The LPGA’s JTBC Founders Cup: Wednesday Interviews

Cheyenne Woods was first up. She’s a hometown girl from Phoenix and received a sponsor’s exemption for that and presumably because she won the Ladies European Tour’s Australian Ladies Masters. This is how a career can begin: she was in the Ladies Masters on a sponsor’s invitation and she made the most of it.

But she’s decided to concentrate on winning her card by playing on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour. Better making the effort for a locked up card than relying on invites.

I have been fortunate enough to receive invites to this event and the Australian Masters, but I don’t want to depend on invites and have to try to hopefully play well and earn my way here.  I’d rather play a full season on Symetra and have a great year and earn it that way playing Top‑10 on the Money List.

So I took the opportunity to ask her how the process of getting to the Tour was going for her. 

Q.  You’ve been playing competitive golf for a long time; how does it feel now that you’re almost at the doorstep of the LPGA?

It’s exciting for me because I have been playing competitively since I was eight years old and it’s all been my dream to play the LPGA Tour.

So for me to have an opportunity to play in an event like this means a lot.  But it would mean even more if I was able to earn my status here and be able to play full time.  That’s always been a goal of mine and my ultimate dream, but I think it’s definitely close and I’m looking forward to when it’s finally here.

Q.  Is it going fast for you or has it been a long time?

I feel like the time flew by, and it does feel like just yesterday that I was out here watching the ladies rather than being inside the ropes so I think it’s gone by really quick.

Q.  So there’s no suffering?

No, no, never any suffering (laughing).

Next up was Karrie Webb, LPGA Hall of Famer, and who just won her 40th LPGA Tour event, the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. In the course of her opening conversation, she joked that back in the day she would have been upset if she had a string of Top 10’s:

You know, recently, Stacy Lewis had 13 Top 10s in a row, and I didn’t even know that at the time that I had 16 Top 10s in a row.  And then someone asked me about it and I said, well, I didn’t know I had 16 Top 10s in a row, and at the time I probably would have been pissed off that I didn’t win more in that period.  So I didn’t care that I had had 16 Top 10s.

And now, if I can string two or three together, I’m ecstatic and I’m on a roll.  That’s the things that you learn as you get older.

Someone asked her after 19 years if the fire still burned:

Definitely the fire still burns.  I’m still just as hard on myself and still expect the people around me to have the high standards that I set myself.

I’m probably not the same as — I think I have a lot more perspective than I did from the first win and appreciate the good golf a lot more than I did.

So taking off on that “perspective” and her Top 10 joke, I tried to gently probe around the issue of the body’s aging process and to what extent she was aware of it. Let’s just say that the fire still does burn:

Q.  Coming off your 40th win, you joked a minute ago about being happy with three Top 10s now.  Is that because your body is changing?  Is your skill‑set eroding?  Where are you in the spectrum?

Well, without being too sarcastic, I’m No. 6 in the world, so I don’t know if it’s my skill‑set eroding.

It’s just harder to do than I thought back then, and I think youth has its place in the game of golf, and you see that every week.  And ask those same girls, ten years from now, is the game different; do you play the game differently now than you did then.

I think even though I was achieving the things I was achieving at a young age, now I know — at the time I thought I knew everything and that I knew what was going on and I knew how to play the game of golf, and I was playing that on pure talent and not a lot of understanding of what was going on.  It’s just a lot harder to do.  I think when you play without fear or without knowing, you sometimes can achieve things that you don’t achieve as easily when you get older.

Well, there’s the wisdom inside the burning fire: “I think when you play without fear or without knowing, you sometimes can achieve things that you don’t achieve as easily when you get older.”

So I asked her for a little perspective on the depth of fields over the years:

Q.  How do you see the competition base these days compared to back when you were starting on your run?

I think the fields are certainly deeper.  I think, you know — obviously we have 16 and 17‑year‑olds out here now.  When I was a rookie on Tour, I was the youngest on Tour and I was 21 [Wow!].  Now those girls have been on Tour for five years [Geez].

And you’re calling me a veteran at 28, 29, so those girls are going to be a veteran at 22, 23 now.

The fields are certainly deeper.  I think when I first came on Tour, you’d say 20 or 30 players had a realistic chance of winning every week.  People outside of that group would win but that was the group and I think that’s definitely expanded to 50 or 60 definitely.

Again you still have the surprise winners — and to me, it never surprises me because I feel anyone is capable of winning out here.  That’s why they have an LPGA Tour card.

And then the LPGA’s “All-American Girl Next Door,” Paula Creamer came in. And the moderator began with what everybody wanted to know about, “The Putt.” The 75-foot bomb she made across six time zones to win the HSBC Women’s Championship in Singapore.

Kelly Theiser: What everybody has been asking you about, I think we are now calling it The Putt, because it’s been everywhere and we have seen it, and there’s a video we posted on LPGA.com of all the different announcers from around the world that talked about that.

Take me back to that moment and what it’s been like since the reaction of sinking such a remarkable putt.

Yeah, it’s been pretty cool to come back.  It was nice to have two weeks off after that and just truly enjoy it.  It’s been a long time coming; I think just to hold a trophy, let alone in that style and that fashion for sure.

But it was remarkable.  The time that it happened, everything, and my reaction was just, that was me.  I had — what do you do?  You can’t plan for that?  That’s just pure genuine of holy smokes, it just went in the hole from that far away.

You know, it was, it was exciting, and I never realized how big the putt really was.  I just was excited I finally won, let alone like I said, a 75‑footer.  It is; that’s golf, that’s the way things happen, and Colin was shaking his head at me just because, you know, we’ve had a lot of up‑and‑downs on the golf course with things and finally something kind of went my way, on a moment, he just shook his head at me.

I was struck by the comparison of the PGA Tour’s, John Senden’s putt to secure his win just last week in Tampa:

Q.  When John Senden won last week in Tampa he had a big, ten‑foot breaking putt that he hit to inches to save his par and win his tournament. What he said is he just “looked at it lightly.”  How hard did you work the line on that putt of yours?

You could see I was walking over because there’s so many ways to play those long putts.  I was talking to Colin, it’s more about from that distance, what you leave yourself. And I wish you could kind of hear — I said, “I know the higher I play it, it’s going to be the fastest coming down, but it’s really the only way that I can get it somewhat close.”

I could go farther left and be a little bit safer and kind of be maybe hopefully just inside off [Azahara Munoz’s] mark, but I don’t play that way and he knows that and he just said just do it — you know what you’re doing and that kind of thing.

But those are just feel putts.  It was 75 feet but it was really like 35 feet because I was putting it sidewise across the ridge and the last part of it was just straight downhill.

After her interview, the LPGA media staff put up ESPN’s package on The Putt, with announcers from around the world calling the action. As Paula watched the putt drop over and over again and her delirious reaction each time, her smile grew wider and wider and her eye’s glistened with joy.

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2 Responses to The LPGA’s JTBC Founders Cup: Wednesday Interviews

  1. Dave Andrews says:

    If she intends to earn her LPGA card through the Symetra Tour, skipping events like this week’s in Florida to play in an LPGA event in Phoenix is not the best idea. It will be interesting to see how many sponsor invitations to LPGA events she turns down this season because they conflict with Symetra Tour events. If she skips several Symetra events her odds of finishing in the top 10 and earning her 2015 LPGA card are slim.

    • Bill Rand says:

      Thanks, Dave. You are absolutely right and Cheyenne knows it well. She took this one because it was her home game and she said it would be the last. She is committed to Symetra because she knows that’s the surer path to the LPGA.