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June 18, 2014

Paula Creamer


MIKE TROSTEL: Welcome to the 2014 U.S. Women's Open here at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. It's a pleasure to welcome 2010 U.S. Women's Open champion Paula Creamer to the interview room. Playing in her 12th U.S. Open Championship, has five top 10 finishes, highlighted by the win at Oakmont in 2010. This year, three top three finishes already in 2014, including a memorable win at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, sank a 75 foot eagle putt on the second playoff hole, a video that went viral pretty quickly. You've been extremely consistent, constantly near the top of the leaderboard for the past several years, but didn't have a win between the Women's Open in 2010 and then this year. How good did it feel to break through and get that win?

PAULA CREAMER: I think my reaction showed how good it felt after that putt went in. You know, it's been a crazy last couple of years, that's for sure. With the win at Oakmont, it was one of those things where I, literally I didn't have many expectations. It was the first week I could hit balls off the ground at the driving range after my surgery. There was a lot of other distractions going on at that time and golf at that time was easy for me. And then my hand, it took a lot longer than I ever thought. The doctors told me it would take a long time, but being an athlete and being stubborn I said, right, that's not going to happen to me. And it really did take a while. And during that whole process I was able to reboot my golf swing. I had to make a lot of changes. And last year I decided to do it in the middle of the year. And my team and I discussed it and we talked about it, knew it was going to be a tough challenge, because I am so result oriented. And of course I wanted to win. But you have to go backwards sometimes to go forward. And David Whelan and I and Colin, we've spent a lot of hours on the range this last year, I would say. It's all coming together. I can figure it out. I can feel it. The win in Singapore just made you realize just how hard that we've all worked, to continue down that path, because it's only going to be good things.

MIKE TROSTEL: We're back here at Pinehurst, you've had so much success in the U.S. Open. But this is a different kind of course with the native areas and the wire grass, instead of long rough with turtleback greens. You've been out there this week. Tell us about the course, what you think of it, go how it suits your game.

PAULA CREAMER: I think it's an incredible golf course. I think it's great that we're here. It's definitely going to showcase women's golf, too, as well as what it did last week with the men. It's going to play, I think, very different for us than it is for them. It's going to play a lot longer. Obviously, the USGA has the potential to move it anywhere they want with the tee boxes and things. But I love it. You have to be incredibly precise off the fairways. You have to be even more precise with the irons and be able to look at where you need to hit it and where not to. I think that's the common theme this week is where to miss the ball. And I think that's going to be the biggest challenge is mentally thinking about how you want to miss a shot, instead of normally we're constantly thinking of how you're going to make it, put it right here, put it right there on the greens. I think the best lag putter will win, too.

Q. Juli said today that her 35th U.S. Open will be her last. An amazing era coming to an end. What has she meant to you, personally, and more in general, to the tour?
PAULA CREAMER: I hate to hear her say that, it just kills me. But I can understand, too. Juli is just my role model. Growing up, I've just looked at her with such awe. And I still do, to this day. I just did an interview out there and, to me, she's obviously an incredible competitor, but she's just such a good person, and she's done so much for the game. It just shows you how you can balance your life, your personal life, being a mother, being a wife, and being a top competitor, all at the same time. But there's a reason why there's only one Juli Inkster, too. Because that is just a lot to have on your plate and she does it with such ease. Last night we had the champions dinner and just sitting there with her at the table again, we've had numerous, countless dinners and talks, but she just makes you want to be better, makes you want to work harder. If Juli is out there grinding away, there's no reason why anyone else can't be out there grinding away.

Q. A follow-up to that, she actually glad she's not in her 20s right now, because everyone is grinding so much. She can't imagine anyone now having the life career balance that she has. Do you understand what she's saying, and will we never see another person last into their '50s like she has?
PAULA CREAMER: I think you will. I wouldn't want to say no, you're not going to see anybody like Juli. But it takes a very strong person to do that. And you have to give up some things, as well. Just even being pregnant, things like that, you have to take away from golf and from your goals. I think that it just shows that you can do it. Yes, it's a different time, especially now, just demands, things like that. But we're here for a reason, it's the game of golf and the passion for that. I think the biggest thing that Juli has always taught me is about time management of when you do practice. Just because you're grinding, it doesn't mean you need to grind for eight hours a day. You can grind for two or three hours and get your work done and feel confident about that. And that's something that I've had to learn over time, because when you're a junior golfer all you do is just practice as much as you can. And you need to do that. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But as time goes by you have to really figure out your priorities and your time management of just your other things that are going on in your life, with sponsors or just your personal life, as well.

Q. Obviously, the course will play shorter this week for you guys than it did for the men. But there will be a lot of holes you play longer clubs into some of these greens than they were. What is your approach to attack these greens, and what did you try on the course this week?
PAULA CREAMER: I mean yesterday I played pretty much as far as -- on Monday I played pretty much as far back as you could. I've done it both ways. I played it as far back as you could and as short as you could. And there's some tough holes, for sure. We're hitting 5-woods. I'm hitting my 5-wood about 215, 220, and we're hitting those into the greens and these aren't the easiest greens to be hitting that long of a shot into. But it's going to be the same for everybody. You want -- I wanted to watch the men as much as I could, but I don't hit it as high as them, I don't have as much spin on the ball as they do. So it's a little bit different in that case. But I spent more time looking at how they played it around the greens and learning from that. But I think, either way, they're going to set it up, hopefully something similar to the men. Obviously, the distances will be different. Even though our 5-irons aren't the same as their 5-irons. But I think that they're going to do a fair job. I think the golf course is perfect. You wouldn't even know that there was a men's U.S. Open before that we came out here, it's in such good shape.

Q. As one who turned pro as a teenager, you probably have some perspective on players like Lydia and Lexi that are winning as teens right now. How different is it for you being a veteran watching them win as a teen, and how impressive do you feel their performance has been?
PAULA CREAMER: It's crazy. I'm 27 years old and I'm a veteran. Holy cow. I came out when I was 18 and it was like unheard of. And now 18 is old. They're almost veterans. It's so funny how sports and just especially women's sports gets younger and younger. But Lydia and Lexi, I've played with Lexi at Solheim, and I was her captain at Spirit Cup, and I know her incredibly well. I think I play with Lydia every week out on tour, it seems like. I get to know them, outside of just playing golf, as well. They've got good heads on their shoulders. And the people around them are really good and keep them focused. I think that's been my -- what's helped me the most has been my team. I have the same team that I started with, that I do ten years later. And that consistency and everybody knows what I want, everybody knows my goals, and I think that's what the younger kids need to look at and try to kind of, not necessarily say, this is how you do it, but this is kind of what works, as well.

Q. You mentioned attending the champions dinner last night. Would you please give a little flavor for what that was like and some of the past champions that you had a chance to speak with?
PAULA CREAMER: I can't tell you. It's a secret, in that room, only. No, I'm just kidding. No, it was awesome. It was so neat to be sitting in that room. And everybody asked, we were asked, what was your most memorable moment of your win. And just being in that room, I think, was the most memorable moment. Being able to have your name on that trophy and to hear those stories. Donna Caponi had this great story, oh, my gosh, there were so many that you wanted to almost like film and you could watch over and over again. Sandra Palmer -- it was so neat to listen to how they won and the natural disasters that they've gone through. This is my 12th U.S. Open and I've been through it all, whether it's fog or this or that or Oakmont where I didn't think we were going to be able to play the golf course because it's so hard and firm, and then it pours down rain and it's a completely different track. Hearing things like that and how nervous people were, those are things that I'll take forever, cherish those memories, and I'm so thankful that the USGA had that dinner for us, because it was such an honor to be there.

Q. During the practice rounds, when you're hitting your ball into the native area, even though you could probably get a club on the ball, did it create some sense of unpredictability, either in terms of distance or direction after you'd hit it? What's your reaction to that?
PAULA CREAMER: I mean, definitely you're not hitting out of the fairways, so it's a little bit -- you play for error. You have to have a little bit of room. You can't be too aggressive. I had a couple of different shots. It comes out maybe a little bit lower at times. And it's just not -- it's taking what it gives you, not trying to be a hero out of it. Obviously, last week on TV, 15 balls goes into the native, maybe 13 of them you've got a shot and the other ones you're chipping out, literally. But I think that some of the lies are a lot tighter. When you do get the little things around the ball, you have to be aware of your hosel and things like that, so if it wraps around the club. But where we're hitting it, some of the spots are not as bad with the native. In our little areas around the course. But the key, like anything, is don't hit it in there. You don't have to worry about that.

Q. Does this course remind you of any other course you've played anywhere, worldwide, any features, anything that stands out that's similar?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, for me it reminds me a lot of Oakmont. You have to think. You have to hit the ball in certain spots. It runs a lot. It's fast greens. The green speeds change -- there's really no flat putts. You're either putting uphill or you're putting downhill. And that's hard to judge constantly. That's why Martin won, because his speed was incredible throughout the whole week. And I do -- I love tree-lined golf courses, but to me, seeing these fairways with the brown and whatnot, it kind of reminds me of a tree-lined area, even with the native there. But I for me personally, I would say it reminds me a lot of Oakmont.

Q. What's your history with this course, how much have you played it prior to coming here this week?
PAULA CREAMER: I just played it one time before the men's, I was out for two days. I came out on a -- I played Wednesday, Thursday, before the men's week. And that was it.

Q. Never a junior event or anything?
PAULA CREAMER: Huh-huh. No, huh-uh.

MIKE TROSTEL: 1:36 off the 10th tee on Thursday. Paula Creamer, best of luck.


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