Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club
Shima-shi, Mie, Japan
First-round notes and interviews
November 5, 2010
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jiyai Shin fired an opening-round 65 to share the first-round lead at the Mizuno Classic with Rolex Rankings No. 27 Yukari Baba from Japan. Shin posted nine birdies and two bogeys on the 6,506 yard, par-72, Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club in Shima-shi, Japan. Shin and Baba hold a one-stroke advantage over Rolex Rankings No. 16 Morgan Pressel who shot 66. A host of other players, including Rolex Rankings No. 5 and last week’s winner Na Yeon Choi, France’s Karine Icher and South Korea’s Meena Lee, stand two strokes behind.
Chasing down Choi. Leader Jiyai Shin lost her hold on the LPGA money list last week when Na Yeon Choi, a.k.a. NYC, posted a repeat win at the LPGA Hana Bank Championship Presented by SK telecom. A win this week could place Shin back on top. Shin won both the LPGA money title and the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award in 2009.
Confidence breeds confidence. Last week’s winner Na Yeon Choi continues to ride a wave of good play. The third-year player from South Korea has posted two wins and four runner-up finishes since June. Choi began her round with three straight birdies. She fired an opening-nine 32 en route to a bogey-free 67. Her plan for the second round? “I will not change anything,” Choi said. “I have a lot of confidence about my game.”
Choi leads the LPGA Official money list and the race for the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. She is also in the mix for Rolex Player of the Year honors and the Rolex Rankings No. 1. Choi has her sights set on the prizes. “My dream is Rolex Rankings No. 1,” said Choi, who currently stands as the Rolex Rankings No. 5, “But right now, this year, my dream is two things - money list number one and Vare Trophy.”
Home away from Home. Morgan Pressel might be looking for a second home this week if she continues to fire red numbers. Pressel, who is off to a hot start this week at the Mizuno Classic, captured the Salonpas Cup, a major championship on the JapanLPGA, earlier this year. “It’s been a big year for me in Japan,” Pressel said. “It is unbelievable how much people really love their women’s golf here. People here have just always been very nice to me and it’s a great golf country.”
Back-nine specialist. Pressel did not like how she was striking the ball early in her round, but all that changed on the back nine. She reeled off five birdies for a bogey-free back-nine 31. Pressel stands alone in third place after round one.
Four straight for the JLPGA? Co-leader Baba, who is a member of the JapanLPGA, looks to keep the win streak alive for non-LPGA members. The last three Mizuno Classic champions were members of the JLPGA – Momoko Ueda (2007), Jiyai Shin (2008) and Bo Bae Song (2009).
Rolex watch. The Rolex Player of the Year race continues to tighten with only three events remaining on the LPGA schedule. Yani Tseng currently holds a two-point advantage over Ai Miyazato. Rolex Rankings No. 2 Cristie Kerr, who ranks third in the race, is taking the week off. Na Yeon Choi stands in fourth, only twelve points back, while Shin is 36 points behind. A win this week carries a point value of 30. Second place is worth 12 points. Players must finish in the top 10 to earn any points. After round one, here is how the contenders stand – Tseng (tied for 14th), Miyazato, (tied for 40th), Choi (tied for 4th) and Shin (tied for 1st).
In the record book. Hee Young Park made back-to back eagles on the sixth and seventh holes during the first round, tying an LPGA record. The feat has been accomplished on the LPGA Tour 18 other times.
Hole-in-one. Seon Hwa Lee holed a 4-hybrid on the par-3 17th from 174 yards. The hole-in-one earned her 3,000,000 YEN.
Of note. Defending champion Bo Bae Song shot a first-round 71…LPGA Tour rookies Azahara Munoz and Amanda Blumenherst both posted even-par rounds…Former Mizuno Classic champions Karrie Webb and Maria Hjorth matched one-under-par 71’s.
Q: Both of your shots and putts looked fine today from the start. SHIN: It looks great if you have a look at my score, but there were a lot of shots and putts that I regret, so I am not satisfied with my golf.
Q: This course seems to be your favorite. SHIN: I played with Bo-Bae Song today and she also told me that my shots and putts always goes to the pin.
Q: Have you changed your irons. SHIN: Yes. These irons are new model. The old irons were fine, but I tried the new ones and felt good through the impact. My shots also became more accurate.
Q: What was the setting of your irons for today. SHIN: 6 iron to pitching wedge. I also have my five irons with me, but that depends on the wind. I either use a five iron or a rescue.
Q: How do you want to play toward the end of the season? SHIN: This year I focused more on playing consistent golf, and it has been working well. I have two more tournaments this year and if I could win either one of them, I would be able to spend a happy warm winter.
Q: You are in a reach for the money queen again. SHIN: I’m not playing for the money title. I have a special feeling in this tournament, so I will just try my best this week.
Q: You made birdies for all of the par-5s. Did that make you confident?
BABA: Yes. I reached the green on two of them and another one was on the edge. The fact that I got birdies on all of the four par-5s was huge.
Q: Looking at your past results, you seemed to have struggled with the course. What was different today?
BABA: I was lucky to make 30-footer for a birdie on the starting hole and the birdies on the Par-5s got me going. I also made many 10-15 footers today that helped my score.
Q: Was the green fast?
BABA: Yes, so I had to think carefully with the second shot.
Q: Were you confident with the green?
BABA: I was okay with the green. But as I said, second shot becomes very important on these greens. Some of the greens were faster than they looked.
Q: How did you manage the wind?
BABA: My caddie helped me with the wind. She gave me some good advice on my club selection.
Q: You started very well today. What is going to be your goal?
BABA: I had a great day, and it seems like a chance just rolled into me. But they are a lot of excellent USLPGA players this week and I know they will shoot lower numbers. So I will just try to play my game.
MORGAN PRESSEL, ROLEX RANKINGS NO. 16
Q: Great playing today, Morgan. Can you talk a little about your round?
PRESSEL: I got off to a little bit of a rough start. I just felt like I wasn’t hitting the ball that well on the front nine. I had a lot of 50, 60 footers and had terrible speed and I managed to hang in there and make a couple of ten foot comebacks for par. Which was really big and then I finally hit some ten footers for birdie on the back nine and those went in too.
Q: You won the Salonpas Cup earlier in the year. What is it about playing in Japan that makes you so comfortable?
PRESSEL: It’s been a big year for me in Japan and I have never really played particularly well here before. So I have enjoyed coming back and playing well. People here have just always been very nice to me and it’s a great golf country. They really enjoy the game. Playing at Salonpas Cup this year I felt like I was playing in front of Solheim Cup crowds. It is unbelievable how much people really love their women’s golf here and it’s great to see and it’s fun to play.
NA YEON CHOI, ROLEX RANKINGS NO. 5
Q: Na Yeon, Good playing today. First, how are you feeling? You were a little under the weather earlier in the week.
CHOI: I feel a lot better than before. And I think today the weather was good so I could keep warm. So I feel better.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your round?
CHOI: I had a good start. I had birdie, birdie, birdie at the start. So, after that I had confidence from that. So, that’s why I played well today.
Q: Are you going to stick to the same game plan tomorrow?
CHOI: I will not change anything. Just keep the same and play with confidence.
Q: Well your confidence has to be riding pretty high right now after winning again last week. What is really working in your game right now?
CHOI: I think all, everything - driver and irons, putter, chipping. I have a lot of confidence about my game and about my mental game too. Everything.
MEENA LEE, ROLEX RANKINGS NO. 77
Q: Can you talk a little about your round today?
LEE: I played my iron shots really well today and also my putting was working.
Q: You have played well during the Asia swing. You had your best tournament of the year in Malaysia, a fifth. What has been really good about your game? Have you been working on anything different?
LEE: Yesterday, my putting, I was working on it. Last week I was swinging very well, but I did not make any putts. But today I was putting well and that’s why I made more birdies.
Q: Are you comfortable on this golf course?
LEE: Oh, yeah. I like it. The course condition is very good.
Q: How did you feel about the wind? It was kind of strong today.
LEE: Confused. The wind was confused. That’s why it was hard.
Q: What is your goal for tomorrow?
LEE: I just want to enjoy the play tomorrow and trust my game.