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Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia First-Round Notes and Interviews

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club- East Course
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
First-round Notes and Interviews
October 11, 2012


Na Yeon Choi, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 4 & defending champion
Karrie Webb, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 19


Putting on the pressure
Rested and ready
Back-nine fire
Idol advice
Glammed up
Quotable…

 

Rolex Rankings No. 4 and defending champion Na Yeon Choi (@nychoi87) and No. 19 Karrie Webb both shot rounds of 6-under par 65 to earn a share of the lead after the first round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia (@SimeDarbyLPGA). Both leaders had bogey-free rounds at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club and hold a one-shot lead over a group of three including 2012 Kraft Nabisco champion Sun Young Yoo, Rolex Rankings No. 9 Mika Miyazato (@mikachin1010) and seventeen year-old amateur Min Lee. The first round was plagued by thunderstorms in the afternoon and players were faced with a two hour and 47 minute weather delay.

Choi had a solid start in her effort to defend her title this week and came out of the gate with four birdies on the front nine. She tallied her final two on Nos. 12 and 14 before getting called in for the weather delay. Webb carded three birdies on both the front and back nine and was able to close out her round with a birdie on the par 3 17th after returning to her round with three holes left to play.

Putting on the pressure: Coming back to an LPGA event as defending champion automatically adds extra eyes and attention to a player looking to repeat. But Na Yeon Choi said most of the pressure to perform well this week in Malaysia has come from herself. Now a major champion after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in July, Choi said she has been holding herself to a higher standard and thriving off some seld-imposed pressure.

“You know, I think I put extra pressure on myself,” said Choi. “A lot of people expect me to win again this year.  But I think I like it tense.  That makes me a little nervous, more like pressure, but I like that feeling.  I think all the players need that little tense, that pressure.”

The South Korean has defended a title successfully and did so in 2010 at the LPGA Hana Bank Championship. Choi’s opening-round 65 on Thursday bested her previous low round of 66 at KLGCC.

“The main thing is I know the course very well and I know I have ability to play well because I did last year,” said Choi. “So I just try to think positively.  I have lot of pressure, but I try to thrive off the pressure.”
 

Rested and ready: LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb has seen her fair share of success on the golf course in her career but struggle a year ago in Malaysia when she finished T42. The 16-year veteran said she’s thankful that a short break before the Asian swing let her recharge the batteries a bit.

“Well, I wanted to improve from last year because I didn't play very well,” said Webb. “Just in a different frame of mind this time around.  I've just been back in Australia for two and a half weeks, visiting family and stuff.

“I think I came in with a bit more refreshed frame of mind,” said Webb. “I think last year I was quite tired at this time of the year.  The game didn't feel great, so I didn't have a very good attitude as to getting in there and playing well. Just a better attitude this year.”

After some needed R&R, Webb said she had to work on a few mechanical issues following the Women’s British Open. She developed her swing to deal with the extreme winds in Liverpool.

“I took probably about 10 days off when I went home.  I was home for my mum's 60th birthday.  We had some fun for the first 10 days or so I was home, then I got back to work. It took a little bit because the last time I played was the British.  It was cold, rainy and windy.  I was in north Queensland where it was nice and warm.

“I had to get out of all the bad habits of playing in the wind at the British,” said Webb. “I worked on just some basic stuff which got me out of all the bad windy swing habits from the British Open and got me feeling good about things.”

Back-nine fire: Mika Miyazato has had a break-out season in 2012 and has been playing the best golf of her four-year career. The Japan native has consistently produced top-10 finishes including on the Tour’s biggest stage. She recorded three top-10’s in three of this year’s majors and also notched her first win at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola. Since her victory in August, she hasn’t finished outside the top-15 and some newfound confidence has lead her

“No pressure,” said Miyazato. “I’m just much more confident than last year.”

Miyazato made the turn at even-par with two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine. She turned it on for the final nine hole and carded five birdies on the back nine, including three out of the last four holes.

“I hit my second shots very well on the back nine,” said Miyazato. “The front nine was ok. I think my concentration was a lot better. I’m looking to really keep my rhythm this week.”

Idol advice: Seventeen year-old Taiwanese amateur Min Lee made her LPGA Tour debut on Thursday and earned her way into the field by regional qualifying in September. Lee, who is the sixth-ranked amateur in Taiwan, received some advice from a credible source earlier this week. She played her only practice round on Tuesday with Rolex Rankings No. 1 and fellow compatriot Yani Tseng. Lee did not hesitate to point out the role Tseng has played in her young career.

“Yani is my idol,” said Lee. “She taught me many things during the practice round about golf, like the mental aspect which was very helpful.”

Lee did not have any performance goals or expectations coming into the week and said nerves got to her on the eve of her LPGA Tour debut.

“This is my first time playing in an LPGA event and I’m very happy to have played this well my first time,” said Lee. “My goal at the start of the week was to try and learn as much as I could and have a good attitude throughout this week. I went to bed at 10 o’clock last night but didn’t sleep well at all. I was so nervous, I kept getting up throughout the night. I kept telling myself, this is the LPGA, this is the LPGA.”

Glammed up: For the third year, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia held its annual Gala Charity Dinner in efforts to raise funds and awareness for the event’s official charity, Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF). The Queen of Malaysia was the evening’s guest of honor and was accompanied by Rolex Rankings No. 13 Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer) at the head table. Creamer was paired with the Queen for Wednesday’s pro-am and was one of four players selected to model local evening wear and jewelry. Fellow Americans Cristie Kerr (@CKGolferChic), Natalie Gulbis (@natalie_gulibis) and Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) donned batik inspired dresses designed by local designer Tom Abang Saufi and wore several pieces of jewelry designed by Habib, valuing an estimated $2.3 million.

“I think I speak for most of us when I say this is definitely another part of our job that we love,” said Wie. “We’re like any other girls, we like dressing up for a party and it’s always nice to let our hair down once in a while and enjoy ourselves. And that it’s for such a worthy cause just makes it all the more special.”

Quotable… “Not surprised anymore.  I think with technology and coaching, it's so much more superior these days than when I was a young kid, I'm not surprised to see young kids ready to play.  Especially for girls.  I think it's harder for guys, because they're not mature.  15-year-old girls are not far from full size.  The only maturity they lack is away from the golf course.  They're still talking about the cartoons they've been watching (laughter).  Their golf games are very mature and ready to go.” –Co-leader Karrie Webb on whether she’s surprised anymore to see teenagers at the top of the leaderboard each week.

 

Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 4

THE MODERATOR:  We would like to welcome Na Yeon Choi.  Great round, bogey-free, six birdies.  Any highlights of the round?
NA YEON CHOI:  I think my shot was great today.  I have a lot of birdie chance.  I had a great score, 6-under.  But I feel like I still something left out there.  My shot was great.  I have a lot of birdie chance.

But 6-under is always a good score any golf course.  So, no, I feel great.  I'm very happy.  We still have three more rounds, but I have a lot of confidence, especially with this golf course.  So I really looking forward this week.

THE MODERATOR:  You clearly like this course.  What is your favorite thing about it, anything that suits your game that sticks out?
NA YEON CHOI:  You know, I think the rough is a little longer than last year.  Actually, when I played the practice round, my strategy is like put the fairway first because if I hit the fairway first, I think I can make a chance for a birdie.  So even today all day I tried to ball hit the fairway first.  I think it works.

THE MODERATOR:  Possibly could be more pressure as a defending champ.  Clearly didn't get to you.  Did you come in this week feeling more pressure or do you thrive on that, having attention, knowing you've done well here before?
NA YEON CHOI:  You know, I think I put extra pressure on myself.  A lot of people expect me to win again this year.  But I think I like that tense.  That makes me little nervous, more like pressure, but I like that feeling.  I think all the players need that little tense, that pressure.

The main thing is I know course very well and I know I have ability to play well this golf course because I did last year.  So I just try to think positively.  I have lot of pressure, but I try to thrive off the pressure.

THE MODERATOR:  You had a break after the British.  Did you go back to Korea?
NA YEON CHOI:  Actually, I played Japan Women's Open.  I think I finished 15 or 16 something.

THE MODERATOR:  Anything you've been practicing in particular?
NA YEON CHOI:  Not really.  I changed my driver.  This time is only the second week I use that driver.  I think pretty good, looks little further than older driver.

THE MODERATOR:  Added on some yards?
NA YEON CHOI:  Yeah.  I still working on with my driver, but I like my driver now.  Very comfortable.

THE MODERATOR:  Going into the final stretch of this season, six events left, do you have any short-term goals of anything you really want to accomplish in the next few events?
NA YEON CHOI:  Actually, I won the U.S. Open this year.  That was my first to win of the major tournament.  I think after I won the U.S. Open, I put little bit more pressure on myself.

So, you know, like I have goal, but I think I need more focus on my small goal, small goal every day.  I'm trying to think what I can do control.  So now my goal is not like goal, but I want to be more like stick to my daily plan. Just the little things.  

Q.  Your experience from the past few years, always been rain delays here, but do you think today it disturbed your rhythm a bit?
NA YEON CHOI:  Actually, you know what, when we had the break, I took little nap inside.  I think I feel comfortable.  Actually after the break, we went back to the golf course, I think green speed was a little slow.  If we have the same situation like next few days, I think I have to think about that.

After the break, my putter was short every hole.  Like even tomorrow or next few days, I think I have to think about a little bit more my putting speed.

I mean, good thing is I always try to think positively, even like two-hour break or 30-minute break.  Everybody same, so I try to accept what happen.

THE MODERATOR:  How long was that nap?
NA YEON CHOI:  25 minutes (laughter).

Q.  What was your mindset going out this morning?
NA YEON CHOI:  Like what I said, my strategy, I have to think about my strategy.  So, you know, I just remind myself before I tee off that my strategy is keep the fairway first.  Doesn't matter like distance, I think.

Even yesterday and Tuesday I practiced a little bit more focused on my tee shot, keep the fairway first, because I have lot of confidence with my iron.  So I try to focus more tee shot.

I mean, I think I did well today even on the course.  I had really fun with my caddie and all the group.

MODERATOR:  How long have you had your caddie now?
NA YEON CHOI:  I think Safeway Classic.  That was the first week.

Q.  Do you think you can go lower tomorrow?
NA YEON CHOI:  Lower score, you mean?

Q.  Yes.
NA YEON CHOI:  I don't know.  I mean, if I shoot little bit more low, I be really happy.

But score I cannot control.  I just go out there and play one shot at a time.  I mean, if I did my best, the score doesn't matter.  I want to really play without regrets, yeah.

Q.  If you do win this year, what would you reward yourself with?

THE MODERATOR:  Would you buy anything?
NA YEON CHOI:  I don't know.  I mean, I like to shopping really.  I like to shopping.  But I never been to Kuala Lumpur downtown.  My caddie say there is a really good shopping mall in there.  We have to leave Sunday night.  If I have time, I like to go downtown.  People say at nighttime a lot of traffic there.  So I don't know.

But I play with the chairman of Sime Darby yesterday.  He said vacation or honeymoon you should come to Malaysia.  I promised him like honeymoon or something, when I have vacation, I want to back to here and have some time, yeah.

 

Karrie Webb, Rolex Rankings No. 19

THE MODERATOR:  Great round, 6-under.  By far your best round here.
KARRIE WEBB:  Yes.

THE MODERATOR:  Talk about coming into this week, anything in specific you wanted to improve on in handling this course.
KARRIE WEBB:  Well, I wanted to improve from last year because I didn't play very well.  Just in a different frame of mind this time around.  I've just been back in Australia for two and a half weeks, visiting family and stuff.

I think I came in with a bit more refreshed frame of mind.  I think last year I was quite tired at this time of the year.  The game didn't feel great, so I didn't have a very good attitude as to getting in there and playing well.

Just a better attitude this year.

THE MODERATOR:  Coming off a top five at the British.  You got to go back to Australia.  What were you working on, anything in particular?  You said you felt refreshed going into this last stretch.  Talk about going into this homestretch of the season.
KARRIE WEBB:  Yeah, well, I took probably about 10 days off when I went home.  I was home for my mum's 60th birthday.  We had some fun for the first 10 days or so I was home, then I got back to work.

It took a little bit because the last time I played was the British.  It was cold, rainy and windy.  I was in north Queensland where it was nice and warm.  I had to get out of all the bad habits of playing in the wind at the British.

I worked with my coach who I grew up with from eight, I hit some balls with him, worked on just some basic stuff which got me out of all the bad windy swing habits from the British Open and got me feeling good about things.

THE MODERATOR:  Rain from England to rain here.  You finished your last three holes after the rain delay.  What was in your mind?
KARRIE WEBB:  I think sometimes it's hard to get back to being focused because you've been sitting around for three hours chatting with the girls and stuff.

But I think you don't want to just try and just finish without making mistakes.  I think if you go into that mindset you tend to make mistakes.  I tried to feel like, Let's go and hit some quality shots and see if we can hit a couple shots coming in.

THE MODERATOR:  We have a 17-year-old 5-under, one stroke back.  As a veteran, are you surprised to see all these young players doing well?
KARRIE WEBB:  Not surprised anymore.  I think with technology and coaching, it's so much more superior these days than when I was a young kid, I'm not surprised to see young kids ready to play.  Especially for girls.  I think it's harder for guys, because they're not mature.  15-year-old girls are not far from full size.  The only maturity they lack is away from the golf course.  They're still talking about the cartoons they've been watching (laughter).  Their golf games are very mature and ready to go.

Q.  Did you have a highlight of the round today?
KARRIE WEBB:  Not in general.  I made a great up-and-down on the 1st.  That calmed me down.  I birdied the 2nd.  I settled in from there.  Six birdies, making no bogeys in my first week back, I'm very happy with that.

Q.  When you come to Asia, rain delays are something you would expect to happen.
KARRIE WEBB:  Yes.

Q.  How do you prepare for that mentally?
KARRIE WEBB:  I think this morning, as humid as it was, and the sun was out, I didn't think we'd get done without a delay.  So I think you just prepare that that is going to be the case.

You'd like to play 72 holes straight without a delay.  I think that would be a miracle here if we actually achieved that.

Hopefully the weather will be a little bit better and we'll get the storms after 3:00 in the afternoon and we won't have too many delays again.

Q.  How important was it to come pack and par 16, birdie 17 in terms of your mindset?
KARRIE WEBB:  Well, I mean, anytime you pick up a birdie the last three holes, it's great.  It means that you're continuing your round, not just trying to get into the clubhouse.

It's particularly a little bit more difficult when you've had that break.  But I think it's important to me that I didn't just try and finish the round.  I told myself, All right, let's see if we can get another one or two, not just finish the round off.

Q.  Anything with your round you're particularly pleased about?
KARRIE WEBB:  I think having three weeks off, hitting a scratchy iron shot, then made a great putt on the 2nd for birdie.  It was a little bit shaky ball-striking early on.

I think the thing I was most proud about the round was that I just settled in.  I didn't try to force.  I knew I had been swinging it well, so I didn't want to try to force that to happen.

Once I settled into the round, I started hitting some really quality shots.

Q.  Ian Triggs has been down here.  What do you think he can impart to the young girls looking at idols like yourself?
KARRIE WEBB:  Well, Ian is just a fantastic guy.  He's obviously got a great knowledge of the golf swing and playing competitive golf.  He played professionally himself.

He's just got a wonderful personality.  I think especially to teach young girls because he's a bit of a softy.  He's not too hard on the girls.  I think that goes a long way.  He's a very positive person.

I think young teenage girls, getting positive feedback from a coach that has coached some of the best players in the world is a great thing for them.

Topics: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, Choi, Na Yeon, Webb, Karrie, Notes and Interviews

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