CME Group Titleholders
Grand Cypress Resort
November 18, 2011
Second-round notes and interviews
Rolex Rankings No. 4 and first-round leader Na Yeon Choi fired a 1-under 71 on Friday to keep the lead after two rounds of the season-ending CME Group Titleholders at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Fla. Choi leads Germany’s Sandra Gal by one shot while Paula Creamer and Hee Young Park are three back heading into Saturday’s third round.
After an impressive opening-round 66, Choi struggled to get things going early on Friday -- a day where swirling wind caused havoc for many players. She opened up her round with a four-putt double-bogey on the first hole and was two-over-par thru 6 holes in the second round. But Choi, the winner of last month’s Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, started turning things around on No. 7 with a stretch of three birdies in four holes and managed to shoot under-par for the straight day.
“Today the wind did a lot of switching, so when I choose the club I have to trust that club and just swing hard, or when my caddie gave me a number, I just trust that number and just see the target and hit it like normally,” Choi said. “It was a very tough day today.”
“It was definitely a nice round, kind of had a slow start, probably got good use of the wind a little bit and I just made some putts on the back nine, played 4‑under on the back, and yeah,” said Gal. “Hitting it to the right spots and thinking your way around the golf course smartly, that's the key, I think, today.”
When asked if her creative side helped her through Friday’s windy second round Gal exclaimed, “definitely”. Gal lists some of her hobbies on LPGA.com as playing the violin, singing, dancing and painting.
“I have a lot of shots that I can hit,” Gal said. “I like to curve the ball once in a while if a pin is tucked, and I do see a lot of different shots, especially around the greens. I'm a very visual person, so I think that helps.”
Ch-ch-ch-changes: Paula Creamer has always had the golf game to win on the LPGA Tour, as witnessed by her nine career victories. But this year, Creamer set out to work on changing her golf swing – not an easy task when trying to do it during a golf season. Known for her ball-striking and consistency with her irons, Creamer has been trying to work on improving her length off the tee and it’s something she’s been working on throughout the year.
“I'm a very good iron player, but for a driver, my golf swing doesn't really match hitting a far, long drive just because I am steep on the ball, but that's one of the strengths with my irons is because of that,” Creamer said. “I'm trying to work on almost two different golf swings if you can think of that, trying to hit the ball on the way up with my driver, and that's something that I don't do, and I lose a lot of distance because of that with my golf swing. Because I am so much stronger now in my left arm after surgery with my left thumb, I'm able to do more things, being able to hit a ton of golf balls and not feel a thing, whereas before I wasn't able to do that.”
Creamer, who sits in a tie for third at 4-under-par after two rounds at the CME Group Titleholders, has been noticing the effects of the changes that she’s been making as her results have improved toward the end of the year. She’s recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes in her last two events on the LPGA Tour.
“Sometimes when you do have to do swing changes, it's very difficult to do it on the driving range and then take it to the golf course under pressure,” Creamer said. “That's something that I have had a very hard time with, and I think I'm getting to the point where I can trust what we're doing.”
Bring on the wind: It was a breezy day at Grand Cypress on Friday with winds averaging 16 mph and gusting up to 24 mph for most of the day but one player that didn’t seem to mind the wind was Hee Young Park. The 24-year-old shot one of the better rounds of the day with a 3-under 69 that put her in a tie for third with Paula at 4-under-par.
Having grown up in South Korea, Park said that she is used to dealing with wind and her ball flight is actually lower than that of many other players on the LPGA Tour. So for her, it would be an advantage if the wind kept up for the final two days of the event.
“Today was so tough, windy, but it's kind of more challenging, more ‑‑ try to more visualize the shot before hitting the shot,” Park said. “And then I tried to just do same thing before, like I just look at the ball flight, everything, and try to just under the line. So I was fine.”
Watch out behind you: South Korean rookie Hee Kyung Seo accepted her 2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award at the Rolex Awards Reception on Thursday night and wowed the crowd with her thank you speech. Among her many thank gracious thank yous and dedications, Seo also added a little humor by directing a playful warning at 2011 Rolex Player of the Year winner Yani Tseng.
Seo said that while she was driving over to the Hyatt on Thursday night for the awards, she saw a sticker on the car that made her think of Yani. It read, “Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear.” So it appears that the rookie is determined not to let Tseng, an 11-time winner worldwide this year, pull too far away from the pack. Based on Seo’s tremendous play during her rookie season, she seems ready for the challenge.
Of Note…Rolex Rankings No. 2 Suzann Pettersen bounced back from a 1-over 73 in Thursday’s opening round to shoot a 3-under 69 on Friday, tying the low round of the day. She jumped from a T38 into sixth at 2-under-par…Yani Tseng, who accepted her second consecutive Rolex Player of the Year Award on Thursday night, shot a 4-over-par 76 on Friday and currently sits in a tie for 21st at 2-over-par…LPGA.com is hosting live chats this week with players after their rounds. On Saturday, Azahara Munoz will be answering fans questions in a live chat following her round. Fans can submit questions via the LPGA’s Twitter account, Facebook page and tune into the chat at LPGA.com tomorrow afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our current leader, Na Yeon Choi, into the interview room. Another solid round today. I know it was very tough out there, very windy conditions. Can you just take me through the round and how you were able to kind of keep things together out there?
NA YEON CHOI: Yeah, I had a very up‑and‑down day today. I started double bogey the first hole, and then I got a birdie on the fourth hole and then I got some momentum from there. So I finished the round and I never gave up. I don't know, on the first hole, I think my putting speed wasn't very quick, so I got a four‑putt there. Actually my driver shot was great, second shot was great, the putt was ten feet, and I had a four‑putt there. I was very disappointed, but I tried to forget that one, and then I finished strong.
Q. When it's windy out there, I've been asking a lot of players this, but when it's that windy does it change your approach at all? Do you have to be much more focused on where you're hitting it and kind of have a different plan than maybe on a day where the wind isn't blowing so hard?
NA YEON CHOI: Especially today the wind did a lot of switching, so when I choose the club I have to trust that club and just swing hard, or when my caddie gave me a number, I just trust that number and just see the target and hit it like normally. It was a very tough day today.
Q. I was just wondering what you thought, what was going through your mind when the four‑putt finally finished on No. 1 and you were heading to the second tee.
NA YEON CHOI: I think ‑‑ I don't know, I couldn't think of anything. My head was kind of like blank. But my caddie kept encouraging me. Maybe that happens better than like I had double bogey on 10 or the back nine. Still, we have to play like 17 holes, so just ‑‑ you have to forget that hole and then restart on the second hole. Actually I think I controlled my emotions good today. I was calm.
Q. And with the tough conditions today and a lot of movement forward and backward on the leaderboard, do you watch the leaderboard to see where things are going, or does it just get too confusing at times?
NA YEON CHOI: Yeah, I watched every leaderboard. I watched every hole. And then I told my caddie, we have to accept this day, like very hard today, so a lot of players or even me would be having hard ‑‑ like difficult day. Me and my caddie, we tried to accept what's going on on the course, and then we tried our best.
Q. When you're watching, before you even tee off and you see some high numbers kind of going up there, were you aware of that before you even teed off? Did you pay attention that there were some high scores going up early on?
NA YEON CHOI: No, before I teed up I didn't watch the leaderboard, but I knew it like on the driving range during my warm‑up. My ball was moving a lot. I thought it was going to be a hard day.
Q. I had asked you yesterday just about your game overall, but what's been the biggest key the last few tournaments for you to turn things around? I know things started at the British, but the last few tournaments you've seemed to even be mentally stronger.
NA YEON CHOI: I think I am very happy. It's almost over, the season, like I can take rest after this week. I feel like I have only two more days, just two more days, focus hard, work hard and do my best and then done. That's why I think I feel very happy and feel very comfortable.
Q. You'll be playing with Sandra Gal tomorrow. Have you played much with her? What do you think of her game?
NA YEON CHOI: I mean, I didn't play with her much. Well, I don't know her actually. We are actually neighbors. We live in the same area, but I can't remember what she's playing.
Q. What do you expect for the weekend? As tough as conditions are, are you expecting more of the same?
NA YEON CHOI: I mean, I will not change any of my game strategy the next two days. I will just try and have more fun with the caddie or partner and then I'm happy to see my swing coach. He's coming every day to here. I think I feel great when I see my swing coach. He followed all my group today. He followed my group, so I'm very happy when I see him. I feel kind of like something confidence. I hope he is coming the next two days, too, and then I'm really looking forward the next two days, and yeah, I hope good results and fish I a good season.
Q. Having the lead with 36 holes still to go, is that a comfortable spot, or is that one of those you still kind of look over your shoulder and watch the scoreboard every chance you get?
NA YEON CHOI: To be honest it's not comfortable. I know I played well the last two days, like today and yesterday, but still, I have to play two more days. Who knows after the first round. I'll never change my goal or my strategy or that kind of, so I'll just keep doing what I did the last two days. Yeah, I don't know. I hope just get good results on Sunday.
Q. Your coach is Kevin?
NA YEON CHOI: Kevin Smeltz.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Sandra Gal into the interview room. Congratulations on another straight second round 69. Great finish there on the back. Can you take us through your round today and how you were able to handle those tough conditions out there today.
SANDRA GAL: Yeah, it was definitely a nice round, kind of had a slow start, probably got good use of the wind a little bit and I just made some putts on the back nine, played 4‑under on the back, and yeah. I don't know really what to say. I made a really long putt on 16. Do you want me to go through the birdies?
THE MODERATOR: Yeah, you can go through the birdies.
SANDRA GAL: Well, I had a bogey on 6 so I was 1‑over on the front.
Then made about a 10‑footer on 10 for birdie.
14, I hit it pretty close, probably five, six feet, just had a lob wedge in.
16, I made a really long putt. It was one of those where you kind of have to lag it but kind of in the back of your head you're like, oh, it's pretty straight, I can actually make it. I hadn't made a long one for a while, so it was nice.
17 I hit a really good shot off the right, hit a 6‑iron and hit it to about ten feet and made it.
But I think one of the keys to this golf course is if you have a bit of length that really helps. It's kind of strange far me to say, but I have been hitting my old driver from Callaway for four years, and I actually just switched two weeks ago to the RAZR Black, and I've really seen the difference in technology and I'm hitting it so much further, and I think it helps if you have a few lob wedges and sand wedges in rather than 9‑irons.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about the conditions out there today? How differently did the course play when the wind picked up and how much tougher does it get out there?
SANDRA GAL: Well, you just kind of have to think your way around a little more. There are a lot of pins that are tucked on different tiers, and with the wind you've just got to know where you want to miss it. You can be on the green but you can have no putt or a very, very difficult one. Hitting it to the right spots and thinking your way around the golf course smartly, that's the key, I think, today.
Q. Last night you were honored at the Rolex reception for becoming a Rolex first‑time winner this year. How do you describe this year, and what is that experience like when you become a first‑time winner and then to be recognized for it?
SANDRA GAL: Well, it was an incredible experience. I think the first time is the most difficult win, that's what people say. That's how I felt. I knew I could win out here, but I took a few years to do it and it felt like a dream come true when it happened. I'm very happy with this year, and the last few tournaments have really felt like a bonus, and I'm really enjoying it.
Q. How long was the putt at 16, the long one?
SANDRA GAL: I'd say it was probably 35, 40 feet.
Q. Were you paying attention to the leaderboard, and how drastically it was changing?
SANDRA GAL: Not so much, no. I was just trying to pay attention to my game. I did have a few glances up there, but I just kind of saw I was moving up a little bit, even on the front nine. I shot 1‑over and I felt like I was moving up the leaderboard, kind of strange. But it just showed that it played tough out there.
Q. On your bio you list painting, dancing, violin and singing and hobbies. How accomplished are you at those? Is it really a hobby?
SANDRA GAL: Some of them I used to do. I played violin for ten years when I was growing up. I was pretty good at it. But once I moved to America I stopped. I wouldn't say I could play a nice piece in front of all of you now. But I do paint. I've been painting my entire life, and I still do it now. It's a great way for me to kind of chill out. I'm a very creative person, so I love colors, and anything I can do with that kind of relaxes me.
What else was there? I love to dance. I've danced my whole life. Put the music on and I start dancing.
And singing, I just did that once. I recorded one song. It's on my website. But it was more of a tryout. I could probably do more, but it's not my biggest talent, no.
Q. That creativity, do you take it to the golf course?
SANDRA GAL: Definitely. I have a lot of shots that I can hit. I like to curve the ball once in a while if a pin is tucked, and I do see a lot of different shots, especially around the greens. I'm a very visual person, so I think that helps.
Q. It also says that you've got an honors degree in advertising. If the commissioner asked you, what would be your recommendation for an ad campaign?
SANDRA GAL: An ad campaign? I think Commissioner Whan does a great job on our Tour, and I'm not the one to say that. But I'll think about it, and I'll tell you.
Q. It appears that most everyone was having difficulty getting comfortable out there in those winds with those tough greens, and you looked like you were as comfortable as anyone. Are you comfortable in the wind, or is it just your ball‑striking is so sharp right now to help you be comfortable?
SANDRA GAL: Well, I wasn't that comfortable on the front nine. I don't know. Every day is different. You've just got to get in the zone of really focusing on your target. I think wind kind of creates that focus because everything is a little more difficult so you've got to pick smaller targets, and really have to commit to your shots. There's no bailouts. You really have to go for every single one of them. So I think that's what I did well as the round went on.
Q. Along that same line, with the wind and the volatility of the golf course combined, you can see anything can happen. Is two shots really nothing with two rounds to play?
SANDRA GAL: Yeah, it's nothing I would say. It depends on how the conditions are going to be the next couple days. But we're halfway through the tournament. I like seeing myself up there, but it obviously doesn't mean anything. There's a lot of golf to be played.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Paula Creamer into the interview room. Congratulations on a great round today in some tough conditions out there. Can you just kind of take me through the day and kind of what was the most challenging part about playing in that.
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, if somebody would have said I'll give you 1‑under par today before you tee off, I would have taken it in a heartbeat. It was playing tough out there, made a bogey on the last hole, hit a really good putt but just didn't go in. Kind of made a little damper. But overall I think I played really well.
Colin, my caddie, did a great job with the numbers out there. It's tricky. It's definitely ‑‑ this golf course is not the easiest one when it blows because of all of the undulations on the green. But overall I think that we did a really good job and maintained a good position going into the weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Just talk about coming off back‑to‑back top 10 finishes in the last two events. How are you feeling about your game coming into this week, and is this a good way to finish a year?
PAULA CREAMER: For sure. I definitely want to win, that's for sure. I've never ‑‑ that's pretty obvious. But at the same time my game is getting better. I've gone through a lot this year, whether physically, emotionally, just overall in general, and I think Colin and I have overcome a lot of things, and I feel like I am headed in the right direction. This is my seventh year out here, so I do know what it takes to win, but at the same time you tend to kind of get in your own way, and my coach David and I have been working really hard on my golf swing, and it seems to be starting to get to where I want it to be. I'm putting so much better than I have been.
Q. Given the volatility of the golf course, looking at scores, people are jumping up 20 places and back 20 places. Does that make the weekend even more ‑‑ as someone that's where you are right now, three back, is that no big deal with the volatility that's out there?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, I think today obviously it played a lot harder than yesterday for sure. It was just so windy, so the scores are going to fluctuate tremendously. You have one bad ball‑striking day when it's this windy, and your scorecard is going to show it. I hit the ball well today so I scored well. Going into the weekend I'm not sure how windy it's supposed to be, but this golf course plays very hard when it is this way, whether it's putting, chipping. Mentally it's very hard to stay in the present all the time. But you know, right now it's pretty close, and there's still a lot of golf left, so hopefully tomorrow I can keep it going.
Q. For as often as we ask you about why you haven't won since the Open, I'm sure you ask yourself that 100 more times. How difficult or easy is it for you to stay, remain in the process and let the results happen? Do you find yourself pressing as each month or year goes on?
PAULA CREAMER: Well, I do ask myself that question all the time, why haven't I won. I feel that I'm a good enough player to win multiple times out here. That was one of my goals at the beginning of the year was to do that.
At the same time, sometimes when you do have to do swing changes, it's very difficult to do it on the driving range and then take it to the golf course under pressure, and that's something that I have had a very hard time with, and I think I'm getting to the point where I can trust what we're doing.
I think the biggest thing this year was just the schedule. I like playing a lot of golf tournaments. I like playing. I like being in competition and feeling the playing mode, and this has been tough for me because with so many weeks off ‑‑ it's a good time to work on a golf swing like I'm doing, but as a player and how I go about playing in tournaments, it's been very hard. It's not an excuse by any means, but it's something that I've just kind of had to overcome.
Q. You mentioned the problems this year. You said physical and mental. Is there something there ‑‑ or emotional, I'm sorry.
PAULA CREAMER: No, it's just, I'm 25. I'm growing up. I'm learning a lot, not necessarily just on the golf course but about myself, and things happen. This isn't a "normal" life for anybody, and you have to grow up very fast out here, and I've learned that, and there's just things that happen to everyday people that I have to go through, too. As a part of that, balancing everything is such an important factor out here to be the best player in the world, and that's something that I've really had to learn this last year.
My expectations are incredibly high for myself. I set the bar very high. And when I don't reach that, I question a lot of things. For me it's all about my goals, and there's stuff that can get in the way of that, and it's been something that I've had to work on.
Q. Are you physically 100 percent ‑‑
PAULA CREAMER: Yes. Most of the things with the physical is I had shingles earlier this year, I had things that kind of just come out, that type of stuff. But for my thumb and everything, it's a lot better, and that's why I'm able to do all these swing changes, because I do feel like my old self again.
Q. With all the challenges, physical and other, has your game regressed? Are you as good a player as you've ever been or better and just not getting the results?
PAULA CREAMER: It's funny, we were talking about this at dinner last night. My rookie year I won four times, and I feel this year I'm a better player than I was then. You win the most when you make the most putts, and if you are ‑‑ I kind of had a putting drought in the middle of the year and I've definitely overcome that, and it shows in where I finished, and that's an important factor.
But I do feel that I'm a much better player. Mentally I'm stronger than ever, but it's all about confidence and believing in yourself, and I have that now.
Q. The swing changes that you were talking about, is this something that's new to your swing? Are you just trying to get your swing back to where it was when you were winning four times in a year?
PAULA CREAMER: No, I'm definitely trying to change my golf swing overall, in the overall picture. I'm a very good iron player, but for a driver, my golf swing doesn't really match hitting a far, long drive just because I am steep on the ball, but that's one of the strengths with my irons is because of that. I'm trying to work on almost two different golf swings if you can think of that, trying to hit the ball on the way up with my driver, and that's something that I don't do, and I lose a lot of distance because of that with my golf swing. Because I am so much stronger now in my left arm after surgery with my left thumb, I'm able to do more things, being able to hit a ton of golf balls and not feel a thing, whereas before I wasn't able to do that.
Q. Also, at the media day you mentioned you could use a few more extra trips through this course to get used to it. Did you make those trips?
PAULA CREAMER: I did. It has helped a lot actually. I feel a lot more confident out on the golf course. I mean, it's completely different than when I came. The ball was not bouncing, the greens were not this fast. But still, it's just being comfortable and playing the golf course. And I think that's really helped a lot, just visually and knowing that you've been in certain spots.
Q. The matter of trying to hit the ball farther with the driver, is that just something you wanted to do, or do you feel like the next wave of players coming out here are stronger, longer, that kind of thing, that you have to keep up?
PAULA CREAMER: A little bit of both. I mean, I'm 5'9", I should hit it a lot farther than what I do. I'm pretty athletic. I'm not a skinny bean out there. I should be able to move the ball. But it is the way that golf is going. But also I feel if I can hit it 20 yards further and the way that I hit my irons, it should be a lot easier from up there. It's not something that I'm over‑stressing about where I'm going to change a lot of things and I definitely need to ‑‑ I want to keep hitting fairways. You can hit it a lot further with a different shaft or that kind of thing but be missing fairways, and that's not my game. So we're trying to do it a little bit more golf swing mechanic wise and just physically getting more fit and stronger.
Q. Tougher conditions today?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, today was so tough, windy, but it's kind of more challenging, more ‑‑ try to more visualize the shot before hitting the shot, and then I tried to just same thing before, like I just look at the ball flight, everything, and try to just under the line. I was fine.
Then especially my putt was really, really well. Even yesterday I shoot 1‑under, but front nine was just 10 putts yesterday, but today also 11 putts front nine, which is really, really good. And then still a little bit of mistakes the back nine, but really, really tough. So I'm not blaming, just take it.
Today still under par, so I'm very happy with it. My goal actually was every day shoot under par, so I'm really, really happy with that.
Q. Are you a good wind player in general?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, in South Korea has the island, Jeju Island. I played a lot on island, like since amateur and then pro, a lot of like under‑the‑wind shots, so especially I'm very confident. And then my ball trajectory actually a little lower than other players, I think, my thinking. I think that was a little bit of benefit than other players. Yeah, yeah, everything is good.
Q. So if it blows like this two more days, you're in great shape?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Please (laughing).
Q. What did you think about the pairing with Yani today? Had you played with her before?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, actually I met her maybe like 12 years ago. We were like grow up together and then competition all the time, national team. I was on Korean national team, and she was on the Taiwan national team. We practiced a lot. And even I visited her house when I visited Taiwan. Yeah, we share a long friendship, so it was fun.
Q. So you hadn't played together as pros yet? This was the first time?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Almost two years, yeah, three years, two years, long time. We talked a lot, how's family, Korea, something, other stuff, too. But we had fun.
Q. Can you talk about trying to win your first event over here? How much has that been on your mind or are you trying not to think about it?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, I'm not think about any like first time or second time, just own my shot and then prepare, like routine and everything, try to the same, and even pressure on the par putt or birdie putt, it doesn't matter. I never think about that.