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July 6, 2010

Paula Creamer


MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, Paula Creamer has had some various health issues to deal with that have kept her out of action, a time I'm sure when her fellow players and the LPGA would like to have her back.
We're happy she's here for the Women's Open. First of all, give us an update on the state of your health, because it does depend on how you're able to compete.
PAULA CREAMER: Um, well, I feel fine physically. I feel strong. You know, my body feels the best it's felt in a long time. The only thing is just it's my hand gets very tired. Um, today was my third day hitting balls off the ground on the range, which is a huge thing for me -- not for some players out there.
But every time I've been in the range in the past, jeez, four or five weeks, I've hit off of a tee. My warmups consist of hitting off of a tee; everything I do is off of a tee. The last three days I've been able to hit off the ground, which is making some progress with that.
It's just my left side, my left arm gets very tired. You know, the muscles just aren't quite developed in my hand yet. You know, I've been doing a lot of forearm strength and things for my hand.
But the hard part is when you play, you can't practice as much. When I practice, I can't play as much. So I have to give a little, take a little back, kind of thing. It's trying to figure out what works best for me and my body.
It's been very difficult, very frustrating. You know, when you feel good but you can't do what you want to do, it's tough. But we're learning and we're, you know, working our way through this. It's going to take some time, but, you know, I'm willing to, you know, go back a few steps to gain a couple going forward.
MODERATOR: For those of us who haven't been able to note exactly what it is, scientific name for what's wrong with your hand and thumb.
PAULA CREAMER: I tore my ulnar collateral ligament. I tore my volar plate underneath, and had my tendon on top recentralized. So a lot of reconstruction. A lot done in a small, small space. That's why the swelling and, you know, not as many balls because it just -- the blood flow, there's not much that goes to your thumb.
MODERATOR: What element of time are we talking about have you been back, able to hold a club?
PAULA CREAMER: Oh, I'm trying to think of the -- I practiced about two weeks before ShopRite, so it's been a couple weeks. Out here I'd say about -- this is my fourth week in a row. It's probably been about six, seven weeks where I've actually hit balls or putted or chipped.
You know, my first 18 holes since Thailand was here when I came and played a practice round before ShopRite. So it hasn't been that long. It will take about a year to be totally healed.
MODERATOR: Questions?

Q. Last year at Saucon Valley, the USGA likes to set up some of the short holes. They tempted you at No. 10, as they do with everybody, and it kind of bit you in the third round. Does that affect in any way your strategy when you see the same thing happening like this year, the way they set up 2 and 17?
PAULA CREAMER: Oh, without a doubt. I take so much from last year into pretty much every event I go to now. I have a plan. I have, you know, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to stick to it no matter what, no matter what the circumstances are, whereas last year I didn't have that.
That's learning, you know. It's just getting out there. And the USGA, they entice you. They want you to bite, and I bit. I bit pretty hard.
You know, you learn from that. A lot of maturity, a lot of, you know, I think I can do this. You know, you can't ever take away, you know, player's instinct, that's for sure. But at that time I probably -- I obviously made the wrong decision, but I also hit a couple of bad shots, too. So it works both ways.
I do. I have my plan, I have my goals of what I want to do on the golf course, and I'm going to stick to that.

Q. What was it like out there with the heat? I mean, how does that affect your game?
PAULA CREAMER: I tee'd off at 7:00 this morning. It was okay, the front nine. But the back nine took three hours and 40 minutes. Standing out in that heat was tough. Hopefully our rounds in the tournament won't be six-hour rounds. That would be pretty tough, four days of that in a row.
But it's hot. It's humid. It's gross. (Laughter.) You know, this golf course just eats you alive mentally. Then when you have all of those factored into it, it's going to be the battle of the fittest, battle of who's going to stay the sharpest for 18 holes out there.
If you don't sleep well after every round out here, then something's wrong with you. Your mind isn't quite in it. But it's going to be who drinks the most, you know, that kind of thing.
It's also physically out here you have to be able to be tough.
MODERATOR: Some observers have said potentially there may be some players who are embarrassed by the kind of scores they shoot on this golf course. What do you think?
PAULA CREAMER: Embarrassed? Oh, my.
No, I mean, everybody knows this golf course is hard. Everybody knows there's not going to be 20 birdies made. I think that's -- obviously that's gonna happen. But I think if you play smart, you put the ball in the right spots, you take what it gives you, you're going to get some bad bounces out there and you're gonna get some unlucky bounces, but it's going to be a battle of, you know, Okay, just play the next shot.
You have to take what the golf course gives you. It wants you to do more, but you have to kind of, you know, be less aggressive. You can't be a hero. You have to go out there, like I said, and just hit the fairway, hit the green, get your two-putt, and move on.

Q. A few minutes ago Alexis Thompson was here, a young lady who just turned pro as a 15-year-old. You turned pro after high school. What do you make of what Alexis is doing? She's only 15 years old. What might she expect here for her first few years as a pro?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, 15, goodness, I was not -- I really wasn't, you know, doing much at 15; not considering playing professional. I had my junior career, but everybody is different. I couldn't have done it. I was 18.
You know, that was, for me -- everybody's different. They have their own ways of going different routes and doing different types of style to get you where you want to go.
She's a good player. She hits it a long way. Actually, I captained her in the Spirit Cup last year, so I got to watch her game a bit. She seems very motivated. I don't know how many events that she can play in as a professional, not being on the -- not having her card out on tour, but I'm sure she'll make the most of it.

Q. You say, I couldn't have done it at 15, but you did at 18. What changed for you by 18? What are some of the things that you found that you could do at 18 that you couldn't three years earlier? Also, I'd like to know, it seems you were part of a youth movement five, six years ago. Why do you think so many teenagers or more teenagers turned pro the last five, six years?
PAULA CREAMER: I wanted to be in school; I wanted to play junior tournaments; I liked being at the academy; I liked traveling and playing the AJGA and playing the Curtis Cup, junior Solheim Cup, those kinds of things.
I liked that. That's what was best for me. That's always been the path that I've gone.
And the next question?

Q. The last five or six years seems more teenagers have turned pro. Why? What's happened there?
PAULA CREAMER: I think that you see a lot of young players having success and a lot of players, the ability that they can, you know, follow in those footsteps.
I think that we've had a ton of opportunities. I remember when I was 17, the summer of my junior -- going into my senior year was when I played in six professional LPGA events. I had sponsor's exceptions. I played in the Open. I think I took like 13th or something.
I feel that we have a lot of opportunity to play with the best players in the world, and I did that year. That's where I thought, Okay, if I can come out here -- I almost won ShopRite, you know, with Cristie -- you know, I played really well. And if you get that success with the best players in the world, it boosts your confidence.

Q. With some of the bunkering out here, do you have to back off with your driver many times? What clubs might you switch in your bag for this golf course?
PAULA CREAMER: Um, I hit a lot of 3-woods off the tees. Um, the bunkering -- for the tee shots? Is that what you -- yeah.
And especially because they're so firm, these fairways just keep going and going and going. You know, length really isn't the huge issue here. It's just placement.
And the...

Q. What clubs might you switch out?
PAULA CREAMER: The clubs I switch out?
Um, I have a 4-rescue and a 7-wood in my bag; I'm not caring a 4-iron, so the higher-lofted, longer clubs I'm keeping in my bag.
I don't necessarily hit a lot of long clubs into par-4s. Mainly for the par-3s and some of the layups on the par-5s. You know, the actual par-4s are relatively, you know, short irons, you know, 6-iron at the most, which is not really what we're used to for our Opens.
Normally we get tons and tons of rain so the golf courses never play the way we expect. But, you know, you don't hit a ton of long clubs into par-4s, so...
MODERATOR: How about 17? How do you plan to play that?
PAULA CREAMER: Um, the front box, I'll go for it. The back box, I will lay up down the right side.

Q. I just want to follow up on what I asked you before. You talked about opportunities. Are players better now due to training methods, conditioning, weights, all that stuff that's enabled them to do what they're doing?
PAULA CREAMER: Oh, without -- technology is huge. Equipment, golf ball, jeez, the video analysis of your golf swing. You know, filming it up, looking at it on the driving range, that kind of thing. Technology is a huge part of it.
Also, like you said, fitness. You know, I think we've learned a lot watching other athletes and taking -- or I have, for sure, taking what they do in their workouts to the golf course.
You know, you see many more athletic girls out there. That's important. Yes, we have to walk 18 holes, but, you know, you have to play in this heat you have every day type of thing. That's a huge part, where that's always been overshadowed in the past.

Q. You said that it's been really difficult mentally to sort of go through these last few months. Can you expand on that, someone who was in really good form in the peak of your career, and all of a sudden something small happens and you can't play?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, that's kind of the gist of it all, is you don't ever expect to actually have to have surgery. You know, you don't plan for that, by any means. But this was something I had to do, and it wasn't going to get better on its own.
You know, it's been very difficult, because, you know, I feel fine. You know, I see the golf ball going where I want it to go, but my hand just doesn't allow it quite yet. It's not there yet, the strength issues and things like that.
But it's frustrating. You know, I want to be able to go hit some balls on the range, but I can't. I want to be able to hit knockdowns, but I can't. I want to be able to hold off shots, but I can't.
I have to change the way that I look at golf courses; I have to change the way that I prepare for them. You know, we've kind of said in the past I have a pitch count, you know, pretty much on the range. There are only so many balls I can hit before that I know that my hand is going to be strong enough to go out and play 18 holes.

Q. This year has been interesting while you've been away: We've had three World No. 1s and Lorena has retired and that sort of stuff. What do you make of where ladies golf is at the moment and going forward?
PAULA CREAMER: I was sitting on the couch, going, What's going out on there? What's happening? But it's been crazy. It just shows, you know, there are so many players -- we've had, like you said, three No. 1 players in the last several weeks. I mean, when has that happened?
Lorena Ochoa retiring was a shock to us all. You know, hopefully she would love -- I know she's going to play in Mexico at her event, which would be great to see her again, but who knows what it will hold in the future. It shows there are a lot of players that can contend to be the No. 1 player in the world. Any given week, that bunch is just so close together.

Q. A bunch of the guys who are here today are actually full-time football writers during football season. We cover guys who are constantly playing in pain. You've heard that phrase, Playing in pain? Guys always bandaged up, taking pain pills, taking shots. How does playing in pain affect a golfer? And part two of that, are you allowed to take medication to ease the pain in your thumb?
PAULA CREAMER: I don't take any pain medicine just because I need to know what my hand feels like, if it's getting worse, if it's getting better. I've never done that. I took some Celebrex for swelling, that kind of thing.
But I've played, you know, sick. I've played hurt. I've kind of played through it all. You know, the hardest thing is playing golf in general, and when you have all these other outside elements being involved, it's so much harder, especially when you know it's going to hurt, overcoming just the fact that, you know, this shot's going to hurt or you look at your ball in the rough and you're thinking, Can't I just move it over a little bit?
You know, that's the hardest part, is knowing, seeing the future of, Okay, this is going to bother your hand. But that's mentally just being tough and just kind of grinding it out. This is what I have to do.
Um, you know, I wouldn't be out here if my doctor said, You're going to cause more injury; you're going to cause more damage. No more cortisone shots. I'm done with those. I've had my fair share.
But it is playing in pain, but it also makes you get your mind off of what you're doing, too. You're kind of thinking of other things and you're not always constantly dwelling on where your golf ball is in the next shot.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Paula, for coming in. Good luck to you this week.

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