Sky 72 Golf Club, Ocean Course
Incheon, South Korea
October 7, 2011
First-round notes and interviews
Yani Tseng -7, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Chella Choi -6, Rolex Rankings No. 89
Na Yeon Choi -5, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Sandra Gal -5, Rolex Rankings No. 40
Mi Hyun Kim -4, Rolex Rankings No. 172
Rolex Ranking No. 1 Yani Tseng shot a 7-under 65 Friday to lead by one shot over Korea’s Chella Choi after the first round of the LPGA HanaBank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course in Incheon, South Korea. Defending champion Na Yeon Choi and Germany’s Sandra Gal sit two strokes back of Tseng at 5-under par.
Hot streak continues: Tseng has been a dominating force on the LPGA Tour this season and so it’s no surprise that she got off to a hot start once again at the LPGA HanaBank Championship. Tseng tallied 10 birdies and three bogeys en route to shooting a course record 7-under 65. It’s the lowest round shot at the tournament since it moved to the Sky 72 Golf Club in 2008.
Tseng, 22, has won five tournaments on the LPGA Tour already this season, including two majors which made her the youngest golfer in history to reach five career major titles. And she has a total of eight tournament wins worldwide in 2011. But while Tseng has accomplished a lot this season, she has not let up on her drive to keep reaching new goals. So when asked what her plan was for the final two days of the tournament now that she’s in the lead after the first round, Tseng still felt there were things she needed to work on.
“I don't want to think too much,” Tseng said. “But I want to work on my putting, my game, kind of get tempo back. It gets very windy when we play the back nine, so I need to control the ball better.”
Home sweet home? Chella Choi is still looking for her first win on the LPGA Tour and it would undoubtedly be extra special for that victory to come in her home country. Choi, who grew up an hour away from where the tournament is being held in Korea, certainly helped her chances of doing that by shooting a 6-under 66 in Friday’s first round.
“I like this golf course,” Choi said. “It's in great shape. And I'm very excited about this tournament, because it is my country and my mom and my family came here.”
After teeing off on No. 10 on Friday, Choi eagled the par-5 13th and had four birdies to go along with one bogey en route to shooting her lowest round of the season. Choi’s best finish this season on the LPGA Tour was a T10 at last month’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G.
Chase for the three-peat: Two-time defending champion Na Yeon Choi got off to a strong start in her chase for a third straight title at the LPGA HanaBank Championship. Choi fired a 5-under 67 in Friday’s first round while paired with leader Yani Tseng.
Choi said that the last time she played with Tseng was back in February at the HSBC Women’s Champions and she noticed a significant difference in the confidence level of the world’s current No. 1 player.
“She looks totally different person, very strong and confident walking, everything,” Choi said of Tseng. “I'm very impressed with her playing today. I'm very satisfied at what I played today, too.”
Choi didn’t record a single bogey in her round on Friday, tallying five birdies to put herself within two shots of the lead. While Choi has tried not to think about trying for a three-peat this week in her home country, she acknowledges that it’s not the easiest thing to keep off her mind.
“I mean, I try to put less pressure on myself but still some pressure in my heart and in my head,” Choi said. “Really I tried to use that pressure in a good way. It's more focus or really try more than 100 percent every shot. It was good today, everything, like emotion control, everything was good today.”
Team Korea: Three well-known names in Korean golf were paired together for Friday’s first round. LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Se Ri Pak, who has 25 career victories on the LPGA Tour, highlighted the group that also featured six-time winner Grace Park and eight-time winner Mi Hyun Kim. There was a significant gallery following the group throughout the day in what was a homecoming for all three players.
According to Kim, it was a special day being able to play with two other famous Korean LPGA golfers in their home country.
“I feel like it was back to when we played junior golf, you know,” Kim said. “So I had a very good time, and having fun we just talked a lot with each other. I don't know, just like more fun to play.”
Low Rookie: There are just two rookies in the field this week. Hee Kyung Seo, who has a significant lead in the race for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honor, shot an even-par 72. Ryann O’Toole, who is third in the race behind Seo and Tiffany Joh, had a 5-over-par 77 in Friday’s first round.
YANI TSENG, Rolex Rankings No. 1
MODERATOR: Congratulations, 7 under par, leader after the first round. Can you take me through your day and what was working well for you?
YANI TSENG: I played pretty well. I hit lots of good shots and I stayed really patient today. The first three holes, I feel like my tempo was a little off. I was a little too rushed. And then after, that I kind of figured out, what can I do and what can I do to make better today.
So it's good I figured it out, I hung in there and was really patient all day. I made ten birdies today and I had three bogeys which were three 3 putts, so that's 7 under. Still very happy about it.
Q. This golf course, what are the keys to being able to shoot low, and what do you think it is about this course that fits your game?
YANI TSENG: I think the par 5s, we can reach on the par 5. I need to make lots of good birdies on the par 5s, so that kind of helped. And I played with Na Yeon, that was fun, big crowd today. I know it was very crazy out there, but it's just so fun to play.
Q. What's the focus for you going into the weekend?
YANI TSENG: I don't want to think too much. I want to work on my putting, my game, kind of get tempo back. It gets very windy when we play the back nine, so I need to control the ball better.
Q. You've had so much success this year. When you get a first round lead, do you start thinking about what may come, or do you still have to think round by round?
YANI TSENG: I'm still thinking round by round, and then I mean, shot by shot, actually. I'm not thinking ahead or not thinking about Sunday what's going to happen. I just focus on every shot, every hole and then the do best I can do.
Q. How do you feel about the state of your game right now? How is the swing feeling?
YANI TSENG: I feel pretty good. I work on my game and with my swing, and I do lots of training this week. I think that helps a lot, too.
Q. You had talked a little about playing with Na Yeon today and the crowds. What was that like, knowing that she's two time defending champion here. Tell me what the round was like.
YANI TSENG: She is a big star here, it's lots of fun to play with her. So many people come to watch us today, and I know it's very crazy out there, everybody is, oh, (describing cheering). I think she loves this course. She's playing good today. We are very good friends and I enjoyed to play today.
Q. Last time you played with Na Yeon Choi here how was that like, comparing?
YANI TSENG: Oh, that was two years ago. I lost by one shot. It was very, very windy and cold. It was crazy. This year the weather is beautiful, so much better. I think on Sunday I would love to play with her every day, because when it gets a big crowd, it gets more exciting.
Q. You had ten birdies how many birdies did you have, the most, on the LPGA Tour?
YANI TSENG: I think maybe 11, 11 for one round, because I shot 62 is the lowest round and I remember I made one bogey. I think it's 11. No, maybe ten is the most, because when I shot 62, I had two eagles, so I think maybe ten is the most birdies without no eagles.
Q. And what's your mind set for the next two days?
YANI TSENG: You know, I'm just going to relax today and enjoy the Korean barbeque tonight. I mean, tomorrow, I play shot by shot and day by day. I just focus on every shot, every hole, and just do my best to make birdie every hole.
Q. The gallery was almost all for Na Yeon Choi, how does that feel to have all of those fans for Na Yeon?
YANI TSENG: It's okay. It's fun. If I play with her, that means I'm getting paid attention, too. Some people are following me and saying a lot for me, so I'm really happy about that. I just really enjoyed the crowd, because I love to have more people to watch us, because maybe that's more exciting.
Q. Did you have your fan club come here?
YANI TSENG: My mom's friend, her very good friend with my mom, maybe five, six of us, but my dad is not here. My trainer is here with me.
CHELLA CHOI, Rolex Rankings No. 89
Q. Can you tell me a little about the day and what was working well for you?
CHELLA CHOI: I played good today. Very solid day. My tee shots and my second shots, putting is good. I like this course. I like this golf course. It's in great shape. And I'm very excited about this tournament, because it is my country and my mom and my family came here. So, yeah.
Q. Is there any more pressure when you play at home in front of your home country?
CHELLA CHOI: My big goal is to play here, play this tournament, so I'm very excited.
Q. What would it mean to win, here, at this tournament, to win at home in Korea? What would it mean to you?
CHELLA CHOI: My first time, first time 6 under, so I don't know.
Q. Would you like to win? This tournament, everyone in Korea says it would mean so much to them if they could win here. You have not won on the LPGA Tour, but to have your first win here?
CHELLA CHOI: Oh, I try, very hard. I try tomorrow and Sunday.
Q. How far did you grow up from here? Where did you live, how far did you live from here?
CHELLA CHOI: In my home? One hour, yeah.
Q. So lots of friends and family?
CHELLA CHOI: I can't go home. I will go after this tournament Malaysia, so very sad.
Q. But a lot of family here this week and friends?
CHELLA CHOI: A lot of friends, my family came. My mom came second, so very excited.
NA YEON CHOI, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Q. You shot a 5-under par 67 today. Take me through your round.
NA YEON CHOI: Today I didn't have a bogey. I just got five birdies. That means it's a perfect game today. I'm very satisfied today and I was really expecting how Yani played today. Last time we played, I think HSBC in February, so after that, she is ranking No. 1 right now. She looks totally different person, very strong and confident walking, everything. I'm very impressed with her playing today. I'm very satisfied at what I played today, too.
Q. Do you feed off that? When you see her playing so well, and her confidence level, do you kind of get some of that, too?
NA YEON CHOI: Intimidating?
Q. Not intimidating, but do you start feeling that confidence yourself, when you're playing with someone who is playing well?
NA YEON CHOI: Yeah, I think it actually more motivates me. If she is walking stronger or confidence, when I saw that, I have to do like same like her, confidence walking or my upper body like stronger.
Q. For you, what's it like being home? The crowds in your group are great.
NA YEON CHOI: I love to play in Korea. I had a friend's family and everybody came to here and support me today. I'm very excited to play with big crowd and I mean, I saw some Taiwan fans are over here. I think it's very nice they came to here because it's close to Taiwan, they came to here and support Yani and some Koreans support to Yani, too. I feel better than if they just support only just Korean. I think it was a very I enjoyed it today with Yani. We talked a lot. It was nice.
Q. We talked about the three peat, as two time defending champion, did you feel that at all when you teed off today? Do you put that in the back of your mind and not worry too much about it?
NA YEON CHOI: I mean, I try to put less pressure on myself but still some pressure in my heart and in my head. Really I tried to use that pressure in a good way. It's more focus or really try more than 100 percent every shot. It was good today, everything, like emotion control, everything was good today.
SANDRA GAL, Rolex Rankings No. 40
Q. Great round, what was working out there for you today and kind of what were the keys for you out there?
SANDRA GAL: I think I struck the ball pretty well. Tried to hit a few close shots on my approach shots and made a few putts, a couple off the fringe, and you roll a couple in there here and there. I actually didn't take advantage much of the par 5s. I actually played them 1 over which is kind of strange. But there's always room for improvement, but I'm happy with the day for sure.
Q. What do you think the key for you is going forward over the weekend to continue?
SANDRA GAL: Yeah, you know, I'm not going to look forward much. I'm just trying to really enjoy every shot and just stay in the present moment.
Q. You are coming off your first Solheim Cup where Europe captured back the trophy. Can you take any momentum from that into this week?
SANDRA GAL: You know, what I actually played really bad on Sunday. My team was the one that pulled it together. But definitely, you know, the energy was so awesome there and the people were so supportive. And with the win for all of us, definitely that's good momentum coming in, yeah.
Q. This golf course, are there any specific keys to doing well on this course?
SANDRA GAL: There's a lot of different tiers on the greens, so you have to be on the right side when you approach the green. And they are pretty firm, too; so with the wind being a factor as well over the last couple of days, not so much today, it's really the iron shots that matter.
Q. And the speed of the greens, did you have any trouble, was it slower than you expected?
SANDRA GAL: It was a little slow at the beginning of the week but they actually sped up, so they are nice.
MI HYUN KIM, Rolex Rankings No. 172
Q. Can you take me through your round, 4 under today, what was working well for you out there?
MI HYUN KIM: I just fixed a little swing yesterday, it wasn't working. So my first hole and second hole, pretty good second shots I had but I missed the putt on both of them. I feel like after, that I feel like, oh, not today, not today. And then after that, my putting stroke is getting better, and after that, the par 5, I got three little long putts I made, 15 feet maybe. So after that, I got more confidence with my short game and I had a good time.
Q. What do you think is going to be the key for you over the next two days to keep shooting these low scores?
MI HYUN KIM: I don't know, I have got a cold right now and my condition is bad, and my ankle is bad, too. I don't know, I'm just going to keep trying to do my best. But, you know, who knows.
Q. What was it like to play in that group today with Se Ri and Grace?
MI HYUN KIM: I feel like back to when we played junior golf, you know. So I had a very good time, and having fun we just talked a lot with each other. I don't know, just like more fun to play.
Q. What's it like always when you come back here to Korea and you get to play in front of these fans?
MI HYUN KIM: My last time when I played here is 2008. It was so cold, but we have good weather today and hopefully you know I wish the last two days we have good weather, too. But you know a lot of friends for me and they are cheering me a lot, and they are helping a lot, too. So I'm very happy with that.