New baby changing Kerr's life

By Randall MellJanuary 31, 2014, 10:58 pm

Cristie Kerr’s life took a wondrous, dizzying turn last month.

In a life-changing moment, she was sure she would never be the same person again.

When her first child, Mason Kerr Stevens, was placed into her arms in a Florida hospital, she felt the tectonic plates in her world shifting.

“It was like I didn’t even know myself before Mason was born,” Kerr told “Everyone says having a child changes your life, but you wonder, how exactly? Until you have a child, you don’t know, you don’t really understand the kind of love you can have. It’s better than we imagined.”

Kerr, 36, stunned much of the golfing world announcing she and her husband, Erik Stevens, were the proud parents of Mason, born on Dec. 8 to a surrogate mother carrying their child. After four years of trying and failing to have a baby, they sought help, realizing their shared dream with In Vitro fertilization. Genetically, Mason is theirs, through gestational surrogacy.

“He’s our little miracle,” Cristie said.

He’s the miracle that Cristie and Erik wondered possible after Cristie was diagnosed with Endometrial deficiency, a medical condition where a thin uterine wall would make it difficult, if not impossible, to carry a child to term.

“It put us at high-risk pregnancy,” Kerr said.

There was heartache trying and failing, but it only made Mason’s arrival more joyous.

“I can’t imagine us without him,” Kerr said.

Kerr and Stevens guarded the private nature of the surrogacy, telling only close friends after they decided early last year to try that method. Cristie said she was walking down the first fairway after her opening tee shot at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii in April when Erik caught her eye. He was excited about something.

“I’m like`What?’” Kerr said. “And he says, `We’re pregnant!’ It was really, really cool. I went on to miss the cut and didn’t give a crap.”

At the Safeway Classic in Portland in September, Cristie’s closest LPGA friends threw her a baby shower.

“It wasn’t that we were trying to hide anything from media, it was just a very personal matter,” Kerr said.

Kerr, even her friends will tell you, is a complex personality, a curious mix of toughness and tenderness. When she’s stalking a trophy, one of her cold stares can make birds stop singing. Her devotion to the fight against breast cancer, though, speaks to that other dimension. She threw her heart into the cause after her mother, Linda, was diagnosed. Kerr is the force behind the Cristie Kerr Health Center in Jersey City, N.J., a medical facility that treats women fighting breast cancer regardless of their ability to pay. She has raised more than $3 million in the fight.

The golf world has watched the metamorphosis of Kerr before. We saw the brash, hard-edged and frumpy working-class girl from Miami improbably blossom into one of the tour’s glamor girls, shedding almost 60 pounds a decade ago. She re-invented herself then as a chic, cover-girl athlete that Women’s Fitness named one of the sexiest women in golf. She became a wine connoisseur and created her own Curvature label.

With Kerr preparing to begin the 2014 season at the Honda LPGA Thailand in three weeks, there’s curiosity over how this newest transformation is going to unfold.

How is motherhood going to change her?

“I’ve seen a different side of myself, and I’ve seen a different side of Cristie,” said Erik, who isn’t just Cristie’s husband but also her manager/agent. “I’ve seen amazing changes in her. She’s so attentive to Mason, so engaged, and I have to say, she’s very, very peaceful.”

Erik, though, says some things don’t change, but are only enhanced by motherhood, like Cristie’s attention to detail.

“I have to say, in a positive way, she’s anal about how everything gets done, incredibly detail oriented,” Erik said. “If there were an epic flood and 5,000 babies survived, I could diaper and feed every single one of them. We have clothes for Mason for the first year and a half already. They’re color-coded, sorted in drawers.”

Kerr is always eager to start a new season, but this year begins like no other. This time, it will be tough leaving home to go to Thailand for her 2014 debut. It will be tough leaving Mason and Erik behind in Scottsdale, Ariz.

While being a mother may be changing Kerr as a person, there’s curiosity how it’s going to change her as a player.

Kerr is a 16-time LPGA winner, a two-time major champion. She was the first American to rise to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

What happens now that her priorities are changing? Can she still devote herself to what it takes to win tournaments and majors? Can she be a champion and a mom? Can she have it all?

Kerr is eager to find out, too.

So are fellow players.

“It’s really hard,” says Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, who won more than half her seven majors while raising two daughters. “Basically, you have two full-time jobs. I’m sure Cristie will have plenty of help.”

Inkster said there will be trial and error early on. 

“She’s going to have to find her own balance.” Inkster said. “It took me awhile to find that balance of when to practice, when to hold back. There isn’t much 'me' time. That might be a little hard for Cristie. It’s not all about Cristie now, but she’ll figure it out. This is something she has always wanted. She’s a hell of a golfer, and she’s had a great career, and she’s going to continue that, but she’s going to have to figure out that balance.”

Erik is stepping in there, overhauling his business to devote himself to family. Last year, he hired an assistant to take on some of his professional workload so he can be more heavily involved in raising Mason.

“I’ll be a bit of Mr. Mom on occasion, which I’m looking forward to,” Erik said. “We got help with the business, instead of hiring people to take care of Mason, where we would never really see him. That’s not our style. We want to be very involved in Mason’s life.”

While Erik’s increasing domestic role will free up Cristie to play and practice, there’s still going to be emotional challenges. Erik can see how hard it is for Cristie to leave home just to practice the last few weeks.

“There are going to be times Cristie is going to have to make choices about where she wants to go, what she wants to do, based on how Mason is doing with things,” Erik said.

Cristie is feeling that with Mason already.

“You enjoy feeding him, you enjoy burping him, you enjoy hanging out with him,” Kerr said. “Seeing every little smile and movement is fascinating.”

Cristie hopes to bring Mason out on tour for the first time in March at the LPGA Founders Cup, which will be played practically in the backyard of their Scottsdale home. She isn’t sure how much Erik and Mason will travel yet, but they’re considering hiring help when they are on the road.

“Erik said he’s basically going to create an environment where I don’t have to worry about them at home,” Kerr said. “I just have to make sure I find the right balance.

“I think being a mother will make me better. There’s new inspiration to play. I’ve always played for my family, but now I’m really playing for family. I think the key is not putting so much pressure on myself that I can’t perform.”

The greatest pressure may not necessarily come over putts anymore.

It may come leaving her front door for all those international trips on the LPGA schedule.

“I’ll be inspired, but I think the bad weeks are going to be easier now,” Kerr said.

Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

Getty Images

Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”