Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship
Sunrise Golf & Country Club
Yang Mei, Taoyuan, Taiwan
First-round Notes and Interviews
October 25, 2012
Inbee Park’s impressive second-half surge continued on Thursday in the first round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship (@taiwanlpga). Park fired a 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead over Rolex Rankings No. 1 and Taiwan native Yani Tseng (@YaniTseng) after 18 holes of play at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club. Park tallied seven birdies in her bogey-free opening round and she has now shot under par in each of her last eight rounds in LPGA events.
Tseng, who won the inaugural event here in Taiwan last year, is alone in second place after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the first round but there is a group of four players who sit not far behind at 4-under-par – Nicole Castrale, Pornanong Phatlum, Danielle Kang and Hee Young Park.
Park’s T15 finish last week at the LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship ended what had been an impressive streak for the 24-year-old South Korean. She had recorded 10 straight top-10 finishes, a streak that dated back to early June at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. It included two victories, four runner-up finishes and eight top-5 finishes while falling a few top-10s shy of Karrie Webb’s LPGA record of 16 straight top-10s.
But while that streak may have ended for Park, it appears she’s on track to beginning another one this week following her hot start in Thursday’s first round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. Park’s 7-under 65 has given her a two-shot lead after the first round and she was pleased with how her game is feeling.
“Obviously with that number, everything went really well today,” Park said. “I hit the ball great. I mean I hit a lot of short irons in, so I hit a lot of shots close and I was able to make a lot of birdies.”
It’s been just two weeks since Park captured her second victory of the 2012 season at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. That win marked the first time that Park has enjoyed a multi-win season in her career and she seems pleased about the way she’s been able to improve over the past few months.
“I mean that was a big accomplishment for me, and a lot of really a lot of confidence boost for me, and I mean it's the first time that's happened for my sixth year on the tour, and I'm really happy for that and really want to give myself credit for that,” Park said of her two wins. “And hopefully it's going to be a better one next year and two years later. I just want to improve myself every year.”
Hometown favorite: Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng made it a memorable week last year at the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship when she captured a five-shot victory in the first-ever LPGA event in her home country.
Now the question is whether the world’s top-ranked player can deliver an impressive second act here in Taiwan.
Tseng put herself in a good position to do just that with her 5-under 67 in Thursday’s first round. She tallied six birdies and one bogey in the round, which included a stretch of four birdies in five holes following her lone bogey of the day.
“Must be the bogey on No. 10 make me a little mad out there,” Tseng said with a laugh. “I've been really consistently and like all Front 9, and the Back 9 I make bogey on No. 10, and it was kind of -- I hit it good on every shot, but I still make bogey. But after that I feel let's make birdie chance, let's make a few birdies, and I did on No. 11, that was a great putt because I didn't putt well on the Front 9. Almost every hole I had a birdie chance and I only made two. So No. 11 hole I think is my turning point today to give myself making lots of birdies.
“After 12 I see my niece. My mom just calling my name, and she brought the niece, and I saw her and just make me real happy. That must give me little different power to make three birdies in a row.”
Thursday’s round was another sign that perhaps Tseng is getting her game back on track following a rough stretch over the past couple months. Tseng looked like her old self at last week’s LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship where she finished third and one shot out of a playoff. It was her first top-10 finish since the Sybase Match Play Championship back in May. After winning three of the first five LPGA events of the year, the top-ranked player in the world hit a rough patch beginning in June and prior to last week she had gone a stretch of 11 consecutive tournaments without a top-10 finish, which included three missed cuts.
So is her game finally coming together once again?
“I haven't been that close to winning a long time,” Tseng said of her play in Korea. “Last week every drive, every shot I feel like I played like before. But now I just want to always looking forward. It doesn't matter how I play before, but now is the start every shot and I want to do my best and focus on every shot.”
Welcome to Sunrise! This week marks the first time that Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer) has seen the Sunrise Golf & Country Club as she did not play in the event last year. Creamer got a taste of Taiwan weather when she made a visit to the country last December to play in a non-LPGA event and when the winds were gusting earlier in the week.
But on Thursday with the winds quiet for most of the day, Creamer got her first chance to play in conditions that were right for scoring and she took advantage with a 3-under 69.
“The wind kind of picked up on the last four or five holes and kind of had to play for it a little bit more there,” Creamer said. “But this golf course is all about the pin placements, too, where they're going to put it tucked in these big greens, and it was good to get my first round in competition since it is always different than a practice round. So this was a nice way to start, and just going to have to make a lot of -- make some birdies on the next three days.”
Creamer enters this tournament coming off a sixth place finish in an event in Japan last week. While her last win came at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open, Creamer seems confident that her game is coming together and her hope is that soon it will result in a return to the winner’s circle.
“I feel pretty solid with where my game is at, just trying to really eliminate the mistakes and make as many birdies as I possibly can,” Creamer said. “But I continue working on my golf swing and having new confidence with my putting and hopefully I’ll be in contention on Sunday.”
Quotable: “She has a lot of fans here, and I know she's really comfortable with this golf course. I think she does have an advantage. She won here last year, and she likes this golf course. And she played well last week, too. So I think she has a good opportunity.” – Inbee Park when asked about Yani Tseng’s home advantage here in Taiwan
Tweet of the Day: Goes to Beatriz Recari who suffered an equipment malfunction when her putter was bent during the plane ride to Taiwan…
“Well, TaylorMade Taiwan was fast enough to have my putter ready on the first tee today #thankyou #relief” -- @Beatriz Recari
Of Note…Rolex Rankings No. 7 Suzann Pettersen, who captured her first win of the 2012 season last week in Korea, shot a 3-under 69 in Thursday’s opening round…Nicole Castrale, whose best finish this year is a T9 at the U.S. Women’s Open, sits in a tie for third at 4-under-par…Two rookies sit in the top 10 after the first round, Danielle Kang who shot a 4-under 68 and Lizette Salas who fired a 3-under 69.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We'd like to welcome our current leader, Inbee Park. Congratulations. A great round, 7-under par today. Take me through your day out there and what was working well for you
INBEE PARK: Obviously with that number, everything went really well today. I hit the ball great. I mean I hit a lot of short irons in, so I hit a lot of shots close and I was able to make a lot of birdies.
THE MODERATOR: It's been a remarkable second half of the season for you. Before last week you had gone ten straight tournaments with a Top 10 finish, two victories over that stretch. What has it been about your game that's been working so well that you've been able to be so consistent.
INBEE PARK: Earlier in the season I was hitting the ball -- I stayed probably the same as right now, but I wasn't putting as well earlier in the year, and I was just trying to find the right putter and the right stroke for me. And I finally find it the middle of the season and it started working really good and I'm rolling the ball great.
THE MODERATOR: As I talked about the two victories that you had, one of them was two weeks ago in Malaysia. To put together two wins in a season is something that you haven't done before in your career. How special would that be for you to be able to accomplish that feat.
INBEE PARK: Yeah. I mean that was a big accomplishment for me, and a lot of really a lot of confidence boost for me, and I mean it's the first time that's happened for my sixth year on the tour, and I'm really happy for that and really want to give myself credit for that. And hopefully it's going to be a better one next year and two years later. I just want to improve myself every year.
THE MODERATOR: Can you also just take me through the conditions out there today? We're used to a lot of wind and it didn't seem like there was as much wind as we're used to. How did that affect play today?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean coming to this golf course we were expecting a lot of wind and I was prepared for it. But today it was really calm and a very nice day. So it was really good scoring condition out there. So I was able to go actually at the pins, a lot of the pins. We were able to attack a lot of the pins, so I think that was making the play a lot easier.
Q. Could you please compare last year to your play today?
INBEE PARK: Overall or --
Q. Overall, yes.
INBEE PARK: Last year I wasn't hitting the ball as solid as this year, and my ball striking skills have been improved a lot from last year.
I think putting -- putting I think has gotten a little better, but mostly the ball striking gotten a lot better than last year.
Q. It seems Yani has a home advantage to get the champion or not?
INBEE PARK: I think she does. She has a lot of fans here, and I know she's really comfortable with this golf course. I think she does have an advantage. She won here last year, and she likes this golf course. And she played well last week, too. So I think she has a good opportunity.
YANI TSENG, Rolex Rankings No. 1
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Rolex Rankings No. 1, Yani Tseng into the interview room. First off, welcome home. I'm sure it's always good to be home. Congratulations. A great round today. 5-under par. Can you take me through your day and what was working well for you out there?
YANI TSENG: You know, I feel very good to be back in Taiwan and play the LPGA tournament here, especially I practice in Sunrise Golf Club here, like four, five years, so I know the course very well.
This morning I see so many fans out here, it make me so happy and relaxed. I know everybody is talking about the pressure this week, but I just try to -- when I see all the fans, I think that pressure is gone because I know doesn't matter how I play, they're still going to be there to give me 100 percent support. And I just want to show my big smile and show my best effort on every shot and do my best all the time.
I think I played great today. I feel really good. I hit good on my driving and my iron shot and I give myself lots of birdie opportunities out there.
THE MODERATOR: Take me through that stretch on the back. You had four birdies in a stretch of five holes. Did you just get hot at the right moment and everything seemed to be dropping for you?
YANI TSENG: Must be the bogey on No. 10 make me a little mad out there, because I've been really consistently and like all Front 9, and the Back 9 I make bogey on No. 10, and it was kind of -- I hit it good on every shot, but I still make bogey. But after that I feel let's make birdie chance, let's make a few birdies, and I did on No. 11, that was a great putt because I didn't putt well on the Front 9. Almost every hole I had a birdie chance and I only made two. So No. 11 hole I think is my turning point today to give myself making lots of birdies.
After 12 I see my niece. My mom just calling my name, and she brought the niece, and I saw her and just make me real happy. That must give me little different power to make three birdies in a row.
THE MODERATOR: And last week you finished third in Korea. It was your first Top 10 since back in May, I think it was. What did that do for your confidence level coming into this week.
YANI TSENG: I know it's been a long time. I didn't know it was that long. But I didn't think much because last month I've been playing very well. It doesn't matter it's Korea, because mean Malaysia I feel playing good too. So I know in Korea it gives you lots of confidence. I haven't been that close to winning a long time. Last week every drive, every shot I feel like I played like before. But now I just want to always looking forward. It doesn't matter how I play before, but now is the start every shot and I want to do my best and focus on every shot.
Q. And the weather was fine today, or was it hot?
DANIELLE KANG: No, it wasn't. I was expecting a lot of wind, but it was a great day. It's so pretty out here, and perfect weather. And the crowds are so awesome.
Q. So better than Korea, the weather?
DANIELLE KANG: I'm usually more overcast weather, so I don't know. Korea was a great tournament, too. And I like it out here.
Q. And how was your performance do you think today?
DANIELLE KANG: It was good. It was really good. I took it shot by shot. My brother told me to stay in the zone. I started off kind of here and there, but putts started going in, I started flagging some shots, so ended up being a great round.
Q. Take me through birdie the last hole, great way to finish?
DANIELLE KANG: Last hole, I bogeyed the par-3. So I was really bummed. But last hole I 107 yards and the wind was coming into my face a lot and like the hazard, you know. So I was like, you know what, I'm going to go for it, so it just went right on and it was perfect yardage.
Q. Like you were saying, everybody expected it to be so windy here and the wind didn't really pick up. Was that a huge advantage for you today?
DANIELLE KANG: I played on Tuesday practice round and it was just miserable. I was wondering I don't know how I'm going to play. I don't know if this is even playable. But it's just been such a great day, perfect weather out here. So many people. It's awesome.
Q. Coming to the end of your rookie season and starting to really kind of put together some great rounds, how would you kind of sum up so far your rookie year?
DANIELLE KANG: My rookie year. It's really different than how I started off this year since I didn't get to play much tournaments in the beginning. And best thing I learned about rookie year is reshuffle. But I've just been progressively getting better and starting to get used to the tour and people are so great out here. It's a lot of fun. The travel. I'm getting used to it now.
Q. First Asian swing for you, how has this been so far?
DANIELLE KANG: Everything is set up so perfectly, so I don't have to worry about anything, which is so great. I'm going to miss the business class flights, but I've been away for like, what, two weeks now, almost three weeks. I feel like I've been away for five weeks, though, for some reason. I've been hitting different countries. But it's fun.
Q. And overall what's going to be the key for the rest of the week to kind of keep up what you were able to do out there today?
DANIELLE KANG: You know, I just mind what I do. Just try to take it shot by shot, try to hit the best shot I can and try to read the right lines and put a good stroke on it.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We'd like to welcome Paula Creamer into the interview room. Congratulations. A nice 3-under par round today for you. Can you just take me through your round out there and what was really
working well for you?
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah. You know, I didn't hit the ball quite as well as I wanted to. However, I made some good birdies and just tried to kind of plot my way around as much as I could and try and finish strong at the par-5 on 18, but kind of just misjudged that wedge shot and it was a little bit unfortunate there. It would have been nice to finish with a birdie.
THE MODERATOR: This is your first time playing this golf course. What are some of the keys to this golf course and how different did it play today with the wind not being very strong out there?
PAULA CREAMER: The wind kind of picked up on the last four or five holes and kind of had to play for it a little bit more there. But this golf course is all about the pin placements, too, where they're going to put it tucked in these big greens, and it was good to get my first round in competition is always different than a practice round. So this was a nice way to start, and just going to have to make a lot of -- make some birdies on the next three days.
THE MODERATOR: Last week you played in Japan and finished sixth. How did you feel about the state of your game kind of heading into this week, and is there any specific things that you're working on at the moment?
PAULA CREAMER: I feel pretty solid with where my game is at, just trying to really eliminate the mistakes and make as many birdies as I possibly can, but continue working on my golf swing and having new confidence with my putting and hopefully be in contention on Sunday.
Q. Is it your putting that has helped you make more birdies today?
PAULA CREAMER: A little bit of both. A little bit of not getting it close enough with certain shorter shots, and also not quite making the 10, 15-footers.
I kind of struggled a little bit with the speed early on and then kind of found my way throughout the round.