The LPGA Championship has started at the Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York. After her Wednesday practice, Golf.com caught up with Cristie Kerr, the top-ranked American in women’s golf, to get the scoop on the golf course and the new No. 1 player in the world, Ai Miyazato.
Cristie, please tell us about the golf course. What are the key holes?
There are a lot of really good par 4s on the course. They are all kind of key with the rough being as thick as it is. The greens are small and slopey and fast. On Sunday, if you’re in contention and you play the back nine great, you’ll end up winning the tournament.
There were a number of changes made to the golf course since last year when Jiyai Shin won the Wegmans LPGA there, including the addition of 140 yards for a total of 6,506. How will that play out this week?
Just a few of the par 4s have been moved back 10 or 20 yards. It’s nothing hugely major. What they’ve really done is narrowed the fairways on 10 holes.
Have the courses on tour gotten longer over the years?
They have gotten a lot longer. I’m probably 15 yards longer than I was when I came onto the tour in 1996, and that’s a result of the equipment and the ball and the fact that my swing has gotten better.
How has your swing changed over the years?
It’s more simplified now. I work a lot on my swing plane. I try to make my swing as pressure-proof as possible.
Will Locust Hill play fast and firm like what we had last week at the U.S. Open?
Not even close. We had two inches of rain on Tuesday and the course wasn’t very fast to begin with. I think it’s going to play even longer because of the rain. Right now the greens are holding fairly well, but as the week goes on I think the greens will firm up, but I don’t think the fairways will.
How does the course set up for your game?
I love the course. I’ve played well here. There are great crowds. It feels like a major this week.
In 11 LPGA Tour events this season, you are the only American winner after beating Anna Nordqvist and Na Yeon Choi by a stroke at the State Farm Classic two weeks ago. How does that feel? Is there any added pressure in that?
I definitely like being in that position. We don’t have to keep asking that question, “When is an American going to win?”
Is it harder than ever to win on the LPGA Tour? You’ve been on the tour 14 years now.
Yes. There are a few names that you see every week, but the tour is very, very deep now. All the Asian players are very good golfers. There are probably 50 to 60 girls that can win now.
What can you tell me about Ai Miyazato, who has won four times this season on the LPGA Tour?
She is a very consistent ball striker. She has a very good short game — awesome putter. She’s not very long off the tee but very accurate.
Are you happy with the job that Commissioner Mike Whan has done as the head of the LPGA?
I think he’s done a great job. People seem to really like him. He’s very personable and he understands the business and he’s fostered a lot of new relationships that are taking us in the right direction.
You play from the men’s tees when you’re off the tour?
I usually play back as far as I can play. It’s easy when you got sand wedges in, but you have to work on your long game a lot of the time. I grew up playing with guys on my high school team and it was always the natural thing for me to do. I can’t speak for the whole tour, but I know of about four or five of us on the tour who do this regularly.
Do you still split time between New York City and Florida?
Yes. In the summer I represent Liberty National in Jersey City so that’s where I practice.
Do you feel like a New Yorker?
I feel like a New Yorker but my heart will always be in Florida where my parents live.
What are your goals for the remainder of the season?
I would like to win at least one of the next two majors. I’ve got to add to my lonely U.S. Open title.
Did you watch any of the U.S. Open last week?
I caught only the last hole.
Have you ever been in that position that Dustin Johnson was in where you blow a big lead like that under intense pressure?
Yes. But it’s not like I want to really talk about that going into a major.
Is that U.S. Open win in 2007 the best golf of your life?
I wouldn’t say that it’s the best I’ve played. It was a pretty amazing accomplishment for me to handle that kind of pressure down the stretch. But the best I’ve probably played in a tournament was probably two weeks ago at the State Farm Classic, where I shot 22 under.
Will Locust Hill give up at 22 under score?
No. I think high single digits to 10 or 11 under is going to be the winning number this week.