The first major of the 2014 LPGA Tour season kicks off tomorrow with the playing of the 31st annual Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park joined LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer and two-time Kraft Nabisco champion Juli Inkster and Rolex Rankings No. 10 Anna Nordqvist by taking time to speak with the media this afternoon in the media center. There was also a special announcement made to announce the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award which recognizes the LPGA player who performs the best in all five major championships.
TRADITION AT MISSION HILLS
For the second consecutive day, several players at today’s press conferences spoke about the tradition of playing at Mission Hills Country Club and the Kraft Nabisco Championship in general.
“Well, this is probably my favorite tournament of the whole year, just with the history, the success I’ve had here, the golf course, the tradition, the Dinah Shore, Colgate. I didn’t play before that, but just the history of the players that played before me,” 1984 and 1989 champion Juli Inkster stated. “It’s just a special week. My family lives close enough they can drive here and watch me. They’ve watched me win a couple times here. “
Defending champion Inbee Park and Anna Nordqvist each echoed Inkster’s statements.
“The latest memory I have here is a very good memory. Coming here this year reminds me of very good things,” Park said. “Obviously the first major of the year, everybody is really excited to play the first major.”
“I think this tournament brings back so many memories. I was telling my caddie today when we were walking down 18, I remember the shot Karrie Webb won from off the fairway. I just couldn’t remember what year it was. I’m looking at the signs there. It ended up being 2006. That’s quite a bit ago, but you remember like it was yesterday,” Nordqvist said. “I think this tournament has a great history. There’s been so many great players that have played it over the years.“
ROLEX ANNIKA MAJOR AWARD ANNOUNCED
Annika Sorenstam, a golf legend synonymous with major championship excellence, will now have her name attached to an award honoring the LPGA’s best major performer each season. The LPGA and Rolex announced the new Rolex ANNIKA Major Award at a press conference this afternoon, the eve of the 2014 season’s first major.
“I look forward to being part of it, watching the girls play. It’s really exciting,” Sorenstam said.
Sorenstam was joined on stage by LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, Rolex representative Arnaud Laborde and a pair of 2013 Major Champions in Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park.
“I think it definitely gives us an extra inspiration to play well in majors. Even if there was no awards, we’re motivated a lot harder on the majors,” Park said.
“I was excited to see this because I value consistency and playing well in the majors. Those are two goals of mine.” Lewis explained. “To see this happen, to see it come together, winning a couple majors would be nice, and then to win this award would be just an extra bonus,”
The Rolex ANNIKA Major Award will recognize the player who, during a current LPGA Tour season, has the most outstanding record in all five major championships. Points will be awarded at all five major championships to competitors who finish among the top-10 and ties. To take home the award, a player must also win at least one of the five majors.
JULI INKSTER REFLECTS ON PAST WINS AT MISSION HILLS
Seven-time major winner and two-time Kraft Nabisco champion, Juli Inkster took some time during her pre-tournament press conference to talk about her past victories at Mission Hills.
“ ‘84 was my rookie year. I remember I birdied the last hole to get in a playoff with Pat Bradley. She was winning everything. To come out on top and win that... I know for me then it was just the tournament, it was a major, but I didn’t really get the whole tradition, the importance of it until later on in life when you look back and say, Hey, you won two Krafts, two Opens. You’re thinking, You know what, that’s pretty good. I think you have more appreciation for what you do later on in life.”
INBEE PARK RETURNS TO SITE OF THE START OF “THE STREAK”
Defending champion Inbee Park will be making her first of three-consecutive major defenses on the year at this week’s Kraft Nabisco Championship.
“I go back to last year and I think about it. I didn’t treat majors differently. I just try to treat every tournament by tournament. That’s what I’m trying to do, yeah, this year,” Park noted. “Last year at the end of the year, I thought too much on the majors, thinking I need to do something special or different in the major tournaments. But I’m just trying to do everything the same this tournament.”
Park is trying to become the first player to record back-to-back jumps into Poppie’s Pond since Annika Sorenstam did it in 2001 and 2002.
LAPS IN THE POND?
One of the most iconic moments every year in golf is the champion’s dive into Poppies Pond.
If Anna Nordqvist, a two-time winner on Tour this season, is to make her first leap she will be able to draw some inspiration from her days as a swimmer back in Sweden.
“I used to be a swimmer when I grew up for six, seven years. I would say I was the most dedicated swimmer without any success but I loved it.”
Asked if she would take a few laps if she were to win this week Nordqvist replied.
“I don’t know. “ Nordqvist chuckled. “We’ll see.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“For someone that just kind of fell into the game, I can’t believe I’ve accomplished what I’ve accomplished. I can’t believe that I’ve been fortunate enough to do this my whole life. I love what I do. I’ve been very fortunate to get up and be able to go out and play golf. So, you know, it’s been a great ride. “
–Juli Inkster reflecting on her career
THE SOCIAL SCENE
Several players took to social media to show off photos of Mission Hills during their pro-am rounds including Yani Tseng (@YaniTseng) who tweeted about the beauty of the topography in Rancho Mirage.
“Beautiful weather in Palm Springs, 70 degree sunny and snowing on the mountain” - (@YaniTseng)
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the world number one and defending champion Inbee Park. How is everything going thus far? What does it feel to come back on campus, if you will?
INBEE PARK: I feel great to be coming back here in Kraft Nabisco Championship. This course reminds me a lot of good and bad memories. I mean, bad memories because I had few years I played really bad here, because I played so many times here. All sorts of memories.
But the latest memory I have here is a very good memory. Coming here this year reminds me of very good things. Obviously the first major of the year, everybody is really excited to play the first major, so as I am.
I'm very happy with where I am with my game, the way I'm striking the ball. I haven't won this year. My putting is not going in at the moment. Hopefully I can putt like last year. Just makes me realize how good I played last year.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk about the whole thing of defending champion, not just once, but you get to defend three major championships this year. I know you thought a lot about the majors at the end of last year, but as this year has begun, how does it feel to be defending champion so many times in majors?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I think that puts probably a little bit of extra pressure on you. But I'm just trying to take major just as a normal tournament.
I go back to last year and I think about it. I didn't treat majors differently. I just try to treat every tournament by tournament. That's what I'm trying to do, yeah, this year.
Last year at the end of the year, I thought too much on the majors, thinking I need to do something special or different in the major tournaments. But I'm just trying to do everything the same this tournament. Obviously there's going to be a little bit more nerves, but I think sometimes it helps your game to improve.
THE MODERATOR: You talked about your game coming in this week. Four consecutive top‑10 finishes. You haven't won the tournaments coming in, but that is consistent play. How do you feel about your game this week?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I had a really good start this year, probably more consistent than last year. I mean, last year I won before coming this week, but my game was just everywhere. Some weeks I hole everything and win, and some weeks I just hit it everywhere.
It was a lot more up and down last year. This year I feel like I'm a lot more consistent, especially hitting the ball‑wise. I just haven't been putting that well, not as good as last year. I'm just trying to find what is wrong with my putting.
I think it's just time. You have to wait and be a little bit, yeah, patient, especially in the major tournaments. If you're confident with your ball striking, you can get close to winning. Hopefully I can hole some putts this week.
THE MODERATOR: I don't think I ever could have imagined you saying, I have to find out what's wrong with my putting. We'll take questions.
Q. You mentioned you won before last year's tournament here. Could you have anticipated anything close to what you did last year? Did you have a sense that you were on the verge of a big year?
INBEE PARK: I mean, last year at this time I probably didn't realize how I was going to play that year. I was just happy to win a major, first major tournament. That was all. I didn't know I was going to win two, three in a row.
I realize more how hard three majors, straight major wins are. Coming in here, I try to prepare for this tournament. One tournament is so hard to win, but how did I do three? As more time goes by, I think it's harder. I couldn't believe it.
I didn't really realize at the time when I was doing it. A year later I come here and everybody is trying for a trophy, everybody is trying to win. To become a champion of three major tournaments is something, wow.
Q. You won a major early in your career, then you didn't win one until you came here last year. Was that just a matter of your game maturing to where you could win a major again or were you putting pressure on yourself to win another major?
INBEE PARK: I think it's mostly I needed some experience and I needed some time to get used to the tour. Very big win for the first win. Wasn't really ready for all the attention, all the pressure that was going on. Yeah, I just needed some time to get used to everything.
Q. Do you feel much more relaxed as a member of the tour than maybe you did a few years ago? How have you changed in that regard? Do you feel more comfortable out here?
INBEE PARK: Oh, yeah, of course. I played LPGA tournaments when I was not a member, and now I'm a member here. This is my eighth year playing the LPGA Tour. It has been a while. I just don't realize how long I played out here. I still remember being the youngest one out here.
Time goes really quick. I age a little bit too, older girl. So you get to know a lot of people and you get really comfortable, yeah.
Q. Golf can be a fickle game. Good play comes and goes. When you get on a high like last year, do you just simply ride it and see how far it will go or do you think it might not ever end?
INBEE PARK: I mean, like last year?
Q. When you got hot with the three majors, do you think it might never end or do you see how far you can ride a hot streak like that?
INBEE PARK: I mean, if you're really like on the hot streak, you're really playing well, you think that this is your year, nobody wants to stop that year. Everybody wants to see how good you can be.
Yeah, obviously try to keep that going.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about being number one in the world. You've held that for quite awhile now. Unfortunately, Suzanne is not here. Stacy has been playing great. The pressure you deal with now on a regular basis of being number one, what is that like for you? What has been the biggest challenge to being number one?
INBEE PARK: I mean, for sure it is the place I want to be, a place I've been dreaming of. I would never want to go somewhere else than this.
Yeah, I mean, the biggest test will be a lot of stuff I need to do outside the golf course, just trying to concentrate on golf. That's probably the toughest thing. You get to have a lot of responsibilities. You have to represent a lot of things. There's extra stuff you need to do, but otherwise I'm trying to enjoy everything else. That's where I want to be.
THE MODERATOR: Next week you have the Golf Writers Association dinner, honored as Female Player of the Year. Have you ever been to Augusta National or the Masters?
INBEE PARK: No, I never been there. I really looking forward to go there and seeing the men play and getting an award.
THE MODERATOR: Will you be there for the whole week?
INBEE PARK: I'm going to watch on Thursday and head off to Hawaii on Friday.
Q. You mentioned good memories here from last year, and maybe some not as good memories from earlier. Did you have to learn how to play this golf course or is it your game has gotten better?
INBEE PARK: You need a lot of lessons on this golf course, that's for sure, especially like the lines off the tees. There's a lot of ridges on the fairways where you need to land. You get a left kick or a right kick.
The more you play this golf course, the more easier it gets, I think. There's places you can miss, places you can't miss. I play so many times on this golf course, now I know where to miss.
This year it's playing a little bit differently than the last few years with the rough not being so long. I think that's going to have the scores go a little bit lower than the last few years. The greens are very firm and nice, but I think just the fairways are playing a little bit wider with the shorter rough this year.
Q. At Media Day everybody talked about your putting, but you said it was your ball striking that you remembered the most. As somebody who struck the ball well last year, would you rather see more rough?
INBEE PARK: I mean, this golf course I think definitely needs more rough. It's a major. We're used to seeing narrow fairways on this golf course. I still feel there is a rough still, but it's not as long. Even if you're in the rough, you can go at the green. Last few years you couldn't go at the green. You just had to punch it out.
It's tough because you have to allow for a lot to release. Obviously, you know, how I've been striking the ball, I really want it to be longer. But it's all right. I mean, it opens up a little bit more to the field. A lot more players can win now I think.
THE MODERATOR: We joke around a little bit about your schedule because you won so many times last year, it might be tee it up in a golf tournament, go to a Media Day, then do it again. Your schedule is probably more hectic than last year. Is that a tough thing to deal with or do you feel like you're managing that well already?
INBEE PARK: Well, I think I got probably like two out of the way now, so I have about four more to go. It's obviously very tough because sometimes of what you have to do during the tournament week. America is not exactly a little country. There's a lot of places I need to go to.
But if somebody asked me because of the Media Day do you not want to win, that would be no. I still want to win. I would go every week trying to win some tournaments.
THE MODERATOR: Officially you'll be at every Media Day, okay.
How has your relationship grown with the media? When you came to the United States, you probably didn't realize all that came with playing on the LPGA and winning major championships. Is that something you embrace? Do you like it or is it difficult?
INBEE PARK: I'm getting used to seeing the golf writers, a lot of the medias, knowing their faces. I think that really helps because you get to relax a little bit more with the medias. Obviously knowing in person definitely helps a lot, I think. You're trying to treat them like friends, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: The biggest thing this week heading in for you? Do you feel pressure to successfully defend or do you feel relaxed?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I just feel relaxed. I'm just waiting my time for putts to fall. I'm trying to keep my ball striking level. I like the way I'm striking the ball at the moment. I'm trying to keep that going and waiting for the putts to fall.
THE MODERATOR: It is a great pleasure to welcome in last week's winner from the Kia Classic, two‑time winner this year, Anna Nordqvist. Talk about somebody coming in on a hot streak. You're all smiles.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I'm all smiles. Obviously feels great coming in here. I know this stop is many of one of us favorites on tour. I'm so excited to be here.
THE MODERATOR: You won a major championship back in 2009. Looking for another one obviously. Do you feel like you're a completely different player today than you were prior to winning the first one, much more prepared should you win more majors?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Absolutely. Like you said, I feel like a completely different person today than I did 2009. Didn't even do my rookie hours for media training. I was thrown right into it in 2009, having to do press conferences winning that major.
I think it's been quite a journey these last couple years. My game has improved a lot. I feel like I learned a lot from my mistakes being on tour for five years. You mature. I think I matured a lot as a person. I'm a lot more comfortable with myself, in my game. I feel like I'm in a much better spot now than I was in 2009.
THE MODERATOR: How have you changed? What things have you learned specifically? What is the biggest thing you've learned over the time you've been on the LPGA about yourself or your game?
ANNA NORDQVIST: When I won my major, I didn't even have my full status on tour. It was my fifth start. It was kind of overwhelming. All of a sudden I was thrown into ProAms. You're used to everyday life.
I think the biggest difference, you make it a lifestyle. I have a lot more friends now obviously than I had then. Worked hard on my game. I feel like I can't even compare myself to the player I was then. I think I had maybe four top 10s that year, ended up winning two. 2012, two years ago, I had 12 top 10s.
My consistency has probably been the biggest difference. I feel I can be up there a lot more. I've been up there in the majors last year.
In order to win tournaments, which is my goal, I feel like I have to be up there. That's a position where I feel like I'm putting myself in recent years.
THE MODERATOR: If you keep getting those really big checks, you get more friends, a lot more people call you.
We'll take some questions.
Q. You have a pretty decent record at this tournament. You've been in the top 10 three times in the last four years. Playing the way you are, knowing you can play this course pretty well, how do you feel coming into the week?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I'm excited to come back. I went to Arizona State University, played quite a bit of desert golf. Maybe that's why I've always had a special passion for this tournament. It reminds me a lot of Phoenix where I used to live.
You get to manage your game, play the ball off the tee into the greens. I feel like that's one of my strengths. Maybe that's why I've had success in recent years. Feel like my game is in a good spot, so obviously I'm excited to go into this week. My confidence is high. I'm having a good time.
Q. It's always a golf course where people said you have to hit the ball good off the tee, long and straight. A lot was made on TV last week about your increased distance off the tee this year. Can you tell us about how you went from 240 to 260?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I think it's a combination. I told my trainer Kai Fusser end of November that I was staying in Florida over the winter and I wanted him to work out with me. I wanted to hit it hard in the gym.
I also changed equipment, TaylorMade this year. The driver has probably gone from the least favorite club in my bag to my most favorite club in my bag. New golf balls. I have a new swing coach. I feel like a lot of the changes, you go up on the tee, you hit it further. I definitely think that's helped.
But this course is not all about length. The rough is not as thick this year as it has been in the past, so it's not as penalizing.
It definitely helped me when I won in Thailand having more distance off the tee because I could carry some bunkers I've never been able to carry in the past.
As long as I can keep it straight, that's my main focus.
Q. Who is your swing coach now?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I work with a Spanish guy, Jorge Parada.
Q. When you're walking on 18 on the way to the green, you pass the Walk of Champions, the pond, Dinah Shore's statue, what is that like?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I think this tournament brings back so many memories. I was telling my caddie today when we were walking down 18, I remember the shot Karrie Webb won from off the fairway. I just couldn't remember what year it was. I'm looking at the signs there. It ended up being 2006. That's quite a bit away. But you remember like it was yesterday.
Been so many good jumps in that pond, obviously. I think this tournament has a great history. There's been so many great players that have played it over the years. I played this tournament since 2010 and it feels like I remember this course on top of my head.
But it just means so much. Walking down 18, all the good memories. I want to make my own memories hopefully one day, too. Definitely you look at the water and hopefully you'll be jumping in there one day.
Q. Are you a good swimmer?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I used to be a swimmer when I grew up for six, seven years. I would say I was the most dedicated swimmer without any success. But I loved it.
Q. If you dove in, would you swim a couple of laps?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I don't know. We'll see.
Q. You talked about how you thought about leaving the tour at one point. What were some things that happened since then that have caused you to rethink that? You also talked about the hard work you put in. What were some specific things you've done?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I've always been a very passionate player. I'm very ambitious and a hard worker. Doesn't matter what I do in life. I wanted good grades in school. If I was playing soccer, I wanted to be good in soccer. When I finally picked up golf at 13, I wanted to be really good at golf.
You put in so much hard work. It's tough traveling, managing everything. It came to a point at the beginning of last year where I felt like I lost the love for the game, the passion I used to have. I questioned whether it was worth putting in all that hard work and not being happy on and off the course.
I made some changes. My younger brother, Mattias, he's a really good golfer himself. He came out and ended up caddying for me last summer. He's been such a good inspiration, helped me get my attitude back and inspiration back and love for the game last summer.
Started working with a new caddie, Jason Gilroyed, on my bag now since July. He's been a positive influence. Just having a lot of positive people around you that make you believe in yourself when you start to doubt yourself. You start doubting if it's worse practicing when you'd rather think about you want to do something else.
I definitely questioned whether it was worth it or not. But I kept my head in it. I've been a person that never wanted to give up. I think that's what I did thanks to a lot of the positive people I had around me at that time, that told me not to give up.
End of last year was pretty disappointing because I felt like I didn't play that bad but didn't see any results. I had a lot of top 15s last year. I was very consistent. But I wanted to come back and win tournaments.
End of last year I told myself that I was going to work a lot this winter, give it my all. For me it's always been all or nothing. I decided I'm going to give it my all for a couple more years, or you never know.
I definitely found the love for the game again thanks to a lot of friends and family around me.
THE MODERATOR: There were probably some tears of disappointment in the tough times. Did you allow yourself some tears of joy in Thailand or at Kia? How was it emotionally?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I think Thailand was probably my most emotional win on tour because I won the end of '09 and I won an unofficial event in Jamaica 2010. Ever since I put in so much hard work, had a bit of a struggle at times. When you know you've gone through that and you come out on top, then it means more to you.
Thailand was a great event. I played really well. I had Inbee Park chasing me down the stretch. Kept firing birdies at me. I stuck my head into it and ended up winning by two. So it was very emotional.
Coming to Singapore the week after I had nothing because I was mentally fried. I was proud of myself. But definitely I can look back to all those moments where I worked so hard, so it definitely meant a lot.
THE MODERATOR: How big was the Solheim Cup for you? You were fantastic that week. Made the ace.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Well, Solheim Cup has always meant a lot to me. I just remember watching it when I grew up. All of a sudden 2009 I'm playing alongside my role models growing up. Suzann Pettersen, Laura Davies, Mimi, Helen Alfredsson. I could only dream about that when I was growing up.
Back in 2003 I was watching the girls play. I could never even dream about going inside the ropes there. Now I've done three.
It's those events where it really brings out the passion in me. In Colorado we had the best team ever, I felt like. We got along very well. A lot of us grew up playing up together. A little bit of a generation shift on the European team. We just had such a good time win or lose.
Liselotte really believed in us. We made so many great memories that week. Obviously having that ace is something I will always remember.
Q. How is your cold? How are you treating it?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I got a cold on Friday last week. Not the best timing, but what are you going to do?
I practiced early yesterday to try to get home and get some rest. I was in the morning portion today, so I'll go home and get as much rest as possible.
THE MODERATOR: It is a great pleasure to welcome LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Juli Inkster and Solheim Cup captain for the United States. Where do we begin? Let's start with this week, your memories of this events, what you're expecting of yourself.
JULI INKSTER: Well, this is probably my favorite tournament of the whole year, just with the history, the success I've had here, the golf course, the tradition, the Dinah Shore, Colgate. I didn't play before that, but just the history of the players that played before me.
It's just a special week. My family lives close enough they can drive here and watch me. They've watched me win a couple times here.
I'm looking forward to it. I'm not playing as bad as I'm scoring. My putting has been very disappointing, but switching it up this week, see if that helps.
THE MODERATOR: '84 and '89, what do those wins mean to you specifically? We've had players talk about the importance of this event in their career. What has it meant to you?
JULI INKSTER: '84 was my rookie year. I remember I birdied the last hole to get in a playoff with Pat Bradley. She was winning everything. To come out on top and win that...
I know for me then it was just the tournament, it was a major, but I didn't really get the whole tradition, the importance of it until later on in life when you look back and say, Hey, you won two Krafts, two Opens. You're thinking, You know what, that's pretty good.
I think you have more appreciation for what you do later on in life.
THE MODERATOR: 31 LPGA Tour wins, tied with Karrie Webb amongst active players for major championships with seven. Can you assess your career right now as you sit here? I know Solheim Cup captain is something on your mind, but talk about the career that has been for you.
JULI INKSTER: For someone that just kind of fell into the game, I can't believe I've accomplished what I've accomplished. I can't believe that I've been fortunate enough to do this my whole life.
I love what I do. I've been very fortunate to get up and be able to go out and play golf. I have a great job area to play in. So, you know, it's been a great ride.
I'm still playing a little bit. I'm not going to play as much. I'll probably play 10 to 12 this year, probably a little less next year.
I still enjoy being out here. I still enjoy being with the girls, giving them crap, making sure they're on their best behavior.
THE MODERATOR: Did you say Kraft?
JULI INKSTER: Crap, c‑r‑a‑p (laughter).
Keeping them on their toes. Being the Solheim Cup captain now, I can't believe all the sucking up I'm getting, but it's been great (laughter).
I'm looking forward to it. It's been a great ride. To say I won 31 times, seven majors, winning three U.S. Amateurs, it's been pretty fun.
THE MODERATOR: Let's start with some questions.
Q. You have cut back your schedule. You talk about maybe even more next year. As Solheim Cup captain do you feel like you need to be out here as much as you can?
JULI INKSTER: I don't know. I've played with these girls forever. I know who they are, what makes them tick. I don't need to be out here micromanaging them. They do what they do. I don't need to be out here following them to see how they play the par 3s. I know their games.
I'm going to be out here if they have any questions, stuff like that, but I don't think I need to be out here following them around.
Q. This golf course, you did win in '84 as a rookie. You may be the only person to win here the first time they showed up. You talk to people who played in the '70s, they say it's a different golf course. How much has the golf course changed from when you showed up to now?
JULI INKSTER: It's a lot longer. We're playing it a lot longer. But we're hitting the ball farther. Kind of goes hand‑in‑hand.
I don't know. I think it's the same golf course. Same layout. I used to hit a little more 3‑woods off the tees than I do now. I hit driver pretty much every hole but a couple.
The par 3s are a little longer. The greens are definitely firmer than we used to play them. Every year the rough kind of bounces up and down. This year the rough is as much as it was maybe a couple years ago.
I think it's the same golf course. You got to drive the ball on the fairway. You got to be pretty accurate with your irons or you're going to have some tough putts.
Q. You're one of the few people who has seen Karrie Webb's evolution from the best player in the game to this great ambassador for the game. Can you speak to the evolution you've seen in her as a person and as a player.
JULI INKSTER: Webbie, she's very, very competitive, works very hard at her game. She has a lot of respect for the LPGA past, meaning she gets how the LPGA was made. She gets what she needs to do to make it a better place to leave. She's on the board now for a couple terms. She really thinks things through.
She's the epitome of a Hall of Famer to me. She keeps grinding. She keeps playing well.
This is a typical Webbie statement. A reporter calls her about, You're making headway at 39, winning. How are you doing it?
She rattles off, Well, Juli Inkster at 39 won two majors, and at 42 she won two majors, ta‑da, ta‑da. If you would have done your homework... All of a sudden the reporter is like...
I wouldn't have known that if someone was talking about it reversed. But Webbie knows the history of the game, knows a lot about it.
It's great to see the look in her eyes. I mean, she has that look of calmness and confidence. I'm sure she's got a few more majors in her, that's for sure.
Q. I don't know if you've noticed, but back problems seem to be in the news this week. How do you play 30 years? Is it the ghost in the golfer's machine? No rhyme or reason?
JULI INKSTER: I've had one injury, an elbow one time, in my whole career. This is just my personal take. They start golf so young that their bodies have not developed and they keep hitting balls, hitting balls, hitting balls, hitting balls. The travel, the play. Something's got to give.
I didn't even start till I was 15. I played a lot of different sports. I did a lot of different things. I don't know if that's it or if some people are just more susceptible to having injuries.
I really am a big believer in doing different things than just golf. I think your body, it's a tough wear and tear. If you use different muscles and do different things... That's just my take.
Q. Was there anything that you did throughout the course of your career to protect against back injury?
JULI INKSTER: No. I mean, I did other things besides sit out there and beat balls. I skied. I bike ride. I play basketball. I did all the things I probably shouldn't have done, but I did.
I don't know. I mean, Suzanne, without her here, it's a big loss because she's a great competitor. She's played well here every year. I know this is one of her favorite tournaments, one she would love to win. I just hope it's nothing serious and she gets back out here.
THE MODERATOR: Let's relive a little bit of the Solheim Cup announcement, that night for you. I'm sure you've had some thoughts since the phone call originally from Mike Whan. Can you take us back to the moment you found out you were captain? Now that it's all sunk in, is this a big part of what you're doing day‑to‑day?
JULI INKSTER: Mike Whan called me, can I call him back, I have a favor to ask. Typical Mike Whan. Will you be the Solheim Cup captain? No fanfare. It was either a yes or no question. I said, Yeah. He said, Great. That was in November.
He also said, But you can't tell anybody. I'm like, All right, that's going to be easy. But I did. I told my parents and my family and friends. Told them to hush‑hush it.
Then they had the big deal in Phoenix. It was great. I think what was great about it for me is it was a ProAm party. We had a players meeting, ProAm party, then it kind of ran a little later than it was supposed to. All the girls kind of stayed for it. I thought that was great because I'm not so sure at their age, when I was their age, that I would have done that.
It was great to see how excited they were for myself and Pat to be captain and assistant captain, how much they were looking forward to it. That was the biggest thing I took away from it.
THE MODERATOR: What are you going to do as captain? What is the biggest thing you're going to give to the team?
JULI INKSTER: They know how to play golf. I don't need to go out there and say, Play well. That's what it's all about.
What I really would like to do is get the camaraderie back of enjoying the Solheim Cup, not making it bigger than what it is.
Believe me, I want to win. But at the end of the day, I want them to have fun. I want them to come away with, Hey, that was a great experience. We had a lot of fun. I think a lot of times it's just a lot of pressure on them. I'd like to take that off them and try to enjoy the moment.
You're the best 12 American players here. Whether you win or lose, next week you're still going to be one of the 12 best players. Just go out there, have fun, enjoy your partner. At the end of the day we'll see how the points add up.
THE MODERATOR: Are you suggesting that the fun has gotten away from the red, white and blue?
JULI INKSTER: It seems like they play tight. I know because I was in Ireland. It just seemed like it was stressful. I didn't enjoy it. I don't know why. It was just not fun. It was just too much pressure. We had too much to do. We never really had a lot of downtime to enjoy ourselves together as a team.
I wasn't there last year, but I heard Meg did a great job. She was a great captain.
The Europeans, basically they just played better. They made more putts. They just got the ball in the hole quicker than we did.
I play better when I'm just relaxed and have fun. If we can just go over there and not really kill the practice rounds. They already know the golf course. Do something different. Have something like a whiffle ball game, a softball game, something different than golf. Just try to make it something that they will enjoy.
Q. At the champions dinner the other night, Charlie Meacham stood up and said it was time we won. Got a pretty big eye roll from Annika. How do you balance trying to have fun with people going around like that?
JULI INKSTER: It's easy to say, We're going to go win. That makes no sense to me because you can say, I'm going to win this week, but you know what, you got to go out and do it.
That's what I'm going to try to get my team to do, is have the mindset that we are great players. Myself, I know you can get a little intimidated just with the crowds, the expectations. You just kind of make it more than what it is.
Basically it's golf. You hit the ball, you go get it, you hit it again, you go get it. I think sometimes it gets too big and you get out of what you're really good at, and that's playing golf.
So, believe me, I'm going over there to win, but I think you can win and have fun. I don't think you have to be a grinder for the whole week. I think that's what the Europeans do the best. I think they have fun. They win. You know what, at the end of the day, they're going to have a great party.
I just think we need to get back to doing what we do, which is play golf, being a team, throwing the expectations out the window, just play golf.
THE MODERATOR: Wonder how the weather will be in Germany for whiffle ball.
JULI INKSTER: Might have to get a heavier ball (laughter).
Q. Have you read Paul Azinger's book on Valhalla?
JULI INKSTER: Yes.
Q. Do you intend to implement anything like that or talk to him?
JULI INKSTER: I've already talked to him. I talked to him a lot about it.
I don't know. That might not be a bad idea. But I'm going to see how the team kind of shapes up next year and see if my team falls into that area and go from there.
Yeah, it's a great idea.
Q. Do you have a best memory of Dinah Shore and what she meant to this event?
JULI INKSTER: Well, the only memories I have of Dinah Shore, every time she saw me she always came up and gave me a big hug, asked how I was doing. I never really had dinner with her. I played a ProAm with her. She was always very gracious to all the gallery, autographs. She was just a superstar in a normal body. She never thought she was bigger than who she is inside. I just think that was great.
Q. Talk a little bit about the decision to slow down. Why?
JULI INKSTER: Why? Well, I'm going to be doing a little announcing this year. I'm going to try to see if that's something I'd like to do. I'm kind of really over traveling overseas to play over there. With the Solheim Cup, I just think I'm going to be busy enough.
I'm going to probably play 10 to 12 this year. Who knows next year. But, I mean, that's the beauty of where I'm at: I can play if I want to play and I don't have to play if I don't. That's what I love about it.
It's kind of a win‑win for me.
THE MODERATOR: You were talking about pressure. Now you just said where you are in your career. What type of expectations do you put on yourself as you play 10 events?
JULI INKSTER: I don't really ever put a score on what I want to shoot. I feel like my golf game is good. I just got to get back to making some putts and getting on a little bit of a roll.
I still think I can win. If I do what I'm supposed to do out here, I think I can win.
THE MODERATOR: If everything fell into place, you had one more leap into that pond, can you describe that?
JULI INKSTER: Once again, it's easy to sit here and say I'd love to do it, but I got to go out and do it.
We'll see. I just think I have one more win in me.
GABE CODDING: Good afternoon and welcome. My name is Gabe Codding. I'm the tournament director of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Thank you for being here and supporting women's golf, the LPGA, and golf's first major.
This has been an historic week so far and on behalf of Kraft Nabisco and IMG, welcome to the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
We are honored to host the special announcement and I want to acknowledge the people to my left: LPGA commissioner, Mike Whan. Representing Rolex, Arnaud Laborde. And three‑time Kraft Nabisco champion, Annika Sorenstam.
At this time I would like to introduce the chief communications officer of the LPGA, Mr. Kraig Kann.
KRAIG KANN: Good afternoon, everybody. It is great to be here as we continue to celebrate the traditions built mere at Mission Hill Country Club. The list of major champions is a who's who for sure in women's golf and the image of jumping into Poppy's Pond and slipping on the white robe is something that every player past and present dreams of and thinks of.
The LPGA's goal is always to elevate women's golf and showcase the talent and the tour. There is no better stage than that of a major championship. It brings together a combination of the best players, certainly the brightest lights, and the most intense pressure to showcase talent and ultimately allow each and every player to perhaps make a very big name for themselves.
Today we are proud to announce something that will forever increase the importance of every major opportunity and celebrate the game's greatest players. To help do that, once again the commissioner of the LPGA, Mike Whan.
COMMISSIONER WHAN: The announcement today really involves both of the people on my left. I'll start with Rolex. To say that Rolex and the LPGA are intertwined would be an understatement. Rolex is involved in virtually every LPGA event we play in some way, shape or form.
What's incredible about Rolex is their vision, the ability to see big before the rest of the world sees big. Whether you're talking about Solheim Cup, International Crown, Evian. It's already the standard by which professional women golfers are measured whether you're talking Rolex Rankings, Player of the Year, Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year, it's already the standard in the game.
About a year ago, as you probably remember, we started in a meeting here which bled over to Augusta the following week, we started talking about a new idea. How could we recognize what happens over the course of all LPGA majors? In a strange way, one word kept coming up over and over again. Do you remember our famous word? Annika.
When we started talking about major performance between the LPGA and Rolex, we kept coming back to Annika for all the right reasons.
This is too good not to read to you. I'm sure you've heard this before, but bear with me.
Annika, 89 professional wins, 72 LPGA wins, 1994 Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year. This is unbelievable, eight Rolex Player of the Year, six Vare trophies for lowest scoring average. Almost just as importantly, 10 major championship awards. It's safe to say that her résumé deserves to be on what we're going to announce next.
KRAIG KANN: No question about it. Before we continue on with the actual specifics of the award, let's have a look at some of her on‑course magic, Annika in this special video.
KRAIG KANN: One of the most accomplished ever to play professional golf, a round of applause for Annika Sorenstam.
Mike, I think it's time to talk about this award, the specifics.
COMMISSIONER WHAN: The three of us are proud to introduce today the addition of a new award in women's professional golf, the Rolex Annika Major Award. Each year at Evian weekend we will deliver this award to the player that performs the best over all five majors.
I'll let Annika do the award specifics, but suffice it to say that that winner each year will receive a Rolex timepiece, this new trophy, and a $100,000 bonus. It's a pretty exciting time and thanks to both of you for making it a reality.
KRAIG KANN: Today we have the trophies from each of the LPGA's five major championships displayed on this stage. Later this year, we'll hand out the first ever Rolex Annika Major Award at the Evian, starting a new tradition. That trophy is being crafted, pardon the pun, at this moment, ready for display later this year.
Annika, let's get some thoughts and insight from you on this concept and how excited you are to have your name attached to it.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: It's very exciting. I want to thank the LPGA and Rolex for making this possible. This is a dream come true for me.
Rolex has been a partner of mine for over 20 years. I always felt like the performance in major championships defined your career. I was lucky to play well in some of them. To partner with the LPGA and Rolex in this fashion to create kind of a legacy award of this stature, it's really very special.
I feel honored you have chosen me to do it. This will continue to keep me being with the LPGA, Rolex, and keep the association we have. I look forward to being part of it, watching the girls play. It's really exciting.
KRAIG KANN: Can you take us through the qualifying process. You are part of the criteria building for this award. Take us through that and how somebody gets to hold this trophy each year at the Evian Championships.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: First of all, it's only points in majors. We give points if you finish in the top 10. The way we allocate the points are the same as we do for Rolex Player of the Year, the same allocation, which means if you win you get 60 points, if you finish second, 24 points, if you finish third, 18, it goes down, if you finish 10th you get two points. The award will be handed out at the Evian Championship on the 18th green.
I would say the most important factor that differentiates this award to anything else is you have to win a major championship to be eligible.
KRAIG KANN: That one little carrot dangles there for everybody, a must‑win.
Each year the LPGA's best will compete for this award. We are fortunate to have with us today 2013 LPGA's major winners. I'd like to invite them to come up and spend time with Annika. Last year's winner of the RICOH Women's British Open, Stacy Lewis. Last year's winner of the Evian Championship. Current Rolex number two, Suzann Pettersen could not be here due to injury. Last year's winner of the U.S. Women's Open, the Wegmans LPGA Championship, and defending champion of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, world number one Inbee Park.
Annika, I'll let you control the Q&A with these two superstars.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Inbee, I'm sure you wanted this award to be introduced last year. You probably would have run away with it.
INBEE PARK: Should have started last year.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Does this give you ladies extra motivation to play well?
INBEE PARK: Yes, I think it definitely gives us an extra inspiration to play well in majors. Even if there was no awards, we're motivated a lot harder on the majors.
This is very good for us. Obviously to honor a player like Annika, it's a great award. I think it's going to give a lot of motivation to players.
STACY LEWIS: I was excited to see this because I value consistency and playing well in the majors. Those are two goals of mine. To see this happen, to see it come together, winning a couple majors would be nice, and then to win this award would be just an extra bonus.
KRAIG KANN: Specifically for you both, the importance, as Annika talked about, on winning a major is something quite special. This is also about legacy and future, not just about the past and Annika's accomplishments, but about everything everybody will accomplish moving forward. 20 years from now saying you won this award, what would that mean to you?
STACY LEWIS: It would be an honor to win this, especially the first year of it. Anytime there's an award, I think we all want to win the first year. To put your name on that trophy, to say you performed the best in the majors for a year, it's a huge accomplishment.
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I think so. I think to put your name on any kind of trophy is an honor. But I think this one is going to be even a bigger honor. Out of the many awards, this is going to be one of the ones we really want to win.
Yeah, I'm looking really forward to it.
KRAIG KANN: With that I'm going to let these two superstars head off the stage. Ladies, thank you for being here and good luck in trying to accomplish this honor this year.
Now we'll take some questions from the media.
Q. Obviously you have a Player of the Year that includes the major championship winners for points. I know the PGA TOUR has a World Golf Championship overriding award. What was the inspiration to break out the five majors on this tour for a specific award?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: In the women's golf arena, majors give us the opportunity to have exposure. Today is a great example when you look around the media center at Kraft Nabisco where we get ratcheted up a notch that quite frankly doesn't happen week in and week out on the women's stage.
The world is really paying attention to women's golf like never before in these five majors. We know those women out there on the range are paying attention like never before.
The idea was, let's take the greatest moments in women's golf, let's take the greatest performances across all five in women's golf, let's create an award that captures the same momentum.
Having just explained this to a few players over the last couple days, winning anything with Annika's name on it on this tour is over the top. You probably knew that already. But I'm floored every time we explain it to a new player, the idea of putting their name on an award next to Annika's is life‑changing.
Q. The little codicil about having to win one, is that your idea?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yes, I have a little bit to do with that. The reason why is I've played in a lot of major championships. I know what it takes to finish. I know what it takes to come down the winning stretch.
I've always said that if tournaments were played for 70 holes, we would have different winners. There is a difference of coming down the 17th and 18th in a major championship. You need to be able to finish. That was one of the things that I told the LPGA. You have to win a major to win the major award.
I think it just makes a lot of sense. Of course, if you have five different winners, it's going to be pretty exciting. Even if you have a multiple winner, there could be a chance for somebody to finish second a few times.
I think it's going to be exciting at the Evian Championship, you will have a chance to win.
KRAIG KANN: This feels like one more step in trying to raise awareness for the best players in the game. Something Annika didn't have a chance to win when she was competing. Do you want to share some thoughts on that opportunity for ladies?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: You've seen that as a consistent trend. We're trying to create a grander spotlight for these women, whether it's the race to the CME Globe, the fifth major, the Rolex Annika Major Award. It's all about trying to identify, recognize and showcase the best female golfers on the planet.
It's funny, Arnaud and I were talking about this award. Had we had this award before, Annika would have won it eight or nine times. Why don't we just put her name on it right from the beginning because it's an award that would have her name on it already.
KRAIG KANN: Annika, your thoughts about that?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I echo Mike's comments. The majors are where we get a lot of exposure and coverage, things being talked about. I think majors define your career.
To be able to do an award like this is to build a legacy and obviously extra motivation for the girls and continue the tradition for the majors. Again, with Rolex as a partner, it makes so much sense. It's a matter of how are we going to finish it out, when are we going to announce it. I'm lucky they wanted me to be a part of it.
It is exciting and I feel honored they're looking at my performance and recognize it. It's flattering at the same time.
Q. You've won every award in golf multiple times. Now your name is going to be in perpetuity part of the LPGA landscape. Where does this fit in your filing cabinet of trophies mentally?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I would say pretty front and center in many ways. Even though I stepped away from competitive golf about six years ago, I feel like I'm very involved in the game.
I like to do a lot of things with my foundation to inspire young girls to play well. Also I continue to work with some of the LPGA players. We have a partnership with the LPGA and the Symetra Tour. With Rolex, I've been with them for over 20 years. We continue to do more and better things.
I would say that's why this is so important.
KRAIG KANN: I'll leave you all with this, that will be the buildup and hype over the next five majors. This will be something that everybody follows all year. Can you envision what this might be like on the 18th green in France?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: I was doing interviews this morning. I can't remember a time in my five years as commissioner when so many of the best golfers in the world are playing their best golf at the same time.
I watched the Kia Classic on TV over the weekend. When you looked at that leaderboard, thought about some of the best players I've seen over the last five years, we've had great years when great players have had great runs. I can't remember when so many are having a great run at the same time. When great players are playing well, the majors become the defining moment.
Whether it's this Sunday or the four more Sundays that will follow that, I really think this is going to be a watershed moment for women's golf which will lead us into 2016 and the Olympics, which is the next high watermark for women's golf.
I'm excited. I think we have an opportunity to showcase women's golf like we haven't before.
KRAIG KANN: Annika, I trust you'll be looking forward to this all year long?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I will. I'll be at Evian and look forward to presenting the trophy to the player who performed best in the majors.