I guess most people who win a major championship don’t go straight to their coach or sports psychologist for help, but then again, I’m not most people.
After winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship, I flew home to Florida for a few days of rest and media obligations. By that Thursday, I was back on the West Coast visiting the ladies of Vision 54 in Phoenix. I spoke to Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott prior to the Kraft, and they said I needed two mental things to get me through the four days. You might think of it as going to a happy place. I went with singing country songs and thinking about being out on my boat, fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Needless to say, those worked, especially when it came to calming my nerves during the final round at Mission Hills. But those were just short term fixes, and the trip to Phoenix was what my game really needed — a mental makeover.
Life has been good since winning, but I’m not taking it for granted. A few more people have recognized me, and a lot more media have asked for interviews, but that’s the fun part. My phone has been ringing, and buzzing, and ringing, and buzzing with congratulatory calls, texts and e-mails, and of course with requests from my agent, Jeff, and from the LPGA media relations department. It’s nice to see how genuinely happy people are for me, and it’s also great to know how many people tuned in to watch us. Sometimes I forget how many eyeballs are really on me. I’m glad I didn’t think about that before I stepped up to that four-foot eagle putt.
Of course there are perks that come with winning. On Wednesday, I took advantage of one by going to the Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Bobcats game. The Magic asked me to be the Fan of the Game, which meant being on-court prior to the team introductions to hype up the crowd. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous, but I survived. They even asked me back onto the court for a promotion later in the game. When it comes to being a fan, I love basketball, but baseball is my true passion. My hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays, have invited me to throw out the first pitch again in two weeks when they host the Boston Red Sox. I’ve had some practice from the mound at Tropicana Field, but throwing out the first pitch will never get old.
While everything outside the ropes is fun, I can’t let it get overwhelming. I’m still trying to perfect a swing change I made in the offseason, and I’m still working on the mental side of my game. Next week, I’ll be in Mexico for the LPGA’s Corona Championship. Last year, the tournament asked me to host a clinic for some local kids before play started. I remember standing on the range, the wind blowing 30 miles per hour, trying to hit shots and speak broken Spanish. Thinking back to that now, at that very moment, I never imagined I would return as a major champion.