Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms
City of Industry, Calif.
Final-round notes and interviews
March 27, 2011
Sandra Gal -16, Rolex Rankings No. 100
Jiyai Shin -15, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Sandra Gal outlasted Rolex Rankings No. 2 Jiyai Shin to earn her first LPGA victory at the Kia Classic. Gal hit a wedge from 83 yards to two feet for birdie on the 18th hole to defeat Shin by a stroke and become the only Rolex First-Time winner of 2011. Gal, a native of Dusseldorf, Germany, started playing golf at the age of 6 and her father was her first golf coach. She had an accomplished amateur career, representing Germany at the European Team Championships from 2003-07 and winning the German National Girls Championship in 2003. Gal attended the University of Florida where she was a 2007 first team All-American and won four tournaments. In 2007, Gal won the Czech Invitational Championship and was the top-ranked amateur in both the European and German ranks. Gal turned professional in 2008.
Gal is the second German to record a victory on the LPGA Tour. The first was Tina Fischer in 2001. Gal's best career finish prior to her win at the Kia Classic had been a tie for fifth at the LPGA Corning Classic in 2009. With the victory, Gal earns $255,000.
Shin rallied on the back nine Sunday but missed a four-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have forced a playoff with Gal. Shin, whose nickname is "Final-Round Queen," recorded three bogeys on the front nine but made three birdies on the back nine to keep herself in contention until the final hole. Shin, who had led after the second and third rounds, finished alone in second place with a 15-under-par 277.
The final round featured a few of the top players moving up the leaderboard late in the day. Cristie Kerr, Rolex Rankings No. 3, shot a 7-under 66 to move into a tie for third place with Rolex Rankings No. 7 I.K. Kim. Both finished the tournament at 11-under-par 281.
Golden ticket winners: Sandra Gal, Jiyai Shin and I.K. Kim punched their "Ticket to CME GroupTitleholders" at the Kia Classic. By virtue of their top three-finishes, Gal, Shin and Kim each earned a spot in the season-ending CME Group Titleholders event, which will be held Nov. 17-20, 2011 at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The inaugural CME Group Titleholders, a season finale with a field made up of three qualifiers from every LPGA Tour tournament, is a format never previously used in professional golf.
Gal is going to Canyon Ranch. With her victory at the 2011 Kia Classic, Sandra Gal earned an all-inclusive stay for two at a Canyon Ranch resort. In a combined effort to promote health and overall well-being among Tour players, Canyon Ranch will provide every winner of an LPGA event with one all-inclusive stay at one of Canyon Ranch's two destination resorts.
Welcome to the Kraft: The top 10 finishers and ties at the Kia Classic who were not otherwise qualified for next week's Kraft Nabisco earned spots into the LPGA's first major of the year. The 11 players who earned entry into the tournament with their finishes this week are: Marcy Hart, Mindy Kim, Paige MacKenzie, Reilley Rankin, Christel Boeljon, Pornanong Phatlum, Jane Park, Kris Tamulis, Becky Morgan, Pernilla Lindberg and Stephanie Sherlock.
It's a small world: When Kia and the LPGA got together last year for the inaugural Kia Classic, unbeknownst to LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, LPGA Chief Marketing Officer Jon Podany and VP of Marketing and Communications for Kia Motors America Michael Sprague, it was also a college reunion. The trio all graduated from Miami of Ohio in 1987 and even lived together at Dennison Hall their freshman year. "We didn't know this until we all came together," Sprague said. "Here's three guys from completely different backgrounds who all lived in the same residence hall 28 years ago, and we came back together for a golf tournament."
Of Note…Marcy Hart delivered the round of the day on Sunday with an 8-under 65 to move her into a tie for seventh. It marked Hart's first top-10 finish since 2006…Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng shot a 6-under 67 in the final round to finish in a tie for fifth place with Na Yeon Choi at 9-under-par 283. Tseng began the day in a tie for 14th.
Sandra Gal -16, Rolex Rankings No. 100
Jiyai Shin -15, Rolex Rankings No. 2
SANDRA GAL, ROLEX RANKINGS No. 100
THE MODERATOR: Sandra Gal, the 2011 Kia Classic Champion; how's that sound?
SANDRA GAL: It sounds great.
THE MODERATOR: Give us some thoughts on the day and winning your first LPGA event?
SANDRA GAL: Well, I'm a bit overwhelmed. It was an amazing day. You know, it was close all day long, so I had to kind of dig deep to pull out some shots. And Jiyai obviously didn't have her best day but then she started rolling a few birdies in, and her irons were right on the spot every time. I'm just happy to have finally have done it. Had a good feeling about today when I woke up, so I'm happy to be sitting here now.
THE MODERATOR: That's great. Tell us about the third shot on 18.
SANDRA GAL: I was trying to hole it. I came close, so, yeah. Pretty much just hit it where I wanted to.
Q. What club did you use?
SANDRA GAL: I hit a little grip down sand wedge.
Q. About how far were you?
SANDRA GAL: 83 yards.
Q. When Jiyai hit her putt on 18, you kind of looked like you didn't want to look at it. You had your back to it. Was that just trying to keep your mind on your putt or did you really not want to see what it did?
SANDRA GAL: I really didn't want to go into a playoff (laughing). But I never want to wish anyone to miss a putt. So I was just, okay, she's probably going to make it. So I've just got to focus on my putt, and if it's a playoff, it's a playoff, you know. All day long I haven't been watching her putts very much. I was really trying to focus on my game and not play her, but play the course.
Q. Were there any shots in the last four or five holes that will stand out to you that maybe at a point where you could have lost control of the match a little bit after she went ahead that you're proud of hitting?
SANDRA GAL: Yeah, I know ‑‑ what hole is that ‑‑ 14 maybe, the par‑4 where I knocked it over the green. I don't know what happened. I had the right yardage. Probably some adrenaline and I really hit it solid. And I had such a hard job coming back down. That long putt was kind of like, wow, don't want to be slipping away. But that putt that I made I think that was really big.
Q. What was all the discussion about where to place the ball? What exactly went on there?
SANDRA GAL: Well, the ball was kind of in a hole sitting down. I guess one of the spectators picked my ball up once it was moving, and then like slammed it back down into the ground. And one of the spectators kind of told me it's sitting down. It's not supposed to be sitting down. It was still moving on top. So the ruling was kind of put it back in place where it was last seen.
Q. You were smiling almost all afternoon after every shot. Is that how you usually are? Is that how you stay calm?
SANDRA GAL: The way I played the last six months was with a lot of smiles. I think life's too short to not enjoy what you're doing. And I think that's really helped me and my attitude and my game.
Q. Does it validate it more winning this tournament against Jiyai, like going head‑to‑head with her all the way down? Does that in your mind make it more special?
SANDRA GAL: Definitely, she's a great player. She's No. 1. So obviously, as I said, she didn't have her best day, but she's a tough competitor. So I'm really happy to get on top this time.
Q. When is the last time you won a tournament?
SANDRA GAL: Last time I won a tournament, I think, was in college.
Q. And does it feel any different as a pro?
SANDRA GAL: No, not really. It's just another golf course and you have to play your best. But I think it feels different in a way that the crowds were huge, and obviously you have TV following you. But that's why you're a pro.
Q. What were your thoughts when she hit it close at 18 just before you hit it?
SANDRA GAL: I kind of expected her to hit it close. So as I said, I was just trying to hole it, get it inside her or force a playoff.
Q. I'm sure you probably talked about this before. But how did you end up as a Florida Gator from Dusseldorf?
SANDRA GAL: I actually went over to Bradenton for a couple of weeks to work with Jonathan Yarwood in 2003. And he knew the college coach at Florida, and she did some recruiting in Germany too. There were a few other colleges I looked at. But I wanted to go somewhere in the south where it's warm. And I love the school, and yeah, that's the story.
Q. Do you know Martin well? Have you played with him?
SANDRA GAL: We played a lot of junior tournaments together, but I haven't seen him in a few years. So I wouldn't say I know him well, but we are from the same area of Germany.
Q. Did you always want to go to college? You didn't think about going pro early or anything?
SANDRA GAL: No, never. I was not ready.
Q. You said that you've been playing with a lot of smiles in the last six months. What changed that? Well you insinuated that it changed.
SANDRA GAL: I think just a couple injuries that I had in the beginning last season, a few cuts I missed there made me realize that this is my job. And you've got to love what you're doing, and I wasn't loving it. So I just changed my attitude towards it. I'm really thankful for what I'm doing and the game I play. You know, that's made it such a big change. Part of it is also my team, having my parents around, my coaches, Andrew Park, having Callaway with me. So all of that together makes it happen.
Q. The crowd was pretty much in Jiyai's side. Did you notice that? Did it bother you at all or did it not make any difference?
SANDRA GAL: No, it didn't bother me at all. I think it was great how they cheered for Jiyai. Probably put a little more pressure on her, I think. I was kind of like an underdog, so I didn't have anything to lose.
JIYAI SHIN, ROLEX RANKINGS No. 2
THE MODERATOR: Well, Jiyai, obviously didn't work out the way you wanted to today. But give us some thoughts on the day?
JIYAI SHIN: Well, when I started this morning, my putter wasn't good, so I made three bogeys on the front nine. But I still tried to make birdie a lot of times because my iron shots still were good. So I had a lot of birdie chances, but my putt was ‑‑ it was so many missed putts.
Q. I noticed there were a few short putts that you missed, including the one on 18 which is sort of uncharacteristic. Can you describe was that mental or something physical you were doing wrong?
JIYAI SHIN: Well, every hole plays close to the win. Standing on the 18th hole everybody gets pressure. So it was really big pressure, because Sandra was really close to the hole. So I'm thinking I have to make this putt for the playoff. And, well, just too much pressure on myself. The greens were still fast today also. So I tried to make no mistakes and not a bogey, so maybe too much worried.
THE MODERATOR: Is that why you backed off?
JIYAI SHIN: I think so. Yeah, because my shot was perfect today too. On the back nine I missed a lot of good chances. So, yeah, that's the reason.
Q. How long was that putt on 18 do you think?
JIYAI SHIN: That putt was four feet.
Q. Did she surprise you at all? She hasn't won before, and you took the lead there at the end and she hung in there. You hit a great shot on 18 and she hit one even better.
JIYAI SHIN: Yeah, but today I played with Sandra, and she had a lot of ‑‑ she did the mistakes on the green a few times, but she made a great putt. She made a great chip shot, big up and down. I was just thinking, oh, she didn't make a mistake. Well, just my putting wasn't good.
Q. Did you think that last putt was in? Were you surprised when it rimmed in and out? Were you afraid you were going to miss it?
JIYAI SHIN: Well, it was close. It was a good try, but no more shots, too firm.
Q. What did you think when the crowd started cheering after you backed off of the putt? What was going through your head during that whole sequence?
JIYAI SHIN: Well, on the front nine?
Q. No, on the 18th hole. You were about to putt, and then you backed away and the crowd started cheering. Then you went back to putt.
JIYAI SHIN: Well, no, just my heartbeat was too big (laughing).
Q. Do you feel that you're playing well going into next week? Has this made you confident in your game?
JIYAI SHIN: Yes, I am, because my shot was perfect this week. Well, I just need a little bit more practice for putting. I still have good confidence with the shot, but my putting was a little bit bad. But next week the green is more firm, and still fast greens. So if I get more practice time with the putter, it will be good.
Q. Do you remember how hard it was to win your first tournament? What do you think Sandra's feeling right now? What is the feeling like when you get that first tournament win?
JIYAI SHIN: Well, I won lot of times.
Q. Do you remember first one?
JIYAI SHIN: The first event on the LPGA was the British Open 2008. I was really, really nervous, but I don't know why. At the time my body movement was just like mushy, so I was really comfortable with my first win. So maybe Sandra, she had a great shot, great save. She made a lot of good putts. I watched her face, and she was really enjoying it.
Q. She was smiling all the time, wasn't she?
JIYAI SHIN: Yeah, she was really enjoying it too. I really enjoyed playing with Sandra. We made a great tournament. And a lot of Korean people came to watch us. I really appreciate it too, yeah.
Q. With the way you played, do you almost feel like you let one get away today?
JIYAI SHIN: Pardon me?
Q. Do you feel like you were in control most of the way, but let it get away from you?
JIYAI SHIN: Not really. I try my best all the time. When I played after three bogeys, I was just thinking okay, the bogeys are already done. It's birdie time. So I tried to make it in my mind all the time.
Q. When you were in Palm Springs during the off‑season, where were you practicing?
JIYAI SHIN: At Mission Hills.
Q. You were at Mission Hills?
JIYAI SHIN: Yeah, but I changed the swing, so I just stayed the whole day on the range. I played one time the course.
JIYAI SHIN: Yeah, for one month.
Q. For a month, you only played it once, wow.
JIYAI SHIN: Yeah, but that's my favorite course.
JIYAI SHIN: Beautiful shape, great conditions, and nice weather too. We need sun.
Q. Is it your favorite range too?
JIYAI SHIN: Oh, yeah, because I stayed the whole day, long days.