Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove
Second-round notes and interviews
May 14, 2010
Thursday was ruled by a rookie. Friday, by a 24-time winner and LPGA Hall of Famer. Se Ri Pak fired a 6-under 66 that, paired with her 69 Thursday, put her in the lead by one over Brittany Lincicome (66) and Wendy Ward (65) at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic at the Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove in Mobile, Ala., part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Pak started on the back side, and after turning in a 1-under 35 on her first nine, she caught fire, making birdies on two, three, five, six and seven to come in with a bogey-free 31. “I’ve been striking the ball well for a little while, but I’ve been having a really hard time on the greens since last fall,” Pak said. “But golf is patient game, so I’m kind of patient myself. Finally, I make some putts here and there, and then that of course gets me my feel back, and that gets me a lot of confidence back.”
Pak’s 66 Friday is her lowest round this season and ties her lowest since July of 2007, when shot a 63 in the first round of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, her last victory on the LPGA.
Pak has won twice on this course, in 2001 and 2002, back when it was the LPGA Tournament of Champions, so she certainly knows her way around. “Of course I have such great memories about it,” she said. “Of course I play really well. I mean, during the round of course I know so many holes, you know, where to miss, how to play, how to make the shot. So that actually helps a lot, especially during this week.”
Ward’s 7-under 65 matched first-round leader Azahara Muñoz’s as the low round of the tournament, and it came via seven birdies – including a birdie-birdie finish on holes eight and nine – and no bogeys. “Let me just sit here and enjoy this for a second,” she joked before her post-round press conference started.
Ward’s round today came courtesy of a coaching change a few weeks ago. After missing the cut at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Ward got in touch with her coach from 10 years ago, Lori Brock, and decided to give the relationship another chance. They’d been friends ever since – Brock was even in Ward’s wedding – but Ward had missed the close personal and professional relationship. Reunited, Ward sounded refreshed. “There's one word that keeps popping into mind,” Ward said. “It's ‘simple.’ It was easy. It's fun and it's simple. That's the way this game needs to be.”
Lincicome opened with six birdies on her first seven holes – including five in a row on 3-7 – as she went out in 6-under 30, the low nine of the tournament. This follows her 4-under 32 yesterday. If you’re scoring at home, that’s 10-under on the front nine this week. “Obviously, there’s something about that nine that I like,” she said. “I made every putt I looked at. I think I had about 10-footers every hole, and I just rolled them in like they were nothing.”
Lincicome’s 66 today came despite increased soreness in her “glutes and legs,” she said, as a result of swinging for the fences at Hank Aaron Field last night. Tournament sponsor Bell Micro rented out the home of the AA Mobile BayBears for guests of the tournament and the LPGA to participate in a homerun derby, which Lincicome, No. 2 in driving distance this year, won. “Of course,” she joked.
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jiyai Shin shot another 2-under 70 to stand at 4-under total. No. 2 Ai Miyazato shot a 1-under 71 that got her to 3-under total. Rolex Rankings No. 4 Suzann Pettersen followed her 68 yesterday with a 70 today; she’s 6-under and tied for fourth.
Libby Smith made the most of Monday qualifying by making the cut this week. Smith shot 71-73 and stands at even par for the tournament. A back-nine 39, which included two double bogeys, derailed her effort to play her way into the Sybase Match Play Championship next week.
The top-10 players after Friday not already qualified for next week’s Sybase Match Play Championship earned their way in. They are Haeji Kang, Azahara Muñoz, Janice Moodie, Shi Hyun Ahn, Hye Jung Choi, Jimin Kang and Shanshan Feng. The remaining three spots will be determined by the third-round scores of Amanda Blumenherst, Amy Hung, Jeong Jang and Karen Stupples.
Of note: Defending champion Angela Stanford fired her second-straight 2-under 70 Friday…. First-round leader Azahara Muñoz struggled Friday, turning in a 1-over 73 that put her back to 6-under and in a tie for fourth.
WD: Angela Park and Brandie Burton withdrew after the first round.
SE RI PAK
MODERATOR: Welcome, Se Ri. 66 out there. You made the turn obviously coming from the back in 35 and 31 on the front. Did something click on the front? Talk a little bit about the round.
SE RI PAK: Well, I mean, actually lately I’m striking really well for a little while. But I have really hard time on the green actually since last yeah, last year, fall. I mean, just trying really work hard my short game, especially putting. However, wasn't really, you know, following my way. So really have been struggling on the green. But, well, actually, golf is patient game, so I’m kind of patient myself and keep working exactly same thing and change a little bit of routine. Finally, I make some putt here and there, and then of course gets me a little more feel you know, my feel back, and then I have a lot of confidence back. And then of course I have a great chance.
So still I'm striking really good. The mix helps a lot, too, as long as I have a chance and make some putt here and there. And then ended up actually, yeah, with pretty good scores. I never really, you know, try to give myself pressure. Just go out and try to enjoy it and make sure I'm doing the right thing. And then overall, at the end of the round, I got a pretty good score.
MODERATOR: You're a two time champion here. Obviously not the Bell Micro, but the Tournament of Champions on this course. Talk a little bit about the good vibes of coming back to a place where you've won a couple times.
SE RI PAK: Actually, the thing is I talk about my caddie during the practice this week. I said, I won here two times. I know the golf course really well. Of course they changing a little bit, but I think they're really great job on the golf course at changing. Seems like a more the amazing thing, I should talk about this, is they keep the same shape the greens, but like bigger, but less undulation. But still, I say, that doesn't mean it's easier. But still like more better, like more playable. Before, not enough room in the bag, greens are firm, a lot of undulation. Players really hard time to get on the green couple holes. But they changing really great. So overall, I mean, as I said, I won two times here. Of course I have such a great memory about it. Of course I play really well and scores really low, too. Actually, that helps a lot. I mean, during the round of course I know so many holes, you know, where to miss, how to play, how to make the shot. So that actually helps a lot, especially during this week.
Q. Se Ri, as someone who has won a lot out here Lorena has left the game I'm curious what your thoughts were, and have you ever had any moments where you felt like you wanted to walk away? You've had great ups and great downs, but...
SE RI PAK: Yes, of course. Probably all the players same as Lorena. We are actually living in the suitcase. Week to week we spend whole week in the hotel, traveling because of tournament. I'm very understanding. I mean, I actually was feel that way, too. I mean, I really love to playing golf, but not packing all the time. I have to see my suitcase right next me all every single time, every week, all year long. That's probably most hard part, though. You don't have really great life. You always been traveling probably 300 days of traveling, especially like by myself, which is pretty lonely, you know. Of course you see the golf course and many fans out there, so many players here, but not really social like in my private life. It's pretty hard, though.
Of course I was thinking about that way, too. But I'm still loving the game, you know. I'm still like to be playing out here, of course. For me, of course still hard to be unpack, packing, traveling. But as long as I love golf, I'm still out there. That's why I'm still here keep playing it. Sooner or later, yes, I'm gonna be probably find like a normal life. Stay home, being as normal person, do something as normal people. So soon, but not right now. (Laughter.)
Q. At what time during today's round did you feel like you maybe got the rhythm going and this could be a really good score?
SE RI PAK: Well, not really specific time. Just feel really I feel really calm at the golf course, because I think because, you know, play here so many times already. I feel really great about my swing and tempo. Everything makes me really calm out there. If I have a chance, I make it; if not, I miss it. It's still out there so many chances. So I'm not really just thinking about, this is it. Trying to keep myself being right at the time, but just want to be out there just try to be out there just really more enjoyable. Probably more easy to say and hard to do. Of course, I'm always all year long over 13 years I'm doing exactly same thing. (Laughing.) It's not really happening yet, but I'm getting there. Seems like today, lately actually, I really feel calm at the golf course. Seems like I feel more enjoyable. I play well, of course, striking better, and make some putts. Of course I like to see more making putts. But I'm getting there, so I just go out and just do my best.
Q. With the thumb injury, at what point coming back did that start to feel comfortable for you again? I know that had to affect you when you came back. Right after it is there that comfort zone?
SE RI PAK: I don't have any injury for the thumb ever. I don't have any injury for my thumb.
Q. Oh, I thought you had a thumb injury.
SE RI PAK: What I have is like, yeah, on the left...
SE RI PAK: Yeah, it was the middle finger.
Q. When you came back, how long did it take before you felt like you could hit shots and not worry about if there was gonna be pain or discomfort or whatever?
SE RI PAK: Probably I think I was stop playing right after British, and I thought it's gonna be just like minor injury. But soon as I keep practicing and hitting the ball, finger get bigger and bigger. So at that moment actually I have a problem. Actually, I stop really quick. That's probably helps a lot. So probably about maybe like five months, and of course I totally can't even touch my club.
Then of course an extra two or three months or so I'm kind of a little curious. I'm kind of a little bit scary, because, you never, you never know. I mean, I thought it was gonna be perfect, but still can't even see it. So probably half a year actually get back to the way I feel 100 percent. I feel great now. OK, little more shape as I used to. So since that, and of course I stay in my practice routine, practice, workout, and just do the same thing. So I think takes about six months to be get back everything clear up and make sure I can trust it and go out and play again.
Q. The LPGA has lost some tournaments in the U.S. but has added some tournaments overseas in Asia, Singapore. What are your thoughts on tour becoming more global? Being from Korea, do you like being able to have tournaments over there? What are your thoughts on the global aspect of the tour?
SE RI PAK: I think personally, yes, I really love that it happen, you know, like worldwide. The LPGA players you can see not only in U.S., not in Asia, not in Europe. We're worldwide members here, so we are should have different countries, different kind of weather, cultures. I mean, I think the players are really exciting about it. Of course, we love tournaments and kind of hoping get back the way we normal, but, you know, I think that's good happen. We lost in U.S., but we have some in Asia. We can see some differences. But personally, yes, that's probably I think great move, great change.
MODERATOR: 66 today. Great start on the front nine. Obviously not the finish you would hope for, but just tell us about how you got it going on the front nine.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Yeah, I played really good on that nine yesterday, so there something about that nine that I like. I made every putt I looked at. I think I had about 10-footers every hole, and I just rolled them in like they were nothing. Obviously that helps. Was driving it really well until the last hole. I'm not exactly sure where that came from. Maybe just a little nervous knowing that I was near the top. I don't know what happened, but that was the worst drive of the day. Hopefully get rid of that for tomorrow.
Q. That hole could have been worse though, couldn't it?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Yeah, especially that chip wasn't really that hard. For some reason, put a lot of spin on I thought it would kind of tumble out of that rough. But, you know, what would you say that was, seven feet for bogey, or six feet for bogey even. So it was a nice save. But you're definitely right. Tried to keep my composure and calm down and try to make a good stroke on it.
Q. Is this a course you have to attack the par 5s?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Yeah, every hole seems to be one that you can attack. I feel like the layout of this golf course a lot of the holes are right to left, which work into my draws. I've been driving it really well. Even if I miss the fairway, it's probably by a yard, and I would count that anyway. You know, it's just a golf course that sets up for really well for my eye. And if I'm putting well, the sky is the limit.
Q. If you're gonna get nervous with a chance at the lead on the last hole, it is better to do it on the second day?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: You know, I don't know. I was second going into the final day in Mexico couple weeks ago. I was so nervous. I was like, would I have liked to have played bad on Friday or Sunday (laughs). I wasn't really sure. But it's nice to kind of be in contention again and see that I'm shooting the scores and playing well again.
Q. Did you think the course played tougher today, or about the same?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: It was a little bit windier. Definitely hotter than yesterday. Kind of trying to wipe off the sweat and keep my hands dry. That might have been the case on that tee shot on the last hole, hands getting a little wet. But I think it was a little bit windier today.
Q. Do you feel like you built up some momentum heading into the weekend?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I do, absolutely. Trying to take all the positives out of the last two days and take them into the weekend. Obviously I think I've birdied almost every hole out here now, so know every hole I can birdie. Obviously the par 5s, just hitting good drives off the tee and having mid irons into a couple of them, trying to make some eagles out there.
Q. Is that your little brother?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: No, niece and nephew. Yeah. All day he's giving me the little thumbs up, which is so cute. This is their first event, so they're loving it.
Q. There has only been I believe five or six tournaments this year on the LPGA tour. How tough is it now as a golfer not to be able to get into a routine, a rhythm? You're playing, you're off for three weeks, playing in Mexico and you're flying and you're off for a week. What does that do to a golfer after the kind of year you had last year?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Yeah, it's a little difficult, but I enjoy being home. So a week on and a week off, for me personally it doesn't really affect me at all. Unfortunately, I didn't do too much practicing last week, so it's nice to kind of see myself playing well with not practicing at all last week. But you're definitely right. I mean, we have two weeks here in a row, so we're excited. Then we have two weeks off, I guess, and then we have a five week stretch. So it's kind of picking up here slowly. I don't mind it one bit. It works.
Q. I talked to the new commissioner this morning, and he said Lorena, everyone is sad to see her go. It opens up opportunities for someone else to be No. 1. How much do you talk about that most your peers?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Yeah, any one of us can step up at any minute. Obviously Ai Miyazato is kind of killing it right now, or Jiyai Shin. Their short game, if I had their short game, wow, with my long game and their short game, it would be crazy. But, yeah, I mean, he said it right. Anybody can step up. It's just a matter of who is willing to do it. Obviously being an American I would like to see the Americans do it. But it's nice for our fans to see somebody different win each week, or Ai just gonna go out and win every week. (Laughing.) We'll just see what happens.
Q. With Lorena's retirement, which was kind of a surprise to me anyway… It really as you said opens up the game of golf, and the game now needs another kind of like face. What you do I think? Do you that's what it needs, or needs a different face every week?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: You know, it could be either way. People obviously liked when Lorena was winning every week or when Annika was winning every week. I personally think it's fun to kind of see different players win each week just so somebody even a new fan will learn something about that player. So I like different players winning each week, or myself, of course. But, yeah, either way it seems to work. We need a Tiger on our tour, and maybe be Ai or Jiyai or somebody can kind of take over that spot and be No. 1.
Q. Going back to Hamilton Farm?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Oh, yeah. Wouldn't miss that week.
Q. Memories for you?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Yeah, it's nice to kind of get into a rhythm this week and play there next week. Match play is a really fun event. I love match play. I like being more aggressive, going for the par 5s. So it's just a format that fits my game.
Q. After last year, did you feel any kind of extra special pressure coming in this year?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: No, no. I don't try to put any extra pressure on myself. You know, I played really well in Thailand and Singapore. Maybe didn't score the way I would have liked, but I was hitting the ball and putting really, really well. We'll just keep this going and see how many times I can win.
Q. About your game, do you feel your game is the kind of game that the LPGA can use as someone to get the fans going because the fans like big hitters rather than chippers and putters?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, it's always fun, especially playing with our Pro Am guys on Wednesdays. The first drive off the first tee when you hit it, you know, 280 and then they're like, Oh, my goodness. The ones that are fun are the ones that try to outdrive me. I just beat it by 'em. It's good for their ego, I'm sure. Yeah, our swings are still slow enough where the fans can relate to our swings better than the men. We still hit it far, so it's a good combination.
Q. I wasn't able to go to the homerun derby last night.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: My body is hurting.
Q. Was there a winner last night?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I was the winner. Of course.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I know, right? There wasn't very many players. It was a lot of the Bell Micro people were there. It was really a lot of fun, but any glutes and legs are pretty sore today.
Q. Now, you threw out the first pitch up in Pittsburgh, I was told. Are you from Pittsburgh?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: No, no. We were juts kind of promoting Bands for Life, breast cancer, and the US Open. There was a lot of things all tied in in two days.
MODERATOR: 7-under 65. Great round. Tied the low round for the tournament. Tell us about it.
WENDY WARD: We were walking over here, and I was telling him, it’s been a slow start to the year. I didn’t like how things were going. So I kind of made an impromptu coach switch. I went back to my coach from 10 years ago, and we just kind of picked things up where we left off 10 years ago. It’s been fun. Morelia, I didn’t quite have the things come together. She came here this week, and I played really solid. My 1-under yesterday, we both said – I don’t like to do a coulda-been, shoulda-been type of thing – but there were opportunities for a 3- or 4-under round, which was encouraging to me because I haven’t seen very much of that this year. So today, we talked about it last night before she left, and she said to me, Your rounds of being in contention or not are basically two or three putts a day, two or three drives a day, and I said, Well, that sounds… – she actually said one or two drives a day, and I thought, Well, that sounds pretty easy to make that big of a difference. So, it’s fun, and I’ve come here for many years, and I know this course; I’ve had to learn the changes. Despite the greens being still young and very firm, I still see the same shots, so I just had a lot of fun out there today.
Q. Who’s the coach?
WENDY WARD: Lori Brock.
Q. Wendy, was there something specifically that made you want to go back to your coach?
WENDY WARD: You know, it's funny. We had – our first domestic event in was at La Costa in Carlsbad, and she had just moved there six months prior. We had talked off and on for 10 years. Nothing about my golf really to amount to much. She was the one that initiated kind of the contact and said, Hey, I think you're in town. Want to grab a bite to eat? She's one of those people – she was a very close friend of mine and was in my wedding. It was kind of sad. We both missed the friendship, but we really missed the working relationship, too.
After I missed the cut at the major, um, I couldn't go anywhere for the weekend. It was Easter Sunday and there wasn't a flight to be found. I said, You know what I told my caddie, I said, I feel like driving back down to San Diego and giving it another shot. Meanwhile, my coach had said, I wanted you to make the cut, but just in case, I blocked off about four hours on Saturday afternoon for you (laughs). So we were kind of in the same place on the same page. Like I said, it was really easy to pick up where we left off.
Q. Had you had a coach that you were working with during that time, or were you kind of flying solo?
WENDY WARD: I've had two, two other coaches. They kind of were five years and five years. I'm not one to really, you know, give somebody one shot at the title and be done with it. You know, just we got to a point that things weren't improving in each of those situations, but I had learned a lot. So those calls are always tough to say, I need to try something else. But my previous coach, Doug Brook was a champ about it and said, I wish you the best of luck. So that kind of freed me up and made me feel like I was making the right decision.
Q. Just to clarify, what was the first tournament back with Lori?
WENDY WARD: Morelia, which was, yeah, two weeks ago.
Q. Is it familiar to you, this coaching philosophy? I mean, it's one thing to do it on the range, but to come out and actually roll the rock and shooting the scores, what's that leap like? Or is it much of a leap?
WENDY WARD: That's what I'm saying. I mean, there's one word that keeps popping into mind. It's "simple." It was easy. She's bringing me back to simple drills. We actually kind of broke things down pretty hard over the last three weeks, and I think that's why I didn't quite have it together at Morelia. And just to have that reinforcement with her here this week – and even on Wednesday I felt like I hit it awful and was out of my tempo.
She got on the range and said, How can I help you? I said, Everything we've talked about is good, but I've got to get into my play mode. Immediately she took me through three things, and it was like that night I was ready to tee it up on Thursday and go. It's simple again. It's fun and it's simple. That's the way this game needs to be.
Q. So what about today clicked? Was there a certain part that said, OK, now it's working and I feel comfortable going forward?
WENDY WARD: Um, I would just say we've kind of tried to break the rounds down. Instead of a big five hour, 18 hole round, we've broken them into little games that I think about out there, you know, whether it's being under par on each nine, or... Not gonna give all my secrets away. But, you know, it's the one putt this leads to the next putt. You know, trying to make three or four birdies each nine and not really I think I've become this is my 15th year out here, so most of these kids think I'm pretty old. I just turned 37 last week. I don't feel that old, but when I see they're, they could be my kids. That's why I can call 'em a kid. No disrespect, because I played with Vicky Hurst today, and she's gonna be a heck of a player.
But, yeah, I don't know, just getting back to basics and keeping things fresh. When you've been out here for 15 years, you get complacent. Things can kind of go stale at times. Lori's brought a lot of my strength back into the forefront of each day. You know, each day I go out and play, I'm visualizing things better and getting away from mechanics and technical things, which is not my game at all.
Q. I was talking to Lorie Kane yesterday, who's of a similar vintage as you...
WENDY WARD: She's got a couple years on me.
Q. She does. Just a couple.
WENDY WARD: But you're right.
Q. She talked about being in her late 30s but still feeling like she has a lot of time left. She doesn't feel like a veteran necessarily. Do you find yourself in that same boat where you're saying, Hey, I've got a another eight to 10 great years out here?
WENDY WARD: Well, with Lori, we committed to about six or seven, because that would get me to 20, 21, somewhere in there, and then another evaluation. But I've got a lot of inspiration out here. Juli Inkster, I know she hates to be referred to as that, but, I mean, she's the epitome of a career out here. She's done it. She's got one kid out of school and another one in high school on the way out of the house. She loves golf.
You know, doesn't mean it's not challenging. We all face new challenges at every level, whether it's fighting an ailing body. For me, at this stage, I would love to go to the range right now and go hit putts for another hour. At this stage of the game for me, it's better to go rest. I did that the last two days because my coach was here. Today, I think we're gonna say it was a good day and nothing needs to be fixed.