Evian Masters Presented by Société Générale
Evian Masters Golf Club
July 21, 2011
First-round notes and interviews
Maria Hjorth -5, Rolex Rankings No. 18
Karen Stupples -5, Rolex Rankings No. 71
Cristie Kerr -4, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Ai Miyazato -4, Rolex Rankings No. 10
Ritsuko Ryu -4, Rolex Rankings No. 90
LPGA Tour players Maria Hjorth, Karen Stupples and KLPGA member Shin-Ae Ahn are tied atop the leaderboard at 5-under par after the first round of the Evian Masters Presented by Société Générale in Evian-Les-Baines, France. Hjorth, Stupples and Ahn each fired a 67 in the opening round to take a one-shot lead over a group of six players who sit at 4-under. Hjorth birdied five of her first eight holes and then surged to an early lead at 8-under par before recording three straight bogeys to finish off her round. Stupples got off to a slow start in her round, going 1-over-par 37 on the front nine which included a double bogey on No. 9. But Stupples turned things around on the back side, shooting a 6-under 30 to finish in a tie for the lead. Ahn, who finished third on the KLPGA money list last year, recorded seven birdies and two bogeys to round out her round of 67.
Despite some heavy rain in the morning and scattered showers throughout the day - unusual weather for this tournament -- the field of 111 players still managed to put together some solid scores. There were a total of 56 rounds of even-par or better on the first day of the 72-hole tournament. This week the field is competing for a $3.25 million purse, which is tied with the U.S. Women's Open for the largest purse in professional women's golf this season.
Side job: Stupples shot her way to the top of the leaderboard in Thursday's first round of the Evian Masters with a 5-under 67, but last week the LPGA Tour member and England native was doing a different sort of job on the golf course. Stupples was a guest broadcaster with the BBC Radio's 5 Live during The Open Championship when the men played at Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England.
Stupples said that she enjoyed being around "the buzz" of The Open. She applauded winner Darren Clarke's play over the week and said that she picked up some tips, not only on being part of the media, but also on how the men play links style golf. The 2004 Weetabix Women's British Open champion is certainly familiar with links golf, having grown up in England. Stupples has never played at Carnoustie Golf Links, where next week's RICOH Women's British Open will take place, but she has seen the course.
"I was very fortunate to do 5 Live when the men played at Carnoustie as well," Stupples said. "Hopefully that will give me a heads up to the kind of shots I'm going to have to play. Very different to the kind of golf we're playing this week, so you're going to have to be a little bit flexible with your preparation. Hopefully by getting there Monday I'll be able to work on those Darren Clarke shots, the ones that were about head high."
Keeping the same feel: Hjorth has been coming to the Evian Masters for 15 years, dating back to when the event was just a Ladies European Tour (LET) sanctioned tournament. She's seen the tournament change over the years with the LPGA co-sanctioning the event in 2000. But one thing that hasn't changed is the feel.
Hjorth was excited about Wednesday's news that the Evian Masters will become the LPGA's fifth major in 2013, but her hope is that it still maintains the same European flair that has made it such a special event on Tour.
"I think it will be very exciting to see what the course is going to look like after the changes," Hjorth said. "Obviously playing the first few years when it's only a Ladies European Tour event, I hope it still gets the same feel for the tournament. I know it's going to be a major, going to be a little bit different feel, but still, you know, you kind of feel like a family event coming here. So I just hope that we kind of keep that feeling to it as well even though it's a major."
The good news for Hjorth is that Danone CEO and chairman of the Evian Masters Franck Riboud has the same vision for the tournament.
"The thing we want is to keep the atmosphere," Riboud said. "We want the Evian Masters to continue to be a real experience for everybody, not just the players but also the caddies. … We want to keep this as a family party."
A star-studded leaderboard: In addition to the trio of players who are perched atop the leaderboard at the Evian Masters, there are a number of top players who are sitting not too far behind.
Rolex Rankings No. 2 Cristie Kerr is one shot back of the leaders after firing a 4-under 68 in the first round. Kerr is currently tied for fourth place with Rolex Rankings No. 10 Ai Miyazato and No. 14 Brittany Linicome along with four other players. Kerr has finished in the top -3 in each of her last five tournaments and that included a string of three straight runner-up finishes during that stretch.
Right behind Kerr is Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng, who missed a short birdie putt on 18 to finish with a 3-under 67 on Thursday. Tseng is part of a seven-way tie in 10th that includes Rolex Rankings No. 4 and defending champion Jiyai Shin and No. 15 Stacy Lewis, who went three-over in her final four holes to finish two shots behind the leaders.
Rain, rain go away: The weather didn't completely cooperate in the first round of the Evian Masters, particularly for the morning groups who had to play the majority of their rounds in steady rain and conditions that weren't exactly ideal for scoring.
"I think we probably played in the worst of it," said Kerr, who shot a 4-under 68 in the first round after teeing off a little before 9 a.m.. "It rained pretty heavily up until the 11th hole. Walking up to the green it started to lighten up. We were so sick of carrying the umbrellas. But I managed to play really well. Had a 3‑putt and missed a couple short putts that I don't normally miss, so there is stuff to work on for the next three days. But I played well though."
Kerr wasn't the only player to deliver a solid round despite the conditions, although everyone who played in the heavy rain seemed to describe it similarly.
"Obviously the weather was pretty grim to start with," said Stupples. "I think it took a while to get used to that. It's been a while since I played in conditions like that. We're very spoiled in <>. Typically if you're going to get rain [in the U.S.] it's a thunderstorm so you don't play in it. So you had to get used to the rain jacket on, rain jacket off, or just play in it."
The winners of the second annual LPGA Global Media Awards Presented by Rolex will be named on Friday night at a special gala event at the Hotel Ermitage. A few of the top journalists and photographers will be honored for their work covering the LPGA. There are six categories (two for the written press and four for photographers). A member of the media will also be honored as the winner of the Rolex Award for Media Excellence for his or her long-time achievement in media coverage of women's professional golf. And in a new category this year, an LPGA player --chosen by a panel of prominent journalists who cover the LPGA Tour -- will be honored with the Media Appreciation Award for her excellence in working cohesively with the media on a regular basis.
Of Note…2011 U.S. Women's Open winner So Yeon Ryu shot an even-par 72 in Thursday's first round…16-year-old Lexi Thompson, who finished in a tie for second at last year's Evian Masters, opened up this year's tournament with a 2-under 70…There are a total of five French players in this year's Evian Masters field: Caroline Afonso, Sophie Giquel-Bettan, Anne-Lise Caudal, Virginie Lagoutte-Clement and Gwladys Nocera.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Maria Hjorth into the interview room. Congratulations on your 5‑under round today.
MARIA HJORTH: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Can you just take me through the round a little bit. I know you started off really hot, even while playing in the pouring rain.
MARIA HJORTH: Yeah. I've been playing really well. Today I played very solid. Obviously it's hard with these greens, because I spin the ball a lot, so it's difficult, you know, a lot of times to get the ball close to the hole. I've been putting great today, and that's obviously what you need to do on this course.
You know, overall I played really solid. Obviously not the finish that I would have liked, but, you know, if you have three bogeys, you can have three bogeys anywhere. Obviously I finished off with them, which is frustrating. But, you know, I'll take 5‑under any day. If I shoot four rounds with 5‑under, I played well.
MODERATOR: We know what the conditions were with the rain early in the day, but how is the course playing early on compared to years past?
MARIA HJORTH: I think it's obviously playing a little bit longer probably because the ball is obviously not going, you know, very far once it lands on the fairways. So, yeah, I just think you got to make sure you hit the fairways. If you're in the rough, the rough is a little bit thick due to the rain obviously and the wetness of the course. But the greens are playing superb. They're really, really fast, the fastest I think they've been ever. I've been here 15 years now. So they play really nice and are rolling great.
MODERATOR: Having played in this tournament for so long, yesterday we had the big announcement that Evian will be a major in 2013. What are your thoughts on that?
MARIA HJORTH: Yeah, I think it's great. It's obviously great to have another major. I think with the changes of the course it will be very exciting to see what the course is going to look like after the changes. Obviously playing the first few years when it's only a Ladies European Tour event, I hope it still gets the same feel for the tournament. I know it's going to be a major, going to be a little bit different feel, but still, you know, you kind of feel like a family event coming here.
So I just hope that we kind of keep that feeling to it as well even though it's a major.
Q. Talking a little bit more about that, Val Skinner and I were talking last night, and do you think it's possible for this event to keep that feeling? Can players learn perhaps sort of the French/European way of life at a major? It seems like always atmosphere changes at the major. More coaches, people, more pressure, more intensity. Do you think it's possible for players from every tour all over the world to sort of adapt to the French way of life? Do you think that's possible?
MARIA HJORTH: I don't know if it's possible really. It's probably pretty hard to do. But, I mean, hopefully you can and hopefully the players that come here kind of in a way respect that, too. That even if it is a major, you know, it has been a very in a way casual European event. I just hope that players that come here respect that and not really kind of take over and think, This is a major, this is you know, great. And it is, but I think I it's important for the event to still keep that feeling. I hope that the players can respect that in a way, yeah.
Q. Talk about your game. How many putts did you have today? Have you looked at it?
MARIA HJORTH: I haven't, but, not too many I wouldn't think. Yeah, I did putt really good, so, I mean, I think on the front nine it was probably like two 2‑putt maybe and the rest was one putt. Well, three two putts, and then obviously three 2‑putts on 16, 17, 18. So, well, must be close to like 26 or something like that I would say.
Q. Of your really long putts, what was the longest putt of the day?
MARIA HJORTH: I think the longest one was ‑‑ well, I did make a few longer putts. There was probably a few that were 20, 25 feet. Yeah, maybe one that was 30 feet. A little bit longer one.
Q. And also my question I'm asking everybody about next week, have you played Carnoustie?
MARIA HJORTH: No, I haven't. I've been to , but we never get to play Carnoustie unfortunately.
Q. You must be looking forward to it.
MARIA HJORTH: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be a great. It's a links course and the set up really good for us. I hope it'll be tough but still fair.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Karen Stupples into the interview room. Congratulations on your 5‑under round today. Great finish to the round. Can you just take me through some initial thoughts on what was going on for you today.
KAREN STUPPLES: I think initially obviously the weather was pretty grim to start with. I think it took a while to get used to that. It's been a while since I played in conditions like that. We're very spoiled in <>.
Typically if you're going to get rain it's a thunderstorm so you don't play in it. So you had to get used to the rain jacket on, rain jacket off, or just play in it. Seemed like after I made the double bogey on 9, it was almost like the kick I needed to get going.
MODERATOR: Can you go through the double bogey on 9?
KAREN STUPPLES: Just hit it out of bounds. Yeah, I actually feel like ‑‑ it was a strange shot for me because I don't normally ‑‑ I think I got a little slip in my grip and it just kind of went a bit that way. What can you do? It's just one of those things.
But I knew it wasn't going to hurt me too bad because I was hitting my irons well and I just figured that I would make it up.
MODERATOR: You've got to feel good when you still shoot 5‑under in a round with a double bogey. What else is working for you?
KAREN STUPPLES: The rain has made the greens a bit like dart boards, so you can fire at the pins. And even though some of them were cut pretty close to the edges, you could still have a good crack at them.
I was hitting my irons well, so feeling very confident with them and with my putter, too. I feel really good rolling the ball right now. The greens are perfect. For me it's just natural pleasure rolling the ball on these greens.
Q. With all the rain, and traditionally this course when it's dry can be tough to keep the ball in the fairways because they've been narrowed a little bit over the years and with the slope, so would you say it was a lot easier today with it being wetter as far as hitting fairways?
KAREN STUPPLES: Definitely. You're not going to run into trouble. Good example of that is 15. You've got the out of bounds right, but the rough on the left is not very easy to have a good layup from. You can hit it down that left side, and I had no fear of it bouncing through.
So it actually played really well. Because when Bobby and I practiced here on Tuesday, we actually considered hitting 3‑wood. But today with this rain and no roll, it was just whack a driver down there. Yeah, very much.
Q. I guess the conditions would be in favor someone like yourself who hits the ball a long way.
KAREN STUPPLES: Yeah.
Q. You're not the most accurate, but...
KAREN STUPPLES: I would definitely agree with that, because I'm going in ‑‑ I played with Jiyai and I.K. Kim. They're very consistent but they don't hit it as far as I do. A lot of times they were going into the green with rescue and I had a 7‑iron. That has to be an advantage.
I must say I remember playing here and having a lot wedges, but there was a lot 7‑irons and even some 5‑irons on some par‑4s, which is something I don't remember ever having to do around here.
Q. Just want to ask about what media work you were doing last week at the Open.
KAREN STUPPLES: Yeah, I had to try and play well so I could get back involved with you guys again this week. I had such a good time. I did radio 5 Live watching the men. Just enjoyed being part of the buzz of the tournament. It was a lot of fun. Not just for watching men, but seeing what you guys do. It gives me a whole different perspective and a bigger appreciation.
Q. Were you following the final group?
KAREN STUPPLES: I was out there for about seven holes and then I had to go and pack. No, it was awesome. Darren Clarke played terrific golf and was in control of his golf ball all week. Very cool.
Q. Did you feel in control of your golf ball today?
KAREN STUPPLES: In places. Not so much in others. It's only the first round, so hopefully I will keep improving.
Q. What would you say inspired you being at the Open?
KAREN STUPPLES: You know, honestly, I think it was Tom Watson. He played some tremendous golf in some horrendous conditions. Obviously he's at a disadvantage because he didn't hit the ball as far as the other guys. He kept going, and his attitude was superb all week. You couldn't fault him. I mean, it really was an absolute pleasure to watch. I was lucky enough to see his hole‑in‑one. It was awesome.
Q. So last week will be motivation for next week too at the British?
KAREN STUPPLES: I think so. I was very fortunate to do 5 Live when the men played at Carnoustie as well. Hopefully that will give me a heads up to the kind of shots I'm going to have to play. Very different to the kind of golf we're playing this week, so you're going to have to be a little bit flexible with your preparation. Hopefully by getting there Monday I'll be able to work on those Darren Clarke shots, the ones that were about head high.
Q. Have you played there?
KAREN STUPPLES: I haven't, no.
Q. Did you pick up any key link shots watching Tom Watson?
KAREN STUPPLES: Yeah, the ones that go about head high. It's just amazing. It's also fun to see, when the course was playing hard and fast on the Friday, how short they had to land it to get it to bounce onto the green. It was very strange watching ball fly and where it was landing. They were landing so short, and many times I'm thinking, go, go, go, and it was plenty.
It was really fun to watch. Really fun. I don't know, the guys have such power and strength. You've really got to ‑‑ we'll see. I'm going to have to work hard on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to get my game in shape for it.
Q. You were brought up playing links golf, though, weren't you?
KAREN STUPPLES: Yeah, I was.
Q. So shouldn't take you long to adjust next week.
KAREN STUPPLES: I think what you do is like riding a bike really. You fall back on things that you have known. I love bump‑and‑run shots; the little pitches and chips around the green, I love that. Hitting the ball, flighting the ball lower, that's more what I'm going to have to work on. Obviously having just come off a <> Open and this week, I'm hitting it fairly high right now. Going to have to get back to three quarter swings, playing the ball back a little bit, and watching the ball run along the ground more. Like I said, that should take care of itself, and I'm hoping it will fall into place. This week first. Job to do this week. (Laughing.)
Q. Have you had any conversations with Alison Nicholas?
KAREN STUPPLES: I have, yes.
Q. Has she given you an idea of what she expects you to do to get into the tie?
KAREN STUPPLES: No, she hasn't. She's keeping everything very close to her chest. That's exactly what she should do. I don't have any problem with whoever she picks. I just want to win. Whoever she picks to be on this side, I want them to win whether I'm there or not. You might end up having to work with me at the Golf Channel if I'm not playing. (Laughing.)
Q. How much do you want to be playing then?
KAREN STUPPLES: I really want to be playing. I'd love to be playing. But I've learnt my lesson two years ago. I wanted to play two years ago and I tried too hard. I tried too hard and started to play bad and it wasn't good.
So this time I'm just playing golf for me and try and have as good a results as I can. At the end of the day if it's going to be good enough it'll be good enough. If it's not, she's done it for the good of the team. That's really all you can see. I'm getting older now. I'm 38. Thank goodness. I mean, it really is. <> is growing up now too and it's a whole different ballgame.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Cristie Kerr into the interview room. Thanks for joining us. Congratulations on your round today. Can you talk just a little bit about the conditions out there this morning. You guys had a lot of rain, yet you were still able to shoot 4‑under.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I think we probably played in the worst of it. It rained pretty heavily up until the 11th hole. Walking up to the green it started to lighten up. We were so sick of carrying the umbrellas.
But I managed to play really well. Had a 3‑putt and missed a couple short putts that I don't normally miss, so there is stuff to work on for the next three days. Played well though.
MODERATOR: The last five tournaments, you've had five top-3 finishes. Three straight runner‑ups and tied for third at the Wegmans LPGA Championship and then a third place finish at the U.S. Women's Open. Does your game feel like it's at a great place right now?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, it does. It's just a matter of being able to save those shots the next three days, and that probably might be the difference, one or two shots. I mean, it's a very fine line at this point. It's a good place to be.
Q. This course normally can play pretty hard and fast. Did you find given the fact obviously you had heavy rain, it played a little bit wider, a little bit easier approach to the greens because it's softer, or was it just that the conditions were so really difficult that you didn't really take advantage of those conditions?
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I think ‑‑ I don't think it actually played easier. I think it played longer. Usually we have an 8‑iron or 9‑iron into 10, and we had 6‑iron and I was the last to hit. So I think it's playing longer and it's a little bit softer, so you have a lot longer clubs into the greens and it's kind of hard to judge the spin.
The pin position on the 18th hole today, I wouldn't say there is going to be a ton of birdies there. You can't really get to the green in two unless you're one of the longer players like Maria. I hit a very good drive and I still had 245 to the hole. The same drive last year was hitting up in the rough and bouncing out another 20 yards. I think it's playing longer. The par‑5s that are more reachable, like 9, are not reachable right now. The course is going to play a shot harder than it has in the past, I think.
Q. How close are you to winning? Is it just really one or twos putts here and there? Is it hitting one more fairways? Hitting irons closer? Can you pinpoint it?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, it's one or the other. One day might be a shot, another a putt. At the Open I had one bad iron shot at the wrong time. Had I made that swing into the 18th hole instead of the 10th there probably would've been a bogey instead of a triple, and had a couple 3‑putts that day. It's just a very fine line at this point. Just trying not to put too much pressure on myself and execute well and make as many birdies as I can on this course.
Q. How are the greens with all the water and everything? How are you finding them?
CRISTIE KERR: I think they're putting quite well.
Q. Not wobbly or anything?
CRISTIE KERR: No, probably the best I've ever seen these greens. Hopefully they don't get too much more rain because if they get softer they get footprints. Very good this year.
Q. That's why I thought maybe there were some problems with the water when you missed a couple putts.
CRISTIE KERR: No, not on the greens. No, I had a putt on the 5th hole that I pushed. I was the last to putt and it wasn't raining before ‑‑ you know, it was lightly raining, and then when I went to putt it was pouring. That probably had something to do with it, too, the timing of it. Then one of the other ones was a tricky read. You're going to get some of those on this course.
Q. Coming back to yesterday's presentation, for some reason they left your quotes out of the notes. You talked about it being a recipe.
CRISTIE KERR: Well, I just said this tournament has everything that goes into making a great tournament a major, you know. You know, the biggest purse. They're changing the golf course to make it a more major golf course where you don't have such short clubs into greens. Because if it doesn't play soft, you have a lot of really short clubs into greens here. Really great sponsors, you know, great feel to the week. It has everything.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Ai Miyazato into the interview room. Thanks for joining us; congratulations on your round today. Take me through your round and what was working for you.
AI MIYAZATO: It was kind of difficult day because about the weather. Rain is going to like keep rain and stop and rain and stop again. I made a double bogey on 5, and afterwards I got really patient and I could control myself. So I got nice bounce back in the back nine, and I was really happy with that.
MODERATOR: Was it putting today? What was working the best?
AI MIYAZATO: I'm feeling good with my driver and iron shots, but I made a few birdies in the back nine, so my putting was pretty good.
MODERATOR: We talked about how you played at the <> Women's Open. Did you feel that carried over into how you played today?
AI MIYAZATO: Yeah, I think so. But I think the U.S. Women's Open is already finished and it's already past it, so I really didn't think about it. But, yeah, maybe that helped. Yeah. (Laughter.)
Q. Talk a little bit about how comfortable you are here in Evian and how much you enjoy the whole environment and how that translates to good play.
AI MIYAZATO: You know, I have such a great memory couple years ago. That was my first win. I'm really enjoying the outside of the golf course, too. I love the food over here, and I really enjoy this town. It's always nice to be here. Makes me feel good. That's why I think I'm playing really good.
Q. Also your feeling about the Evian becoming a major championship. What are your feelings on that?
AI MIYAZATO: I think it's great. This tournament always has good crowd and great atmosphere. Maybe, I don't know, some holes need to be change, but it's nice to have a major on this tournament. So I think it's a great idea.
Q. How are things going with the fundraising that you started for the relief in <>?
AI MIYAZATO: (Through translation.) It's going great so far, the fundraising, and we've been able to raise a lot of funds. And the fundraising, we have started to give the funds to the organizations we designated.
Q. Approximately how much money have you raised so far?
AI MIYAZATO: U.S. dollars?
Q. Yeah, U.S. dollars is fine.
AI MIYAZATO: (Through translation.) I don't know what the exchange rate is, but it's if it's one dollar to 100 yen it's roughly $130,000.
Q. Okay, so you're basing it in yen. $130,000 is an approximate. Through the beginning of this month probably, end of June?
AI MIYAZATO: (Through translation.) Yeah, up until June.
Q. Talk a little bit about the effect that the circumstances in your home country, and especially in <> where you went to high school. How has that affected your year? You seem to be coming out of a little depression, a little sadness. Talk about that.
AI MIYAZATO: Yeah, to be honest, it was a little bit difficult to focus my game. I was trying to not really think about it, but, honestly, like you said, I went to high school in <> and I know a lot people over there. Everyone is safe, but I was still kind of shocked and disaster for me and it was difficult.
But before the U.S. Open, I had, I don't know, a good talk with Mick (caddy) and like I started getting clear everything. That's why I think starting playing good, and now I'm ready for the tournament.
Q. Could I just ask a little bit about next week, how you're look forward to Carnoustie and what you think about the course?
AI MIYAZATO: (Through translation.) Obviously this week comes first, but I've heard it's a great course. I like links golf as well, so I'm looking forward to it.
Q. How was the course playing today with all of the rain?
RITSUKO RYU: (Through translation.) It didn't feel like this course was so difficult. I could concentrate on my play so I could shoot this score.
Q. How does it feel being at this tournament?
RITSUKO RYU: (Through translation) I felt very relaxed. For me, this is the first time to play abroad after turning professional. I'm very much enjoying this tournament.