge.
And I think that you're going to hit in some of the bunkers on this course. It's kind of gonna happen with everybody. Even with a good shot you might get a bad bounce or something. But I think it's important for me to have my gap wedge in the bag this week just so that I don't have an in-between yardage, you know, having to get it out of those bunkers and then have 110 yards to the hole, which is my perfect gap wedge.
You know, or I'd have to grip down on a pitching wedge, and you can't put any spin on that, especially into these greens. So I think I'm gonna keep my hybrid in the bag and probably keep my gap wedge in the bag.
Q. Also considering the fact that you won by 12 on the LPGA, do you come in with some kind of mental edge over the rest of the field?
CRISTIE KERR: I feel like I'm doing a lot of things right. I mean, you know, but as we all know in the U.S. Open, you have to do them that much better.
So I think I've just got to try and -- considering I've just came off a monumental win, I've got to somehow - and I'm working on that - just keep my expectations low and just try and do my job out there, because the rest of it takes care of itself.
When I start thinking about score and winning and results and all that stuff I don't do as well and I don't play well protecting.
So I've gotta just go out and do my job well and do my mental stuff and trust in that. I trusted in it at State Farm, and not so much in Atlantic City. I was a little tired, so it was harder to do it.
But in Rochester I said, I'm gonna trust this know matter and I'm gonna be aware of the times that I'm not doing it well so that I can do it better.
And we saw what happened.
Q. You mentioned building a golf course like this. Just for your information, Jim Furyk told me last week if you build a golf course like this nowadays they'd run you out of town.
CRISTIE KERR: Probably.
Q. But for decades it's always been the Women's Open. The Women's Open is different from any tournament that an LPGA player has. Can you talk about from your mindset how you go from a regular tournament to this one? Because it is so much different, I think, than the others.
CRISTIE KERR: It is very different. You know, I probably wouldn't make the bunkers quite as deep on the golf course I would design, because it would be great for people to actually get out of them. But I love the green complexes here, and I just love old-style, old golf courses that have a lot of character.
And I feel like to answer your second question, you know, even though it isn't just any other golf tournament, you've really gotta just try and go about the way you're doing things as if it is, because there's no way you can play golf to the level you want to play if you put that much pressure on yourself.
So I've got to just try and keep, you know, my mindset that, you know, the golf ball doesn't know whether you're playing Rochester or Atlantic City or here. The golf ball doesn't know the difference. It's really what's between your ears. If you can make things the same, then that's dangerous in a U.S. Open.
Q. On No. 8 yesterday we saw on the tee box a minimum 3-woods a lot of players hitting driver. Can you speak to the challenge of a precision on a par-3 of that distance.
CRISTIE KERR: Sure. Well, I think if they're going to play it at 250 yards, I mean, I hit 3-wood and I kind of hooked it in there, you know, shaped it the way I wanted to. I hit 3-wood almost to the back part of the green.
I think if they're going to do it on a hole, that's a fair hole to do it just because the green is one of the bigger ones on the golf course and one of the flatter ones. I think that that's fine for that hole.
I mean, you have to try and be as precise as you can be with a 3-wood. You have to understand the green you're hitting into is about the size of the fairways here at Oakmont. Just gotta try and do the best that you can.
Q. You said earlier you described yourself as still fairly young, and you are. Lexi Thompson is 15, and she's here. I think she just finished her freshman year in high school. To a lot of outsiders, this seems kind of unusual. Maybe there's some questions, but how do you view the overall topic of golfers so young turning pro, especially being in a tournament like this so soon?
CRISTIE KERR: Sure. Well, I've known Alexis. You know, she works with Jim McLean who is my mentor, and my golf coach, Bryan Lebedovitch, is his mentor, as well. I've known her for a while.
Yeah, I mean, I was surprised at her turning pro so young. You know, I was almost 18 when I turned professional, and that was pretty young back then. I'm over twice her age. I don't know how I feel about that, but... (Laughter.)
I played with a girl that was 14 in the practice round yesterday. They don't carry themselves like kids anymore. People that are that young, it's kind of like a business to them. You know, if they're turning professional now, they view it as a business. They want to, you know, do it to make money and have a career.
I don't know. With Alexis, you know, people have asked me what advice would you offer? I don't really know. I mean, she's very, very, very young. I don't know really what the decision was to turn professional that young.
But, you know, I just wish her well. I've said over and over again, I hope her parents are doing right by her. You know, looking out for her best interests.
Q. The length on 12 at 600 yards is going to be one of the longest in women's history for the Open. Does that pose any especially daunting challenges as far as strategy as far as you go into that hole?
CRISTIE KERR: I think that hole really I know is the longest, but I think that hole really is about the green on that par-5. There's going to be some pin placements you're not going to hold the front part of that green.
So I have no problem carrying the bunker that's in the right center of the fairway there and get it down, and then it's just -- you know, it's so firm and it's downhill as well that it doesn't really play the yardage. So it's just kind of a drive, a layup. You really have to think as far as strategy for your layup there, because the green is so firm and it runs away from left to right.
I think that hole really is about -- even though it's ironic it's the longest hole, I think that hole is really about the short game that you bring into the third shot.
Q. When you're playing at such a high level, how tempting is it to go for a hero shot and take your medicine? I mean, how fine a line or how much do you stand over a shot thinking, Well, maybe I can get it there, or you just want to take your medicine and move on?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I think this course really is about taking your medicine. I tried to hit a 50 degree sand wedge out of one of the left bunkers I think it was 14 yesterday.
It wasn't a bad lie in the bunker, but these bunkers don't -- the ball doesn't sit up in the fairway bunkers. But I only had 100 yards to the front, so it was just flat enough and just short enough a yardage and just good enough a lie I thought I could get it to the green.
Three times I tried to get it out of the bunker and I was not hitting it that thin, you know, out of the fairway bunker with a 50 degree sand wedge right out of the lip three times. I said, You know what? Being a hero is not going win this U.S. Open. It's whoever is going to take the medicine their best, save as many pars they can, and move on.
Just try and save some pars, make some birdies, and just take your medicine. You're going to have the patience of a saint here.
Q. Have you had a chance to look back at the 12-shot win at the LPGA and go, Hey I won a major by 12, the biggest winning margin ever at that tournament. Have you had a chance to reflect or have you moved on?
CRISTIE KERR: No, I have had a lot of chance to reflect. I'm happy to be here. Last week was such a busy media week for me. First time I had a chance to practice was on Friday. I practiced Friday, played and practiced on Saturday, and then I drove here and practiced on Sunday.
It took me almost a whole week to get back to feeling normal and to kind of come down from Cloud 9. But I recognize, you know, what a monumental win that was, what a performance it was, and what that accomplishment by that many shots in a major represented.
You know, it kind of made everybody pay attention and brought a lot of attention to me. I think that American golf really needed that.
Q. Seems like your level of play has been very consistent for like the last decade. It's just gone up that little extra notch this year as soon as Lorena retired. Did you change anything? Did you change your mindset thinking No. 1 is there for the taking now, and I'm going to go get it, or is it coincidental?
CRISTIE KERR: I think it's coincidental. I don't believe it's because Lorena retired that I thought I could get to No. 1. I played her many, many, many times. I beat her in the U.S. Open head-to-head at Pine Needles.
I felt like I could get to No. 1, you know, while Annika was here and Lorena was here. But it wasn't my time then, I guess. I mean, my level of play has definitely elevated, and I felt like if Lorena was playing in the tournament against me a couple weeks ago where I won by 12, I don't necessarily know, you know, if I would have won by any less.
It's just kind of my time now, and I feel like I'm at the maturity point in my life where, you know, I'm ready to do that, I'm ready to handle all the stuff that comes with it. Because being No. 1 is not just about golf and the level of golf you play. It's about doing these kinds of things and being able to handle and prioritize, you know, and kind of just kind of get all your little ducks in a row to be able to do all this stuff and be able to perform on the course.
Q. One of your rivals, Ai Miyazato from Japan, and as you are world ranking No. 1 player, what is Ai Miyazato to you? She does done very well this year.
CRISTIE KERR: She's done amazingly well. Everybody knew she was going to be great. I think she struggled to get comfortable. How many years on tour is this for her? Three, four? She's actually one of my good friends, too.
You know, we go up and we congratulate each other all the time when either of us wins. She's one of the coolest people out here. She is just so nice; she's so cute. She's a cute personality, like a little cartoon character that is like a super hero in Japan, you know.
We need more people like her out on tour, you know, that know the sportsmanship, that recognize the good play, that doesn't matter if I win the tournament or she wins the tournament, we're genuinely happy for each other.
It's great to have the rivalries on the course, but at the end of the day, it's really about sportsmanship. She embodies all of that.
Q. Aside from yourself, who do you consider the best putters out here?
CRISTIE KERR: I think somebody asked me that at some point earlier in the year. Anna Nordqvist is a great putter. Ai is a great putter. I'm trying to think who else. I mean, it's hard. I'd have to kind of look at the list and go, Oh, yes, this person, that person. But those are the two that come to mind.
Ai is definitely putting great this year.
Q. Are you better prepared this year than any other time coming into this tournament? Maybe the year that you won it you might have been better prepared, but sounds like you have never been better prepared than now.
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I mean, I think it certainly helps winning two out of my last three tournaments to certainly appear that way coming into this tournament. You know, I've always prepared well for the U.S. Open.
You know, like I said, maybe it's just a little bit more my time, the point in my life. The thing about the Open is you can be as prepared as you can be prepared, and it doesn't matter sometimes. So you just gotta go out and just try and execute each shot the best you can.
The Open doesn't play favorites. You have to play the golf courses as well as you can.
Q. A couple years ago, probably the casual sports fan that doesn't watch golf every week might not have been surprised if at this stage of her career that Michelle Wie had won a major by 12 strokes. She's won on the tour, but hasn't won a major yet. Where is she in her game with you watching as a fellow competitor? What does she need to do to be able to win a major?
CRISTIE KERR: I think that really is a question for her. I don't really focus on her game too much. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed playing with her in the Solheim Cup and we had a lot of fun. I think that's really something you have to ask her.
You know, I have my hands full with trying to work on my own game and trying to get ready for this tournament.
Q. Could you talk about the heat? I know that you're accustomed to playing in challenging weather conditions. Seems like this heat wave has come here just in time for this championship.
CRISTIE KERR: It is pretty hot. I played an 18 hole practice round with Michelle and Suzann Pettersen and an amateur named Cindy yesterday. We teed off at 7:20, and it took us 5 hours and 20 minutes to play. You know, we come into the lunchroom and sit down and grab an Arnold Palmer to drink - the drink, not the person - and you know, you have to -- this tournament is always kind of scheduled around the summer and these kinds of weather conditions, and it makes it that much more difficult.
Mentally I felt like I was a little fried at the end of the practice round yesterday, but you just have to manage, you know, and make sure -- I have a sunbrella that would help. You have to learn how to manage in this kind of weather.
I just think for me it's more mentally challenging than physically, because the physical kind of leads to the mental. It's hard to describe. Like you just have to kind of -- you have to pay attention to your health in this kind of weather at my age. I have to tell you I'm not 18 anymore. (Laughing.)
MODERATOR: Did you play this morning or are you playing this afternoon?
CRISTIE KERR: No, I'm playing at 12:50. I'm playing the back nine. I'm playing nine holes today and nine holes tomorrow.
Q. You mentioned the greens that slope away 1, 3, 10, 12. Is 3 different though because it's elevated? You can kind of bounce them in on the others? How difficult is that third hole? The church pews on the left.
CRISTIE KERR: Oh, 3, the big...
Q. The one that runs away, yes.
CRISTIE KERR: Um, yeah, that's difficult. I mean, you have kind of a mid iron in, and I mean, you just try and hit the green. If you hit the green, you're going to have a decent putt from anywhere.
Once you hit the green it's downhill here, a little uphill there. It's not like super severe. But once you hit the green, there's definitely spots. Missing it over is better than missing it short. You have to kind of be smart with that.
MODERATOR: Unlike some of your courses you play during the regular tour schedule, these greens are so fast and so firm. Don't you have to play a different type of approach shot where you literally bounce it in and try to bounce it off the slopes to get it near the hole?
CRISTIE KERR: Absolutely. You have to use the course topography to your advantage. You can't try and fly something in there and hope it stops. That's not going to happen this week. You have to be smart with that; you have to do your homework as far as charting the course and knowing it.
I think you have to play it four or five times to really be comfortable under these conditions. I played it twice when I was here the last time, and by the time I will tee it up I will have played it four or five times. That's what I thought I had needed to play to be comfortable.
MODERATOR: When was that, when you were here last?
CRISTIE KERR: I think about a month ago. The course was fairly soft. I knew it was going to play like this. I kind of know the way the USGA thinks.
Q. You mentioned before that American golf needed you to sort of step up and win those tournaments. There is a lot of talk about the American girls not doing well and a lot of talk about Lorena retiring. What are your thoughts on the LPGA, where it is now and the future going forward? Maybe sort of a different landscape now. There's three or four players who can be No. 1 at any given time.
CRISTIE KERR: You know, Lorena played part of this year, and I don't know whether she knew for a long time that she was going to retire or not. But I think that, yeah, we have those rivalries; we have the couple players that can try and be No. 1. I think that's great for women's golf.
I think that what I did the last couple of weeks is big for American golf. I said that's why I got into playing golf. I would watch these tournaments on TV. I would see the Nancy Lopezes and Juli Inksters, Patty Sheehan, winning these kind of tournaments. I said, I want to do that.
I've always known that I wanted to do that. How did I get exposed to it? Through tournaments like this. It's especially big for American golf for us to do well in these kinds of tournaments, because there are so many little girls out here that we see in the practice rounds. And if you can touch a couple of them, maybe they'll turn into, you know, great players in 20 years and be out here.
That's really the way that I got involved. And, you know, I would imagine that's why those fathers are bringing those daughters here.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Cristie. Good luck to you. And we'll probably see you again in here.
End of FastScripts