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July 11, 2010

Paula Creamer


MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, our 2010 United States Women's Open champion, Paula Creamer.
I was thinking as you were walking up the 18th fairway what you've been through to fulfill your dream, leaving home as a kid to go learn to play the game, that mysterious ailment that you had a couple years ago that really brought you down, and then your thumb. You felt at one point that you might never play again.
In light of all that, what does this mean to you?
PAULA CREAMER: It's just -- it's incredible, it really is. This is -- it's been an amazing. You know, I've always thought of my career as I've always been a pretty solid player, but yes, that question always lurked: How come you never won a major? And now we have, and we never get to get asked that question again. (Laughter.)
That's kind of a big relief off of my shoulders, but I knew that the time would come. I just had to be patient. You know, yesterday I said these last couple of months were the most crucial months I think I've ever had to go through. You know, they were just maturing, learning how to handle adversity, learning how to, I guess, become more of an adult in a sense, and you have to really count your blessings every day.
You know, I had my surgery, and yes, there was a time before my surgery where I thought, oh, my gosh, I may never play golf again or, you know, if the surgery goes wrong, whatnot, but it was what I had to do, and here we are with a
U.S. Open championship next to me. So it's been pretty cool.
MODERATOR: Your name goes on a trophy that lists Patty Burg, Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Mickey Wright, Patty Sheehan, Betsy King, and Annika Sorenstam. This is the oldest existing women's professional championship.
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, I couldn't have asked to have won a better major championship than this as my first one. I know it looks like it's falling off, but it's sturdy, guys. I can see everybody looking at it, but it's not going anywhere, trust me.
It's an honor to have my name with these players. Juli Inkster has always been a huge role model in my golf career, and it's just -- it's amazing that my name can be on the same trophy as hers and the people who have pioneered women's golf and Annika for making, you know, women's golf what it is right now. She brought a totally another aspect, and to have my name on the same trophy as hers is pretty cool. It's a great achievement for myself, and hopefully it can go on there many more times.
MODERATOR: Questions?

Q. How do you explain how you were able to win this Open, when you were maybe 80% healthy, when you weren't able to win it when you were 100%?
PAULA CREAMER: I don't even think I'm 80%. Jeez, I've said this whole time I think I'm about 60. It just shows, you know, how much the mental side of golf can really take over.
You know, I believed I could do this. I believed I could do this when I had a cast on my hand. That's what I just kept thinking about was Oakmont, Oakmont, Oakmont. And here we are, and it just -- it's amazing how, when you put a plan together how sometimes, you know, it works out. Sometimes it doesn't, but for the most part, when it does, it's the greatest feeling.
But for my fourth week out, I'll take it. I'll definitely -- I will take it.

Q. I don't know if you were doing any scoreboard watching today, but there were a lot of red numbers going up out there. Were you aware how many different people were taking little runs at you during the day?
PAULA CREAMER: I didn't look at a leaderboard until the 18th green. That was a goal of mine was to just go and play the golf course, and if somebody played awesome, then somebody did. I didn't want to change my game plan. I didn't want to have other things get involved with my, you know, just in my mind.
I wanted to go out and play the golf course and I did. When I looked -- well, I kind of had a feeling on 17 that I had a couple-shot lead, because that was that front box, and I said I would always hit driver off that front box, and today I laid up. Colin was kind of like, you know, Well, you can lay up, 5-iron. I'm like, What? What do you mean? We've never hit a layup shot on this hole from this box.
Then I kind of figured, okay, well, that's fine then. We can lay up.
But, you know, when I heard a big cheer on -- and I know -- I heard somebody saying Na Yeon Choi was playing really well, but I didn't know what her score was at.

Q. The thumb, did it compel you either consciously or subconsciously to be even more disciplined with your golf swing?
PAULA CREAMER: Oh, yes. I've had to change a lot of things. You know, my tendencies are always gonna be there no matter what, no matter thumb injuries or not.
But I'm reminded that there are shots that I can't quite hit yet, and I have to keep sticking to what I know works. The day that it was a little bit breezy, it was difficult for me because I can't hit those knockdown shots yet, but, you know, it's getting better and better. I think it's definitely -- I have more discipline, knowing that it puts a little more premium on hitting the fairways and not the rough as much. It's a bigger mistake for me to miss in the rough than somebody else just because of my hand.
MODERATOR: After going through this week, how much rest will you be able to give your thumb before you have to play again?
PAULA CREAMER: I will be playing Evian, so next week I will be taking off. Granted, I still have to practice a bit in the later end of the week. It's probably the swollenest it's ever been. I try not to think about it when I'm out there.
It's overflowing out of this tape right now. I'm afraid to take the tape off to see what it looks like. It will have some rest, but it's very happy right now so it's okay.

Q. Let's talk about that stretch of ball striking you had from the 13th hole on where you just hit one iron after another where you wanted to hit it. That was pretty impressive.
PAULA CREAMER: That was I think one of most -- the crucial time of the golf course right there. I knew if I could make pars up until 12, 13, from there in -- you know, there are some difficult holes, but I thought if I could maybe go around 1-under, I might have a good chance of pulling it out, because, you know, pars -- they're never gonna kill you in an Open championship.
If you get birdies, that's like getting a shot and a half to the field. And the birdie -- well, I had a great look at birdie on that par-3, and I hit a good putt. It just didn't go in. But after that, that ball striking was great. Colin and I had -- we had a really good swing thought at that moment, and I just stuck with it until the last hole.
MODERATOR: Do you mind telling us what the swing thought was?
PAULA CREAMER: For me, my biggest thing is keeping the height in my golf swing. I just tried to keep my chest going through the ball. My hand, because it gets tired over time, my right side takes over, and that's where I get my left shots or the high block rights, just because my hand gets tired. So the key thought for me is always to keep my height. I think down those last couple of holes I kept my rhythm and my height well.

Q. Can you talk about the bounce back that you had after the 5's, 4 and 12, and how crucial they were to your round today?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, my dad and I, when I was younger, have always paid a pretty good amount of respect to bouncing back. I know PGA has that stat, you know, bounce-backs, and that's something that I really try to work hard on.
You know, whenever you get a bogey, you have to get a birdie or give yourself a look at birdie. If you make par, so be it. For me, that's just something I've always done, and in this situation it makes it so much sweeter.
I've practiced it over and over the last several years, and that's something that I kind of know I can rely on. If I get a bogey, then there is a good chance I'll be making a birdie or have a good look on the next hole.

Q. To go back to 17 for a minute, can you tell me about what your plan was when you came into the hole and how that plan changed when you got there and how it worked out for you?
PAULA CREAMER: 17? Well, it was at the front box. The front box I've always hit driver. I hit driver, you know, this morning. I hit driver yesterday off that box. The first day the box was back, and I always had the plan to lay up down the right side. But even in practice rounds I never hit a layup off of that front box.
So it was kind of like, Okay, well, I'm trusting you with this layup here off the tee. It's one of the hardest wedge shots in golf I think, or that I've ever had to play. You can't see any of the surface, you know. You just really have to trust your number.
I had about 75 yards to the pin, and there's only four yards behind it, and it just looks like there's bunker, flag, bunker. Looks like you just have no green to work with.
So I just -- I hit a really good wedge shot. We were just trying to play right of the pin in the middle of the green. I hit a good wedge into there, about 75 yards.

Q. The amazing thing I think is your consistency for the week, your scores. If you could talk before that and how you managed to be consistent, and then sort of talk to us about the last two years when you were T2 or second place. I know -- I guess Interlachen you had trouble on the very first hole or second hole.

Q. Those are two things, if you could discuss.
PAULA CREAMER: Well, you know, going into this week, you know, in my mind, of course, I wanted to win, you know, coming off of a missed cut last week. You know, I was kind of -- it was heated. I was ready to play some golf. I was ready to get back at it.
But my main goal was to have four good days of golf. I've never really been able to put four good rounds of golf in a major championship. I've always had one day where I struggled with something or it wasn't quite there or I had a bad hole.
I really give myself, you know, I guess the credit for just being patient. I met my goal. It was have four good days of golf, and I did that. I think that happened because of all what's happened in the past at major championships. You know, No. 10 last year, it was an incredibly -- a costly hole, but I think it gained me this trophy.
You know, I think that was a valuable lesson that I learned. And going into this week, I've always remembered, you know, what has happened in the past, and I've tried to recognize it when it's happening in the present.

Q. In recent years, Paula, the Korean players have become such a dominant force. Today I think Korean players threw a 66, four or five 68s at you. Is it fair to say that their success has been kind of an impetus for you and the other American players to raise their games a little bit?
PAULA CREAMER: Yes, I think we all motivate each other. You know, we all do. You know, everybody wants to, you know, do well and wants to, you know, post the lowest number possible.
I really feel the last couple of years we've had to elevate our games. You know, it's funny how golf works. You know, you get fitness that's involved, you get this, you get that. It just changes games.
You know, right now, there's a huge Asian influence on our tour, and you know, we have to -- I think that we've proven in the last couple of months, you know, that the Americans are there. You know, we are playing good golf. We're a little bit outnumbered at times. You know, I think it's important that we all learn from each other and we motivate each other. But that scoreboard shows it, too, today.

Q. Do you think that having to take a couple months off and your surgery has shaped you into a different golfer at all? Are you different out there in any way?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, I'm definitely -- I was different this week, that's for sure. Um, you know, I want to be aggressive. I'm an aggressive player just naturally. That's who I am. That's how I like to play golf.
I totally have gone the opposite direction this week. I think No. 4 shows it. You know, we're up three boxes today, and I still hit, you know, 4-rescue, basically a 4-iron off the tee. People are getting there in two.
I really feel that I've learned how to play major championships. You know, being super-aggressive has kind of hurt me in the past, and, you know, will I take it to other golf courses? Yes, when it's necessary. But here just the punishment is just so much worse when you are more aggressive.
MODERATOR: That same time of trial, did that change you as a person at all?
PAULA CREAMER: Oh, yes, I think that I've matured. Like I said, I really feel that, you know, sitting at home was not something that I wanted to do, you know, watching golf.
I watched, you know, all the Solheim Cup videos just motivating myself, just beating myself up every day. I really think it made me stronger and wanting to come out and play well and represent my country well and do all these things and be a better person on the golf course.
Just emotionally I think there wasn't really a time where I, I guess you could say, threw a temper or anything where there was times where I wanted to. But I know that that hurts me. Ultimately I had to overcome that.

Q. Given the things you just discussed, which was more important to you, to be an American to win the Open or to win your first major, or do those things, do the motivations go hand in hand?
PAULA CREAMER: I always think an American should be on this U.S. Open trophy. It is the United States' U.S. Open, so I do think that that's an important thing. I really feel that, you know, I represent my country. I try to go out every day and play with pride.
You know, I could be -- there's a lot of people out there that are keeping our country safe right now, and for me to be playing golf and having the trophy sitting next to me just makes things so much -- you know, it brings everything back down to earth in reality.
There is so much more going on. But I think it just kind of makes a statement to the other people who watch golf, you know, that an American did win.

Q. Your dad grew up not too far from here in Butler. To win this U.S. Open, your first major here at Oakmont, can you just describe what it's like to win here?
PAULA CREAMER: You know, it was funny, because we have had a lot of just little signs, you know, this week where, you know, we think might happen or could this be the week. You know, dad lived for 12 years just down the road from here. It was like all these little things.
But you never want to jinx it. You never want to say, These things might work out. But it does. It makes it a lot sweeter. I had a lot of my family that came out this week that live in Upstate New York, not far away. It was really nice. I think he liked it, too, being from here.

Q. You mentioned mental toughness being the key to success. But being such a good putter, how did that factor in? How would you and your caddie able to read these greens so well?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, I switched my putter this week. Last week I went through two-putters, and the week before I had a 2-ball. This week I had a Ghost TaylorMade, Daytona putter. I went back to just the standard-looking putter. I think that helped a lot, because there is so much going on in these greens that you just have to focus on that.
I was kind of getting a little bit crazy with where my putter face was aiming and all this, and so I switched to my putter this week.
The key to these greens is all your speed. You know, you can have somebody, you know, like Colin, we would discuss breaks and things, but we would never really discuss where I would play it, you know. He doesn't know how hard I'm gonna hit it. I told him at the beginning of the week I'm gonna try and die everything into the hole.
Normally you want to go in the back of he hole because the greens aren't 14 on the Stimpmeter. We really focused on dying putts into the hole, and I think we got in a good rhythm. It's confidence. You know, you make one, there's no reason why you can't make two.
Leaving the ball in the right spot is the key here. You have to be below the hole. There's a bunch of times I was chipping and I left the ball in the right spot where you could make a 15-footer uphill instead of chipping it five feet past and having the downhill breaker half the distance.
MODERATOR: What is Colin's last name?

Q. What you've described here today is a person who has learned to play a U.S. Open or USGA venue. Most people we know, veterans like us, they learn to play but they don't have to have surgery to learn it.
PAULA CREAMER: I make life a lot more difficult than what it needs to be.

Q. Could you have learned it another way?
PAULA CREAMER: I think there was definitely an easier way to go about this. You know, surgery was -- I don't think is the answer for everybody. (Laughter.)
You don't go get -- have surgery on your thumb and win a championship. I don't think the odds are very good after that.
But, um, you know, I believe things happen for a reason, and you know, what's happened in the past has made me a stronger person. Like I said, these last couple of months have made me a stronger person. I think it's just will. You know, I'm a grinder. I'm gonna grind it out. I'm in pain, but I'm gonna play. I'm gonna give it 110%, and we'll see what happens. We'll sign your card, and whoever wins, wins.
I'm never satisfied with, you know, just an average day. That's kind of what these last couple of weeks have been. It just kind of started to come together this week.
MODERATOR: On a personal note, I've never seen you focus as well on the golf course as I saw you today on that back nine. I mean, your eyes were laser-like, dead ahead. You weren't paying too much attention to anything else but your next shot.
PAULA CREAMER: I did the clinic with the king out there, Arnold, on Wednesday, and I asked him, you know, like privately, I said, What do I need to do? What do I need to do to go around here? He said, Not three-putt, and keep your head down the whole time.
I listened to that. I know I had some three-putts out there, but I really -- I didn't pay attention to other people as much. I watched the balls land and that kind of thing, but I just tried to stay within myself. I really tried to keep my head down as long as I could. Looking up, you can start to see a lot of crazy things. You know, there's a lot going on out there. I tried to make it as simple as I could.

Q. In your victories, you've had a knack for closing out on Sundays. Can you talk a little bit about why you've had such success in doing that?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, Sunday is the day you have to win on. You know, you have three days to prepare yourself for Sunday, and then you've got 18 holes to go out there and play your best.
You know, today was -- we played the first hole and we said, Okay, 17 more; 16 more; 15 more. It's just a matter of taking the opportunities when they come.
But Sunday is where it all comes down. That back nine is the most important nine. What's happened on the first previous three days, those don't really matter at that time anymore.

Q. You had your close calls before winning this. Suzann has a major but now has gone through a series of close calls to get the second one. How do you keep those repeated times of being in contention from wearing on you and getting kind of gun-shy of that position?
PAULA CREAMER: Oh -- well, I don't think I'm gun-shy, by any...

Q. (No microphone.)
PAULA CREAMER: Oh, well, like I said, I had triple 10 last year on Saturday, and I've taken a lot of positives from that. I mean, I still remember it. Of course. That's something that's -- that will stick with me for a long time.
But I look at it as why did it happen; I analyzed it; I analyzed what happened in the previous Opens. I think the biggest thing is recognizing what you felt at that time and when you're in that situation again to, you know, remember how you handled it and how you need to improve on it.

Q. Two questions: Was there anything you always said, When I finally win a major I'm gonna buy this or do this?
PAULA CREAMER: Um, oh, goodness. Yes. There's always been something that I've wanted to get. It's a purse. I know. I know.
MODERATOR: You're gonna need it.
PAULA CREAMER: It's so embarrassing. I've always said...

Q. What kind?
PAULA CREAMER: It's a Birkin bag. It's like a really crazy bag. The waiting list is like years. We'll see. It's so bad. I know. It's so bad.
I didn't even think about the actual money part of it, but that's always something that I've wanted to get, I said, when I won my first -- and actually, skydiving was something, too. That's right. If I won my first major we were gonna go skydiving.

Q. Who is "we"?
PAULA CREAMER: He's standing back there. Well, my dad flew for the Navy, so he skydived a bunch of times. I think it was gonna be dad, Jay, my manager, and I think David, my coach. Colin's afraid of heights, so I'd have to win like a Grand Slam or something for him to get up there.
But I think that's one of them. We all have it written down in David's office. Ooh, that's exciting.

Q. Were you motivated at all even more when Cristie Kerr rose to No. 1 in the world? It was an American and it wasn't you.
PAULA CREAMER: Um, there's parts of me. There's parts of me that was, yeah, I wanted to be the first American at the top, you know, to be No. 1. But, you know, I'm excited that it is an American. I think that's a big step.
You know, Cristie played awesome at the LPGA Championship, and I wanted to play awesome here to kind of back that up.
I think the last two majors we did a good job of showing American golf, and following Cristie into this week.
MODERATOR: I want to thank you for all the time you gave to us this week.
PAULA CREAMER: No worries.
MODERATOR: You were the most cooperative player in the field that way. Congratulations again.
PAULA CREAMER: Thank you, Rhonda. Thank you very much.

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