LPGA phenom Paula Creamer met with the media via teleconference yesterday. Creamer is preparing to defend her title next week at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Hawaii.
The 21 year old laid out what she has been up to in the off-season, how she feels about her success last year and what lies ahead for her as she strives to be the number one player on the world. She even talked a little Tiger…
I thought you all might enjoy the transcript…(and I am not telling you which questions were mine!!) Mike Scanlan of the LPGA Tour moderated the Q&A Session.
MIKE SCANLAN: Paula thanks for joining us. If you would, talk about what you’ve been up to since we last saw you at ADT.
PAULA CREAMER: I took about seven weeks off after ADT. I still practiced within that time, maybe ten times, but I really took a big chunk of time off and put the clubs away to focus on what my goals were and also looked back on last year to see what I needed to improve. As soon as the first of the year came around, I started hitting and practicing more and I’ve been at it ever since.
MIKE SCANLAN: 2008 is shaping up to be anybody’s year. You’re certainly a frontrunner. Talk about what your goals are this season.
PAULA CREAMER: My goals are always just to be the best that I can be. I’ve worked really hard in the offseason. There are a lot of other goals that I have that are off the golf course – maintaining my fitness and what I’ve been doing in the offseason, changing my golf swing and trying not to revert back to what I’ve done in the past where I don’t work out as much when I’m on the road and I don’t practice my technique as much in my golf swing. Those are probably my two main goals to accomplish before the end of the year. Of course, (I want to) become the number one player in the world and have a solid year based on the majors and go out and win as many tournaments as we can.
Q. I understand you’re living and practicing at Isleworth (Golf and Country Club). Can you tell me if that is true and do you run into Tiger Woods on the range? Have you played with him? Would you like to someday?
PAULA CREAMER: I do live out there. I moved there last February and I do practice out there. Tiger is out there. I see him on the driving range and chipping and putting a lot. We haven’t been able to play yet, but we talk. I hope that I can play golf with him. That would be nice.
Q. Do you talk about your game? Has he given you any tips? Or do you just talk about other things?
PAULA CREAMER: We pretty much talk about everything. A little bit about my game, the LPGA Tour schedule, what events are coming up. Right now we’re talking a lot about Tavistock Cup because that event is in March and we’ll be on the same team which is pretty exciting. Just normal conversations, I guess.
Q. You won the The Mitchell Company LPGA Tournament of Champions – the next to last event last year. What did that do to your confidence, heading into the new year? Also, with the Tournament of Champions no longer on the event and the new Bell Micro LPGA Classic in Mobile, I’m wondering if you have it on your schedule
PAULA CREAMER: Winning at the end of the year did help my confidence a lot. I felt confident going into the later part of the season last year and I tried to really grind through that. The ideal season would have been bookend wins, but we got close to that I guess. I haven’t gotten quite that far with my schedule yet, but obviously I like the golf course. I played well there. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.
Q. I wanted to know – there’s been a lot of talk about the PGA Tour starting its schedule too early in the year – do you like where the LPGA starts its schedule? If you wore the commissioner’s shoes for the day, where would you start the schedule?
PAULA CREAMER: That’s a good question. I like to have a break. It’s good to be able to be at home and practice some things so you don’t feel like you’re constantly living out of a suitcase. A lot of other sports do start early, golf, tennis, they’re all back in January. It depends on the events. I think, as an athlete, you do need a rest. It’s hard to get better if you’re always on the road.
Q. From what you’ve seen, do you think Annika still has the fire in her belly?
PAULA CREAMER: She’s not a quitter and I know that she’s going to give it her all these next couple of years. I’m sure she’ll make a big push to get back to where she was.
Q. When you look at Lorena (Ochoa), another young player in whatever generation we’re up to now, when you evaluate her game and your game, do you have the chops to get to number one? You’ll have to go through her to do it.
PAULA CREAMER: I do. I feel that my game is there. There are a lot of things I need to get better on, the main thing is getting longer. That’s a huge part of what’s holding me back. Confidence-wise, when she plays out there, that’s what it’s all about. She knows she can get it in the hole. That’s important. Everyone has that, but when you’re in confidence-mode with that kind of feeling, nothing is in your way.
Q. You mentioned getting longer. Is that a conditioning issue?
PAULA CREAMER: Its strength and a lot of it is golf swing. Overall it’s a mixture of everything: conditioning, getting stronger, technique.
Q. One of your big battles last year was at the CN Canadian Women’s Open. Do you have plans to make that tournament this year?
PAULA CREAMER: Of course. I would not miss the (CN) Canadian Women’s Open. I know I had scheduling issues during my rookie year when I went to Japan, but I will be there again this year.
Q. Does it count a little more for you because it’s a national open?
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, it’s a great field and we play beautiful courses in Canada. It’s a big event for everybody. You want to go out and play well.
Q. Talk about the depth of talent that will be facing you this year?
PAULA CREAMER: Every year, golf gets better and better and people get stronger. Creativity goes with that. It’s going to be a good year. We’re going to see who’s been working hard and who hasn’t been. Overall, we have a great schedule with good weeks off at points around the majors. I don’t think there will be any big, long stretches. Maintaining your stamina is big.
Q. If you could have any part of Tiger’s game or his bank account or his yacht, what would you take and put into your life?
PAULA CREAMER: It would probably have to be putting. He’s the best putter alive. I would say putting and his mentality. Those two things are worth it.
Q. When you get off an airplane in Hong Kong, your face is the first thing you see. Do you feel extra pressure being one of the faces of women’s golf?
PAULA CREAMER: No, not really. I put a lot of hard work into it and I try to be the best that I can. It’s actually pretty cool to be known like that. It’s also very humbling at the same time. You have to go out and perform. Performance is the biggest part of anybody’s career. It’s how well they do and how much they win. It’s pretty exciting, especially when you see young girls and boys out there getting involved in golf because of you. That’s the neatest thing about being a golfer, the impact you have on young people.
Q. You talked about some of the off the course goals. What are some of those?
PAULA CREAMER: Mainly just the workouts I’ve been doing and maintaining my diet. Things like that. They’ve kind of held me back the last couple of years. It may not change this year, I might not see results, but I think in two years or so it will really show. I know I need to work on it.
Q. You talked a little about adding distance to your game. Have you been able to do that yet in the offseason?
PAULA CREAMER: Actually, no, because I am so sore, I can’t even really hit many balls. I feel a lot stronger though and I feel more fit. I talked about it before and it might not be something I can do right away, but even if I can start maintaining it by September or October, I feel like I will get longer. I feel like I’m maybe half a club or so right now.
Q. Have you started to think about drug testing and what you’re eating yet?
PAULA CREAMER: Actually, yeah I have. You’re very aware of what you eat now, protein shakes and things like that. It kind of puts a new set of eyes on what you eat and what you can’t, but I think it’s good for the game of golf. It’s influenced by other sports that are doing it and we need to be part of it as well. I have not seen a list of what we can eat and what we cannot eat. We just have the substances that we cannot have.
Q. Have you given that list to a trainer or a dietician?
PAULA CREAMER: We’ve talked about it. There are certain things you see in things you eat or bars that you eat, but I have not. It’s hard enough to get an answer about what you can and cannot eat.
Q. Can you talk about the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore? You’ve had a pretty good reception in Asia the last few times you’ve been over. You played that course at Lexus Cup. Can you talk about that course and the event?
PAULA CREAMER: I love going over to Asia, to Japan and Korea several times. Going to Singapore, it’s such a cool place. It’s very, very hot, but it’s beautiful. The golf course that we play is spectacular and I know when we go it will be in top condition. I’m looking forward to the event. New events are something we like and the field will be great. That’s what you ask for. You want big name tournaments with big fields.
Q. Is there any added pressure to have to defend a title the first week of the season?
PAULA CREAMER: I don’t know if it’s extra pressure, but people have nerves because we haven’t really been competitive for very long. I think it’s just getting used to the routine again. I always know that when I go to an event I can practice hard and get used to things again and get back out there, so I’m looking forward to defending my title, I really am. Obviously I won it last year and there’s no reason I can’t win it again.
Q. I’m wondering, this year there are three LPGA tournaments in Mexico. Will you be playing all three?
PAULA CREAMER: I’m not 100% sure I’ll be playing all three. I’ve been up in the air on the first event and I haven’t decided. We’ll see with the first one. I love going there. The fans are great and everyone has supported me.
Q. When will you know if you’re coming to BosqueReal?
PAULA CREAMER: I have not decided. Maybe after the first couple of events.
Q. A scheduling thing – Annika is playing both events in Hawaii and she hasn’t in the past. Lorena is not starting until Singapore. Are you surprised in any way about that combination?
PAULA CREAMER: The events in Hawaii are far away, but they are good tournaments. They aren’t huge purses, but it’s nice when you already have so many weeks off in the offseason to get back and get competitive again. I’m surprised Annika is playing, but I guess it’s good because she hasn’t played in it before. She wants to come out and play good this year so it isn’t surprising at all.