Kingsmill Resort - The River Course
Wednesday Pre-Tournament Notes
May 14, 2014
Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis
Rolex Rankings No. 8 Paula Creamer
COULD INBEE PARK’S 57-WEEK RUN BE OVER?
The 57-week run of Inbee Park as No. 1 in the Rolex World Golf Rankings could come to an end this week. The scenario is pretty simple: If Stacy Lewis or Lydia Ko win, they own the top spot and Park’s run is over. Park’s not playing this week so a solo second-place finish by Lewis – as long as Ko doesn’t win – would also push her ahead of Park.
Lewis enjoyed a brief four-week run as No. 1 before Park started her 57-week stranglehold. So after a win in her last start at the North Texas Shootout, does a shot to recapture No. 1 serve as a motivation or distraction for the world’s No. 2 golfer.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s a motivation. I wouldn’t say it’s my No. 1 goal,” Lewis said. “My No. 1 goal is to win tournaments. Obviously the rankings and the Money List, everything like that takes care of itself. The goal doesn’t change: win tournaments.”
But Lewis is a straight shooter and No. 1 is the goal and that hasn’t changed.
“Obviously I do really want to get to No. 1 in the world,” Lewis said. “Whether it happens this week or a few weeks from now, it doesn’t really matter.”
Whether the rankings state it or not, no one on the LPGA is playing better and more consistent golf this year than Lewis. She’s the leader in points for the Race to the CME Globe (1,979) and the Rolex Player of the Year, and she’s the leader on the money list ($833,976).
Statistics from the golf course back up her dominance, too. She’s No. 1 in greens in regulation (79 percent), putts per green in regulation (1.749), birdies (155) and rounds in the 60s (19). Therefore, it comes with little surprise that she’s got eight top-10 finishes in nine events.
KERR’S ILLNESS FORCES HER OUT OF PRO-AM
Cristie Kerr is not only the defending champion but also a three-time winner at the Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC, but she wasn’t in the field for the Wednesday Pro-Am. She had to withdraw after waking up ill on Wednesday morning.
Kerr is planning on playing in the event and will make herself available for the media on Friday.
AN AMERICAN RESURGENCE
After losses in the last two Solheim Cups, including a romp by the Europeans in the 2013, the Americans have made a resurgence in tour this season. Eight players have won 10 events, five of which have been Americans. Of the top 16 in the Rolex World Rankings, seven are Americans.
“It’s great. It’s great for women’s golf. It’s great for women’s sports in general. We’ve been asked many years now, ‘Where are the Americans? Where are the Americans?’ We’re here. We’ve always been there, just a little outnumbered at times,” said Paula Creamer to the Daily Press’ David Teel. “There’s a lot of great juniors that are coming through the ranks as well. You see a lot of hope for us. It’s just getting the job done, is what it comes down to. There’s so many great players, which makes it exciting, but at the same time, we’re here, we live here in the States and we want to see that red, white and blue on the leaderboard.”
At just 29, Lewis considers herself the veteran of the group and has been particularly impressed with the way Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie are playing this year. Thompson “hits golf shots that nobody else can hit,” and Wie is “really coming into her own.” Wie, more than anyone else on tour, has a “Tiger-effect” to her on the women’s game, according to Lewis.
“You ask people who don’t know much about golf and they know who Tiger and Michelle Wie are,” Lewis said. “It’s a testament to her and her ability to play. Like Lexi, she can hit golf shots you’ve never seen. Playing with her at home I just sit there in amazement.”
With Lewis, Wie, Thompson, Creamer, Jessica Korda, and Lizette Salas all 30 or less, the Americans look set to mark their mark for years going forward.
“For all the Americans I wish it was a Solheim Cup year,” Lewis said.
Lewis will be able to prove what the Americans have to offer July 24-27 at the International Crown when they battle seven other countries for which reigns supreme globally, and Lewis, Thompson, Creamer, Korda and Salas are all in the field this week.
LEWIS SHARES HER STORY
Before heading into the media room to discuss a potential return to No. 1, Stacy Lewis stopped by a luncheon that focused on building self esteem and empowering women in the military on Tuesday, where she received an award for battling through scoliosis, 7.5 years in a back brace and later surgery to become one of the world’s top golfers.
“It was cool to be able to talk to those ladies. Hopefully they can relate a little bit to my story. More than anything just to say thank you for what they do,” Lewis said.
Creamer has also been heavily involved in supporting the military since her arrival on tour and took the time to go meet with high-ranking military personnel on Monday at the Pentagon before her arrival at Kingsmill.
“It’s for my foundation. The last year-and-a-half, two years, I’ve just been putting my time in to going to bases, doing things with soldiers, sailors, air men, Marines. Both men and women. … Now it’s time I can kind of use my voice. It was a big moment just to be able to meet – those are the busiest, most powerful men in the world. To have four meetings, all in one day, back-to-back-to-back was truly amazing,” Creamer said.
“I have the utmost respect for our men and women that go and serve our country, and if I can help them in any way, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis
MODERATOR: Thank you all for coming. I would like to welcome Stacy Lewis into the interview room at the Kingsmill Championship presented by JTBC. Stacy, you're coming off a big win last week. Monkey off your back this season. Looking to go back‑to‑back in these tournaments. Can you talk about the win last week and coming in to the next tournament? Does that give you added confidence, motivation, and an adrenaline rush as you tee off?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, coming off of last week, it was pretty awesome. More than anything, to win the way I did. I was pretty motivated going into that final round.
Just what had happened the week prior and really finishing runner‑up a few times, it does get old pretty quick. And so I was pretty motivated going into Sunday.
To have the family there, to have everyone there to celebrate and cheer me on was really, really special.
So, I mean, the game is in a good place. Winning doesn't really change the way I prepare or anything like that. Just more than anything nice to get that monkey off my back.
MODERATOR: Coming into this week you're in a position once again to become No. 1.
STACY LEWIS: Uh‑huh.
MODERATOR: Is that a motivation or a distraction for you since it does become a talking point?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, it's a motivation. I wouldn't say it's my No. 1 goal.
My No. 1 goal is to win tournaments. Obviously the rankings and the Money List, everything like that takes care of itself. The goal doesn't change: win tournaments.
Obviously I do really want get to No. 1 in the world. Whether it happens this week or a few weeks from, it now doesn't really matter.
MODERATOR: Perfect. Right before this you attended a luncheon here at Kingsmill. Can you tell us a little bit about the event and what that means to you.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, it was an appreciation luncheon really for the women in the military. The guys were definitely outnumbered in the room, which was nice to see. They gave me a award for overcoming adversity and kind of my story and everything.
So it was cool to be able to talk to those ladies. Hopefully they can relate a little bit to my story. More than anything just to say thank you for what they do.
MODERATOR: Perfect. Let's open it up for questions.
Q. Stacy, obviously a large number of young American golfers, very competitive on the tour at this point in time. What does it mean to be a part of that group, leading that group, and kind of the resurgence for American golf?
STACY LEWIS: Well, I mean, it's great to see. I think Jessica Korda and I, at the players meeting last night they had pictures of all the winners. I think five out of the eight or ten have been American. I think it's an unbelievable thing.
It's a great thing for this tour. We've needed it over the last few years to kind of get sponsors on board and get people paying attention to us, people writing about us, people watching.
That's what we need to do. Young Americans playing well is a great thing. Especially if you look at who they are: Look at Lexi Thompson who can bomb it and hit golf shots that nobody else can hit.
And then you've got Michelle, who, if she's playing well, it's good for everybody on this tour. Michelle is really coming into her own, which is a great thing to see.
She has definitely grown up the last few years and taken ownership of her game. She's playing really good golf. I'm definitely the oldest of the group, but it's nice to show them how to do it, how to win and how to prepare. That's what I'm trying to do, is just be a good example for them.
Q. I believe 2007 on the Pine Needles was your first U.S. Open; isn't that correct? What do you remember about that, and can you take anything out of that going to Pinehurst?
STACY LEWIS: I mean, I don't remember really much about the golf. I think I was a little star struck at the time and didn't really know what to expect.
I had played amateur events in the Pinehurst during amateur golf, whether it was north‑south, southern amateur.
So, you know, I like that style of golf. It's going to play hard more than anything. That's what I like about it. A major championship should be hard. There should be birdie holes and holes where you're working your butt off to make par.
I'm just excited more than anything that it's a major championship and I can't wait to get there.
Q. Can you just talk about being in contention as much as you have really over the last I would say almost two years. I mean, just having chance to win the events. I know it's disappointing when you don't win, but on the other side it seems like you're always on the leaderboard.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, that's a goal of mine, is to give myself a chance on Sunday. I mean, I don't really know what it is. There is just something in me that I don't give up. Even when I have a bad day, I find a way to shoot 1‑ or 2‑under and keep myself in the tournament.
I think last week in Texas was a great example. Saturday I didn't make anything. I putted horribly, and I was still tied for the lead going into Sunday.
I don't know. I just don't have it in me to quit or say, Oh, I'm barely going to make the cut. If you can barely make the cut and still win the golf tournament.
So I don't know. I don't have it in me it quit. I think that's a lot of it. But I love being in contention. I love hitting shots under pressure and seeing how I respond and seeing the people around me respond.
I think that's the true test of your game. Anybody can hit the first tee shot. It's what do you do after that.
Q. Suzann Pettersen, I asked her a similar question, because like you she's had a lot of top 10s. She said one things that proves is your ability to play no matter what the conditions are or no matter what the course is like, summer, whether it's cold, hot; is that something you take a lot of pride in also, that no matter where, in the United States or Asia, that you've been competitive.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I do. I take a lot of pride more in the fact that any type of golf course it is, I can play well on it. When I first game on the tour I played well on the hard golf courses, but then if there were birdiefests and we had to shoot 25‑under to win, I wasn't even close.
So I had to learn how to make more birdies, how to be a little bit more aggressive when you can.
You know, now my game is I'm set to play on any golf course. I feel like I can handle any situation. Whether it's windy, firm and fast, soft, I feel like I can play in those situations.
I don't know. I go to a golf course with a game plan. If I play the way I'm capable of, I know I'll be there at least close to the lead at the end.
Q. With the Women's Open, I know that's a huge goal for you to play well there. That's been a rough tournament the last few years. Do you think about that much, or is that something you try not to think about until it's that week?
STACY LEWIS: I really think you got to focus on the task at hand and not worry about it until you get there.
But I do think one thing I worked on this year is kind of trying to stay more level on the golf course and not getting the super highs and lows.
If you get a bad break, it's going to happen. Just kind of rolling on with things instead of letting it affect me so much. I think I've done a really good job of that this year. That's something that going into the Open is going to be something that I want to continue with more than anything.
Yeah, I want to play well, but I want to handle my emotions a lot better, because I think that's kind of what has gotten me at the Open the last few years.
Q. Following up on the success of young Americans question, Lexi and Jessica have had a lot of success as 19 and 21 year olds respectively. When you were that age...
STACY LEWIS: I was in college.
Q. You were in Arkansas I think at that point.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah.
Q. Do you sort of marvel on the their ability to handle pressure on the such a young age considering you've been through it? You played college golf.
STACY LEWIS: I mean, the girls coming out now are younger and younger, and they're competitive at a young age.
Yeah, there are certain golf courses they'll struggle on because they don't know quite the way how to think their way around a golf courses.
But look on the Lexi. When she's comfortable on a golf course she's firing on all cylinders. At 18, 19 years old, I was never in that place. I was a late bloomer. I matured later than them.
That's not surprising. They're so talented. You can't fault them for turning pro early. When you're that good at a young age, you want to take your talent to the next level and keep getting better.
So can't fault them for turning pro early. But they're all really, really talented more than anything.
Q. You mentioned the Open and wanting to play on tough golf courses. No. 2, have you played it before? What are your thoughts on playing after the men and the USGA staging them back to back?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, obviously I played No. 2 before all the changes. I'm going to go here in about a week and a half and check it out. From what I've heard of the golf course, taking it back to the way it was originally supposed to be played, taking the rough out of there I think is a great move.
Those greens are not made to hit shots out of the rough. That's what I like. I'm looking forward to seeing it for that reason. I think as far as playing after the guys, I think we all know, and the USGA said it too, there will be challenges.
There are things we like and don't like about it. Look at the exposure we'll get from being behind the men and people talking about it. You know, I don't know. I'm really interested to see how it all turns out. I think logistically it could be a mess depending on what happens.
A lot of what the USGA says is it's weather cooperating, what the weather does.
So I'm interested to see how it turns out. I really think the golf course is going to hold up. I think the greens are going to hold up. There will be divots. That's just going to be part of the issue. I am going to practice hitting chip shots out of divots and shots out of divots. That's just the way it's going to be.
But I think there is a lot more positives than negatives to it.
Q. Several folks have asked about the American resurgence. Paula Creamer has been part of that with the putt in Singapore. You played a big Solheim Cup match with her last year. Talk a little bit about what she means to the tour and to have her back in the winners circle?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, Paula is one of those players that moves the needle. Everybody knows her for wearing her pink. What I saw, when we played Solheim Cup together, when she gets in there and is battling and wants to make a putt, she's going to make it. She just has that extra gear.
I'm like, Gosh, where does that come from. I'm trying to ask her all these questions to get it out of her.
But she's really injury‑free. Her golf swing is getting better. Winning in Singapore was a huge monkey off her back. She's been close a bunch of times. So it's been nice to see her win and get it done.
For all the Americans I wish it was a Solheim Cup year. I wish we were going to Solheim Cup this August. We can't quite do that.
It's great to see all the young girls playing well and getting recognized for the work.
Q. You said earlier I guess that it's important for Michelle Wie to be back and playing better. Can you expand on that?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think Michelle, I mean, not to the extreme, but she has a Tiger‑effect to her. You ask people who don't know much about golf and they know Tiger and Michelle Wie are. It's a testament to her and her ability to play. Like Lexi, she can hit golf shots you've never seen. Playing with her at home I just sit there in amazement.
She's just been through so much. So much scrutiny from the media, from everybody. Everybody thinks they know the right way to do things. It's just nice to see her ‑‑ she stuck to her plan. She knows what she needs to do. It's just nice to see her playing some good golf.
Q. Just about everybody we've spoken to the last couple days kind of raves about this stop on the tour. What is it about Kingsmill that makes it one of the more popular stops?
STACY LEWIS: We have been coming here for so long. I think that's a lot of it. We get good crowds every year. We have great fans. People know us year after year. They come back and continue to support us.
I think a lot of it is the golf course. It's always in great shape. And it's hard. Even though everybody continues to gain length and hit it longer, this golf course still plays hard no matter what.
It's just a testament to the course and the maintenance staff. It's always in good shape when we come. It's something we look forward to. It's one of the markets we have done well in over the years, and it's just nice to keep coming back every year.
MODERATOR: Any other questions for Stacy?
Q. Two things kind of related. You play a lot, and you've done that for the last several years. Can you sort of talk about your philosophy on that and just the way the schedule works out. I think last year the Arkansas event, which tends to be taxing for you...
STACY LEWIS: They all are now.
Q. But the Arkansas event was a week before the Open; this year I think it's the week after and then you have the British. Do you have to sort of gear yourself up for that whole stretch?
STACY LEWIS: Well, of course as far as my schedule, I like playing a lot. I tend to play better when I get into a rhythm. So for me, taking three weeks off in the middle of the season, I don't like doing it.
And more than anything, especially in the summertime when we're here in the United States, I like to support the U.S. tournaments. I think we're a U.S.‑based tour and I'm an American player, so I would rather support ‑‑ no offense to the sponsors over in Asia, but I would just rather support my tournaments that are close to home.
That's a lot of my scheduling reasons.
And then, oh, with Arkansas and all that. Yeah, that whole stretch is gonna be interesting this year. The British has moved closer now to the Open. On purpose I took things kind of easier to started the year where I played three weeks, had two weeks off; played three weeks, had a couple weeks off.
Knowing that I'm playing these next four, having a week off, Arkansas, the British, International Crown, I mean, I know these next two months are going to be busy.
So it's just kind of mentally preparing yourself and knowing when you need to take days off.
But I think, like I said, every week is busy now. Arkansas seems so easy now compared to what it used to be. Just gotten better with managing my schedule, and I now know what I need to do to prepare every week.
I know how much I need to practice. I don't need to sit on the range all day and grind and hit balls. I know how to prepare and do all these extra things and still win.
Q. The British wasn't your first major, but getting that and the way that you won it, did that change something in terms of your confidence?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think what really changed is that throughout the week I was never ‑‑ I never really had the lead until the very end. Usually a lot of my wins I had had the lead and kind of had to hold on and never was really at the top all week.
But that week I had to work and just work and work and work and hang and hang and hang around. I think that's what ‑‑ that's the way I play.
And so to win that way, for me, it was just really cool those last two holes. To birdie 17 and 18 at the Old Course, St. Andrews, all the history, I mean, you can't really script it any better.
To win my first British Open at the home of golf, I don't know, that's as good as the first one, I think.
Rolex Rankings No. 8 Paula Creamer
On past success here (three top-fives): “ It suits me. It suits me eye. I like the tee shots, I like the putts, the challenge of it. They put the pins in difficult (places) sometimes.”
On meeting with top military brass Monday at Pentagon:
“It’s for my foundation. The last year-and-a-half, two years, I’ve just been putting my time in to going to bases, doing things with soldiers, sailors, air men, Marines. Both men and women. … Now it’s time I can kind of use my voice. … It was a big moment just to be able to meet – those are the busiest, most powerful men in the world. To have four meetings, all in one day, back-to-back-to-back was truly amazing. I have the utmost respect for our men and women that go and serve our country, and if I can help them in any way, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
On American resurgence:
“It’s great. It’s great for women’s golf. It’s great for women’s sports in general. We’ve been asked many years now, ‘Where are the Americans? Where are the Americans?’ We’re here. We’ve always been there, just a little outnumbered at times. There’s a lot of great juniors that are coming through the ranks as well. You see a lot of hope for us. It’s just getting the job done, is what it comes down to. There’s so many great players, which makes it exciting, but at the same time, we’re here, we live here in the States and we want to see that red, white and blue on the leaderboard.”
On being last American to win U.S. Open:
“That’s our national championship. We all put an extreme amount of pressure on ourselves when we go into that week just because we want it so bad. … It can get you in the wrong way, and it can help you win. … The best players always rise to the top that week because it is such a grind. More than just getting the ball in the hole, you have to have a really strong mental game. That’s why it’s the hardest tournament of the year.”
“Meeting Derek has obviously been such a blessing for me. … He just makes me want to go out and work harder and be better at what I do and help more people in any way I can. … It’s crazy. I’m 27 years old and I’ve been out here 10 years. I’ve had the same caddie, same coach, same manager. My team doesn’t change. I think Derek just kind of sparked that fire in me a little more.”
On being a Tour “veteran” at 27:
“I have a different role now than when I was 19, 20 years old. I have to embrace that … and that’s a learning experience in itself. I definitely feel like I’m more of a veteran. I definitely have to play my role a little bit differently. … That’s something you have to learn. No one can teach you that. You have to go through it and dissect it as you go on.”
*Thanks to David Teel for the assist on quotes