Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola
Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Ghost Creek Course
North Plains, Ore.
August 20, 2011
Second-round notes and interviews
Na Yeon Choi -8, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Stacy Lewis -5, Rolex Rankings No. 11
Mika Miyazato -3, Rolex Rankings No 22
Ryann O'Toole -2, Rolex Rankings No. 125
Grace Park -2, Rolex Rankings No. 266
2010 Vare Trophy winner and Rolex Rankings No. 5 Na Yeon Choi fired a 2-under 69 on Saturday and holds a three-shot lead at 8-under-par heading into the final round of the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola. Choi leads Rolex Rankings No. 11 Stacy Lewis by three shots as she looks to capture her first victory of the 2011 season. Choi, who was the first-round leader, didn't have her putter working quite as well on Saturday as she did in the first round when she shot 65. But she still managed to deliver an under-par round on a day where scoring conditions were difficult. Choi had three birdies and just one bogey en route to her round of 69, helping her to maintain the lead for a second straight day.
"It was really warm out there, and then wind was very switching a lot and it was a lot firmer than yesterday," Choi said. "So sometimes really hard to stop the ball on the green. But I felt very comfortable and confident out there. I don't know what reason, actually more comfortable than yesterday. And I was very calm until last hole. That's why I played well today."
Back on top: Last year, Choi tallied two wins and recorded 16 top-10 finishes en route to capturing the 2010 LPGA Official Money List title and also the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. This year, Choi has yet to pick up a victory although she has five top-10 finishes. Still she admitted that finding herself at the top of the leaderboard after the first round resulted in a few nerves, which she tried to calm before teeing off on Saturday.
"I talked to my swing coach yesterday and then I told my coach I feel a little scared to lose this chance [to win]," Choi said. "You know, I say this is my first time win to chance this year. And he say, this is not the first time. I had it four times before, so this is not this is a little bit like fifth time.
"So you know, he say don't be scared, and I can't think about winning. So yeah, my instinct was like, okay, I'll do my best, and if I don't, it doesn't matter. Sometimes other players, I can't control that. So just go out there and just hit some shots. That's it… Actually I am very excited for playing tomorrow, and I was missing that feeling, you know. I'm very excited. I like this chance."
Up and down round: Stacy Lewis couldn't help but crack a smile when asked to describe her day in Saturday's second round of the Safeway Classic.
"A rollercoaster round," Lewis said with a laugh.
Lewis looked poised to shoot a very low score at the start of her round. The 2011 Kraft Nabisco champion recorded birdies on her first four holes to move into a tie with Choi atop the leaderboard at 6-under-par. But just as quickly as she got hot, Lewis then hit a few bumps in her round. She went 3-over in her next six holes to fall three shots out of the lead.
"I didn't hit great shots or anything," Lewis said of her early birdie binge. "I think the closest one was about 18 feet on 3. Made two probably 25 footers and a 30 footer, and I don't know. They were just going in. Then the golf course kind of got me a little bit after that and I made some mistakes in the middle, but I finished it off good.
After falling to 3-under-par with her bogey on No. 10, Lewis managed to bounce back with birdies on No. 13 and 17 to finish the day with a 68 to put her in second place at 5-under-par and three shots off the lead.
"Going to bed last night I knew I needed to come out and play a good round and shoot something under par," Lewis said. "I mean the conditions were hard yesterday afternoon, but there are still going to be some good rounds under par, and I just wanted to put myself in a good spot for unay. And I was trying to get up to six, but I think it should be close enough."
There were a couple of rookies making some noise at the Safeway Classic on Saturday including Ryann O'Toole who fired a 2-under 69 to move into a tie for fifth, six shots behind the leader Choi. O'Toole is currently second in the race for the 2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year with 144 points. She trails Hee Kyung Seo, who holds a significant lead in the race with 449 points. Seo found herself on the leaderboard for part of the day Saturday before finishing with back-to-back bogeys that dropped her to 2-over-par for the tournament.
Although O'Toole is a rookie, this isn't the first time she's found herself in contention entering the final day of a tournament. O'Toole finished ninth at this year's U.S. Women's Open at The Broadmoor in July and that experience seemed to have helped her.
"To finally get in and get a few events under my belt and qualify for the U.S. Women's Open, it just felt like things were finally coming around," O'Toole said. "I mean I played well last years on the Futures Tour, so I knew that I was ready to come out here and do my thing. I went from trying to just make cuts and get my feet wet to after the Open realize that, hey, Top 10 is in my grasp every time. So you know, I'm setting new goals and trying to just take it one step at a time, not try to jump too far. I mean if a win comes, awesome. I'm going to play my game and play one shot at a time, but I'm just going to take it as that."
Race for a cause: The inaugural Safeway Classic Run the Links 5K will take place before Sunday's final round at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club's Ghost Creek Course. The event, which will take place on the course's cart paths, starts at 7:15 a.m. The proceeds from the race will benefit Albertina Kerr, a local non-profit which helps kids, adults and families living with mental health challenges and developmental disabilities. The cost of the race is $30 and participants will receive a parking pass and two tournament passes to the 2011 Safeway Classic.
Staying on for Sunday: A total of 82 players made the cut which fell at 7-over-par 149
Tough scoring day on the links: Shooting a low score proved to be very difficult on Saturday with temperatures near 90 degrees and breezy conditions drying out the course. Only 20 players shot under par in the second round. And entering Sunday's final round, only 12 players were still under par for the tournament.
Lewis acknowledged that it was an advantage for those who were able to tee off early on Saturday, just like it was an advantage for the morning groups on Friday as well.
"You could see it just as our round went on," said Lewis, who was in one of the final morning groups. "After we made the turn, the greens got a lot firmer. Balls were rolling out and flying further. So the hardest part is I mean once you hit the green, it's just not stopping. It's going over into the rough and you've got awkward shots, and if you shortside yourself, you're making bogey."
Of Note…Jessica Shepley had a hole-in-one on the par-3 fifth hole. She hit a 16-degree hybrid 187 yards to record the ace…Defending champion Ai Miyazato shot a 3-over 74 in Saturday's second round and is tied for 25th place at 2-over-par…The low round of the day belonged to Louise Stahle, who shot a 5-under 66 and moved from a T80 into a T8 at 1-under…Keyong Bae withdrew from the tournament on Saturday.
NA YEON CHOI, Rolex Rankings No. 5
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our leader, Na Yeon Choi into the interview room. Congratulations on winning your round today, 2 under 69, and you're leading entering the final day. Can you just take me through your round today, and what was working well for you.
NA YEON CHOI: Okay. First of all, I would like to thank you all the media after interview yesterday I read all of my interview, and I know you guys compliment me for my English, so I would like to thank you.
And then today, yeah, was really warm out there, and then wind was very switching a lot and it was a lot firmer than yesterday. So sometimes really hard to stop the ball on the green. But I felt very comfortable and confident out there. I don't know what reason, actually comfortable than yesterday. And I was very calm until last hole. That's why I played well today.
THE MODERATOR: I was talking to Ryann O'Toole earlier and she was talking about how low you were putting yesterday when she played with you. How have you been feeling about your putting this week?
NA YEON CHOI: Actually I hit seven straight birdies yesterday. There was like 15 between 25 foot putts. And today my putter wasn't great like yesterday, but I only missed the one short putt, and everything was great from my putter today. I think I like these greens and I can see well these lines on the greens, so that's why I played well.
THE MODERATOR: How nice is it to see yourself back at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final round?
NA YEON CHOI: Actually I am very excited for playing tomorrow, and I was missing that feeling, you know. I'm very excited. I like this chance.
Q. How long do you think your eagle putt was on 10? How many feet do you think that was?
NA YEON CHOI: I think 10 feet, yeah.
Q. And you had a good putt on 11, too.
NA YEON CHOI: Yes. I think my shot was better than yesterday, you know. Wind was more than yesterday, but I got another chance today. But I think just a little missed the putt, yeah.
Q. What's the biggest lead you've had entering into the final round?
NA YEON CHOI: I think yesterday my putt wasn't great. I think, you know, I just felt, again, putters are very important for golf, you know. And then after I played yesterday, yesterday after play I went to the putting green and then, you know, practiced more and tried to get more feeling about distance, and you know, stroke, everything. I just felt again, you know, putting is very important to the game. That's why, you know, a lot of people practice a lot for putting.
Q. Do you know how many LPGA tournaments you've led going into the final round?
NA YEON CHOI: I remember last year I was leading one. And I only remember one. Yeah.
Q. Do you remember it being is it a lot of pressure to hold the lead?
NA YEON CHOI: I think so, but it is all positive, good things, you know. I like pressure, but you know, sometimes it just sometimes, you know, can be negative, but I try to think of positively, you know, and I just say to myself, this is a great opportunity to be win or, you know, to test for myself about golf game.
Q. You had a lot of wins and good times last year. Has it been a long time since you felt like that or do you draw on that tomorrow?
NA YEON CHOI: Actually, I talked to my swing coach yesterday and then I told my coach I feel a little scared to lose this chance. You know, I say this is my first time win to chance this year. And he say, this is not the first time. I had it four times before, so this is not this is a little bit like fifth time.
So you know, he say don't be scared, and I can't think about winning. So yeah, my instinct was like, okay, I'll do my best, and if I don't, it doesn't matter. Sometimes other players I can't control that. So just go out there and just hit some shots. That's it.
Q. Was it kind of a lecture that he gave you?
NA YEON CHOI: I'm sorry?
Q. Was it kind of a lecture that he gave you?
NA YEON CHOI: I don't know. Actually, I mean he's like five, six years my swing coach and sometimes mental coach, too, so I really trust him, and you know, always he gave he try to give me pep talk, you know, and you know, like help. When I talk with him like before a tournament every time I felt something good about it.
Q. Tomorrow will you try to keep shooting a low round or do you try to hold up to your lead?
NA YEON CHOI: I think I just start play like aggressive like today or yesterday, and then I will decide during tournament. But I think I will just main thing is just play my game, not their game, not her game. I want to play my game tomorrow.
Q. What is the name of your coach?
NA YEON CHOI: Robin Symes. He's Irish, and then he live in Korea right now. I met him five, six years ago in Korea.
STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 11
Q. How about the beginning of your round when you birdied the first four holes, and what it was like getting off to that hot of a start?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah. I mean I didn't hit great shots or anything. I think the closest one was about 18 on 3. Made two probably 25 footers and a 30 footer, and I don't know. They were just going in. Then the golf course kind of got me a little bit after that and I made some mistakes in the middle, but finished it off good.
Q. We all know how tough it was yesterday afternoon, so to come out this morning and be able to shoot a good round knowing that conditions probably will be tough this afternoon, how good does that feel?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah. I think going to bed last last night I knew I needed to come out and play a good round and shoot something under par. I mean the conditions were hard yesterday afternoon, but there are still going to be some good rounds under par, and I just wanted to put myself in a good spot for unay. And I was trying to get up to six, but I think it should be close enough.
Q. How much more difficult is it to play in the afternoon than in the morning?
STACY LEWIS: Well, you could see it just as our round went on. After we made the turn, the greens got a lot firmer. Balls were rolling out and flying further.
So the hardest part is I mean once you hit the green, it's just not stopping. It's going over into the rough and you've got awkward shots, and if you shortside yourself, you're making bogey.
Q. When you were playing yesterday with the mic on, was that distracting?
STACY LEWIS: No, not really. I played with it a little bit in the Pro Am just to kind of get a feel for it. And we've kind of done it a few other people have done it, so I asked them, and they were like you don't even realize you have it on.
So it was kind of actually good for me because when I hit some bad shots, I didn't react probably the way I normally do. So I was able to kind of keep calm and it helped me keep my round together almost.
Q. How did that come about? Did they just approach you to do that?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah. They'd asked me last year to do it, and I was just kind of hesitant. But I think it's a cool idea for the fans to really get to see what the caddy and I talk about and what I talk about with the other players going down the fairway, and it's just fun for them to get inside the ropes a little bit.
Q. Stacy, after you got the big win this year, did it change what you expect out of yourself?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah. It did, I mean I knew I could win and I knew I knew I could do it, but to do it against the best player in the world and the way I did it I was kind of surprised, and I don't know, I've just been riding that high. I know I'm playing well, and I know I am. And it's just the confidence level is just a lot higher.
Q. Does it make you does it change your expectations or do you feel like you should be winning a lot?
STACY LEWIS: I don't let that thought I try not to let that thought come in my head because if you do, I think you try to force things and try to make things happen instead of just letting it happen. And I mean I've just been trying to relax and enjoy it and enjoy people recognizing me and cheering for me.
MIKA MIYAZATO, Rolex Rankings No. 22
MIKA MIYAZATO: Today I was much better shot because yesterday was a little bit everywhere, not good greens in regulation, so much better today. So more birdie chances. So I made like five birdies today. So putting better, and everything much better.
Q. That's good. Knowing how tough the conditions have been in the afternoon, was it nice to go out and put up an early score today?
MIKA MIYAZATO: Yesterday was so much windy, plus the morning was not much windy, so a little bit, yes.
Q. And looking finding yourself up near the top of the leaderboard, is it a nice feeling again?
MIKA MIYAZATO: Yes. I feel a little bit comfortable now.
Q. You've had a good year. Are you feeling good about your game and how you've been playing?
MIKA MIYAZATO: Well, my shot is very well like this year, just like the short game is my target point.
RYANN O'TOOLE, Rolex Rankings No. 125
RYANN O'TOOLE: Started off on the first hole, hit a good shot from the rough and made the putt for birdie. It's always nice to start off with a birdie, kind of gets things rolling, gets your confidence going, especially with putts dropping.Kind of just kept playing, snuck a couple more birdies on 4 and 5. 5 was really good. It was just, you know, a little bladed wedge from the rough, trying to putt it. And so that started getting the momentum.
I had a couple hiccups on 7 and 8, so I dropped back to even. So it was a battle. I had to kind of settle back in and just remind myself to just play the holes and kind of keep going. I think I was getting a little excited, and I hit one bad shot and you kind of get ahead of yourself. It gets hot out here, so I think the best thing was to stay hydrated?
Q. How big was it when you look at tough scoring conditions and you were one of the players, I think there was less than 20 so far who've been able to shoot under par today. How big is that to be able to put up a round like that on a day like this?
RYANN O'TOOLE: I think it's good, just to realize that now that you said it. It was tough with the wind. I mean the greens were firm. I've had some funky putts today. You know, you hit some great shots and you end up 60 feet from the hole and now you got a dinosaur you gotta putt over basically it feels like.
So you know, it did play tough, but I think that if you just kind of stayed in the moment and kept fighting and kept grinding, especially with it being 90 degrees out here, I think that really showed who came to play today. I mean tough conditions are all over the place, but people are always going to go low, so I'm glad that I was able to bring my game today?
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about your year, your rookie season and the success you had at the Women's Open and now finding yourself kind of in contention again? How's this year been for you?
RYANN O'TOOLE: This year's been good. I mean I was struggling to get into events at the beginning, so when I finally got into Albany and made the cut and jumped a bunch with the shuffle, it was nice to finally not have to feel like I had to Monday qualify every event or hope that I got in and just watched the wait list.
So to finally get in and get a few events under my belt and qualify for the Open, it just felt like things were finally coming around. I mean I played well last years on the FUTURES TOUR, so I knew that I was ready to come out here and do my thing. I went from trying to just make cuts and get my feet wet to after the Open realize that, hey, Top 10 is in my grasp every time. So you know, setting new goals and trying to just take it one step at a time, you know, not try to jump too far. I mean if a win comes, awesome. I'm going to play my game and play one shot at a time, but I'm just going to take it as that.
Q. Is today the first time you've played with Na Yeon Choi?
RYANN O'TOOLE: Yeah. We played a practice round in the Open a couple holes, but that was the first time her and I played together?
Q. What do you think of her game?
RYANN O'TOOLE: She's a great putter. You know, watching her yesterday was, you know, if I looked at the difference between our rounds, I mean I struck it just as well, but she made every putt she looked at and that's I felt like after my round yesterday, that's where I knew that the difference was, so practiced that for about an hour and felt like today was much better in the sense of being patient and the way I rolled it and staying in my routine.
You know, it was tough yesterday, someone going shooting 8 under or coming at 18 and being 8 under and not chasing all day, kind of just having to play your game, where to her it seemed like the hole looked like a toilet. So it was a little smaller.
Q. Is six shots back too far do you think?
RYANN O'TOOLE: No. I mean I know this is different than the Futures Tour, but I've played this year I won out in Mexico and I had four or five shots back and I won by one. So anything can happen. I mean there's a few holes out here that could really hurt people, and you know, it's anybody's game. If you get some putts rolling, I mean today if you get rid of I had double and two bogeys. I would be two shots back. So you have no idea what could happen. I mean you could have a round like Na Yeon did yesterday and be looking at chasing the leader.
GRACE PARK, Rolex Rankings No. 266
Q. How do you feel about today's round?
GRACE PARK: I'm a little disappointed because today my ball-striking was just off. I didn't hit any quality shots into the green. I hung in there to make some great par saves. I'm just glad this day is over.
Q. Given your injury situation over the last few years, how does it feel to be near the top of the leaderboard again?
GRACE PARK: It feels great. Just the fact that I'm playing on the weekend near the leaders is a great feeling. Brings back a lot of great memories. I still have it in me and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.