On Wednesday, Cristie Kerr sat down with members of the media to discuss the upcoming Safeway Classic at Pumpkin Ridge, her #1 World Ranking and more. As world’s number one women’s golfer comes to Portland, read on for her thoughts on the course, the city, having children, and Dustin Johnson’s situation at the recent PGA Championship.
Q Cristie Kerr, welcome. You’re the 2008 Safeway Classic champion. I know you didn’t win here at Pumpkin Ridge, but talk a little bit about the feelings of coming back to a tournament you’ve won.
CRISTIE KERR: Well, there’s great memories being back in Portland. I love this place. Hopefully we’ll be able to visit some wineries while we’re here, hopefully. Yeah, I have a knack at winning tournaments and not getting to defend on the course that I win on, but Ghost Creek is a great golf course, it’s in great condition this year, and I’m looking forward to playing.
Q So, you’re number one in the Rolex Rankings, you moved up there obviously without playing a tournament. Talk a little bit about what it’s doing for the game this year in regards to all the great storylines and what you have to do to stay up there.
CRISTIE KERR: For sure. You know, it’s interesting the way the ranking system works with, you know, I got to number one and lost it by not playing and then I got it back by not playing. So it’s kind of weird. But this is a great time in women’s golf. There’s a lot of people there contending for number one in the world this year. And to be able to stay there I’ve just got to play well, you know, every week just be consistent. And that’s my goal for the rest of the year.
Q Cristie, being the first American to be number one, how meaningful is that for you?
CRISTIE KERR: It’s very meaningful. You know, it’s something you dream about since you were a little kid and you practice that six-foot putt to win a tournament to be the best in the world. And, you know, I’ve always dreamed of that and I’ve worked for it. And it means so much for me to be at the pinnacle of my profession and my sport. And I’ve just, like I said, just keep playing consistently well and try and do what I did in Rochester where instead of just being content with playing well, try to extend it, you know. So get some space in the ranking system and, you know, just playing consistently and playing consistent golf will do that.
Q Did you expect that you were going to climb back to number one this week or did it catch you by surprise?
CRISTIE KERR: A little bit by surprise just because I don’t really follow that stuff on the off weeks. I try to get away from golf a little bit. And, you know, I guess it was only fitting that I got it back by not playing when I lost it by not playing.
Q Did somebody call you or did you pick up the newspaper?
CRISTIE KERR: I just had some friends e-mail me. And then, you know, I checked out LPGA.com and it was on there.
Q Did being number one change the way you sort of feel about your place in golf?
CRISTIE KERR: That’s a good question. I feel like I am the best in the world. You know, I feel like if I continue to play the way that I have that I will continue to be the best in the world. You know, it’s a greet feeling, it’s where you want to be, it’s what you work for, and I feel like I’ve worked for all those things. And I’ve just got to keep working hard and just keep making golf a priority. I think when I first got to number one about six weeks ago or a month ago, there were a lot of other things that I had to media-wise and I got very little time to practice actually before the U.S. Women’s Open, trying to get rest and trying to do all that kind of stuff. And I think what I learned from that was that I’ve still got to make golf a priority. You know, I’ve got to try and get rest and I’ve got to make golf a priority and just fit all that other stuff in as best as I can instead of making that the priority. But, you know, it’s, like you said, I’m the first American to have done that, and I was thrust into that by my good play. So, you know, I’ve always been the kind of person that has to learn how to handle those kinds of things as I go along and I think that I’m more comfortable now.
Q It had to feel good the way you did it, you know, winning a major and —
CRISTIE KERR: Oh, for sure. And the way I won the major, you know, two out of three weeks to do that. And this is important for American golf in this country, I think. I’m one of the players that was carrying the torch for that, and I think that we’ve been a very international core for a long time, but we’re still an American-based tour and it’s important for, you know, especially for the tournaments in the United States to have an American be at the top here.
Q Cristie, the majors are done for the season. Do you think the players will or have turned their focus more to the rankings then the money list?
CRISTIE KERR: I think the players are always focused on that, but, you know, we only have nine or ten tournaments left in total until the end of the year, and I think people always follow that stuff but maybe a little bit more now. I’m just going to try and focus on my golf, you know, getting rest, trying to also get away from golf on the off weeks. And I’ve got a lot of stuff going on as well with, you know, I have my breast cancer benefit September 16 at Liberty National in New Jersey coming up, so there’s some other stuff that we have to do, but trying to keep the priority on golf as much as possible.
Q You talked about dreaming of this day back when you were young and hitting all those putts. When did you first I mean really seriously believe, hey, I can be the best in the world?
CRISTIE KERR: It might sound bad to say, but I’ve always felt like I had the ability and the talent, and I always felt like I could be number one. You know, I think that if you’re a professional golfer and you don’t think that way, you’ll probably never get there. So I feel like I’ve had that within me forever, you know, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And I’ve always known how good I am, but it’s taken me to mature a little bit as a person along the way over the years, and, you know, now I’m ready to be able to handle all that stuff.
Q And the first time you picked up a club, or very early in your life, who was your idol? Who did you look at and say, hey, I want to be her or him?
CRISTIE KERR: I think I wanted to be Nancy Lopez. You know she, was one of my idols growing up. And all the great American golfers: Juli Inkster, Beth Daniel, Meg Mallon, Rosie Jones, all the great American golfers, I envied them all so much and I wanted to be them, and, you know, that’s how I got involved in wanting to play golf. I watched those players play and win tournaments on TV and that’s how I got exposed to professional women’s golf. So it’s fitting that I’m here now saying I wanted to be them and I am them, and it’s a great honor.
Q The first time you met Nancy, since she was — let’s just say her, you mentioned a group there — but the first time you met Nancy, what did that mean to you?
CRISTIE KERR: It was an amazing experience for me. I think I might have been 14 years old. I played in Orlando, I forgot the sponsor of the tournament back then, but I had qualified for the LPGA tournament and I got paired with her. And I was terrified. She was my idol, but at the same time I was a kid and I was playing with her in a tournament. And, you know, years later, many years later said I didn’t look terrified at all, I was very focused and all this stuff. And that’s me, but, I mean, I was a kid back then. And I was so excited but at the same scared to be playing with my idol Nancy Lopez.
Q That’s cool. Cristie, the last couple big number ones you’ve had on tour kind of retired maybe prematurely. How long do you think you’ll play?
CRISTIE KERR: I’m not ready to give up my career any time soon. No, Annika had a very long career actually. I mean, she won like over 70 times, and, you know, she waited until she was in her late 30s to have children, and I think that’s a pretty full career. I mean, anybody that wins, you know, ten or more tournaments has a pretty good career. But she won 70 times and — I mean, I think with Lorena maybe prematurely, but not to her obviously. She wanted to go do some other things in her life and golf wasn’t exciting to her anymore. So, I mean, she stepped away I guess for her own reasons. For me, I love playing. The travel gets a little harder every year, but I’m very lucky to have my husband traveling with me most of the time, when he’s not doing his other business endeavors. And that makes it a lot easier. We’re not ready to have kids. You know, I’m in my early 30s. You know, you can have kids all the way up until you’re 40, and so for us there’s no rush. We want to be able to, when we have a kid, to be able to dedicate the time necessary to that to not short change them. Because I don’t want to have a kid and put them in day care and then practice for eight hours and neglect them. I would never do that. So when we’re ready to have kids we will.
Q Cristie, how much less hard on yourself are you today as the world’s number one player?
CRISTIE KERR: No, not at all. I’m very hard on myself. Oh yeah, you have to be if you want to be the best. Anybody who’s — some of the best golfers in the world are very hard on themselves. Don’t kid yourself.
Q Cristie, the weird rules thing at the PGA championship this past week, do you have any good stories on yourself in that regard?
CRISTIE KERR: Not really. I mean, I’m usually pretty aware of what’s going on, especially when you get ground your club on the green and it’s windy, the ball will move or something like that. But, you know, that was a shame for him. I was sad to see that happen to him. But at the beginning of the week they had a rule sheet that said this is what it is, and I think a couple holes before that he had asked the rules official, is this a bunker or not a bunker or something like that. And, I don’t know, if I was the caddie, I just know that the caddie was trying to move some stuff, the people out of the way, I would have just made sure. I mean, you’re leading the last major championship of the year, you should know kind of is it a bunker or not a bunker, whether there are people standing in it or not. So I felt really bad for him. I thought it was kind of bad luck, because it was so out of the way, it looked like a little dirt patch and it ended up being a bunker. It was just kind of bad luck for him.