January 15, 2019
CHRISTINA LANCE: We're going to wrap up with our last press availability of today. We're calling this our contenders press conference. A couple of our big LPGA names, several of the big celebrity contenders here in the field. I'll take the moment to introduce the two women sitting in the middle. We have Cristie Kerr and Lydia Ko, both multiple winners on the LPGA Tour. On the far side, Mardy Fish, who won this event last year, the 2018 Diamond Resorts Invitational, as well as Mark Mulder and Jack Wagner. Thank you all for joining us.
Cristie, I'm going to jump in the middle with you. You know a lot of these guys from events and previous things around the year. Tell us what you're most looking forward to this year and catching up with people that you don't necessarily get to see that often.
CRISTIE KERR: Actually, a lot of them just came and played in my charity event in December, so that's pretty good. Colt Ford is here and a couple of the other guys.
It will be interesting -- first of all, I think it would almost be a lot easier if this was like the fifth event of the year because we're all just trying to figure out how to play golf again. So I'm excited about playing, and I'm excited to see what these guys can do.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Mardy, clearly, you've got advantage here. You kind of know how to win out there on this golf course. Any tips you're willing to share? Give away your magic luck there.
MARDY FISH: I don't think I can give them tips, no, not on the golf course. If you want a tennis tip or something, I can handle that. I don't think I can teach them anything that they don't know, that's for sure.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Lydia, Cristie mentioned it, we're fresh off the off-season. A lot of new stuff going on in the game -- new rules, new tournament, new events. How do you feel coming into this week?
LYDIA KO: Like Cristie said --
CRISTIE KERR: We're just going to call for rulings.
LYDIA KO: I think the rules officials might be a little bit busier this week. I was trying to pay a little bit more attention to the guys and try to see how they were handling all the situation, but this is a very unique event for us. We don't get that many opportunities to meet other athletes or celebrities and actors. So this is, I think, a really cool experience for me to meet people from different industries. I think it's going to be a fun format where you might not even be playing with another LPGA player.
But, no, I think it's going to be great, and obviously Diamond Resorts has done an amazing job these past few years. For it to become an LPGA event, I think is very exciting on the Tour's behalf.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Jack, you played this event before, played the American Century event. What's your advice for the new celebrities and some of us who haven't seen this event, what to expect?
JACK WAGNER: It's always -- first of all, nice to meet you guys, girls. Can't wait to play this week. It's always for new players hard to get used to playing on camera and getting used to playing inside the ropes. So it will take a little round or two to get comfortable, but once it does, I think it really helps playing with professional golfers because they're so kind of steady and consistent. I think they'll find that a lot of us have some game, but where we struggle is probably through that overall consistency for a full day or four full days. So I'll be paying attention and hopefully pick some things up here.
CRISTIE KERR: I just hope I'm not the group in front of Eric Gagne because he hits it like 350. I was at my home club last week -- just jumping in right now -- and I was with my coach, and there was this downhill par 4 and 30, 40 yards in front of the green. He's like, go and hit a pitch. And I got out before the day's play, and it's like, nope, Eric Gagne is behind me playing a match with somebody. I'm not going down there. Sure enough, the ball flew about 20 yards short of the green. I would have been killed.
JACK WAGNER: That was a 3 wood. He only hits a 3 wood.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Mark, what's more nerve-racking for you, being out on the diamond or inside the ropes here?
MARK MULDER: It's this for sure. I've gotten used to it more over the years, but the first few times, I can't begin to describe to people how the energy, the nervousness that was in me. I mean, with baseball, I was confident in what I was doing. It didn't matter. I didn't see the fans. I didn't hear anything. But then when that happened, next thing you know, the cameras are showing up. And the thoughts that go through your head, I'd never had them before in my life, so that's what made it a different animal. Every year it kind of gets easier and easier to handle.
Q. Mardy, after playing with you recently, Jack Nicklaus had some very nice things to say, encouraged you to pursue professional golf, and said you were the best non-professional golfer he's ever seen. Just I want to get your reaction to that.
MARDY FISH: Yeah, he doesn't play with very many non-professional golfers probably. I did -- it was an awesome experience to play with him, to spend a couple hours with him. He's actually a huge tennis fan as well. I spent the day before with him at his house. He's got three beautiful grass courts, real grass courts at his house. So pretty cool experience to see how much he loves tennis and love for tennis players.
Then to spend the day with him or spend a couple hours with him on the golf course was pretty surreal. I ended up playing pretty well, but he doesn't play too much golf anymore, I don't think. He hasn't seen too many of us around.
Q. Are you going to consider his advice about turning pro?
MARDY FISH: Not unless he wants to sponsor me. I don't have the money. I don't want to spend it all.
Q. I have a question for Cristie too. Cristie, new rules this year. Can I get your take on three of them? The dropping from the knee, the flagstick in when putting, and then no caddie lining you up from behind.
CRISTIE KERR: I think it's a good thing, nobody getting lined up anymore. I've done it both ways. For ten years, I got lined up, and then I got to No. 1 player in the world by not getting lined up. So I think aiming or the subtleties of aiming offline, like that's part of the game.
Putting with the flagstick in, unless it's from like 70 feet, you'll never see me do it. It just takes me out of -- I like what I do on the greens. I'm just going to keep it that way. And then the other, dropping from knee height, it's interesting. I actually practiced it today, believe it or not. How to do it, how the ball's going to bounce. Do you crouch and do it? How are you exactly supposed to do it? So we have a little rules meeting later that a lot of us will go to to just brush up on it?
It's interesting. It generates a lot more talk about the game of golf than I think how it will affect the game of golf. So my caddie and I are just going to get clarification on a lot of things, like are you allowed to brush sand off the fringe now? Are you allowed to ground your club in a hazard and not a bunker and move stuff? So there's a lot of things that you could mess up because you're just so used to having done it a certain way for 30-plus years. So it will be interesting. There will be a lot of rulings this year, I can tell you that.
Q. Lydia, your thoughts on those three?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I've had my caddie pretty much line me up for most -- for pretty much most of my career. So this off-season, I've been practicing trying to line myself up. Yeah, I think the purpose of changing that rule was to speed up play, so that might help towards it. But, yeah, it's something that you've just got to get used to. As with anything, it just takes time. Now I feel fine lining myself up when I'm on the range. Now, I might get some help just to feel confident.
The knee dropping thing, I think you need to stretch a little bit just to go down there. It isn't the most natural posture or pose to do it on.
CRISTIE KERR: Me dropping from the knee and him dropping from his knee (indicating Mark Mulder), his knee is like shoulder height. My knee is like down there.
LYDIA KO: So it is, I think, very different in an interesting way. What was the third one?
Q. The flagstick.
LYDIA KO: The flagstick, I'm going to be like Cristie. To me, it makes the hole look smaller even though, apparently, it's 7 percent bigger with the flagstick in.
CRISTIE KERR: I don't know. These pins this week, they're super thick. I'd be surprised if anybody does it.
LYDIA KO: And Cristie is one of the best putters, and if she's not using it in there, I think I shouldn't use it too.
CRISTIE KERR: Thanks, Lydia.
Q. Cristie, I'm just curious what your off-season was like, what you did with two little ones, how much time you took off, and how it might have been different with a bigger family?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I'm glad to be getting back to golf because being a mom is kind of crazy, especially with a newborn. You don't get a lot of sleep.
A lot of things with the wine business, a lot of really good things. Went to Napa a few times, did blending and meetings and such. Being home, trying to get my house organized because we moved in three years ago and not all of it's still organized. You know, just enjoying being home, enjoying to spend time at home and around our outdoor Kitchen and the nice weather in Scottsdale. And a little bit of travel for some charity events, and here we are in January.
Q. There are a lot of new moms coming back this year for the first time. What advice would you give on juggling it all?
CRISTIE KERR: Use the LPGA daycare because it's awesome. The people are tremendous, and the hours they give us are very generous. I mean, don't be afraid to ask for extra help because being a first-time mom out here is tough. You're trying to juggle being able to get your work done and yet still spend time with them.
It's really tough during tournament week. This morning I was supposed to be here at 8:00 and tee off by 11:00, and then my husband didn't sleep because he's doing overnights with the baby, so I didn't get out here until an hour later and I had to test some clubs on top of it, so I didn't tee off until noon. Thank God we're in a golf cart. I zipped around and almost played 18 holes because we're in a golf cart.
But you have to be adaptable, and you have to adjust. It's different being a mom, and it's different being a woman professional athlete being a mom doing their sport.
Q. Lydia, when did you get started back practicing? I assume you must have spent some time in Korea a little bit over the off-season.
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I actually played Inbee's event after CME, and Team LPGA got the win, which was really cool. I think the coolest part of that week was just being in that team environment, which I really haven't been able to experience since I've turned pro. So that was a lot of fun. Then I had to come back to the U.S. for a few things, and then I went back to Korea and then came over like the end of December.
But it was my first time spending Christmas in the house in Orlando, which was a little bit different. I think we had some of the best weather that week, so it was definitely a sunny Christmas, not a white Christmas, which sometimes we have in Korea. But a lot of traveling.
No, obviously, it's a little shorter off-season than what you would like, but I think this is such a cool startup to our season, and definitely living here in Orlando, being able to drive, and even having the luxury of maybe staying at home if you wanted to, it's a really cool start. Obviously, we've got a few more weeks before the Australian swing. It's been busy, but it's been fun. I think, if it was this much traveling but this much fun, I think I would do it again.
Q. Cristie, both kids are here, right, with Erik?
CRISTIE KERR: Yes.
Q. And a question just about the format. You alluded to this, but these guys are all competitive, but yet it will be different than a normal LPGA event, and there's sort of more of a fun component to it. When it gets really down to the intensity of playing and trying to win, will players have to make an adjustment to that atmosphere, and will it favor certain players?
CRISTIE KERR: I'm not sure. This is the inaugural event, and on our side, I think we kind of know what to expect but don't. I think we've got to just be kind of focused on our games, like they're going to be focused on their games, and sometimes, just like we have to have patience with our own game, we'll have to have patience out there as well. So I think patience is the name of the game this week and enjoying it, taking it all in because we don't get to do this every week.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Jack, Mark, Mardy, this is a competition for you guys too, not just for our players. What's your plan for coming in? Have you been practicing? Are you strategizing? What are you guys thinking about coming into this week? Any of you, feel free to jump in.
MARK MULDER: I don't know. I'm not a huge practice guy. I don't really have the patience for it. I might hit 30 or 40 balls, and then I go play. It's the competitiveness in me that comes out in these tournaments. I might be playing terrible leading up to it, but the minute it starts, it gets real.
I think no matter how I'm hitting it, you just find a way to get the ball in the hole. I have fun with both these guys. We've been paired numerous times, final rounds, first rounds, whatever it might be. I just have a great time in this. We don't get to do this very often. So the couple times a year that we do, you want to take full advantage of it.
JACK WAGNER: I agree with Mark. Mardy and I and Mark have been paired a lot together. It's always a good time. It's very competitive. I personally have gratefully had some time off to practice, and I've been playing a lot of golf with Mardy Fish. So that's how I get my game a little sharper because I love Mardy's game. He is probably one of the best non-professional golfers I've ever played with.
MARDY FISH: How much am I down to you right now? What are you talking about?
JACK WAGNER: $5,200. I don't know for sure. We didn't count today.
MARDY FISH: It's big time, though.
JACK WAGNER: You're going to take the Warriors tonight. But anyway, it's that, to tell the LPGA players we grind it out out there. I think we've all played a lot of golf with professional golfers, and we really stay out of the way. We're all playing an event here, and I think even the guys that are not going to be competing for the lead still understand that this is a golf tournament for the professionals. You know, the players that really have a chance to win, we all kind of understand what professional golf is and we all play accordingly. It's going to be fun. Looking forward to it.
I think it's really a great testament to NBC that they've really gotten on board here, as well as the Golf Channel, and they've said, we're behind this, and we think this could be a really cool combination.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Mardy, any thoughts on how you're preparing?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, I don't play a ton at home, so it's nice to get here. I've been on the range and the putting green as much as I can.
CRISTIE KERR: I haven't seen you.
MARDY FISH: I have, a lot. We put the kids at Disney and stuff, so they're running around in circles so I could come out here and play, which is nice. It's a really cool thing, I think, for the women as well. I always -- playing tennis, I always felt like it would be such a cool experience to play sort of a tournament with all the winners, previous year, previous years. I know the men do it on the PGA TOUR. So I've always loved that aspect of it and I've sort of been jealous of the fact that we don't do it on the ATP Tour anymore or ever.
So it's kind of a cool thing that you win and you get to go to Orlando or Hawaii. So it will be fun to watch them play.
Q. Question for Mark. With Baseball Hall of Fame voting coming up, who do you think should get in?
MARK MULDER: Oh, geez. I don't know, it's tough -- I know the whole Harold Baines thing has thrown people for a loop, but the problem is he was my favorite player as a kid growing up on the south side of Chicago. That's who I copied in the batter's box. That's who -- so I was thrilled when I saw that. I understand the gripes with his numbers compared to a lot of other guys. But when it comes to the whole thing with Hall of Fame, that's why I don't vote. I know the media does that, and I know a lot of people like to complain about it, but for the most part, I think everyone does a good job of who gets in and who's not in.
The NFL and NBA, it does at times, I guess, from an outsider looking in, seems like a lot more get into those Hall of Fames, but bottom line is it's the best of the best, and it's just hard for me when certain guys who dominate a ten-year span of the game don't get in. If you're going to go 10-plus years and you're going to be a dominant player, a top five player over those 10 to 15-year spans, you're a Hall of Famer, in my opinion. So that's what's tough.
And having faced guys like Edgar Martinez or some of these guys, to me, they're Hall of Famers because Edgar Martinez was one of the last guys I ever wanted to face in a big situation, and that goes for a lot of other pitchers in this game.
Q. There's other top guys besides Martinez, Mussina, Clemens, Bonds, Rivera.
MARK MULDER: It depends what side of the fence you sit on in the steroid debate, and you have the whole who took it, who didn't. There's guys that players think took it who are in the Hall of Fame, and there's some who maybe took it or didn't take it who aren't. There's no way of knowing. That's what makes that a very touchy subject for certain people.
Q. This is for Mardy Fish. Mardy, I think last week you were honored to be named the Davis Cup captain. As I read about it -- congratulations. That is indeed quite an honor. We don't have a lot of tennis players in our field.
MARDY FISH: We don't?
Q. Not too many actually. I know that one of your goals is to develop tennis amongst the younger people, and that's something that golf works on also. I'd like you to address what you do in helping young people take up these sports and take them up seriously. And then I have one last question. How similar is it for you when you're taking that important serve and when you're making that important drive?
MARDY FISH: Okay. I'll address that first. The serve was much easier since I've been doing that since I was about 2. I'm not quite sure where the drive is going to go sometimes, so that is a little more nerve-racking. The serve, I can sometimes hit a nickel or a coin in the corner if I needed to. So that was a lot easier.
The first part of your question, though, is a very important part of growing the game. Being the Davis Cup captain is an incredible honor, also something that you can't take lightly as far as growing the game. We need to -- we've got a generation called a net Jen, which is sort of smaller, softer balls that get kids more and more involved in the game. And being Davis Cup captain, you've got to be an ambassador for tennis, not just United States tennis, but tennis in general.
I'll be spending a lot of time on the road with not only the team trying to figure out who's going to play, because that is the goal is to win the Davis Cup, obviously, but also to grow it and to, once I'm out there on the road in Indian Wells and Miami and Houston and those types of places, I'll try and do as much as I can with some of the younger fans and some of the younger kids to sort of support and grow the game.
Q. So especially thank you for being here to support the game of golf as well.
MARDY FISH: Absolutely.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Thanks to all of you very much for taking the time and coming out to join us. Good luck this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports