LPGA Professional Christie Kerr and Hall of Fame PGA Tour professional Paul Azinger speak at the annual Golf Channel Media Conference in Orlando, Florida
Q: Cristie are you looking forward to transitioning to television?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I’m not done yet. I just finished sixth last week in Australia.
Q. How did this come about?
CRISTIE KERR: It’s just kind of a fun thing. It’s interesting to learn about it and to be able to see if I want to do it after golf, and I know Molly Solomon pretty well from The Golf Channel, and she’s provided me with some opportunities to get some experience, and I was in the booth in Orlando during the Sony Open on the weekend this year as well as this past year doing the CME TOUR Championship for the women, my Tour, in November.
Q. So this is your PGA TOUR debut?
CRISTIE KERR: Yes, with my good friend Paul Azinger.
Q. Your new colleague David Feherty, they asked him to do it, and he said, this beats playing golf. Is there anybody you would kind of look toward as far as an on-course reporter like Roger Maltbie?
CRISTIE KERR: I look up to everybody. I’m honored to be here working with them this weekend, and I’ve definitely picked their brains about different things. They’ve got a great team, so it behooves me to be able to kind of get information from them and just kind of lean on them when I’m sure I’m going to mess something up this week.
Q. What are you most looking forward to?
CRISTIE KERR: Just the experience. Just everything. Just also seeing the guys play. We don’t get to see them play that often. We’re not exposed to the PGA TOUR that much. I wish they would bring a mixed team event back. I know you played in that.
PAUL AZINGER: Several times.
CRISTIE KERR: I never got to play in it, so I’m like, man, I wish they would bring a mixed team event back to the U.S., with the PGA and the LPGA. I think that would be so much fun.
Q. Do you watch golf much?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I watch golf. I’m a huge golf fan. I fly over to Hawai’i for one of our tournaments on Saturday so I can watch the Sunday of the Masters, make breakfast. It’s a tradition. So yeah, I’m a huge golf fan. I watch as much golf as I can, while doing a wine business and having two kids under the age of six.
Q. Will it be nerve-racking? Will you be more nervous to be a reporter than to play in the event yourself?
CRISTIE KERR: I think the feelings I’ve had being here this week have been a little bit different than playing. Playing it’s like you’re very focused, you have your routine of what you do. Like this is a different experience for me. I think it’ll be a rush. I think it’ll be — I just think it’ll be a lot of fun. I know a lot of the guys out here on TOUR, and I spent five hours on the golf course out here scouting out things yesterday. Not the drop zones and where they are apparently, but just bringing back memories of when I played here as a junior. I remembered a lot more of the golf course than I thought I would.
Q. Paul, what would your advice be now that you’ve been doing this for a while, the transition of going from a playing career to broadcasting? There’s a lot of timing involved. It’s so different than what most players probably think. It’s probably tougher than what most players may —
PAUL AZINGER: The mechanics of it can overwhelm you sometimes, I suppose. But you get used to it. It never bothered me. I don’t think it’s going to bother her. The only thing that would make her nervous is not having been around the men’s game that much. If you were doing the LPGA it would be easy as pie. There wouldn’t be any nerves. It’s what you wonder what you don’t know that’s the worst thing. In the end it’s golf, so she’s going to be able to look at the ground and look at the lie and tell us how far it is. It’s either evaluate — be yourself, that’s the thing. She knows golf as well as anybody. She said she spent five hours — you didn’t spend that much time in your career looking at the course. She’s going to be great.
Q. It’s not like you had a really job description or apply for a job with Molly, but when you look at Paul’s role as the analyst, Dan as the traffic cop in the booth and the reporter role, reporters have so many different definitions. Do you play it straight? Do you try to add humor? Do you bring the empathy of someone who’s succeeded at a high level? How do you see the role of all of this for you?
CRISTIE KERR: I have no idea, honestly. This is my first week on the PGA TOUR. I’m just trying to get through tomorrow.
Q. What’s the mindset? You’ve talked to course reporters.
CRISTIE KERR: I think just be accurate, tell if somebody hit a great shot, brilliant shot, somebody hit a bad shot. Try to talk about what I do know and not try to make up for what I don’t know about the players out here because that takes time. I mean, I think when Dottie first started doing the PGA TOUR, she didn’t know a lot of the players, especially there’s such an influx of all these very, very young players, so I’ll just try to talk about the things that I do know. Hopefully not say something stupid and be able to get through Thursday and go have my glass of wine.
Q. Certainly not on these telecasts in recent years, but you probably have never seen an analyst that was unduly harsh to a player, but just your thoughts about it from a player’s perspective?
CRISTIE KERR: About being a player reporting on players?
PAUL AZINGER: Someone is unduly harsh to her or to us?
Q. Just in general. Johnny Miller had a rap for calling it as he saw it, but there’s also a balance, too, isn’t there.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, there is a balance, and I’m not going to be somebody that’s going to sit there and try to say some things to get noticed for myself. The show is the show, and the players have the stage. I’m not going to be like, hey, I’m Cristie Kerr, I’m here, I’m going to say this and that so I get noticed. It’s the show. It’s the golfers who are playing. If I have some intelligent things to say and people like them, yeah.
PAUL AZINGER: The best advice I got was from a guy named Bob Howard. Some of you may remember Howard. When I got the job with Faldo at ABC, he said, just remember, let the picture be descriptive, you be informative. We can all watch it with the mute button on. And then my wife always says before I leave the room, just remember, now, nobody is tuning in to hear you. But in the end, that’s your job. This is what you do.
She’s going to be great. She’s really truly going to be the analyst on the ground. That’s how it works. She loves golf and she knows golf, so she has a responsibility. Hicks or the hole host will go, and the person on the ground is next, that’ll be her. The wind is blowing left to right, he’s going with a 3-wood or he’s going with a 5-iron, he’s got 100-something yards and he’s got to get it over that bunker there because that’s what you would see if you were the player. That’s how it works. I think you never know until you’re doing it, but she’s done it. She knows how to do it.
CRISTIE KERR: The biggest difference is the distance out here and how far certain people carry their 3-wood, so I know whether they can get over the bunker or whether it’s an iffy shot. I can read a lot of what’s going on between player and caddie to see if they’re comfortable, confident, uncomfortable. You can mention and notice those things. You can tell when somebody is out of their routine. You can say that. I’m just going to try to report on what I’m seeing and not talk about what I don’t know.
Q. Any on-course reporters tell you the importance of turning off your mic when you’re not on screen?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, it has an automatic on and off switch, so it’ll be okay.
Q. Yeah, Feherty has some great stories where he failed to turn it off.
PAUL AZINGER: You know, Feherty was on the ground a long time, and he and Maltbie are probably the best ever at what they do, being on the ground. Being on the ground is a trip. It is fun. I think you’re going to love it. I’ve been on the ground before.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah.
PAUL AZINGER: I did the Ryder Cup in 1995 with Tommy Roy back then, and it is a blast. But the stuff that happens, you just can’t believe the stuff that happens on the air.
Q. I know you’re old enough to remember, I don’t know if you are, but Bob Rosburg on ABC. He was wrong so often, no chance —
PAUL AZINGER: He’s got no chance. That’s what he was famous for.
Q. Cristie, you won a championship here a while ago, right, when you were a junior player?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, 1995 with a big afro and Coke bottle glasses.
Q. How old were you?
CRISTIE KERR: 14, 15. ’77 I was born, so however old I was there, 17 maybe. I don’t even know. 1995, and I was born October of ’77.
Q. Who’s your favorite on TV when you watch?
CRISTIE KERR: Analyst, commentator?
Q. Besides Paul.
CRISTIE KERR: Yes, of course Paul.
PAUL AZINGER: Thank you very much.
CRISTIE KERR: I think the whole team here is great. I hate to single anybody out. It is a very well-oiled machine. I’m just hoping to be part of that machine this week, and no, I’m not running for politics.
PAUL AZINGER: If you go outside of golf, my favorite analyst was Gruden when he was doing it, but honestly, John McEnroe is my favorite analyst.
CRISTIE KERR: Both very opinionated.
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, I just loved McEnroe’s style and the way he went about it and all that. I’ve changed so much since I really just thought about doing McEnroe, but it’s different at NBC.
CRISTIE KERR: Peter Kostis is amazing, so is Dan Hicks.
PAUL AZINGER: The whole host — Hicks, Tirico.
CRISTIE KERR: Terry Gannon is great. Terry does figure skating.
PAUL AZINGER: Steve Sands does a nice job.
CRISTIE KERR: They wouldn’t have a job at the network if they weren’t very good at what they do.
Q. Do you have a broadcasting schedule beyond this tournament?
CRISTIE KERR: No, I don’t. I think I’m going to have a blast this week because I know I can’t play. Like when I was doing CME it was a great experience, I was there, but part of my heart hurt that I wouldn’t playing. But I did a great job, and I learned a lot. But being here, doing this, knowing I can’t play in the tournament, it’s going to be a lot more fun for me, I think.
Q. What did you learn? What’s the biggest thing you learned?
CRISTIE KERR: There are a lot of moving parts in TV, and how everybody has their slotted roles, and everybody has to do their roles to make the whole giant machine work. It’s pretty impressive operation if you’ve never been in a control room, there’s about 100 screens.
Q. With that in mind, have you gotten used to people talking into your ear and giving you thoughts as you’re performing?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, well, I’m sure I’m going to get used to it that first nine holes for sure. But it’ll be a little bit different this time because at CME I had two ears in, and I didn’t have the headset that just has one ear. So I had one for producer, one for show, and I’m going to have two and one this time, which I don’t know what I prefer, so we’ll just see what happens.
Q. And last question on that is equipment has gotten lighter. I’m not talking about wedges and clubs, I’m talking about the utility belt you have to wear. Have you gotten used to all that?
CRISTIE KERR: It wasn’t bad when I tried it on and walked around and stuff.
PAUL AZINGER: We’re going to rehearse this afternoon. We have a 4:00 meeting probably the last 20 minutes, we’ll talk about last week and then what the setup is. The officials come in and talk to the whole team, we ask questions about the course, where the drop zones are, what are the drop zone yardages, will you give us drop zone yardages in week because some courses you don’t even need to know that, there’s no water. But we’re going to go out and rehearse, everybody is going to practice, you’re going to practice a little bit down there, maybe call some practice shots today for fun.
CRISTIE KERR: I don’t know what they said, today or tomorrow morning.
PAUL AZINGER: Just all that. It takes a minute.
CRISTIE KERR: Bones is like, you never want to — he said he stepped out of play to announce into another hole where they were playing, so he said this course shouldn’t be a problem, but there’s a lot of little minutiae kind of stuff where you can’t talk downwind where they hear you. I’m like, I’m going to mess all this up. No, I’m sure I’ll be okay.
PAUL AZINGER: The wind mic is gold because if you’re talking downwind they’ll hear it. They’ll snatch around, that’s the last thing you want to hear.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, that’s the last thing I want to hear, so Bones and I will be —
PAUL AZINGER: You have to know how to get in position in time to get all your information, so you’ve got to know where to be. You want to see where it’s going a lot of times, but when you’re the broadcaster you’ve got to see where it is, so you’ve got to be out there. You’ve got to see where it lands. If you’re back here on the tee, you’re seeing where it’s going, that’s great. Second shot you’ve got time to see where it’s going. Tee shot, you’ve got to be halfway out there.
Q. When you’re on the golf course, you’re reliant on your shot and what your caddie has to say. In this situation you’ve got a whole truckful of people that are trying to put you in the best position to be successful. Is that a different mindset?
CRISTIE KERR: I mean, it’s definitely — well, I mean, my caddie and I just like when you played, we are a team, but it’s just a much bigger team, but you still know who you’re reporting to and who you’re going to hear critiquing from and what you have to do.
PAUL AZINGER: The hope, I think, in the end, is that we can all just be trying to have a conversation, and we’re just going to include her in it. A lot of times if you’re going down to the course reporter, the host, Gary Koch or whoever it is, Steve Sands tomorrow or Notah as the analyst will probably ask a question, what’s it look like, what you got, and off we go. It almost always will be a question. Everybody can answer questions.
Q. Nervous about if any rules situation comes up?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I’m not in it, so I can call for a rules official. I don’t have to worry about taking a wrong drop. I mean, I can talk about these are the options in a lateral hazard or whatever. Who knows.
Q. You’ll have a blast.
PAUL AZINGER: That’s the best thing about it is you never know what’s happening. You never knew Patrick Reed was going to move sand. You didn’t know so-and-so was going to hook it in the water.
CRISTIE KERR: He didn’t think he moved sand.
PAUL AZINGER: You didn’t know what’s-his-face was going to blow a four-shot lead or a guy was going to come from behind and shoot 61. You just don’t know.
CRISTIE KERR: Being on the other side of it this week, I just feel so bad for the person who had to report that.
PAUL AZINGER: Oh, the Patrick Reed thing?
CRISTIE KERR: Yes.
PAUL AZINGER: It was a weird dynamic, I’ll tell you, and then Hicks and I went down to the putting green and said we’ve heard from everybody else, but before we go on air do you mind talking to us, from you, we want to hear it from you so we know what to say so we get it right is what we said. He was great. He just explained — yeah. It’ll hang with him forever, I’ll tell you that. He’s got to be on his best behavior now.
CRISTIE KERR: He’s a unicorn with the way he handles pressure, though.
PAUL AZINGER: It’s unreal.
CRISTIE KERR: Most people would go hide in a hole.
PAUL AZINGER: You might want to all be aware, too, he didn’t hit it that great. He had 45 one-putts. If he hits it good, Bryson, he didn’t hit it that great on Sunday, and he had three three-putts. These two guys — you’ve got two guys that didn’t really play that great that both could have, should have won. I always say, not a lot of guys can win unless they’re playing great golf. Rory is one of those guys. Well, I think those two guys — he proved he can win when he’s not playing as best as far as I’m concerned.
CRISTIE KERR: I mean, how many victories do you have?
PAUL AZINGER: 12.
CRISTIE KERR: And how many times did you just play lights out where you hit it great? Half the time?
PAUL AZINGER: Not very many.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, same.
PAUL AZINGER: The weeks I ever won, for whatever reason nothing really bothered me.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, you just get in a groove and get the ball in the hole.
PAUL AZINGER: Even the first day, buried under a lip on the first hole and it doesn’t bother you because you know you’re hitting it great. There’s something at peace about it. I saw Viktor Hovland today, too.
CRISTIE KERR: Oh, you did?
PAUL AZINGER: I wanted to know how he felt coming down the stretch, so I just asked him point blank.
CRISTIE KERR: Did he know the putt was to win?
PAUL AZINGER: Yeah, he knew it all. From 15 on, he described a shot he had on 15 that was — he said he wanted to have it come and swing in but he hit it hot and it kicked straight and got on the same line and went in, so he said he got lucky there. But then he said everything just relaxed for him, and I thought, oh, yeah, I’ve had that, because that’s what happens.
CRISTIE KERR: It’s the zone.
PAUL AZINGER: Once you get it going, it’s like, whoa, this is awesome. And now it’s on, you’ve got the same rhythm, everything relaxes. Sometimes you’re not because you’re not hitting it good. Everything relaxed for him the other day. Did it feel as good as the Amateur, because we called the Amateur — anyway, I love Viktor Hovland. Of the three, Wolff, Morikawa and Hovland — somebody did ask me who I thought. They’ve all won, of those three. Last year they asked me who I thought would be the best, and I said, I think Viktor Hovland is going to be the best of all of them. I hope that Puerto Rico jinx isn’t real. Anyone who’s ever won in Puerto Rico has never won again.
CRISTIE KERR: No.
PAUL AZINGER: Uh-huh, like 11 straight years.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, but he’s from Norway. He’ll be fine.
Q. Who are you looking forward most to watching? Obviously you’ll have an assigned group.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I don’t know who I’m going to be with.
PAUL AZINGER: You’ll be with some show pony.
Q. Who are you most interested in seeing, whether you’re assigned to their group or not?
CRISTIE KERR: I’m a libra; you’re never going to get a straight answer out of me. Yeah, so —
PAUL AZINGER: I’m looking that up.
CRISTIE KERR: I balance the scales.
Q. Why do you think Viktor is going to be the best of those three?
PAUL AZINGER: Why do I think Viktor will be the best?
CRISTIE KERR: He’s got that look in his eye.
PAUL AZINGER: He just gets it, that part, and he’s a big-game player I just feel like. He’s been through a lot. We watched him win the Amateur. I called the Amateur when he won it, and if you just watch the way he hits his wedges, it’s just is on another level. And he drives it nice and hits it far, but you and I both know, when you’ve got somebody that can peel those wedges like that, it’s like, oh, he’s going to get eight to ten wedges the rest of his life every day. That’s just the way golf works.
CRISTIE KERR: He’s fearless now; what is he, 21 or something?
PAUL AZINGER: Confidence. He’s just polished, and he’s got that personality that just seems to be — he’s like a Tom Kite personality with a better smile.
Q. I was going to say, it’s hard to get the smile off his face.
PAUL AZINGER: He’s Kite with a better smile. Nothing ever bothered Kite that much. It doesn’t look like anything bothers Viktor Hovland, and he smiles. He Matt Kuchars it to death.
CRISTIE KERR: Kuchar smile.
PAUL AZINGER: Doesn’t he, Viktor? He’s got a beautiful smile. That kid just looks happy. He just looks happy.
CRISTIE KERR: Hashtag, 25 years later us.
PAUL AZINGER: Curmudgeon.
CRISTIE KERR: That’s golf, you know.
Q. Did you hear the Norwegian call on Viktor Hovland’s win?
CRISTIE KERR: I did, yeah.
PAUL AZINGER: They call golf every week, you know, over there, and was that the best reaction you ever heard in sports really? It’s like what they do in Mexico City.
Q. He was the first one to win from Norway on the men’s Tour.
CRISTIE KERR: Unbelievable.
PAUL AZINGER: I wish I could have seen the translation of what they were saying, as they were going off, just the volume. It was just such a guttural reaction, wasn’t it, from those guys? I loved it.
Q. It was pretty good.
PAUL AZINGER: You heard it, too?
February 26, 2020
Q. Yeah, it went viral.
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