Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G
Pinnacle Country Club Rogers, Arkansas
September 9, 2011
First-round notes and interviews
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng and University of Arkansas alum Stacy Lewis are tied for the first-round lead after both shot a 5-under 66 on Friday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. Tseng and Lewis lead Taylor Leon, Jin Young Pak and Karen Stupples by one shot heading into the second round of the 54-hole event at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark.
Tseng, who is the defending champion at the event, eagled the par-5 18th hole to cap off a solid round that also featured three birdies. For her eagle on 18, the 22-year-old hit a 19-degree hybrid to approximately six feet and sunk the left-to-right breaking putt to move to the top of the leaderboard. It was Tseng’s seventh eagle of the season, which ranks third on the LPGA Tour this year.
But Tseng felt the biggest momentum swing in her round came on the par-5 14th where she hit her third shot to three feet and made birdie. Prior to that hole, Tseng said that she was pushing a few shots to the right but over her final few holes she was able to find a groove with her swing.
“I feel very comfortable, confident after that hole I was hitting my shot straighter,” Tseng said. “I kind of work on my swing a little bit. And my caddie keep telling me, your swing's good, don't think too much, so that helps a lot, too.
Lewis certainly had the support of the crowd throughout the first round. She won 12 collegiate tournaments during her time at the University of Arkansas, where she graduated with a degree in finance and accounting. Lewis, who became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier this year, was greeted by fans with her alma mater’s famous Hog Call as she walked up the final two holes of her round. And Lewis birdied both No. 17 and 18 to finish off her bogey-free round and give herself a share of the lead with Tseng.
“I was so nervous on the first tee,” Lewis said after her round. “You want to play well and I think early on I was kind of forcing things, just really wanting to play well and kind of forcing putts to go in and I just had to stay patient and relaxed. The two birdies that I made on 17 and 18, I mean, it was just unbelievable. I mean the fact that people would be here and support you is great, but I think we had everybody on the golf course on those two holes and it's unreal.”
It was the type of finish to a round that Lewis has certainly dreamed of having here in Arkansas and she appeared to truly enjoy every congratulatory message or autograph request that greeted her as walked out of the scoring tent on 18.
“You can't get the smile off my face right now,” Lewis said.
Back on track: Morgan Pressel has spent the last couple weeks working on a few tweaks to her golf swing. She said her swing is something she’s been struggling with over her past few tournaments, as she missed the cut at the Safeway Classic in Portland and finished in a tie for 18th at the CN Canadian Women’s Open in Montreal.
Although Pressel managed to put together some solid scores in Canada, she wasn’t happy with how her swing felt so she worked hard to make some modifications last week before heading to Arkansas. And she noticed a significant change in her swing while shooting a 3-under 68 in Friday’s first round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G.
“I played very poorly in Portland, scored okay but didn't play well in Canada, and I finally felt like I had control over my golf ball again today, which was a nice change,” Pressel said. “And so today I can say that 3‑under was the absolute worst I could have shot because I missed a lot of birdie opportunities but I gave myself chances on every hole and it was definitely nice to see for a change.”
As for the changes to her swing, Pressel said that she’s been trying to make her swing plane a little flatter.
“It had gotten really steep, and I’m trying to keep the club in front of my body, which it tends to get a little bit stuck behind me,” Pressel said. “It's very complicated. I can show you step by step everything that I'm thinking about in my golf swing, but the amazing part is most of the time it works.”
Juggling Act…Consistency was key for Taylor Leon on Friday as she carded a blemish free four-under par 67 to currently sit in a tie for third.
Despite being from Dallas, TX, Leon feels right at home on the links of Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark. In 2009, Leon notched the best finish of her career after firing rounds of 71-68-67 to finish in sixth.
“I don't know why, but I've always been pretty good at this course, I think it's because it's not like a long ball person's course,” said Leon. “You can kind of place the ball and being long isn't really an advantage, so I think that's my game.”
Golf however isn’t the only thing on Leon’s mind as she finds herself one-stroke behind co-leaders Stacy Lewis and Yani Tseng. The former University of Georgia Bulldog is in the midst of planning her wedding to former University of Georgia kicker Brandon Coutu.
“I'm getting married in February,” said Leon with a smile following Friday’s first round, “so maybe I've been thinking too much about the wedding and not enough about golf.”
Of Note…Rolex Rankings No. 4 Na Yeon Choi shot a 3-under 68 and is two shots off the lead after the first round. Choi has three top-7 finishes in her last three LPGA starts including a runner-up finish at the Safeway Classic outside Portland… Pernilla Lindberg recorded a hole-in-one on the par-3 11th hole in Friday’s first round. Lindberg holed out from 189 yards on the hole with a rescue club. She shot a 2-under 69 and is currently tied for 15th... Sunday, September 11 will mark the 10th anniversary of the tragic terrorist attacks on NYC and the Pentagon. In a special tribute to the lives lost, all active and retired service personnel, along with their accompanying families, as well as all fire, police and emergency employees, will receive free admission throughout the tournament.
Q. Nice round of 5‑under today, you played well. What was working for you out there?
YANI TSENG: You know, I was really patient today and I had a great group. Always fighting so hard, so it was really nice out there and I'm very enjoyed, beautiful weather today.
Q. On 18 we saw that second shot in. Can you describe that hole and what you hit?
YANI TSENG: I hit a perfect drive and second shot, I just tell myself let's focus on this, and I had a 19‑degree and hit to six‑footer and made putt for eagle.
Q. Were you aware at that time ‑‑ I mean, you took the outright lead by making that putt. Are you aware in situations like that?
YANI TSENG: I know I was pretty close so it's okay because only first day, so it's really good. I'm proud of myself. I didn't play quite good, I hit lot of push shots today but I hung in there and had a good finish.
Q. You're defending champion here. Do you have good memories when you come out here?
YANI TSENG: Oh, that's for sure, I mean, especially on 18th hole, what a big crowd there (inaudible) my shot on 18 so I was really, really happy.
Q. You talked about your approach shot on 18. What club did you use?
YANI TSENG: 19‑degree.
Q. And when you hit it, just talk about the approach of looking at it. I mean, when you hit it, did you know it was going to be close?
YANI TSENG: I know it was going to be really close, yeah.
Q. And the putt, kind of talk me through the putt, what you saw. How did it read?
YANI TSENG: It was a little left to right.
Q. It was a downhill putt, though?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, downhill putt. So I didn't think about ‑‑ I just think let's make this and hit it in the spot I want to hit it, just perfect.
Q. You have a chance to be at least tied for the lead in tomorrow's round. What does that feel like after you do so well in the first round, especially in a tournament where you say you always feel very comfortable at here?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I feel very comfortable because nobody ‑‑ I got off like a slow start for the tournament but today I played good, I'm in very good position and I still have two days, but I'm very looking forward.
Q. Was there one hole where you felt it kind of turned your game around today?
YANI TSENG: I think on the par 5. On what hole was the par 5 on the back? 14 or 15.
Q. 14 or 15, okay.
YANI TSENG: Fourteen, because I had been hitting like three, four shot push to the right and on 14 I hit a great shot to like two feet, three feet and I made birdie. I think that's kind of a turning point.
Q. How much of a mental boost was that hole in going into the rest of the round?
YANI TSENG: I feel very comfortable, confident after that hole I was hitting my shot straighter than I saw it because I kind of work on my swing a little bit. And my caddie keep told me, your swing's good, don't think too much, so that helps a lot, too.
Q. How much does it help your confidence? Defending champion, number one player in the world, struggled today, but you still get 5‑under and then you make an eagle on the 18th just to let everyone sleep on that. Is that like a huge confidence boost for you?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I think so. I kind of just very enjoyed. The first round, I don't think much, I really enjoyed playing with Suzann and enjoyed playing with Ryann and all the TV guy was funny and like Jerry was funny, supporting us. So get a good crowd for 18 holes so that make me very exciting to be here. And especially on 17, like people announce, oh, defending champion, and that was very nice, very sweet of them.
Q. You teed off in the afternoon today, tomorrow you're going to have a morning tee‑off. How much does that change your game? Do you like in the morning? Do you like the afternoon?
YANI TSENG: No, I think tomorrow morning probably just going to be a little chilly, but it's going to start warming up really good. So no, I don't think that too much.
Q. So you didn't come out here with any special plans to kind of post a low number early and let everyone know it's going to be hard to knock you off?
YANI TSENG: No, I don't think that far.
Q. Intimidation factor?
YANI TSENG: I don't think that far. I kind of just keep focused on every hole and keep to myself to focus on every shot. It doesn't matter, don't care about too much about what the other people is playing, just try to play my own game.
MODERATOR: We would like to welcome one of our current leaders, Stacy Lewis, into the interview room. Congratulations on your 5-under round today. It's always exciting to shoot good rounds, but when you get to do it at home with the crowd supporting you like they did on 17 and 18, tell me a little bit about what the day was like.
STACY LEWIS: Well, it started out great on the first tee. I was so nervous on the first tee, I'm like, you want to play well I think early on I was kind of forcing things, just really wanted to play well and kind of forcing putts to go in and I just had to stay patient and relaxed. The two birdies that I did on 17 and 18, I mean, it was just unbelievable. I mean, the fact that people would be here and support you, but I think we had everybody on the golf course on those two holes and it's unreal.
MODERATOR: We had talked about hearing the Hog call on 17, but here it was on 17 and 18 when you walked up, that had to be a pretty cool moment.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I expected 17 and they were actually a little disorganized there so they had to get it together, but on 18 there the stands were packed, just for everybody to hang out all day and be here at the end. I mean, normally toward the end of the day we get crowds sort of dwindling a little bit. So everybody hung around and it was -- I mean, I don't know, you can't get the smile off my face right now.
MODERATOR: We talked about how well you played at the Canadian Women's Open and how well you've been playing of late. Did you feel like that carried over into your round today, that you're feeling pretty good about your golf game?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, just like I've been all year, I've just been riding it. I've been hitting good shots and making putts. I don't know, I was just frustrated early on, I had a lot of putts lip out, and just really hung in there and just really proud of the finish.
Q. Stacy, I know it's one thing to play well the first round, but to have a putt to be tied for the lead going into the second round, how much better does that feel?
STACY LEWIS: I mean, it's the first round, but it definitely helps you sleep a little better. It's early. I try not to think about the lead and the win and all that kind of stuff, but I more wanted to make it just to get the reaction and just for all the people there that waited all day and it was perfect.
Q. Certainly a good round today, but how do you go into tomorrow and not have a letdown?
STACY LEWIS: Well, we tee off in the morning again. I kind of like that so I can keep the momentum going. People are going to shoot low numbers. You've got to go out there and make some birdies and try to follow it up again.
Q. You started the round with a lot of pars, but then you started kind of on a birdie streak. What changed? Was it a certain hole? What changed in today's round?
STACY LEWIS: I don't know. I think kind of midway through the back nine I started hitting some iron shots closer. I had some opportunities early but they just really weren't that good of putts. And I don't know, that's just the staying patient part. And probably 15, making the putt there just really kind of gave me confidence with my stroke and helped me to make those last two.
Q. Do you pay attention to the leaderboard during your round? Did you know where you were at on the 18th and knew if you birdied you'd be right up top?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I knew -- I think the last time I saw, when I made the birdie on 17 and go to four, I kind of thought I was tied for the lead or I didn't really know. I was just standing there on 18, I looked over, just kind of looking down and I kind of barely caught Yani out of the corner of my eye, that she had made eagle there, but anytime you're atop the leaderboard, whether it's first round or last round, it's a good spot.
Q. Talk about how much pressure you felt early in the first round, is that going to help you deal with it because it's going to be even more pressure now in the second round with you tied with Yani?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I was walking up 18 there and I was pretty exhausted. I mean, I can just feel it in the people, they want the putts to go in, they want the shots close, and I have to kind of take a step back and kind of relax a little bit. I think I told myself on one of those last two putts, you're here by yourself, there's nobody else here, you're on the putting green just trying to make these putts. I mean, that's what I'm going to try to do but I know if I'm near the lead towards the end, I'm definitely going to have the advantage.
Q. Is it going to be easier to deal with it tomorrow after you've dealt with it today?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I was really kind of surprised at the way I handled it because I was pretty nervous coming down there towards the end. It's more -- it's more just not wanting to disappoint the people. I know that I'm not going to disappoint anybody because they love me here, but I just really want to play well so bad, it almost makes me nervous.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit how fun it is when you think about you and Yani are tied for the lead, number one player in the world, that's where you want to be, just being tied with the best going into tomorrow?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, I've played with Yani so much and I've tried to learn from her and picked up little things about how she prepares and how she plays certain shots and holes. Anytime you're playing with the number one player in the world, you're doing the right thing.
Q. This year you've already won a major championship. How much do you attribute the experience of going through that and holding onto a lead and actually winning to something like this, going through this tournament where you said you put a lot of pressure on yourself because it's kind of a hometown type of thing?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, because at the Kraft, that final round, everybody -- Yani was defending champion, everybody was really kind of pulling for her so I was the underdog there, so it's kind of a little different spot. I'm going to have the spotlight. It's going to be good for me getting ready for Solheim. I've just got to continue to learn how to deal with it, but I was kind of pleasantly surprised with how it went today.
Q. Stacy, what do you think, you know, obviously with the Kraft it was you and Yani, you've been obviously with her before. What do you think when you see that you two are up there on the leaderboard? Do you kind of feel like a little bit of a rivalry starting to emerge to an extent?
STACY LEWIS: I would hope so. I mean, I'd love to be a rival with her. She's a great player and she's a great person, too. I mean, we had a great time those last couple days at the Kraft, so I'd love to be playing with her on Sunday.
Q. This is just a little bit off topic, but as a former Arkansas athlete, what do you think this tournament does for the Arkansas golf program?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, it's huge. I don't think there's another program in the country that if the number one player on the team's having a good year, they can get an exemption into an LPGA event. There's no other place like it. And they can play in the Monday qualifier. I mean, it's a huge recruiting tool more than anything. The girls get to come out and watch people play and see how they -- see how me and other players, how they manage their games and I think that's invaluable.
Q. You shot a 4-under 67 to put you currently in the lead for the tournament. What was working well for you out there today? Can you take me through the round a little?
TAYLOR LEON: Yes, I just was pretty consistent, I think I hit most every green, maybe just missed one or two here and there, so I just had a lot of birdie chances and was fortunate to make a few.
Q. What is it about the course that you kind of have to take advantage of?
TAYLOR LEON: I don't know why, but I've always been pretty good at this course, I think it's because it's not like a long ball person's course. You can kind of place the ball and being long isn't really an advantage, so I think that's my game.
Q. And anything that you've been working on lately or that kind of came together for you today?
TAYLOR LEON: You know what's funny is I've been just really stressed out the whole year and I'm like, I'm just going to go out and have fun this year, and I have a new caddie and we were just talking the whole way around.
Q. I was going to say, you've had a little bit else on your mind, right?
TAYLOR LEON: Yes, I'm getting married in February, so maybe I've been thinking too much about the wedding and not enough about golf.
Q. It's not easy to balance everything. Congratulations. Good luck the rest of the week.
Q. Talk to me just a little bit about the scoring conditions out there today as there haven’t been many low rounds.
PAULA CREAMER: I mean, it's a good golf course. You're going to make your birdies out there, it's just eliminating the bogeys. There's a couple holes, you'll take your par every day. Pin placements were actually pretty tough today. I wasn't really expecting as many tucked pins, but that's going to affect the scoring for sure.
Q. And for your game, how did you feel out there about your round?
PAULA CREAMER: I had some moments of great shots and things and some moments of where did that come from, but that's golf and you just have to finish the round and I did. It was a nice birdie on the last hole, made a couple good saves, but overall I know what I need to work on for the weekend.
Q. What's going to be the key for the weekend going forward with this golf course? What's going to be the biggest thing to make sure you can shoot some low numbers?
PAULA CREAMER: Just keep doing the same thing, you know, that I've been doing, giving myself as many opportunities and capitalizing on it when I can. Like I said, you can make a lot of birdies, but the wind picks up in the afternoon and it gets a little bit tougher, and with the pin placements it's a little bit harder.
MODERATOR: All right. We would like to welcome Morgan Pressel into the interview room. Congratulations on your 3‑under round today.
MORGAN PRESSEL: Thanks.
MODERATOR: Can you take me through your round, I know you got off to a good start and then it kind of slowed down for a little bit and then you had a great stretch of three birdies in five holes. What was working well for you during that stretch?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Yeah, well, I worked really hard on my golf swing the last couple weeks, I guess the last week in particular, and it's something that I've really been struggling with. I played very poorly in Portland, scored okay but didn't play well in Canada, and I finally felt like I had control over my golf ball again today, which was a nice change. And so today I can say that 3‑under was the absolute worst I could have shot because I missed a lot of birdie opportunities but I gave myself chances on every hole and it was definitely nice to see for a change. The few birdies that I made there in the middle, I just ended up making a couple putts, that was just really the difference.
MODERATOR: Talking to the other players, they were talking about some of the pins were tucked in, it wasn't exactly easy‑easy scoring conditions today. How did you find it out there today?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Yeah, the pins were certainly three, four, five feet off edges and almost on little knobs in the middle of greens, and the greens definitely have a lot of shelves so you have to be pretty accurate with your approach shots and make sure you're in the right area; otherwise, you could have quite a long 40‑, 50‑foot approach putt.
But I think the other part is out there, it's not ‑‑ it's not a gale wind but it's a little breezy and it's almost swirling so you could stand on a tee of, you know, the par 3 over water and you're like, well, is it out of the left or is it into or is it ‑‑ and you're not quite sure and it makes it a little difficult to pull pins and get it close, pull clubs.
Q. Morgan, last year you opened up with a 66, today you came up with 68; last year second day kind of fell off to a 72.
MORGAN PRESSEL: Thank you for reminding me of it.
Q. What will you do to guard against that for tomorrow?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Well, it's a totally different golf course, totally different year. The course is playing definitely different than it was last year and I'm not really thinking about last year. I'm thinking about getting off to a good start tomorrow and keeping the pressure on the entire round and keep making putts. If I hit it like I did today, I'm bound to make a few more putts and play even better.
Q. What is the difference in starting in the morning times and afternoon times? Is there a big difference? Is the course a lot different in the afternoon than it is in the morning?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Well, the only thing is, one, the greens are a little bit less bumpy as less people have walked over them so they're a little fresher, maybe a touch more receptive, and as the wind picks up in the afternoon, as it's pretty calm in the morning, but it does dry out the greens and make it a little bit firmer out there and probably a little bit more difficult. That's probably the biggest change.
Q. Will the greens be faster in the afternoon than they would be in the morning?
MORGAN PRESSEL: No, they'll probably get a little bit slower. It's the type of grass that does grow a little bit. It won't brown them out, it won't dry them out to the point where they're slower, it will just dry them out to the point where the ball will rocket off the green a little faster.
Q. Usually a golfer who leaves some birdies out there might be a little upset. Is it encouraging to you that your golf game seems to be coming around, all that work you've done on it, so the 3‑under that could have been better actually calls for optimism?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Very much so, very much so. Normally I would be, you know, frustrated that I did leave a lot of birdies out there. And I'm not thrilled, I'm not jumping up and down, but I am ‑‑ part of me is definitely very excited that I feel like I've found some sort of a golf game heading into the very big part of the season. You know, this is a very important event next week and then following, Solheim. I don't want to let my teammates down so I'm happy that I found a little bit of a game.
Q. Have you putted well this year? Today was an anomaly with your putting?
MORGAN PRESSEL: I mean, I think any player goes through good stretches and bad stretches. I feel like at least today I was hitting good putts. I don't feel like I was hitting necessarily poor putts, which is probably what I would struggle with the most. I felt like I was really hitting good putts and lipping out or just missing or it hit a bump. So I'm not too bothered by it and hope tomorrow I can get out there and make some more.
Q. During your stretch of three birdies in five holes, was there any one shot that maybe got you going? Do you remember, was there a putt or anything that really kind of ‑‑
MORGAN PRESSEL: Yeah, I made a really good putt on 18 after not hitting such a great approach shot. It was probably 12 feet, 12, 15 feet, and having missed just about everything all day, that was a bonus. And then I missed a relatively short birdie putt on 2 and then hit it to about three feet on 3, which then kind of got me going, 2‑under par for the round, right back in there.
Q. When you make a putt like that, are you kind of a momentum player so that when you make a putt like that, the holes after that, I mean, you kind of start to feel it and that momentum starts to build?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Well, it was definitely a confidence builder. Making putts is definitely more of a confidence builder than missing putts, so anytime you can sneak one in there and try and play on it for the next few holes, I felt like I got my routine back and was comfortable over the ball.
Q. And you had also mentioned about working on your swing really hard the last week or so. What is it specifically that you've been working on with your swing?
MORGAN PRESSEL: Just trying to be a little bit flatter through the golf swing, it had gotten really steep, and trying to keep the club in front of my body, which it tends to get a little bit stuck behind me. It's very complicated. I can show you step by step everything that I'm thinking about in my golf swing, but the amazing part is most of the time it works. It's just really trying to get through the ball better and shallow the club a little bit.