July 24, 2008–Natalie Gulbis is a resident of Lake Las Vegas Resort in Las Vegas, an area that is the home of three Las Vegas golf courses. She has played on U.S. Solheim Cup teams, been highly-ranked in the world rankings, and last year, broke through for her first LPGA Tour win at the prestigious Evian Masters in France. Before her title defense, she spoke at length with the media about working with Las Vegas' Butch Harmon, living in Las Vegas, the state of her game, and the meaning of defending her first title. "(There are) tons of memories," said Gulbis. "From being in the airport, to just being around Evian and getting to stay at the Royale this year, which is a great perk. It's fun to see all the pictures of all the other defending champions around the golf course. So it's a fun week." NOTE: Gulbis finished her title defense at -7 and in a tie for 17th with good friend Annika Sorenstam. Photo: JRICKMARTIN.
Lake Las Vegas Resort is the home to Jack Nicklaus' resort Reflection Bay Golf Club and private SouthShore Golf Club, and Tom Weiskopf's The Falls Golf Club.
Below is the official transcript from Gulbis' championship press conference.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you all very much for joining us. We have our defending champion, Natalie Gulbis, is here. And, actually, Natalie, you came back from a back injury last year and came back to win it. What kind of memories do you have now coming back to the Evian Masters?
NATALIE GULBIS: Tons of memories. From being in the airport, to just being around Evian and getting to stay at the Royale this year, which is a great perk. It's fun to see all the pictures of all the other defending champions around the golf course. So it's a fun week.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. How's your back now? Have you had any problems since you got over that injury?
NATALIE GULBIS: It's been really good. It's an injury I'll probably have for my whole career. So it's something that I have to pay attention to, which is stretching and ice. I still ice it almost every single day. But very good, thank you for asking.
Q. Did something specifically cause it, or was it something you've had all your life?
NATALIE GULBIS: Yeah, it was a swing aide tool that I was trying to use. I was trying to get some more distance off my drive. I was using a really heavy weighted driver or weighted stick to try to get my swing speed up. And my swing speed got up higher, but along in the process, I got hurt.
Q. Are you still working with Butch Harmon?
NATALIE GULBIS: Absolutely.
Q. Do you see him very often?
NATALIE GULBIS: I see him or one of his teachers every single time I'm home. But I call him every single day as soon as I get back from the golf course. Wake him up at 5:00 a.m. usually because of the of time change.
Q. Is he able to offer suggestions? I mean, obviously you tell him how you're playing and he knows your swing. Is he able to give comments about what you might be doing if things haven't worked out or what you could be working on?
NATALIE GULBIS: For sure, especially with technology now. I have a Canon camera where I can take a picture of my swing if I'm not swinging well and send it to him. Because sometimes you get into a swing that you just don't know what's going on, or you have a shot that you can't fix.
But for the most part I can say, Hey, it feels like I'm hitting the ball left and it feels like this. What do you think I can do? And it's usually a trigger memory.
My swing hasn't changed but I have a tendency to go out and try this or try that, and it might be a shot that I've forgotten. Maybe there is real tall rough that week or something with the putting. It's always little reminders, and sometimes it might be course management.
Sometimes you're hitting the ball well and you play a certain way, and other times you aren't striking it so well, so you play a little more conservative. So it's a lot of golf and course management, too.
Q. Can I ask how you feel your game is coming into this tournament?
NATALIE GULBIS: Really good. I had a week off, so I got to go home to my hometown in Las Vegas and spend a lot of time practicing and getting ready for this event.
Q. What does it mean for you to be coming back here to Evian as a defending champion? How is it different from any other tournament? What do you think it will take to successfully defend your title?
NATALIE GULBIS: A lot of good golf, for sure. I remember last year winning this tournament or just being in the hunt in this event, you have to hit your irons really well. I remember that is something that I worked on a lot last year, so I'm going with the same protocol.
Q. How do you feel the course conditions are this year?
NATALIE GULBIS: Different. Last year the golf course played very slow. We had a lot of rain. This year it's playing fast. The greens are firm, and it's in the best shape since this is my fourth or fifth time I've played here, and it is by far the best shape that I've seen and the forecast looks pretty good.
So, knock on wood, the course will stay fast, the greens will stay firm, and the score should be quite a bit different. I know where you've had events where 20 unders won, and just right around par is usually in contention, too.
THE MODERATOR: Questions in French.
Q. People say that the Evian Masters tournament is very different from others because it's very glamorous. There are pretty girls on the posters. Do you feel that the tournament is different in that respect?
NATALIE GULBIS: Yes, this tournament is definitely is different. It is the most comparable to maybe the Masters on the PGA TOUR, and I think that's why it's called the Evian Masters because of the way they treat us.
It's a very small and elite field featuring the best in the world. We get to see a lot of players that we don't see on the LPGA Tour because it goes off the World Rankings. And there are a lot of players off the European Tour. But, yes, it has a different feel.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. Natalie, good luck this week.