Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club – East Course
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
October 11, 2011
Pre-tournament notes and interviews
The LPGA will continue its Asian swing this week with second annual Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s East Course in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng, who won the LPGA HanaBank Championship last week, headlines the star-studded field of 72 players who will be competing for a $1.9 million purse and $285,000 first-place prize. Joining Tseng in the field will be Rolex Rankings No. 2 Suzann Pettersen and defending champion Jimin Kang. Overall, nine of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings and 43 of the top 50 on the LPGA’s Official Money List are in action this week.
The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia is the second of three consecutive events in Asia, following the LPGA Hana Bank Championship in Korea and preceding the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship 2011.
Stars come out in support of Sime Darby: Tuesday's tournament-opening press conference featured the top 10 players on the 2011 LPGA Official Money List along with defending champion Jimin Kang. And getting all 11 players together on one stage for a press conference was a feat not overlooked by the tournament organizers.
The 11 players that attended the press conference were Kang, Yani Tseng, Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, Brittany Lincicome, Angela Stanford, Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer and Karrie Webb. In all, the players at the press conference have combined for 102 career wins, including 14 wins this season.
Tseng-senational: Yani Tseng continues to add more accolades to her dominating season so far in 2011. Her win at last week’s LPGA HanaBank Championship was her sixth LPGA victory of the season and her ninth win worldwide this year.
Tseng has held the No. 1 position in the Rolex Rankings for 34 consecutive weeks and she is poised to sweep the year-end LPGA awards. She currently holds the lead in the Rolex Player of the Year race (which she also won in 2010), the contest for the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average and the LPGA money list.
Statistically Tseng ranks first in seven different categories including wins, birdies, rounds under par, rounds in the 60s, top-10 finishes, greens in regulation, scoring and driving distance. She also ranks tied for third in eagles and fourth in putts per green in regulation and became the youngest player, male or female, to win five major titles in August at the RICOH Women’s British Open. Overall it’s been a year to remember for Tseng.
Other players were asked at Wednesday’s press conference about Tseng’s domination so far this season.
“Yani has been a phenomenal No. 1 and she keeps pushing the limits every week,” said Suzann Pettersen, who is currently second in the Rolex Rankings. “Hats off, she is playing fantastic and it makes us work even harder.”
Welcome to Malaysia: Last year Paula Creamer missed playing in the inaugural Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia due to a thumb injury. But this is not the first time that the LPGA’s “Pink Panther” has visited the beautiful country. Creamer took a five-day tour of Malaysia with Natalie Gulbis back in August which was arranged by this week’s title sponsor, Sime Darby. The two players took in many of the country’s top destinations and got an opportunity to experience many of the things they sometimes miss during a tournament week.
With such a strong field set to compete this week in Malaysia, Creamer was asked what it is that has drawn players to this event.
“I think there are many reasons why we come here,” Creamer said. “Golf in Asia is huge for women. So not only to be able to come to Malaysia and play, I have seen the country and the customs, the culture, and everything about it I’ve enjoyed. Well, I don’t enjoy that fruit Durian or whatever. But other than that, I think it’s great to see the culture and to be able to have the opportunity the LPGA has this week to come here and play.”
Twice as nice? Jimin Kang was the winner at the inaugural Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia last year, defeating LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Juli Inkster by a stroke. Now Kang will try to see if she can successfully defend her title in Malaysia.
The two-time winner on the LPGA Tour is coming off her best finish of the 2011 season. Kang finished in a tie for third at 11-under-par last week at the LPGA HanaBank Championship.
Rookie race: Hee Kyung Seo has a very sizable lead in the race for the 2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors. But a few rookies will have a chance to gain ground on Seo this week in Malaysia since the 2010 Kia Classic winner is not playing in the event. The other four players currently in the top 5 in the Rookie of the Year race are in this week’s field: Tiffany Joh, Ryann O’Toole, Christel Boeljon and Jenny Shin.
Seo currently leads the race with 539 points while Joh is second with 257 points. O’Toole sits in third with 214 points, Boeljon is fourth with 186 and Shin is fifth with 182. A tournament victory is worth 150 points.
Q. Not only the top 10 players on the money list are here this week, 43 of top 50 are playing in this tournament. What makes players want to come to this event? And are you going to sightsee while you are here?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, I’ve seen the country. laugI think it’s a great venue. Sitting right here in this room right now you have the top 10 players. I think there are many reasons why we come here. Golf in Asia is huge for women. So not only to be able to come to Malaysia and play, I have seen the country and the customs, the culture, everything about it I’ve enjoyed. I don’t enjoy that fruit Durian or whatever. But other than that, I think it’s great to see the culture and to be able to have the opportunity the LPGA has this week to come here and play.
Q. Yani with year you’ve had, six wins, have you exceeded own expectations? And also how difficult is it for you to stay motivated with everything you’re achieving towards the end of the year? Is it tough to stay focused or motivated with all of the success?
YANI TSENG: I just try to focus on every shot, every hole, every tournament. Last week I won but it’s already passed. Now I’m looking forward to this week and trying to focus on doing the best I can and do the best every week. If I don’t play well this week, there is always the next week when I can play well. So the most important thing is that I do my best every shot and I’m enjoying it on the golf course and having lots of fun. I think that’s the reason I am playing so good this year.
Q. In the PGA at one time when Tiger was so strong, Colin Montgomerie said that we are playing for second place now. So do you LPGA members in the top 10 have that mentality since Yani is so hot now?
CRISTIE KERR: We never really want to go into a tournament feeling like we’re playing for second but Yani is having a fantastic year. Any time she’s on the front page of the leaderboard she is going to be a very strong factor and she has a lot of confidence right now. Definitely don’t want to feel like that but she’s very hot at the moment and we are all trying to do our best job out there.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Yani has been a phenomenal No. 1 and she keeps pushing the limits every week. Hats off, she is playing fantastic and it makes us work even harder.
Q. Suzann since winning the Irish Open and the Safeway Classic, you played a vital role in the Solheim Cup. Do you feel that this time at Sime Darby is yours?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: It’s been a great fall. I think the European team really enjoyed winning at Killeen Castle in Ireland. I think it was good for women’s golf and I just think our team was phenomenal. That was the strongest team that I’ve been a part of on the Solheim and that we managed to go out on Sunday and win the singles was a huge achievement for all of us. It was just dramatic that it actually came down to the very last shot. I don’t think it’s ever happened before. We all truly enjoyed it. You just have to enjoy those moments because they are so rare and very unique. They are memories for life.
Q. Jimin, last year was very fun to watch you play here. It’s been a pretty average year for you but then last week, back in Asia, you played sensational again. Are you ready for this week?
JIMIN KANG: I’ve got nothing to lose. I came out here to play golf and enjoy. So yeah, why not?
Q. You’re aggressive style of play, do you think that suites this course, Jimin? Because last year you really tore it apart?
JIMIN KANG: To tell the truth, I’m just like anyone else. No one knew I was going to win, not even myself. All I knew is that I’m playing solid and I was just very focused – shot by shot. After I saw my name in second on the leaderboard on the last hole, I was like ‘Oh my gosh I’m only one shot behind it. I’ve really got to go for it.’ I made my putt and Juli made a mistake and bogeyed.
Q. But did last week give you a lot of confidence coming in to this week?
JIMIN KANG: Yeah I’ve been struggling with these allergies and I found this doctor that got me a better medication that helped me. So I’m looking forward to it.