How does it feel to be a Major champion?
Awesome. All the places I have gone and all the recognition I have got has been amazing. Wherever I go people have been congratulating me.
Was there a point in your youth that you thought physical issues would stop you being a golfer?
Yes. When I had the (back) surgery I thought I wouldn’t get a scholarship to college and was thinking ‘what am I going to do’. I was thinking ‘I need to go to college and get a degree’. Playing professional golf was so far out of the picture at that point. I didn’t think about playing professionally until my last couple of years at college. There were times I thought I’d never play golf again at all, never mind professionally.
Does it affect you now?
No, I’m fine. I work out a lot and do a lot of core work to strengthen the area around my back and take some pressure off it. I’ve had no trouble in the past couple of years, it’s been really good.
So you don’t have to make any compensatory swing moves?
My swing protects itself I think. There are certainly moves in other people’s swings which I wouldn’t be able to do though.
Did playing with World No 1 Yani Tseng make winning your first Major more difficult?
I definitely had the underdog tag going into the last round. After the way she started the tournament, I think everyone was ready to hand her the title. She had more pressure on her than I did and I just thought if I go out there and play good golf and she beats me then that is one thing – but I wasn’t going to lose by backing off.
Was there an intimidation factor?
I have played with Yani so much that I know I could hit it with her, I knew I could hang in there with her all day. Of course she is number one and usually closes the deal at the end of a tournament and so I think I probably learnt from playing with her and the other great players.
Did you notice Yani lift the trophy before the round? Doing that is considered bad luck in Britain…
Every player after the round asked me ‘did you see her do that?’ but I honestly didn’t. I was at the scoring table noting down hole locations and I just thought they cheered loudly when she came on the tee.
Was there a point in the round when you thought ‘I can win this’?
Actually going down the 3rd, I could kind of tell by the way she was playing she wasn’t going to shoot 66. She was hitting it OK and it was in the fairway but for her, she was just off a little bit. So I told myself ‘you need to get your head down and get to work and take advantage of this’.
I have played with Yani so much that I know I could hit it with her, I knew I could hang in there with her all day. How were your nerves down the stretch?
I was doing OK until we got to about 15. Then it started to kick in it was going to be over pretty soon. But I tried to stay in the moment and it was the only time I thought of what it meant.
Was there a key shot?
I think the 9th was key – I made birdie and she made bogey so there was a two-shot swing. She lost some momentum and I gained some, so I think that was a huge.
Do you feel like you have won a Major title ahead of schedule?
I think my game is really made for Majors – just the way I hit it and I can get up and down quite well. I putt pretty well too. My game is more suited to Majors than when you have to shoot 20 under to win.
My personality suits Majors better too. If I probably didn’t expect to win Majors this year I at least thought I’d put myself in contention more and give myself that opportunity on Sunday.
It must be nice to have one in the bag – Paula Creamer had to wait for a while.
She had a lot of pressure on her to win one. So to get my first win and it being a Major gets a lot of pressure off your shoulders. That’s huge, although some people say the next one is harder because you expect more from your self.
Which one would you like to win next? Any would be great, obviously, but if you pushed me I’d say the US Open. It’s the hardest course we play and is a great test of golf. To be a national champion is something we all work for.
Your granddad passed away just before the Kraft Nabisco – that must have been difficult to deal with?
It was. I found out on the Wednesday morning before going to play in the Pro-Am. I knew he had been sick but the emotions were running pretty high and strayed that way all week. Then to win the tournament brought more emotions. Then to go to his funeral after that – the emotions were just crazy. But everything happens for a reason and I feel like he was watching me, and was with me, the whole tournament.
And your mum hurt her foot afterwards?
She jumped in the pond after I won and the water is pretty shallow. I told her to pick her feet up and jump out really far but she did neither one and landed on the bottom. They diagnosed it as a broken leg but when her doctor checked it over at home she’d just torn a muscle.
The jump into Poppie’s Pond is a unique way to celebrate…
It sure is. When I was at college I’d watch on TV and see it happen and you’d think that’d be pretty cool’ and I couldn’t wait for it – I was ready to go straightaway!
At the moment there is no firm No 1 now. Is that an aim?
It’s encouraging it’s like that. We’ve seen so many take the position in the last two years. It’s nice not to have someone way out in front.