Guadalajara Country Club
November 10, 2011
First-round notes and interviews
Juli Inkster -5, Rolex Rankings No. 59
Suzann Pettersen -5, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Meena Lee -4, Rolex Rankings No. 53
LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Juli Inkster and Rolex Rankings No. 2 Suzann Pettersen sit tied atop the leaderboard after the first round of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex and Jalisco It Happens Within You. Inkster and Pettersen shot a pair of 5-under 67s at the Guadalajara Country Club in Mexico on Thursday to lead by one over South Korea’s Meena Lee.
Pettersen birdied four of her first five holes to get off to a blistering start. After a bogey on No. 8, Pettersen bounced back with a birdie on the ninth and played her final 10 holes in two-under par. Inkster was consistent throughout her round, tallying five birdies and no bogeys en route to finishing Thursday’s first round tied for the lead.
Age is just a number: In a year when the LPGA Tour crowned it’s youngest-ever winner, Inkster appears ready to prove that experience can’t be overlooked either. Inkster’s first-round 67 at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational has put her in a good position to try to become the oldest winner in LPGA Tour history.
Inkster’s bogey-free 67 is the lowest round that she’s shot in four years of playing the event. Inkster credited the round to her consistency, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and a solid day with the putter as she needed just 26 putts in her round. Of course, she said a chip-in for birdie on the 9th hole helped as well.
And while Inkster isn’t focused on becoming the oldest winner in LPGA Tour history, she acknowledged that winning this event would have special meaning since it’s Lorena Ochoa’s tournament.
“I love Lorena and I would love to win this tournament because Lorena’s name is attached to it,” Inkster said. “Everyone on Tour feels the same way. You know Lorena is such a special person. Everyone on Tour respects her and it would definitely be special to win this event. But I’ve got a long way to go.”
A familiar name on the leaderboard: Last year, Pettersen came very close to capturing the Lorena Ochoa Invitational title as she fell just two strokes shy of eventual winner I.K. Kim, who shot a final-round, 8-under 64 to take the 2010 title.
So after shooting a 5-under 67 to put herself in the leader spot after Thursday’s first round, Pettersen was asked what she has to do to take that extra step and walk away with a victory at this tournament this year.
“I don't know. Can you tell me? Do you have a good tip?,” Pettersen said with a laugh. “I keep coming back, though, I haven't given up. Last year I played really good. Last year I thought was my best chance, and I.K. shot really low on Sunday. I think she shot 8 or 9 under.
“I think you win your fair share, and as long as you put yourself in a good position, you'll win tournaments. Like I said, it would be a nice way, but it's a long way away at the same time. But it's a good start. 5 under is a good score around this place.”
Less is more? The person who may have been most surprised by Inkster’s stellar opening round was the Hall of Famer herself. Inkster has been dealing with a sore right elbow and she has limited her practice in recent weeks to take the strain off of it.
So when she started her round off with a birdie on the second hole, Inkster admitted it was a little unexpected.
“I'm just not swinging hard at it, just trying to get it in the fairway,” Inkster said. “My grip strength seems to be a little weaker, but I laid off really the last three weeks. I've just played once and hit balls a couple times. Maybe that's what I need to do, just have a little fresh outlook, maybe not expect so much.”
Lucky number 11: In recognition of her 11 worldwide wins this season, officials at the LPGA have declared that LPGA.com, the LPGA’s social network sites and LPGA Headquarters in Daytona Beach will pay tribute to Yani Tseng on Nov. 11, 2011 (11/11/11). Tseng is playing this week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she is seeking her eighth victory of the LPGA season and 12th worldwide win in 2011.
LPGA.com, LPGA Facebook (www.facebook.com/lpga.official) and LPGA Twitter (www.twitter.com/LPGA) will feature stories, statistics, records and photo galleries from Tseng’s 2011 season on Friday. Media, fans and players are being encouraged to share their favorite Yani Tseng moments from 2011, share their reports on her season to date, and post “congratulatory comments” via social networks.
Can’t keep her down: Meena Lee withdrew from Wednesday’s pro-am due to illness but feeling under the weather didn’t appear to hamper Lee in Thursday’s first round. She fired a 4-under 68 to sit alone in third after day one of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
Lee, who played in last week’s Mizuno Classic in Japan, said she started feeling sick on Tuesday after arriving in Mexico. She did not play a practice round on Tuesday or in the pro-am on Wednesday but said that her experience with the course in previous years helped to make things go smoothly on Thursday. Lee tallied five birdies and one bogey – all in her first nine holes – to once again put herself near the top of the leaderboard.
Of Note…Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng shot a 4-over 76 in Thursday’s first round and currently sits in 34th place…Defending champion I.K. Kim opened up this year’s event with an even-par 72… After tying her best finish of the season with a T4 at last week’s Mizuno Classic, Catriona Matthew finds herself right back near the top of the leaderboard again. Matthew shot a 3-under 69 in Thursday’s first round to put herself in sole possession of fourth place.
JULI INKSTER, Rolex Rankings No. 59
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Juli Inkster into the room, our current leader. Congratulations on a great bogey free 5 under round today. Can you just take me through the day a little bit.
JULI INKSTER: Sure. Briefly I just kind of played very consistent, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, made a few putts. I chipped in one on No. 9 for birdie. It was kind of just a very laid back round. I don't have too many, so it was nice.
Q. The elbow has been bothering you a little bit. Did it bother you at all today? It sure didn't look like it.
JULI INKSTER: Well, it does. I'm just not swinging hard at it, just trying to get it in the fairway. My grip strength seems to be a little weaker, but I laid off really the last three weeks. I've just played once and hit balls a couple times. Maybe that's what I need to do, just have a little fresh outlook, maybe not expect so much.
Q. I've been talking to everybody about the condition of the course and it looks beautiful out there. How were the conditions and everything out there?
JULI INKSTER: It's gorgeous. It's just so nice. Yeah, the fairways are lush and the course is just in great shape. Yeah, the greens were a little firm. They had some good pin placements. It's just a fun course to play, the kind of course you never really get tired of playing.
Q. Considering how much time you have taken off recently, were you surprised by how well you were able to play out there today?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, totally surprised. I birdied the second hole and thought well this is better than I expected. Yeah, I was very surprised.
Q. Being so close to Lorena, being one of her best friends, do you think any special feeling about leading her tournament?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, yeah, I love Lorena and I would love to win this tournament because Lorena’s name is attached to it. Everyone on Tour feels the same way. You know Lorena is such a special person. Everyone on Tour respects her and it would definitely be special to win this event. But I’ve got a long way to go.
SUZANN PETTERSEN, Rolex Rankings No. 2
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Suzann Pettersen into the interview room. Congratulations on a great round, our co leader after shooting a 5 under 67. Can you just take me through the day?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Sure. I got off to a very quick start. It was nice to kind of get early birdies. Felt okay during the warm up and just decided to stay really patient and just try to keep the ball in good position off the tee, and I dropped a few putts. So it's a great start to this tournament, and it's obviously a nice tournament. I love this course, and it's nice to be here at Lorena's home club and in front of her kind of home crowd.
THE MODERATOR: Everyone I've talked to talks about this being one of their favorite courses to play. What is it about this course that makes this tournament a fun one to come to?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I don't know, it all depends how you play, I guess. We can play great courses, and if you don't do well it's not your favorite course. This is just a very old fashioned golf course, tree lined, we have to shape it a little bit off the tee. This year the greens are a little bit firmer, so that makes the challenge a little bit harder coming into the greens, especially with a front pin. But I can see why you get to love the game if you grow up playing this course because this is the old fashioned way.
THE MODERATOR: It's still very early in the week, but we were asking Juli what it would mean to win this event since Lorena's name is attached to it. Is there something special about this event knowing it's Lorena's and all you players having a close relationship with her?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Like I said, it's great to be here. I was close last year to winning here. I think you just would like to win every tournament you tee it up. Obviously this week we're here in Mexico, at Lorena's course, so yes, it would be great to win this tournament.
THE MODERATOR: You talk about winning events. You've already won two this year on the LPGA Tour. What has it meant to you to have this type of season. And are you able to, now that we're getting toward the end, reflect back a little bit more on what you've been able to accomplish?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: It's been a very nice year. You can never complain when you get wins. One win is great, two wins is fantastic. It kind of makes my season look average when Yani has won seven, eight tournaments on the LPGA. She makes us all work harder. It's easy to reflect back on what's been when you get to this part of the year, but trying to really stay focused on this week and next week and then try to just sit down and evaluate after. But you kind of do it halfway in your head anyway. I'm looking forward to some time off, but I'm ready to finish strong this week and then hopefully next week, as well. Yeah, can't complain.
Q. Even though there's still three rounds left in this tournament, you've been very close all the previous years. What do you think you have to do to take that extra step to win? So many people here want you to win.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I don't know. Can you tell me? Do you have a good tip? I keep coming back, though, I haven't given up. Last year I played really good. Last year I thought was my best chance, and I.K. shot really low on Sunday. I think she shot 8 or 9 under.
I think you win your fair share, and as long as you put yourself in a good position, you'll win tournaments. Like I said, it would be a nice way, but it's a long way away at the same time. But it's a good start. 5 under is a good score around this place.
Q. How do you feel the atmosphere of the tournament is? There's less people out there, probably less interest because Lorena isn't playing. How do you see the atmosphere out there?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Obviously I think we all expected the crowds to be less with Lorena not being in the field, and I also think with those games going on in Guadalajara, the Pan American games, so there's big events. But I still think you get the general golf crowd here. The atmosphere is fantastic. Usually we can't finish soon enough on the 18th green before the live music and the atmosphere is going on on the patio. I think the golf members love having us here, and we truly appreciate being here.
MEENA LEE, Rolex Rankings No. 53
Q. 4 under par, pretty good round. All of your birdies and your one bogey were on the front. Can you take me through your day?
MEENA LEE: My putting is very good today. I had five birdies today. I got sick yesterday, so I didn't play in pro am, and then even practice round, I didn't practice round, too. But today everything is good.
Q. Are you feeling better today?
MEENA LEE: Yeah, I'm getting better now, yeah.
Q. When did you start feeling sick?
MEENA LEE: Tuesday night. I had diarrhea and....
Q. Throwing up?
MEENA LEE: Yeah, bad.
Q. And you played in Japan, right?
MEENA LEE: Yes, because we flew. That's why I'm so tired.
Q. How have you been feeling about your game overall lately?
MEENA LEE: I got yesterday a day off, so getting just
Q. Was the day off a good thing for you?
MEENA LEE: Yeah.
Q. Do you feel any kind of surprise with your round today? Were you surprised how well you played considering that you've been sick?
MEENA LEE: I played last year, so I know this golf course. I like this golf course, too. So yeah.
Q. So you’re not completely surprised that you played so well?
MEENA LEE: Yeah (laughing). Finally, yeah, I played very good today.