You had a great year in 2009. Are you still playing well?
Yes. I’m playing very well. My putting has really improved. It was something I really needed to work on. My whole game has tightened up a bit from last year, which is nice. I’m fairly confident.
Do you like this style of golf course? Do you like the Sand Belt courses?
I love them. I played at Metro for two years when I was with the AIS. We played all the courses here. They are awesome.
Do you think you have an advantage over a lot of the girls with this experience?
I think it helps growing up on these courses. There are certain shots you learn to play…The bunkers are great. I think these bunkers are the best and the easiest in the world to get out of because they are so pure. It is an advantage. I’ve lived in Melbourne. I expect this kind of weather.
How does this course compare with Metro last year?
I did not play at Metro last year. I was at another event. I have played Metro. This is a lot tougher, I think. Metro is pure. I have not seen greens like this in a long time. They are very tricky. It is going to be an interesting week’s golf.
Are the greens quick?
On most courses you’ll get two-tier greens and a couple that slope front to back or to the side. But these ones are like this, left to right or right to left side slope. You really have to pay attention to what sort of shots you are hitting into the greens.
If the weather remains the same, what score do you think will win?
I have not thought too much about it. I think between five and 10 under. I said last week 23 under. What won, 26? Yes. It depends on what the weather does. Anything can happen.
What have you been doing since Christmas? Playing with your friends?
Yes. It has been good. It is nice to have a social round. I’d forgotten how much fun you can have out there. I did a little bit of practice. I had three months off. I did not do much golf for the first month.
Are you going back to the States after this?
Yes, I head back next Wednesday. I have two events than I have five weeks off. I’m not sure if I will come back to Australia or stay over there.
You are rising up the rankings quickly. Do you have your eye on the No. 1 spot?
It would be great to be No. 1 but I still have not figured out if I want to be No. 1. A lot goes into it. There is a lot of work. There is a lot of sacrifice. I am not sure if I want to sacrifice time and friends and there is the travel to be No. 1. It is a different mentality from Top 10. There is more pressure. To be honest with you, I think every player asks, Do I really want to do this?’
Do you know anyone else who thinks like that?
People say they want to be No. 1 but being No. 1 consistently, that is what I am talking about now, that is something that I want to get to. Obviously, I want to win tournaments. I still need to do a lot of work on my game. To get to No. 1, there is a lot of work I need to do. Then there is the question, “Do I have what it takes to be No. 1?”
If you have the potential, and you get there, you are going to have to deal with that fact.
Exactly. Someone asked me that and I said that you would not know until you were there. When you get to that level, you have dealt with a lot of media and you get used to it. It is not a shock.
What do you imagine are the things you would not like about being No. 1?
It is a big change in lifestyle and commitment. There is a lot more pressure on you. At that level, that’s what you expect. Take Tiger Woods, not that we are going there, and Lorena. I know that girls who have been No. 1. They work so hard and there are things they sacrifice. It is a different level. You’ve got to have the right team of people around you. It is not so much the practice and work, it is the right people and the right mindset. On top of that, you want to be there…It is hard for me to answer the question because I have not been No. 1. As a kid I idolised Karrie and watched her play. But not until you make it to the LPGA and you are contending for a major that you think, Bloody hell, how good is this? That is when you realise what she has achieved. I don’t think she gets the credit she deserves. She is amazing. The stress and pressure she has been under. To answer the question, Can I handle that pressure? It is very intense.
Are there things off the course you are not prepared to give up that make your life more normal?
There is that aspect of it. It is tough if your time management is not spot on. That is something that I am not particularly great at. You are always working on things.
You are moving from Dallas to Orlando?
Yes. I have lived there for three years, Texas is great. My golf teacher is there (Orlando). There is a better golf community. I love it. I’m really looking forward to the move.
Is this your first time in Australia?
Yes it is. I am very, very happy to be here. It is a beautiful country.
Is this your first look at the golf course?
Yesterday I played nine holes, on the front side, and spent the rest of the day eating. It was quite breezy out there. I did not want to hit balls on the range with the left to right wind. I have been practising my short game a little bit today.
How is your game?
It’s not bad. I hit some solid shots last week but I could not get the flat stick going.
Do you think your game is good enough to win this week?
Yes. It is just a matter of getting the ball in the hole. I have been tweaking my putting for the last…ah, 12 years. But I’m getting it going this week. I can be a very streaky putter. And I’m definitely hitting the ball well enough.
What is required around this course, compared with Royal Pines.
The two golf courses have a lot of similarities in my opinion. For example, there is grass, tee boxes, bunkers…There are a lot of beautiful trees, great bunkering just off the tee boxes. It requires good tee shots. You can really pepper it in for birdie if you are behind a tree for your second shot.
It would appear to me to be a significantly harder course than Royal Pines.
I don’t know. I think it is just different. This course can be deemed easy one day and hard the next. Visually it may seem so but it may not play so hard. But it is a great challenge and a beautiful layout. It is a bit tighter off the tee than Royal Pines….There might be a 61 out there.
The women are playing this course only 300 metres shorter than the men members play it. Does this reflect badly on the men here?
Yes! … No, we are professionals. Amateur golfers are different. It is not the shortest golf course we’ve ever come across. This course has been around since the 1920s. There are not a lot of places where you could extend the golf course. It is a very traditional course.
You have a book coming out?
Yes. A friend of mine who is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated who wrote (inaudible) Blood, Sweat and Tees. He approached me in October 2008 and said, ‘Hey now, what about writing a book about what it is like inside the ropes for an LPGA Tour player and I think you would be a great person to write about.’ Basically I just logged my entire 2009 season and put it on paper. It comes out on Amazon and gets pre-release on April 13th. It is called Confessions of an LPGA Star.
Does it have any nude photographs?
No, I have never done a nude photograph in my entire life.
I saw a nude photograph that looked a lot like you.
No, I was not nude. I was wearing an undergarment.
You were there and I wasn’t, so I’ll take your word for it. Do you think people will be surprised by some of the stuff in the book?
Page…… No, you’ll have to buy the book. I have to make some money. There are some phobias about things that people think are out there on the Tour, various sexualities, what life is like, what you talk about. Some people may think we are talking about one thing, and we’re not. It is not just myself. There are other players as well…There is nothing written that is negative. I am not a negative person. I don’t have time in my life to write about the crap that goes on out there. It is funny and you’ll have a good laugh reading it…
Do you think the Tour needs some livelier people?
A lot of people tell me I am a different personality. But I play week in and week out with another 143 players who have amazing personalities. All you have to do is take the time and effort to seek them out.
We have some amazing women on the Tour. It is a preconceived notion that it is boring. I don’t think that is true by any means.
Is there something that golf/sport has taught you and you have taken into your life?
There are many things I have been able to take away from golf. The first and foremost are honesty and integrity. There are simple things, common human traits, that I think are lacking in the world. Something as simple as saying, ‘Hey, I touched that ball, or I gambled on the stock market and I didn’t do so well’. And be honest about yourself. Taking responsibility for what it is that you do and working hard to achieve what it is that you want. Just playing straight. Those are things I have learned…In the end, as long as you are true to yourself, It does not matter what other people think of you. I had a lot of controversy when I did my SEMI-NUDE photos. In the end it was more about the celebration of athletes’ bodies. When we did the shoot it was nothing sexual or inappropriate by any means. It was to celebrate the body of an athlete. Just be true to yourself. That is one thing that I hope to tell these young girls and young people that I come across: responsibility, integrity, honesty, discipline and just be true to who you are.
What is your affinity with Australia?
I just love coming down here. It is a lovely start to the year. People are nice. The courses are great. It is a good warm-up. It is better than England, although you’d hardly notice it kin the last couple of weeks with the weather we’ve had. Anywhere you go where people are nice to you, you want to go back.
You have been quoted as saying if you did not live in England, you would like to live in Sydney.
Well, Australia, really. If I had to get out for any reason, this is where I’d come.
You are back as defending champion.
Yes. I have not seen the course yet but from what I understand, it is a fantastic layout. The first tee shot looks magnificent. It looks like a really well conditioned golf course.
We’ve just had a 15-year-old in who is confident she can win the tournament. Does this make you feel old?
Not at all. You prove yourself on the golf course, not in the press room. Good luck to her.
How is your form? It was not a great tournament for you last week.
I played really well. I hit three bad drives on Sunday, which is disappointing because I made the turn having hit all nine greens. I should have been eight under at the turn instead of two under and I got a bit frustrated on 10, 11 and 12. Other than that I played well for 68 holes then nothing. I could not make a putt. It wasn’t the pace. Normally my pace lets me down. But I could not get the ball in the hole. Not that that I would have ever caught Webby but I had 17 or 18 putts more than her in the week. If I’d just holed a few of them, maybe a top 10 finish would have been on the cards. But I would never had got to 26 (under). I did not play that well.
You went into last week with eight consecutive rounds under par. What is the record now?
It is 12 now. I did all four under par. In fact, I had a six-footer at the last for par and I was really glad I knocked it in because it kept the streak going. In some ways, it puts more pressure on you because you want to keep it going. Yes, I pleased with that because I left my first putt quite short.
Do you think Karrie is back to her best and can she sustain it?
Definitely. She is one of the best players in the world. She had had the odd part of her career where there has been a little dip but for most players, that is a really good run. She has a dip that an average player would be pretty happy with. When she turns up and does what she did last week, that is what you expect from Karrie. You expect the good rounds but not the bad ones, and she does not have many. People expect it because she is in the Hall of Fame and she has won so many times. It is like Tiger, if he does not win a tournament for three weeks, he is in a slump. It gets a bit silly really. golf is so difficult to keep the run going. It is so difficult mentally. When Webby gets on a good roll…She started this year in Thailand. I don’t know where she finished in Singapore but I know she played well.
You said tournaments are not won in the press room, but how do you rate your chances?
If I hole enough putts this week I’ll have a good chance, like 15 or 20 other players. I hope my name is amongst them.
Are you a fan of the Sand Belt courses?
This is my favourite sort of golf. Up at Royal Pines last week the grass really did not suit my ball striking. I get a little inconsistent with the wedges. With this grass, especially with the irons, the ball striking becomes more consistent and a lot more accurate. I did not do well at Kingston Heath but I love that golf course. I’m assuming that this is going to be more of the same. I hope I can play well, get a good start and see how it goes.
Pardon the ignorance, but what is the difference between the grass here and there.
There it is much thicker. Last week, even on the fairways, I got a lot of fliers. When I was in trouble last week it was usually with fliers over the back of the green. Here it it much tighter knit. It is quite hard, not spongy. In Thailand it was thick and spongy and that does not help.
How much time do you spend on the mental side of your game?
For me it is everything. I always hit the ball pretty well. Sometimes I get bad thoughts. In the middle of last summer I was struggling. I was hitting it as well as ever but I was not thinking well. It brought me right down. I ended up not playing well.
Do you have a life coach or someone like that to help you?
No. It is all common sense, really. I rationalise it that the worst you can do here is hit one bad shot. That’s what I have to say to myself sometimes so I commit more to the shot. It is pure common sense. If you get too worked up about the odd shot, as I have done in the past, you’ll have a bad run of holes and a bad tournament.
Did you play 18 today?
Did you play even one?
No. It would be too slow. Practice rounds are beyond slow. I gave them up about 20 years ago.
Question about the pro-am.
I know one guy I am playing with tomorrow. I don’t like him. He is a bit of an idiot. Sometimes you get people like that, sometimes you get nice people.
Have you planned your year?
Yes, we get the schedules in December and you know where you are going to be every day of the year.
A fantastic win last week. Are you sick or talking about it or is it still fresh in your mind?
It is still fresh in my mind. I’m not sick of talking about it. It was a very good week. It was good to feel so good on the golf course.
Christina Kim said this course is no different (to Royal Pines) but most of the girls say it is completely different. Do you like the Sand Belt courses?
I have always loved the Sand Belt courses. I love the challenge that the courses provide. I don’t think we will see the scores under par anywhere near last week. It is s totally different mindset this week.
What can you take out of last week for this week?
I take the fact that I handled the pressure very well. My game stood up to a pretty tough test. The biggest thing was even though my putting felt good all week, under the gun on Sunday I was making putts when I really needed to. That is a very positive thing for me.
Is it a pleasant surprise to be going so well at this time of the year?
It is always nice to start the year with a win under the belt. It take a little of the pressure off., the pressure I put on myself to make a good start. Hopefully it will carry over.
It would be nice to go back to back.
It would be great. I would like to at least have a chance on Sunday. As I said before, this course presents a number of challenges different to last week. It will be a different test to my game. Hopefully it will be a good week.
Historically, do you back up after such a good week?
What I’ve noticed in the last few years is that it takes a little more out of me. I don’t think it takes any more out of me than it did but it takes me a little longer to recover. The last couple of days have not been as sharp as they were last week. Hopefully I’ll get an early night tonight and be ready to go tomorrow morning.
Who do you like here?
I gather they have a really good field. It can set up for a number of different players. It is fairly long but I don’t think that favours the big hitters. The key here is hitting fairways and greens. It is pretty hard to get up and down. There is usually one side of the green that is easier than the other but you are usually not aiming for that side. I think fairways and greens and then anyone who is putting well will have a good chance.
Have you played much competitive golf around Commonwealth?
I have not played much around Commonwealth. I think I played the Victorian Strokeplay here in 1992 or ’93. I don’t have much memory of the golf course but I settle pretty well on the Sand Belt courses. I like the challenge presented to me. I like to knuckle down. I know it is not going to be tons under par that wins this week.
Last week you appeared more comfortable over the ball on the greens than you have in a long time. How long is it since you felt you were going to make the putt?
I don’t know the time frame. I just know that I have worked extremely hard on my putting. It is more a matter of telling yourself that you are not a bad putter. You know the things to work on. It is just gaining the confidence. At the end of last year I felt that my putting was turning around but I was still not making anything. I did not feel that it was far away. I had a good off-season and worked on it again. It is nice to start the year fresh. You have not missed any putts for a long time. I took that positive attitude into the tournament in Thailand and had a very good putting week. It gave me a lot of confidence.
Lindsey Wright said she was not sure if she wanted to be the world No. 1. Does that surprise you?
Not necessarily. There are a lot of girls whose goal is to make a living playing golf. We are all very lucky that we play a sport where you don’t have to be the best in the world to make a living. I can only speak from my own experience. I enjoyed playing golf when I was No. 1 but I never really enjoyed the pressures associated with that. I would probably handle things differently now because I am a lot older. I’d be prepared for what’s coming. I think I understand you guys a little better, what your job is and what my job is when I come in here. I would handle it a little differently. What Lindsey is probably referring to is the extra commitments there are. Not just putting in the work to be No. 1. You sacrifice your whole life to get there. I don’t criticise Lindsey for saying that. There were time when I felt I would be perfectly happy to be No. 2 in the world. But when you aim for No. 2, you don’t necessarily get No. 2. If you aim at No. 1, you are trying to be as good as you can be. I think that is the ultimate goal. I don’t say that any more because it holds me back from achieving what I can achieve. I want to be as good as I can be. Whatever that is is what it is.
Do you sacrifice your whole life?
It is not as dramatic as that. It was something that I chose to do. But you do make a lot of sacrifices. As a teenager none of my friends had a clue why I rather go away for a golf tournament than go to a party and hang out and stuff like that. They get it now. I did not feel that I was sacrificing anything at that time. It was what I wanted to do. As time goes on you learn to juggle what’s important and when you have to say, No. In any job where you have to climb the ladder and get to the top of the company, there are sacrifices, extra hours you have to put in to do it, just the same as we do.
So you would not like to be the No. 1?
No, that is not what I said. I said I wanted to be the best I could. If that is No. 1 again, than is fantastic. I cannot control Lorena Ochoa winning 10 or 12 events unless I go head to head with her and try and win some of them. The difference is that I don’t wake up in the morning and say that is what I want to do. That’s what I did when I was younger. I have more perspective on my life and on golf and what I want from it.
You are playing with Alexis (Thompson) tomorrow. What are your thoughts on her?
She has played a number of tournaments on the LPGA and a couple of US Opens. I have not seen her play. I’ve heard a lot of great things about her. It will be interesting to play alongside her for a couple of days.
Is it a tough ask at 15?
I think it was a tough ask when she was 12 and played in the US Open. I don’t think this is anything new for her.
Is this your first trip to Australia?
This is my first time out of the US.
Have you played the course?
Yes, I played it today and yesterday.
Can you tell us what you think about it?
It is really nice. It is in great shape after all the rain. The greens are rolling really good. I am looking forward to it.
What are the strengths of your game?
Probably my driving.
Where in Florida are you from?
And you are at Westchester Elementary?
I went to Westchester…Now I am home schooled, since sixth grade.
Do you travel much?
Yes. I have very few weeks off.
What is your average drive?
Around 245 (yards). It depends on the roll.
After this, where do you go? Are you just here for the week.
Yes, I am leaving Monday.
Back to Florida?
Where is your next tournament?
It is two weeks after this. The Kraft Nabisco in California.
Do you love the travel?
How does your Dad enjoy it?
He is enjoying it a lot.
Have you seen any koalas or kangaroos yet?
We have not gone anywhere yet but we are going to a nature reserve after this.
Do you have brothers and sisters?
I have two older brothers, 17 and 27. They both play golf. The 27-year-old (Nicholas) is on the PGA Tour.
Do you play with your older brother?
We all play when he is at home.
Who is your coach?
Have you been with him all along?
For about two years.
How old were you when you started?
Around five. My brothers were playing. It pretty much grew on me.
Who was your first coach?
My Dad (Scott). He helped me out when I first started. Then I went to Jim.
What is your schedule from here?
We are not too sure about it yet. I know I am playing in the Kraft Nabisco in two weeks but we are still working on my schedule.
How many would you like to play?
I would like to play in the US Open again, the Kraft and a few more.
Does your father play with you and your brothers?
He comes out occasionally. He walks with me a lot.
What do you think of Australia so far?
It’s really nice. I like it here. The weather did not really work out when I came here but it is supposed to get better.
What time did you get here on Saturday?
Did you experience the storm?
Yes. We got the hail.
How many tournament would you play in a year?
I usually play two every month. Do the math.
To do well in the tournaments I am playing and eventually go pro.
At what age?
Whenever I feel that I can make it.
Are you driven to win a major?
I want to play really well in this one. I think I can win. I am not going, like, I know I can win.
Have you played on this type of course?
It is not actually that different from what I play on. The only different is that if we got this rain, they would be flooded. The greens don’t hold shots so much.
What is your home course?
When is your birthday?
So you think you can win here?
I think I can, if I have four good days of solid play. I feel pretty good about my game. .
You had a great week last week. You said you are pleased with your game.
In my book it was pretty good. In most countries where you shoot 20 under you would think you’d win a tournament, but not last week. Karrie was fantastic and fun to watch. It was great golf.
You are in great shape. Are you training?
Yes, I have just started working with Richard Nizielski in Brisbane. He was a speed skater. He skated for Australia in the Commonwealth Games. When I did my 3-D swing test on January 5 with Michael Dalgeish I also did a physical competency test with Richard. Steve (McRae) my coach figured out what I needed to do to get the new hip sequence stuff going. Richard knows what it is to get the lower body working and that is what we are working on.
Did you say a new hip sequence?
Yes. With the 3-D testing they have head, chest and back sensors… I had to wear a glove too and that felt really goofy. We found that when I swing back (inaudible) and on the way through I’d go fast and my right hip swings high and towards the ball. Michael deemed that “shaft shagging”. Unfortunately, there is no G-rated version of that. Good luck trying to figure out how to put it in the paper…They reckon resequencing my hips is going to take about six months. But with physio, training stuff and gym, it might happen a little faster. It is retraining the muscles and ingraining it.
Did you feel there was a need to change the swing?
For my height and strength, I don’t hit it very far. That tells you that something is not sequenced well. You tell on video that I lose a lot of lag. This is because my upper body is firing first and my lower body is stalling. I am not doing it to get length. I am doing it to become a more consistent ball striker. I have found in the last few weeks that my misses are a lot better already.
How exciting was it to play in the final group last week?
It was awesome. We were a total of 23 under and I had two bogeys. I don’t think Karrie or Bo-Mee made a bogey. That’s pretty darn good. We were all rolling in putts from everywhere. Karrie made that eagle on seven and I chipped in on five. We were all feeding off each other. You try to beat the girls you are playing with but at the same time it is fun to watch someone go that low.
Does it give you confidence going into this week?
On the course yes. Off the course, not. I am having some visa issues. I have always been able to walk onto the first tee and block everything else out. The course course becomes my sanctuary. I can be having a nightmare off the golf course but find peace when I step on to that first tee.
On February 14th in Thailand the photo page of my passport fell out. In a nutshell, my passport was impounded and destroyed. This also destroyed my US visa. I got a new passport. That was an ordeal in itself. Now I have to get a US visa in order to play. Being in Thailand and Singapore, I could not do anything about it and last week I did not give it a high enough priority because I was busy focusing on golf. We are working on it.
Tell us about the different personalities on the course.
We have 144 different personalities out there each week. We are a travelling circus, actually. Throw in some hormones in and it is crazy. I don’t know how the caddies put up with us. Some people will be quiet and larrikins off the course, some are the other way around. Christina Kim is great. So is Laura. Wherever those two go, they draw a crowd. It does not matter how they are playing, they are just fun to watch. Your personality tends to show more in golf than in other sports because there is such a long time between shots. It is not like tennis. You can have a conversation.
Where do you fit in?
I play my best golf when I am talking and having fun. I am learning how to control the on-off switch. When you get to your golf ball, you turn the switch on and then flick the switch off to resume normal conversation. Christina has a book coming out in April. She’ll probably talk to you about it. She reveals some of the stuff we talk about. We talk about random stuff. You need to do it. If it was all golf four five hours, your brain would burn out. Really, we are looking at a minute of concentration, hopefully only 68 times a round. That in essence is all it takes.