CME Group Titlehoders Pre-tournament notes and interviews

Hee Young Park
Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Hee Young Park of South Korea poses with the trophy after winning the CME Group Titleholders at the Grand Cypress Resort on November 20, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.

CME Group Titleholders
The TwinEagles Club, Eagle Course
Naples, Fla.
Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews
November 14, 2012


Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Symetra Tour press conference

 

The LPGA Tour’s season-ending event, the CME Group Titleholders, will kick off on Thursday The Eagles Course at the TwinsEagles Club in Naples, Fla. The second annual event will feature a star-studded field of 73 players who punched their ticket after qualifying at one of the 26 LPGA events this year. Those players will compete for a total purse of $1.5 million in the unique season-long qualifying format with the winner earning a first-place prize check of $500,000.

 

Not forgotten: At the age of 11, Stacy Lewis was diagnosed with scoliosis forcing her to wear a back brace nearly 18 hours in the day and eventually undergoing surgery to insert a rod into her spine. For a while it was doubtful Lewis would even pick up a golf club but fast forward to November 11, 2012 and the girl who everybody thought would never play golf again, was named this year’s Rolex Player of the Year.

“I just think back to 10 years ago when I remember sitting in a doctor's office and him telling me that I was going to have to have back surgery,” Lewis said. “That was the time that, I mean, I thought I would never play golf again.  Now 10 years later I'm here winning Player of the Year, that's crazy.  That's not normal, you know?”

Lewis doesn’t have to look far for a reminder of the long road she took to become the LPGA’s 2012 Rolex Player of the Year. There are two sitting in the closet of her parents’ home.

The very first and the very last plastic back braces that Lewis ever wore are sitting in that closet. While Lewis thought about burning those hard, plastic braces immediately after she finished treatment, she instead wanted to keep them as a memento of her struggles.

“I think the reason that I played golf, that was when I could get out of my brace,” Lewis said. “ I think I did the two sports growing up that when you got out of the brace, that's why I could get out of the brace, I swam and I played golf.  That's probably why I'm playing golf today.”

That and perhaps one other lucky break. This year, Lewis has won four events and notched 12 additional top-10 finishes en route to capturing Player of the Year honors. But if it wasn’t for her doctor winning a golf lesson, the Texan might have never played another round of golf again.

“It's actually a funny story,” said Lewis. “We were going to do the double rod and my doctor happened to win a golf lesson at some function they had at the hospital, so at a course in Houston.  He went and got this lesson done and somehow my name came up in conversation.  I went back to the doctor a couple months later and he was like, you didn't tell me you were such a good golfer.  I was like, what are you talking about?” 

“The guy he had gotten a lesson with was, it was at The Woodlands and knew who I was and told him -- the doctor didn't even know I had a scholarship to go play, just never came up in conversation,” said Lewis. “He was like, we're going to do the surgery different now, and the doctor basically made the decision.  He said we're going to put one rod in, you'll have more rotation. The recovery is a little bit longer but you'll be able to play golf better. “

 

Yani Tseng: The Tale of Three Seasons…For Yani Tseng, it’s been quite an interesting 2012 season – one full of many ups and downs.

Tseng finished in the top-10 in each of her first eight events of the season, which including winning three of the first five LPGA events. But after such a hot start, things stalled in a hurry for Tseng. In her next 11 events, she didn’t record a single top-10 and had three missed cuts which was triple the amount that she had during her remarkable 2011 season.

But just when it seemed that Tseng’s slump might prolong into the remainder of the season, she found a way to bounce back. In her final three events leading into the CME Group Titleholders, Tseng recorded three top 5 finishes. She finished third at the LPGA KEB · HanaBank Championship, third at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship and fourth at the Mizuno Classic.

With such a topsy-turvy year, Tseng was asked if she considers this to be a successful season or a disappointing one for her following that tremendous year in 2011.

“Successful,” Tseng said. “I still win three tournaments, I still have 11, 12 Top 10s.  So maybe I can win this tournament, you never know.  It doesn't matter the results of this week, I feel I still have success year. 

Tseng then finished off her pre-tournament press conference with one of the classic lines of the day.

“I'm still World Number 1, so don't forget about that.”

 

Learning from No. 2: Yani Tseng has maintained her No.1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings despite Stacy Lewis’ surge this season. But while Tseng may still be the player that everyone is shooting for, she isn’t shy to seek advice from some of the players chasing her – including Lewis.

The two players were paired together at the Mizuno Classic in Japan two weeks ago and Tseng took the opportunity to pick up some tips from Lewis during those rounds.

“I was asking Stacy because I saw her putting, it's amazing, so I tried to get some tips from her,” Tseng said. “It's very different, how can you get tips from another best player. 

“But I was very happy to see her playing so well.  I think it's very good for American golf, very good for the LPGA and I think it's great.  18 years, never had an American player win Rolex Player of the Year, so I think it's a good time to let her win so hopefully next year I can get it back.”

 

See Why It’s Different Out Here: There were plenty of laughs on Wednesday in the CME Group Titleholders’ Media Center courtesy of close friends Suzann Pettersen and Michelle Wie. In a break from the typical pre-tournament press conference, Michelle Wie filled-in as host and asked Rolex Rankings No. 9 Suzann Pettersen several hard-hitting questions. 

“I heard you came down here a couple weeks ago to have a little practice round with David Leadbetter,” asked Wie. “Something must have worked right for you in the last week, last two times you won in Korea and Taiwan.  What are some of the things that you worked on?”

“Am I going to tell you these secrets?” joked Pettersen. “No, I just came down here, I think he had a day off and I think he drove down here and kind of joined the club and had a nice practice round with us.  I was meant to play Wendy's yesterday and today.  No, what day is it today, Wednesday?  No, Monday, Tuesday.  So I came down a couple weeks ago to see the course, do my preparations, knowing that I would only get to see the pro-am.  I pulled out of Wendy's, so actually the preparation actually turned up to be a little bit different for me, but it's okay.”

 

Learning the Ropes… Several players from this year’s Symetra Tour graduating class including Esther Choe, Victoria Elizabeth, Daniela Iacobelli, Julia Boland, Nicole Smith, and Sara-Maude Juneau are on-site at this week’s CME Group Titleholders getting a first-hand glimpse to life on the LPGA Tour.

The six players who all finished inside the top-10 on this year’s season-ending Volvik Race for the Card standings are spending this week walking inside the ropes of the pro-am, visiting the media center, getting tours of the LPGA’s fitness van, club repair truck and player locker room, and finally attending the prestigious Rolex Awards Celebration.

“It is huge,” said Choe, the leading money winner on this year’s Symetra Tour. “It’s not just your golf game but outside of it, learning to travel and just week in and week out knowing that you have a bad week, it's okay, you've got the next week, you can't be down about it or else it's going to keep happening; just the ebbs and flows of traveling and scheduling and making sure you've got the right support system behind you and everything that goes along with playing golf.”

 

Quotable: "It takes some time to get this machine going,” – Suzann Pettersen on why it took her so long to get in the winning circle this year.

Tweet of the Day: Goes to LPGA pro Paige MacKenzie, who is working as a guest analyst on Golf Channel this week to talk about the CME Group Titleholders in Naples and had at least one big fan watching her at home, her dog Charlie

“Charlie likes @GCMorning Drive “ -- @Paige_Mackenzie

 

Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1

MODERATOR:  We are joined and proud to be joined by the Number 1 player in the Rolex Women's World Rankings, Yani Tseng, who is here this week. 

Great to see you.  I'm sure everybody has a whole lot of questions, but let's just get an update.  How are you feeling coming in this week and how has your year been over the last, let's just say, month or so?

YANI TSENG:  I feel good.  The last month I've been playing pretty good.  Everything's getting better.  Actually, this is my sixth in a row.  I never played that much, but I'm so excited for every tournament because I just feel like I'm in good position, I have chance to win a tournament. 

I was a little struggling three or four months ago, but everything, everything's good.  I'm learning so much last couple months.  I've been learning how to balance my life and how to do anything -- enjoy more and be happy as a person on the Tour, so I feel good.

MODERATOR:  You were super woman last year and you were super woman at the beginning of this year, and you just admitted that you went through some struggles.  I know you changed caddies a couple of times and I know you've been adjusting to things.

Can you share with everybody here maybe a little bit more detail on what you've been feeling, how tough it was to go through that, and what specifically you've been working on to change?

YANI TSENG:  I think I don't have to play well to be a super woman now.  That's what I learned because I always want to be World Number 1, I want to be best golfer in the world. 

But last three or four months I was really trying too hard and putting myself too much pressure and I second guess myself if I can still win a tournament or anything.  I was just very struggling but I wasn't very happy.  When I look back now, I feel that was kind of my best time.  You always learn something from the mistake, you learn something when you don't play well, and I figure that helping people, it makes me very, very happy.  So now I realize I want to helping more juniors, I want to give it back.  I want to do some charity event that makes me feel very happy because I feel like I'm very lucky that I'm playing golf, living the dream, so I want to help some people living their dream, too.  I feel like golf is not everything in my life, but I want to keep doing it, keep working hard, do the best I can on the Tour and giving back on the Tour and always smile just like before to be a happy person instead of struggling because people e-mail me on the Facebook and say I don't see your smile anymore.  I feel bad about that.  It doesn't matter how I play just like before.

MODERATOR:  You look like you're having fun.  Let's take some questions from the folks here.

Q.  Yani, for two and a half years you basically were dominating the Tour and then Stacy had her really strong run.  Was it a case, too, at some point you have to tip your cap to the other player and say that player is playing really well, too?

YANI TSENG:  I was asking Stacy because I saw her putting, it's amazing, so I tried to get some tips from her.  It's very different, how can you get tips from another best player. 

But I was very happy to see her playing so well.  I think it's very good for American golf, very good for the LPGA and I think it's great.  18 years, never had an American player win Rolex Player of the Year, so I think it's a good time to let her win so hopefully next year I can get it back.

Q.  Yani, through your struggles this year, was there a point where you kind of hit the bottom, you know, in terms of just having a bad day, bad experience, whatever?

YANI TSENG:  No, I never had that feel like before in my whole life, I never feel like so sorry and I never feel I wasn't happy.  When I stand on the tee I hit in the fairway I play worse than an amateur.  That's what I feel.  I'm very happy I had a great team, my coach and my manager and they all really staying positive and try to give me some confidence on the golf course and I just feel very appreciative for that last three, four months and it's getting better now but I just feel very happy.  Last months was for me, I think it's kind of a little nightmare because I don't know how tough is that and probably nobody understand because everybody want to be World Number 1 but no one was understand how hard it would be to be World Number 1.  I feel now I know why Lorena and Annika retire because it's very hard (indiscernible.)  It's very easy when you have someone in front of you you can chase.  You want to be World Number 1 but now I feel like I have to play well because everybody look at you as a best golfer, you finish Top 10 is like it's for sure.  So now it's that's why I make it more pressure on myself.  Now I just feel better.  I really learned a lot and I really appreciate how much I (indiscernible).  Maybe in the future I will get that again but I think I would know how to handle that better.

MODERATOR:  Yani, there are several South Korean born players on the Tour, obviously several Americans on the Tour, but you represent Taiwan, and having been there myself and watched your press conference there last year and knowing the amount of folks that follow up, is that more than some people can ever understand or relate?  Was that a part of the pressure you perhaps felt to be Number 1, because you had a whole country looking at you all the time?

YANI TSENG:  Oh, I think so, especially after last year I feel more pressure after that because I've been playing pretty consistently and then there is one tournament I didn't -- I was beginning of this year playing eight or seven in a row Top 10, and I missed one, I finished 12, and I see all the newspapers talking about what's wrong with Yani, finished 12.  I was like, I didn't do anything wrong, I still play my golf.  At that time I feel very, very opposite and I keep saying to myself, but it's hard.  I always check on the Internet what they talk about me and what media talk about me and it gets in my mind really.

It kind of hurts a little bit because I mean golf is not an easy -- people here understand but those fans, maybe some of the fans they don't understand if they don't play golf.  They thought I can win it easy every week like last year.

MODERATOR:  I remember last year at the Rolex awards dinner Hee Kyung Seo made the comment about the rearview mirror and objects are closer than they appear and she was going to kind of chase you.  Now they are so many players that are chasing you.  You're still at the top and obviously that's a great thing for you, but do you feel different about the Tour?  Are there more great players?  Do you feel more pressure because they're really coming close to you now?

YANI TSENG:  Of course.  I think the LPGA has done a very good job and all the players, I mean everybody gets tougher and tougher.  If you're staying there, keep going up you're going to drop very quick because those players, Stacy and Suzann, Cristie, they all play well and you need to keep your like A skill, A game to be able to win a tournament and I think it's great.  It's great for golf, it's great for those junior kids that are able to watch us play and to learn something from us.

Q.  I was just wondering, you were talking about giving back to charity in the future.  Is there anything that you've done in the last four months, do you go to a movie or do you do something to relax or take a break from golf?

YANI TSENG:  Yeah, I mean, last four months is hardest to do that because I keep telling myself to relax because I know when I play my best, I always relax, I go shopping, I watch movie.  But last three, four months I figure it's very hard to do.  My coach just told me to do three things that you really want to do now and I couldn't find three things.  The things I only want to do is practice, practice, practice.  For my personality, I'm not like that.  I always go and have fun and just relax and play.  I mean, I just very easygoing, but last three, four months I feel like it's very hard to do about now.  I feel good right now again, I feel like I can do anything now, hang out with my friends and plan on vacation to go off season and I feel I'm very happy now.

MODERATOR:  Where do you go shopping?  What's your favorite stores?

YANI TSENG:  I don't know.

MODERATOR:  Will you go to the mall for four hours?

YANI TSENG:  That's easy.

MODERATOR:  Four hours is easy?

YANI TSENG:  Yeah, four hours is easy, with a friend and you go and eat there, shop there.

MODERATOR:  Come back with bags full, or are you the shopper that doesn't ever buy anything and just goes shopping?

YANI TSENG:  Now I'll probably buy something, but last four months I couldn't afford it.

Q.  When you changed caddies this year, was that a mistake?  Was it a sign of panic?  Do you regret that?

YANI TSENG:  Actually, the first I was -- I told Jason on last day I think we should take a little break because I feel like me and him like we're in a relationship, he's like my boyfriend, we see each other every day and I feel like we're fighting too much and I feel like I blame on him too much and I don't like that, so I feel like we need to take a little break.  And after a couple months, no, actually after like four weeks, I call him to see if he can come back for me, but he say like three days ago he like come back to you, caddie for Na Yeon Choi.  I said oh, maybe that's just something, that reason, I don't know.  And I say it's okay, maybe in the future we still can have a chance to work together.  But now I have Paul Fusco on my bag and I think he's great.  I think he's a really good guy, he's more like my big brother.  He always keep me very confident and give me lots of positive things even when I was hitting a couple bad shots but he's still thinking positive (indiscernible.)

Q.  He is taller than you?

YANI TSENG:  He is taller than me.

Q.  Everybody is, except Steve.  When you mentioned earlier when you start second guessing yourself on whether you can win, when did that first happen, do you remember?

YANI TSENG:  Yeah, that was just after Wegmans, and the week after Wegmans I think we have couple weeks off and I was -- probably my whole life I never practiced that much because I was on the range like five hours in the morning, probably five hours in the afternoon and hitting a shot and hitting every shot to like every five yards from like 40 yards to 150 yards.  I hitting like crazy and then I feel good, I feel I'm ready to go.  And I'm playing bad and I was like missed cut in Arkansas because I know the more I practice, the more expectation I got.  So it just get worse when I practice more because I know the way I play.  I always trust myself, always feel confidence, and I feel good about practice, but now when I go play, my expectations too high.  I'm putting way too much pressure on myself.  If I'm hitting one bad shot, I was like, What's wrong with me?  I feel that way, too.  That's not good, that's why you get stressful.  Before when I played my best, I hit couple bad shot, that's fine because everybody going to hit a bad shot.  So I just looking forward and I just feel very appreciative right now.

MODERATOR:  You mentioned doing some charity work or trying to find some other things to take your mind off of the golf and not so big.  You were in Oslo, Norway, for Suzann Pettersen event.  She had Annika, she had Lorena and she had you, all Number 1 players in the world at one time or another.  And you saw maybe the impact that she had with her event.

Is that something that you started thinking about and say I want to do something like this, too?  Is that what you're referring to maybe one of the things?

YANI TSENG:  Yeah, that's one of them.  But I think when I see Annika, Lorena, how much they've done for the LPGA, how much they've done for the junior golf, girls golf, because it's very amazing because for this long time, now Suzann's coming out with the right to play and I'm very -- it's my big honor to be there with Annika, Lorena and Suzann and we've always been good friends.  I'm learning a lot from them and I wish in the future I can keep it up, I can be like them helping out more people around the world, do some charity event and it give me some inspiration to see how much (indiscernible)  It's getting more popular and there's a big crowd when we're playing, so it was pretty exciting to see.

Q.  Yani, even though Stacy has won Player of the Year, do you feel like you're the best player out here?

YANI TSENG:  I think you always want to think you're the best player out here, it doesn't matter who is.  I think all the Top 10 players, I think they're thinking the best player out here.  But you always try to learn something from other players.  Top 10, top 20, I always try to learn something from Stacy, from Ai, from Suzann because everybody have their different style of playing.  For me, I feel like I've been learning a lot on this Tour.  Like I feel like my skills are getting better.  I watch all the best golfers playing golf.  I really learned a lot.  So I mean, now you want to try to be positive all the time.  But it's good to see her win.  And I kind of disappointed, too, but it's already last tournament, I have no chance to get it back, but I was trying really hard, that why I was playing six in a row.  But she was playing good and it's happy to see that and hopefully next year I can get it back.

Q.  Yani, talking about a charity event, would you like to have a charity event with your name on it kind of like what Suzann and some of the others have done?

YANI TSENG:  Right now I don't think that much.  It doesn't matter what charity I do, it doesn't have to be my name.  If I feel like I'm helping people, that people really receive my things and really get inspiration from me, I think that's the most important thing.

Q.  Yani, if you were asked this, I apologize; I had to step out one moment when the phone was ringing.  When you asked Stacy about her putting, could you tell us about that, what she said, because you're the 1 and 2 players in the world, so I'm interested in that.

YANI TSENG:  I asked because she's been working on AimPoint for like two, three years and I try to ask how does that work.  She say it kind of easy and it's -- I was like it's easy?  I feel like it's kind of very difficult for me to work that way.  So I kind of just see her, how she putt and I look from the side and how she -- like her strategy and her pre-shot routine when she gets the putter.  The way she plays, it's just so easy every time she make a putt.  It's like, I don't know, it's like Inbee, Inbee Park, she is amazing for putting right now, so always can learn from that.  From Stacy I asked her, she told me something.  Maybe I need to ask her more deep so she will tell me more.

Q.  Was this here?

YANI TSENG:  It was in Japan.  We played like two days in Japan and she won the tournament.  She shot 8-under on Sunday to win the tournament.

MODERATOR:  Last thing from me is, this year I know you started out with the victories.  In your mind, if it ended right now, a successful year for Yani Tseng or a disappointing year for Yani Tseng?

YANI TSENG:  Successful.  I still win three tournaments, I still have 11, 12 Top 10s.  So maybe I can win this tournament, you never know.  It doesn't matter the results of this week, I feel I still have success year. 

I'm still World Number 1, so don't forget about that.  So I still can have a happy ending.  You World Number 1 and next year I'm still going to be World Number 1 at the start of the season.  You never know what can happen.  Maybe I can have a great start and great finish.  (indiscernible)  But I think that's a success, that's part of the success.  If I don't have that, maybe I couldn't be success.

 

Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 2

MODERATOR:  Good morning, everybody.  Thanks very much for being here.  My name's Kraig Kann, chief communications officer at the LPGA, but these next 15 minutes or so are certainly not about me. 

It is a distinct pleasure and honor to have Stacy Lewis here, four times a winner this season and now the confirmed Player of the Year.

I'm going to start with that and ask you, first of all, what you feel like about that and what that pressure might have been like over the last few months.

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, it's -- I don't know if it's quite sunk in yet.  I've been running around like crazy since I clinched it last week in Mexico and it's unbelievable, especially the way I played the last few months with all the pressure, been thinking about it every day and all the time, and it's just crazy to me just how far I've come over the last few years and to be the best player on this Tour is, I mean, I don't even know what to say.

I know the last two rounds at Lorena's I did not sleep very much.  I was going through all these scenarios in my head, what if it comes down to one point and this and that.  I played great the final round there and to just get the job done was pretty satisfying.

MODERATOR:  Is a lot of that pressure self-induced, or is a lot of that pressure people coming up to you and talking about it?  Is it the fault of your agents for bringing it up constantly?

STACY LEWIS:  We can always blame my agents, right?  We can always blame them.

I think a lot of it was myself.  You always put a lot of pressure on yourself.  I remember last week, you know, everybody was -- I could tell that even my friends, they knew what was on the line and they didn't want to talk about it, they didn't want to say anything.  I was like, guys, it's okay, we can talk about this.  I really just tried to enjoy it.  I went home the week of Taiwan and I talked to Beth, Beth Daniels, and she told me to go out there and enjoy it and that was one thing that she kind of regretted looking back when she won in '94.  The week in Japan was probably the most fun on the golf course all year and it was kind of a huge turning point for me.

MODERATOR:  I don't think a lot of people knew that you were over in Asia, you flew back home and then flew over there.  Obviously the Mizuno Classic is a tournament that means a lot to you because it's your sponsor as well.  Did that week off help you?  Did you go over there refreshed?  Were you tired?  Were you thinking about it during that week about all the pressure that came with Player of the Year and so forth?

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I was planning on taking that week off just so I didn't end the year six in a row, and I was so glad that after my weeks in Korea and Malaysia that I was taking a week off because mentally I wasn't in the right place.  I was thinking about Player of the Year and going through all these scenarios and Inbee was playing really well and go to the off week and Inbee almost wins in Taiwan, and I tried as hard as I could not to watch scores but that's just not in me.  I was definitely thinking about it.

I usually play well at Mizuno and I knew I play well usually at Lorena's, so I wasn't too nervous about it.  That week home, that was the week home I actually had dinner with Beth and we got to talk a little bit and it just really helped free me up to go play golf these last two weeks.

MODERATOR:  Before we take some questions, there are some things that aren't settled this week.  The Vare trophy's up for grabs, I don't know if you're paying attention to that looking at scores and numbers and so forth.  The other thing is the opportunity to cross $2 million in earnings.  If you were, to win this week, you would do that.  There are only four players that had done that prior to this year, Inbee's over $2 million this season already.  So Annika, Lorena, Karrie Webb and Yani were the only players that ever crossed $2 million.  Money isn't everything but that is kind of a benchmark. 

How important is that to you to perhaps cross that?

STACY LEWIS:  Well, I didn't know that, but I mean --

MODERATOR:  Give you something else to think about over the next few nights.

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, you're trying to make me think about more.  The money part, I think it's not what I play golf for.  I don't play golf for the big checks at the end, I play because I love to play.  The money's just kind of an added bonus.  But to be on that list with those four people, I mean, that would be an honor just to be included in that group.  But if I do pass Inbee, I mean, I've got to win this week to pass Inbee on the money list.  She played better at the right tournaments than I did, but that's just the way it is.  The Vare trophy I think is definitely within reach.  Obviously I have to play pretty well, Inbee's playing well, so I would like to just give it a run at the end.  I would love to win that, but I'm not going to sweat over that as much as Player of the Year.

MODERATOR:  One last question from me before we take some.  You've separated yourself from the other Americans, if you look at the world rankings, and you do have a chance to become number 1 perhaps next year. 

What separates you from the other Americans in your mind, aside from perhaps the numbers of the victories that have helped you to get where you are in the rankings?  Why are you different?

STACY LEWIS:  I don't know.  I think, you know, a lot of the American players, you look at a Lexi and a Michelle, there's always this hype in the beginning and all the pressure and things like that and I didn't have that.  I've been the underdog the whole way.  I was overshadowed by Michelle at Q school and I think that pressure that they have, I didn't have that on me.  I didn't have all the expectations everyone else had and I think that's really helped me get to where I am.  I like working hard.  Some girls like to do all the extra stuff off the course and the sponsors things and this and that, and I just love to go out and play golf.  I don't know if that's what has gotten me to this point versus everybody else, but that's just what I like to do.

MODERATOR:  If you become Number 1, you're going to have to deal with that stuff.

STACY LEWIS:  I know, I'll deal with it when it comes.

Q.  Stacy, what would mean more to you, Vare or the money list?

STACY LEWIS:  I would say Vare just because the money list for us, our purses are so all over the place, they're not very consistent, that you play well at the right two or three events you can move up the money list a lot.  Actually I think I've made more money finishing second at Evian than I did in any of my wins.  It's just the way our purse]s are working out right now.  So I think the Vare trophy for me would be more of a guideline of how consistent you played all year.

Q.  Stacy, when did you start actually thinking about Player of the Year?  Was that something on your -- I'm sure it might have been a goal at the start of the year, but when did you start losing sleep over it?

STACY LEWIS:  Well, it was definitely not a goal to start the year, I can tell you that.  Coming in the year I just wanted to hopefully win and be the top American in the rankings and that was the goal, and I think in May I accomplished both of those.  So that's kind of the middle of the year is when Player of the Year really kind of came on my mind and I thought that it was something that was possible and it was attainable. 

And then from there it's just -- it's hard when you're thinking about these numbers and these points and what does this mean and what does that mean.  That's what I think -- I won those two early, but I think these last two have been the most satisfying because I played well with the pressure on.  That's when there's been the most pressure.  I look back to last year, I remember watching the PGA TOUR finish with the money list with Webb and Luke going back and forth and I just thought it was amazing how well they both played at the end of the year when Luke had to win to win the money list and he got it done. 

That's what I said.  If you want to be a great layer, you've got to play well at the right time and you've got to get it done.  That's what I look to to finish off this year is if you really want to go out there and win this, you've got to play well.

Q.  Also, the sleeplessness that you experienced the last few weeks crunching numbers, did any of that also trace a little bit to the fact that there had been such a long drought since an American had won Player of the Year?

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I think the more weeks that it was talked about and the more that people realized how long it had been.  I mean, I wanted to do it for the Tour, I wanted to do it for all the other American girls, just for everybody to get that pressure off their back.  It's a ton of pressure.  You've got the expectations of yourself and your country and your other players.  I mean, it's a lot of pressure and I wanted -- you know, as Americans, we have the most wins of any country on Tour this year and I don't think a lot of people realize that.  So I just wanted to change that trend and just get, you know, get some positive vibes for the American players.

MODERATOR:  I don't think a lot of people know how much effort you've put in behind the scenes to deal with some of the pressure or things that come with your rise up the world rankings, be it dealing with media or sponsors, you've got the KPMG this year and other sponsorships as well. 

Do you want to talk a little bit about that and how maybe you spend time self-reflecting, talking about goals and so forth to try to be prepared?  Are you comfortable with that or maybe more so than you were a year ago?

STACY LEWIS:  All the extra stuff I would rather not do.  I would rather play good golf and, I mean, people write stories about it, but I have to do all the interviews and all the pictures and all that kind of stuff.  I would rather be known as just a good golfer.  Ultimately that's what I want. 

I'm kind of dreading my speech I have to do on Friday night.  It's not really my personality to do all this extra stuff, so I'm trying to learn, I'm trying to figure out how to do it.  It's definitely been a learning experience for me to manage my time.  That was one thing, I mean, the last two years Meg has been telling me, You're too busy, you're too busy, you're doing too much, you've got to say no.  So I'm learning to say no to people.  Usually a couple weeks after those conversations I go back to her and I say, You were right, so that's usually how it ends.  It's been a learning experience for me and there's definitely been some bumps, but I'm trying to learn.

Q.  I was wondering, what do you consider your bigger accomplishment, being Number 1 or overcoming your challenges with scoliosis?

STACY LEWIS:  I don't know.  I probably -- I would probably say everything that I've gone through, just the whole journey.  The wins and Number 1, that's a result of hard work.  You know, I think if you just -- I just think back to 10 years ago when I remember sitting in a doctor's office and him telling me that I was going to have to have back surgery.  That was the time that, I mean, I thought I would never play golf again.  Now 10 years later I'm here winning Player of the Year, that's crazy.  That's not normal, you know?  People that normally win Player of the Year are pretty talented and have kind of played well all along and I've just kind of slowly worked my way up and I think it's most satisfying everything I've overcome.

Q.  Can you tell me a little bit about that year, because I was talking with some of your coaches and they talked about how you could hardly lift anything and you basically worked on your short game, which I guess may have helped you in the long run.  I think they said it was almost a year before you could start driving again?

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I couldn't bend or twist for six months, but after -- three months after surgery they let me start putting and chipping a little bit, but I couldn't make any big swings and it usually ended after about 20 minutes because my back would get so sore.  So those first six months it was more just getting back to daily thing.

I remember the first day after surgery the doctors walk in and they go, All right, it's time to go walk.  I said, What?  I just had back surgery and we're going to go walk around? 

I couldn't sit up by myself.  I had to put my arms out in front of me and they pulled me up.  So six months, no bending and twisting.  It was a good three months probably after that that I really felt comfortable to go play golf again, just hitting the ground or just hitting a shot out of the rough, you just get nervous about what's going to happen there.  I think it was about a year before I played my first tournament and it just -- you just appreciate getting to practice every day. 

My coaches, they're like, I love looking out that window and seeing you practice every day.  I just love being able to do it again and that's I think why I love playing, doing what I do now.

Q.  One of the questions that you were asked about earlier is why are you different.  As a youth battling with scoliosis, you were different because you had to wear that brace.  I'm wondering how that made you feel, and then the six hours where you didn't have to wear it and you had a chance to play golf.  Was that an outlet?  What did that do for you?

STACY LEWIS:  I think the reason that I played golf, that was when I could get out of my brace.  I think I did the two sports growing up that when you got out of the brace, that's why I could get out of the brace, I swam and I played golf.  That's probably why I'm playing golf today. 

It was a hard plastic brace, wore it 18 hours a day, wore it to school, wore it to sleep.  It was hot, it was uncomfortable, I had red marks all over my body.  I don't wish it on any kid, I can tell you that.  It's not something that anybody should have to go through.  And now I just try to tell kids that it's okay, it might seem bad right now, but you can do anything you want and just to keep wearing the brace and doing what your doctor says and that's all you can do.

Q.  Stacy, do you remember the day, the last time you wore that brace?

STACY LEWIS:  Actually, after surgery I had to wear one for three months, but I do remember initially before surgery when I was done wearing it, that was probably the only good doctor's appointment I ever had in that time frame.  It was initially I thought I'm going to burn this brace, but then I wanted to keep it just as a momento.  I don't know.  It was just kind of a relief when I found out I didn't have to wear it anymore.  I thought I was done at the time, but I was pretty far from that.

Q.  Where is it?

STACY LEWIS:  It's in a closet at my parents' house.  I have the last one I wore and I have the first one I wore.  I got rid of all the other ones in between.

Q.  Will you be putting those on eBay? 

STACY LEWIS:  No, I don't think anybody wants those, it's probably pretty gross.

Q.  Second, when is the last time you ever had to give a speech, and if you did, when was it and what was the occasion?  This doesn't count.

STACY LEWIS:  Did I give a speech at Kraft?  I know I won an award in college, my senior year in college and I had to give a speech, but I don't know.  I'm pretty shy, so public speaking's not my forte, but I'm working on it.  I feel like I'm getting a little better at it.

MODERATOR:  You said you'll be nervous about Friday night.  You said the same thing yesterday.

STACY LEWIS:  Yep.

MODERATOR:  I think people who follow you on the golf course know you're a pretty determined player, somebody who has a lot of fire.  In your private moments, kind of some of the things that you've talked about here, are there things we don't know?  Are you pretty emotional and have you thought about, wow, I can't believe this, and get really upset emotionally about it?

STACY LEWIS:  I don't know, I don't know if I've quite had enough time to really get there yet.  Maybe Friday night, you know, when I'm up there making that speech, I hope I can hold it together, but I don't know.  I just feel I've had so many people that have helped me get to where I am that I would like to, if I could, divide up that award and that trophy and give it to everybody else.  You don't get to where you are by yourself, there's a lot of people that help you get there.  I just think it's amazing how you get put in these right situations, you get around the right people.  If I had gone to any other school an than Arkansas, I'm not on this stage tonight.  If I hadn't met my college coaches, I'm not here or on that stage.  It's just amazing how everything just seems to work out.

Q.  Yeah, just a question.  You have a single rod, right?

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, single rod and five screws.

Q.  The discussion at the time of a double rod was the more appropriate thing for most kids.  You had to make that decision then.  Was that a hard decision because then you were deciding if you were actually going to compete in golf going forward?

STACY LEWIS:  It's actually a funny story.  We were going to do the double rod and my doctor happened to win a golf lesson at some function they had at the hospital, so at a course in Houston.  He went and got this lesson done and somehow my name came up in conversation.  I went back to the doctor a couple months later and he was like, you didn't tell me you were such a good golfer.  I was like, what are you talking about? 

The guy he had gotten a lesson with was, it was at The Woodlands and knew who I was and told him -- the doctor didn't even know I had a scholarship to go play, just never came up in conversation.  He was like, we're going to do the surgery different now, and the doctor basically made the decision.  He said we're going to put one rod in, you'll have more rotation.  The recovery is a little bit longer but you'll be able to play golf better. 

That's just another thing, it's just amazing how things just seem to fall into place and they seem to work out.

Q.  With all the young girls out here today with the First Tee, what advice would you have for these young American girls?

STACY LEWIS:  Well, I hope more than anything that that they know they can go to college.  That's -- I mean, I hope that girls all over the country, even the boys, that you can go to college, you don't have to turn pro when you're 18 or 20 or 21, whatever it is.  You can go to college and you can still be successful out here. 

I think the game is getting so young now that a 27-year old, probably people don't think I should be winning, shouldn't be winning Player of the Year, everybody thinks you have to be 18 and 20, and that's what I hope kids see.

Q.  Stacy, you talked about the next step for you would be getting to Number 1 and you talked about how other players that have the spotlight and you've been overshadowed a little bit.  Have you watched the effect on Number 1 on past players like Yani and Lorena?  Not only is it Number 1, it's great being on top, but there's almost a burden with it, too.  Have you observed that and what have you learned?

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I mean, I've seen that with Yani over the last couple years.  Last year, I think when you're playing well, it's fine.  You know, you've got confidence, you've got it rolling.  There's a lot of expectations and there's a lot of pressure there.  If there's anything I've learned this year is that when there's more pressure on you've just got to go have fun. 

Looking into next year I want to keep enjoying this stuff.  When it becomes a pressure and a burden, you're doing it for the wrong reasons, and that's what I've got to keep stressing to myself over the next year is having fun with this and enjoying all the extra things that come along with it because when you start, oh, I have to go do this interview or I have to do this or I have to do that, I mean, I think that's when it wears on you.  I would love to get to Number 1, and when I do, I'm just going to have fun with it because who knows how long it's going to last, you've got to enjoy it.

MODERATOR:  One thing also to point out, I'm not going to ask you a question about it, but for the media's sake, we have a players' communications committee at the LPGA with eight players and Stacy's on that.  Just kind of bragging a little bit about her, not only does she play great on the golf course, but among those players that are on that committee, maybe none has provided more insight, critique, ideas, et cetera that have benefited the Tour in one year's time than Stacy.  A lot of e-mails, a lot of ideas, and a lot of ownership, if you will, of the growth of the Tour.  So I just wanted to point that out and toss that out there for you all as well.

Q.  Stacy, how much exercise do you have to do to maintain, or do you have to have regular checkups with your back?

STACY LEWIS:  You know, I haven't been back to the doctor since three months after surgery.  So everything is good as far as that.  I work out a lot just because I like it and I feel like I have to just as much as we play and I just need to keep in shape and keep my body in shape.  Right now, too, you have to hit it far, and I'm not the biggest one in the room, I'm never going to be the biggest or the tallest, so I've got to find a way to hit it far because that's the way the game is right now.  If you don't hit it far, I think it's very hard to compete.  I like working out.  It's a huge part of staying healthy and playing good golf for me.

Q.  Just a general observation, Stacy.  For the health issues you had, was there ever a temptation to say "why me" and yet as you look back on like, if I heard this correctly, if you have a different doctor or if your doctor wins a two-day stay at the Ritz instead of a golf lesson, you're probably not sitting here?

STACY LEWIS:  Exactly.

Q.  Is there any part of you that looks back and worn's fer worn what great Providence you've got going on?

STACY LEWIS:  I think I said "why me" all the time.  I said "why me" after I won in Japan, why is all this happening to me.  I think I say it all the time, good and bad.  I think it's amazing how you make a decision a certain way, it's just amazing how little things seem to fall into place and you kind of can look back and say that was a turning point. 

At the time I didn't really think the stuff with my doctor was that big of a deal, but now looking back, I mean, he doesn't win the raffle and I'm not here today?  It's crazy just how, I guess it's fate a little bit, I don't know.  I sign at a different school, I have a different coach, you know?  I don't know, I don't know what it is, but I think it's just cool how you can look back and find those little things that really make a difference and it makes you appreciate that, you know, to be thankful that that did work out that way.

MODERATOR:  I'm going to give you the final say before we exit the stage, kind of prepare you for your speech Friday night.  Do you have a message for anybody here, anything from the year that perhaps wasn't asked or a message to the media?

STACY LEWIS:  Well, I guess I can just kind of go back to what you said, more than anything is that what I've learned from the former players is I want to leave this Tour in a better place and that's why I do this stuff to help out the Tour, it's why I'm on the communications staff.  I want this Tour to get better, I want there to be more events, I want kids to have an opportunity like I'm having right now.  So if I can just leave this Tour in a better place than when I got here, that's all I can ask.

MODERATOR:  We're lucky to have you.  Thanks to all of you for being here.  Stacy, congratulations on everything you've achieved thus far this year.  I think you've certainly validated the major.  Boy, it's been a special year watching you play.  Thanks for being here today.

STACY LEWIS:  Thank you. 

 

Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 5

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Thanks again for being here.  We want to welcome Suzann Pettersen into the media center here at the CME Titleholders.  You just got done with the pro-am.  We have a seat, we'll fill it in just a second.  Everything go well out there today?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I'm just a little bit bummed on sitting on this hard chair.  No, everything's great.  The course is in very good shape.  It will be an interesting week, big greens, some huge runoffs, and I'm ready.

MODERATOR:  You are moving way up the money list and way up the World Golf Rankings, so things are going very well with two victories these back-to-back weeks.  What's been different for you? 

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Well, I think all year has been a fairly good year for me.  I know my results haven't been what I expected them to be, but my inner feel and my gut feel has been my game is very close.  It's been nine holes here and there that just complete the four rounds to put together to win tournaments.  And in Asia, I just seem to love Asia, seem to have won half my events in Asia. 

Made a few small changes, not major changes, but a few changes where I felt like I needed to kind of tighten the screws a little bit and it paid off right away.  So I'm not going to tell you guys what I'm doing, but it's not major changes.  It's just how I approach the game and I've been really trying to just enjoy the game a little bit more.  I changed caddies, which seems to have a big impact.  I probably had more fun on the golf course the last month than I've had for the last five years, so it's seems like the love of the game is back.

MODERATOR:  I was thinking that I could do this whole interview and have a lot of questions, I know they have questions as well, but I have somebody that really wants to come in straight off the LPGA communications committee and host the press conference from here out.  We want to welcome in Michelle Wie.  We have the chair all ready for you.  We'll try to spice it up a little bit.  I've got this microphone.  Welcome.  How are you doing?

MICHELLE WIE:  Good, good.

MODERATOR:  I heard you had a great pro-am experience as well.

MICHELLE WIE:  Yes.

MODERATOR:  I'm going to give you the microphone and let you kind of take over.

MICHELLE WIE:  I get to ask questions?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Keep it --

MICHELLE WIE:  So, Suzann --

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  You've got five minutes.

MICHELLE WIE:  So great two wins over in Asia.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Thank you, Michelle.

MICHELLE WIE:  I just want to know, did you think about (inaudible) when you were over the ball when you had your winning putt?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, because I was thinking of doing that Gangnam Style dance.  If Michelle is here, I have to do it.

MICHELLE WIE:  How did that pineapple beer smell on your clothes?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  You know, thanks so much for that.  I'm the senior, you're the junior.  You get away with this stuff.  No, good to see you in here.

MICHELLE WIE:  You have a new Nike driver in your bag this week.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  What color is it?

MICHELLE WIE:  Might be like red, I think.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, it's actually going to be in my bag.  Is it going to be in your bag?

MICHELLE WIE:  I'm still working on getting the right fit.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  See, I'm easy to fit.

MICHELLE WIE:  Do you like it?  Do you have more yardage off of it?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I think I feel like I have more speed.  It's new technology, it's hard for me to outdrive you, but it's a great feel, it's a great look.  I went with a small face.

MICHELLE WIE:  I'm up for a rematch again if you want.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Now I have a smaller face with less spin, I might actually run it past you.

MODERATOR:  Are you talking about revisiting the Solheim Cup down the stretch?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I can leave it with this, I won.  I can leave it with this.

MICHELLE WIE:  That fist pump, I was so angry.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Hello?  You play to win the game.

MICHELLE WIE:  That was a pretty good fist pump.  I'm talking about at the last Nike shoot, we had speed trials and I whupped someone's butt.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, she did.  She's a little bit taller than me, she gets a bigger arc.  It's hard for me to make up for that. Even though I've got bigger guns, it doesn't really do it with the golf swing.

MODERATOR:  All right, Michelle.  Let's hear some of your riveting questions.  The other thing you have to do is you have to engage the likes of a Doug Ferguson, a Steve DiMeglio.  You have a lot of reporters in here.

MICHELLE WIE:  I heard Steve is moving to the Orlando area.  Do you plan on being his new best friend?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I've given him a restricted area where he can live far away from me.

MICHELLE WIE:  Restraining order?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Restraining order way outside of the Orlando area for me.

MICHELLE WIE:  How do you feel about this course this week?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I think it's a good course.  I think the two sides are quite different.  I think the front side is a little tighter.  The greens are a little bit more severe, the severeness, and you really have to pace yourself and not try to be overaggressive to some of these approaches because the -- you can have to pay a hard price to get it up and down from some of these spots because they just cut the runoffs so much.  On the back nine they actually cut some of the roughs.  I think the back nine is where you can really go low and obviously you really try to be -- play within yourself on the front nine.

MICHELLE WIE:  With these different shaped greens, you have a windshield wiper green and you have a square green, do you approach them any differently than you would a round one?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Good question, Michelle.

MICHELLE WIE:  Communication major.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  These greens, they're huge.  Kind of like I said, the biggest thing you've got to look at here is not try to be overaggressive.  You can always -- if you play all the shots from the center of the greens towards the flag, I think you'll be in good shape.  I hope the wind picks up a little bit so it makes it a little bit harder.

MICHELLE WIE:  I heard you came down here a couple weeks ago to have a little practice round with David Leadbetter.  Something must have worked right for you in the last week, last two times you won in Korea and Taiwan.  What are some of the things that you worked on?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Am I going to tell you these secrets?

MICHELLE WIE:  Um-hmm, yeah.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  No, I just came down here, I think he had a day off and I think he drove down here and kind of joined the club and had a nice practice round with us.  I was meant to play Wendy's yesterday and today.  No, what day is it today, Wednesday?  No, Monday, Tuesday.  So I came down a couple weeks ago to see the course, do my preparations, knowing that I would only get to see the pro-am.  I pulled out of Wendy's, so actually the preparation actually turned up to be a little bit different for me, but it's okay.

MICHELLE WIE:  You pulled out of Wendy's because you have a shoulder problem right now, but the doctor gave you a green light, as I saw on Twitter.  How's it feeling right now?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  It actually feels pretty good.  I felt really bad in Mexico, I was very close to pulling out, and I thought it would be better to leave Wendy's and give fresh kind of start to Cristie straight off the winner's circle, give her my spot and come here and try to get another title before the year is over.  Just try to be smart.  I saw the doctor on Monday, I just want to make sure to keep playing that I wouldn't hurt it anymore.  I was afraid it was a tear.  There was no evidence of a tear, it was just some inflammation.  So I like drugs, I'm on the drugs. 

MICHELLE WIE:  And with that we'll open up questions to the floor.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Michelle, you nailed it.

MODERATOR:  Ninth on the money list right now, fifth in the World Golf Rankings, so you're climbing back up.  Can you talk a little bit about where you were maybe mentally with a lot of players having great years and I know you were close on many occasions but weren't quite able to get it done, and then all of a sudden you got hot, you've moved back up again and you're back in the mix.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  What's the question?

MODERATOR:  Do you enjoy where you are right now on the money list and the World Golf Rankings compared to where you were --

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  There are certain things I don't really pay too much attention to throughout the year, one of them is money list, two is world rankings.  It jumps up and down every week.  You win tournaments, you'll move your way up the rankings, you move your way up the leaderboard, and when you don't win, you go the other way, you go south. 

My big goal is 2016 Rio, so everything I do now is kind of that's my biggest goal.  Four years will kind of go by very, very quickly, so I'm just really trying to find my theme, try to know that what I do that is good and feel like I need improvement and it kind of releases a lot of pressure from the regular season.

MODERATOR:  Specifically what about Rio?  The fact that you can be there or is the gold medal more important than majors?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  For me, it is.  Growing up in Norway, the Olympics was the biggest thing in sports.  It still is, winter and summer.  I never thought that I would ever compete in an Olympic Games as a golfer.  So when that chance kind of came up a couple years ago, it was a very obvious goal for me to -- it would be nice to maybe complete a career with a gold medal or a medal in the Olympics or see where I stand after '16.  That's kind of where I see my road right now and it's quite exciting. 

Both of us were a part of that final bid in Copenhagen, which was another interesting weekend for the Pettersens and Wies, but it's just exciting to have that as a main goal.  I know for a lot of the golfers, they don't really care, they would rather take a green jacket, they would rather take a U.S. Open title.  I think it will take, my honest opinion I think it will take a generation to kind of build that -- build the kind of respect and the honor it is to actually have a gold medal in golf.  I think you will see the kids at four, five years old now seeing Rory or having a dream, seeing Rory and Tiger compete for an Olympic medal, once they see that, they want to be there as well and I think that's when you start building the new kind of generation where the Olympics would be a major part of the sport of golf.

Q.  Who is Norway's greatest Olympian and who was your favorite?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  It's a skier, Andre Aarmodt.  He's probably the most winning athlete in any World Championships and Olympics.  I think he has over 20, if you take Phelps out of the picture.  He's the biggest winter Olympian ever.  Aarmodt, he's a downhill skier.  But we have so many great, especially in the winter, it's our pride and honor, it's everything we've got.

Q.  Who's the greatest summer Olympian from Norway? 

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  That's a good one.  They have the best javelin thrower pretty much in the world, he's like the top 2.  Summer's not our strongest season.

Q.  I don't know if they're going to do anything about it, but there's been a lot of chatter when they get to Rio whether it should be just 72 holes of stroke play or a introduce a team element.  Do you have any thoughts on that?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I think golf is an individual sport, I think we should play as individuals.  That's how this game was brought to this world, I think that's how it should be played.

Q.  Except for the Solheim Cup?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, someone's got to kick their every now and then.

Q. Michelle, your thoughts?

MICHELLE WIE:  You know, I think it's very complicated.  I talked to Ty Votaw a lot about this, especially this year in London when I met up with him.  There's a lot of discussions about it and I hear both sides of it.  I think it's too big for me to have a say in it.  I would love a 72 stroke play, that's the most fair and most like a regular golf tournament.  Although I think a team event would be fun.  In swimming I love watching relay events, I love watching relays in running and such.  I think it would be fun for people to watch playing in a team event.  I think that also brings in a lot of complicated situations and whatnot with medals.  But I think there's a lot of things they need to work on.  Fortunately for golf we have four more years and I think by then we'll have it all figured out.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  If you look at it, we could play one individual and one team.  It's like tennis --

MICHELLE WIE:  You need to have an individual component but I think adding on a team event could be fun.

Q.  Just as a follow up again for both of you, you have the match play and I think everything else is stroke play.  Any thoughts on trying to add a little more diversity to basically how you keep score.  I remember the closing event on Tour a couple years ago --

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  We did Fed Ex cup in one event.  That's why it's different out here.

Q.  Would you like to see more of that?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I would love to.  I like to bring different formats to the season, it just brings up the excitement for you guys, changes up a little bit for us. 

I mean, I like watching the guys play the Fed Ex cup, I like how it all breaks down to the very end.  You have the best guys of the year competing in the last event and it makes it exciting to play.  I love the match play, it's like we play -- I think we can change it up a lot.

MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, I love playing match play, I love team events, I love match play.  I'm not quite sure about like stableford and all that stuff, I have no idea how that works.  Maybe have a team event format, a two-person team that would be fun, or I think our Sybase Match Play is a great event where one against one, it just really brings out the best in it, so more formats like that would definitely be fun.

MODERATOR:  I want to ask both of you a question based on the two players that are competing for the Vare trophy and the two that really battled for Player of the Year.  I want to get your thoughts, let's start with Inbee Park because I don't think a lot of people here really know just the type of player she is.  She's kind of the next in line of those that have come up that people say, wow, she's doing great things.  Can you comment -- start with you, Suzann -- about Inbee and what has made her so special this year.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I just think with Inbee, she is an amazing putter.  She makes everything.  I mean, anyone can hit the ball from A to B, but who can actually make the most putts.  She is a very streaky putter, but her streak just seems to last forever.  I think that's where she kind of does most of her scoring, to be honest.  I mean, she is a great ball striker, but I think her putting kind of stands out in her favor.

MODERATOR:  Michelle?

MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, I agree with that.  I think this year she's really done I mean really well after Evian.  She's always been a great putter ever since she was in junior golf.  I remember playing against her and whatnot and just seeing her just make everything and it's just so easy to her.  I think a lot of people say she doesn't look excited when she makes a putt.  I wouldn't be excited if I made every single one of them.  She's very consistent and she's definitely a player to watch for sure.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  She plays a lot.  She is going to do nine tournaments in a row.  This is her seventh in a row, she's going to do nine.  She plays a lot in Japan, she plays a lot here.  She's just got to pace herself, otherwise she'll burn to fire too early.  You want to last in this game for a long, long time.

MICHELLE WIE:  Like you.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, like the veteran I am, in my 30s.  Just my prime, just starting.  Just in golf you have so many years ahead of you, it's so easy when you're young and playing well to just keep playing, but resting and kind of listen to your body is also important.

MODERATOR:  Stacy Lewis, Number 1 player this year, Rolex Player of the Year.  What do you have to say about Stacy?  She was in here earlier, said she almost can't believe it.  What's your take from an American point of view, Michelle?

MICHELLE WIE:  You know, I'm so proud of Stacy especially after what she's been through with her back, everything.  I'm so proud of her.  I think she is a great human being.  I'm so happy she won Player of the Year.  She was the first after Beth Daniel, right? 

I had dinner with Beth Daniel a couple weeks ago and we talked about that and it's great to have an American as the Player of the Year finally.  I'm so happy that it's Stacy.  Hopefully the next American will be me but I'm really happy for Stacy right now.  She's a great inspiration, she really motivates me to play better out there and get to that spot.  It's great to see, it's something to look forward to.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  She's had a phenomenal year, very consistent.  She is a grinder, she's a very hard worker, she has great work ethics.  It's actually unbelievable that she's the first American player after Beth Danielle in, what is it?

MODERATOR:  '94.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  '94, that's 18 years it's been.  I think it was about time some of the Americans came up and -- it's very important for the Tour, it's important for the growth of junior golf here in the States.  She's had a fantastic year, like you've got to give her a round of applause.

Q.  How surprised were both of you that Yani hasn't won since she won three of the first five and she won 12 times last year.  How surprised or shocked are you that she hasn't won?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  To win 12 times during a season, it's going to be hard to back that up.  No matter how you look at it, it's going to be hard to do that again.  But she is under a lot of pressure.  I know Yani really well.  She started off really well, came out really hot and we're all human.  She has a little bit of a draft, whatever you want to call it, during the season.  She has a lot of criticism.  She's in the spotlight.  If she does well, she is going to get credit.  If she doesn't do well, it's easy to criticize.  I think she is -- she is starting to play better again.  Like I said, it's hard to back up the season she had last year.

Q.  What took you so long to get started this year?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Takes some time to get this machine going, man.  It's a shame it's over.  I could go one more week.  Next year -- maybe I'll just start playing in December this year and maybe I'll peak a little bit earlier next year.

MODERATOR:  Last thing from me.  This is the year-ending event on the LPGA.  How would you summarize yourself what's been the story of the LPGA Tour this year and what would your message be to everybody about the LPGA for 2012?  Michelle, you first.

MICHELLE WIE:  You know, I think the big story this year obviously is Stacy being the first American Player of the Year.  That's a huge story for us. 

Also, I think just with the Olympics and everything, getting ready for that, preparing for that.  Same thing as always, we're becoming a very global Tour.  We've had some very successful stories, in Asia with Suzann winning both of them in Korea and Taiwan, which is great.  I think just a lot of personal stories here and there.  It's been a fun year.

MODERATOR:  Suzann?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Well, it's exciting.  We just finished a season with four majors; next year we've got five.  That's exciting, gives us one more shot at it.  I think our schedule, I think the Tour in general is starting to really look healthy again.  We have a lot of tournaments, we have new tournaments, we have good old tournaments that's been there for a long, long time that kind of wants to still be a part of the LPGA, which I think is great.  So I think we're looking really strong.  We've got a lot of good golfers.  The depth of women's golf I think is only getting better and better every year and it makes all of us work harder in wanting it even more.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much for coming in.  Thank you very much for coming in.  Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen.

 

Symetra Tour Press Conference

KRAIG KANN:  Okay.  Good afternoon, everybody.  Thanks for being here for this.  I wanted to introduce a few folks.  My name's Kraig Kann, the chief communications officer for the LPGA.  This is about the Symetra Tour and the LPGA together and we have a really nice announcement today, a few of them actually.

Mike Nichols is to my immediate left.  He is the Symetra Tour chief business officer.  To his left is Rick Lyons, the vice president of sales and distribution for Symetra.  And to his left is the number one graduate off the Symetra Tour for 2012, Esther Choe.  So thank you all for being here.

Let me talk a little bit about 2012 on the Symetra Tour just to give you a little bit of background.  I think we have a lot of pride in where this Tour has gone and where it started back in January of 2012 and where it's going to go in the future, which is the reason why we're actually here today.  But in 2012, 16 events in 11 states and Mexico as well.  Four new events on the schedule in 2012, talking about growth, and in September after the season-ending event that was in Daytona Beach at the headquarters of the LPGA, the LPGA awarded 10 fully-exempt cards for 2013 on the LPGA, which is the highest number in the history of that Tour, so we're very proud of that. 

Ten graduates represent six countries, including the United States, Columbia, Thailand and South Korea, Australia and Canada, which I think also says something about the makeup not only of that Tour but also of where the LPGA Tour and where golf, women's golf specifically, is in its current state.  I want to turn it over to Mike Nichols for a few comments and a fairly substantial announcement.

MIKE NICHOLS:  Sure.  I'll leave the announcement to you, okay.

RICK LYONS:  You go with it.

MIKE NICHOLS:  Thank you everybody for coming.  When we were here a year ago when Commissioner Whan was up here with the CEO of Symetra, Tom Marra, to announce the umbrella sponsorship of the Tour, it was a little bit new to both of us in that we were entering into a new relationship and I don't think necessarily either side knows what's going to come of those sorts of sponsorship opportunities.  It was the first time for Symetra really getting into the sports base in terms of putting their name on the umbrella sponsorship of the Tour.  Just from the last year the relationship has just been tremendous.  You know, the players have really embraced Symetra as the sponsor as well as all of the Symetra agents and employees as we visited from city to city around the country.  The reception that the Symetra employees have given to the Tour as we stopped in each of these towns has been great and it's been a great source of pride not only for the players to be associated with the Tour but also our staff. 

So, Rick, thank you to you and your team for doing such a great job of making this relationship work and we hope that it's one that will continue to grow, which is actually what brings us here today.

Last year when Symetra announced that they were going to become the umbrella sponsor of the tour, they also stepped up to title sponsor an event in Charlotte where they had a great deal of business operations, and they're going to be continuing with that event. 

But in addition to that, Symetra today is announcing that they're stepping up as the title sponsor of our Tour Championship, which will be played in Daytona Beach, which it was this year as the season-ending event for the Tour. 

What we're going to do with the event is this last year it played as a three-day 54-hole event.  We're going to expand that event and make it the only four-round tournament on the Tour.  So we'll have 36 holes and then the cut, an additional 36 holes, so it will be the one four-round tournament of the year, which we feel is indicative of a Tour Championship and also when we're handing out cards at the end of that week we feel that we can] --

(Telephone interruption.)

KRAIG KANN:  Is there another announcement as well?

MIKE NICHOLS:  Is there another tournament on line 2?

So we're looking forward to really elevating the Symetra Tour Championship and taking that event to the next level as we award cards to our 10 players.

In addition, Symetra has also, in sort of their willingness and desire to help the players not only in terms of sponsoring the Tour but also in helping them get on their way, starting next year at the end of next year's season, Symetra is going to offer sponsorships to two players coming off of the Symetra Tour at the end of the year to essentially become Symetra Tour staff players.  One of those will go to the leading money winner for the 2013 schedule as well as one other player that Symetra picks in large part based on sort of how they perform throughout the year but also how they interact with their customers throughout the season.

So we're grateful to Symetra for increasing their sponsorship of the Tour and supporting their players as they sort of make their next step on the LPGA Tour.  We're thankful for everything Symetra has done this year and obviously what you're committing to do in terms of elevating your investment with the Tour, so thank you very much.

RICK LYONS:  Thanks, Mike.  It's great to be here on behalf of Symetra.  This whole thing started a couple years ago when we were in San Antonio for an event and our businesspeople kind of got sucked into the tournament and they became very involved with the weekend and hung out, brought customers with them.  So we decided to elevate our participation with the LPGA rising stars to include Charlotte this past September, October.

We chose to bring our board of advisors to the event at Raintree and it was very engaging for the business customer to interact with these young women who have such talent and enthusiasm for the sport and for life in general.  It was a unique business opportunity I felt because of the interaction with these young women.

It was humiliating, quite frankly, on the golf course for us all, but it was great otherwise.  They told us stories, their stories about what they're doing to maintain their place on the rising stars and how they're getting through this and what they aspire to.  So it was very engaging for our customers, and just the presence of Symetra around the tournament was such a big boost to us from a business perspective.

So again, we appreciate it so much.  We've been working a lot at Symetra on building our brand and we felt this was a really unique vehicle to do that, to get our name out there and to help these wonderful lady golfers in their careers, so we thank you so much for the opportunity.

KRAIG KANN:  Thanks, Rick.  A couple of other numbers that I think are interesting about kind of the statement that the Symetra Tour is making and where golf is going on the women's side. 

Four of the five graduates from 2011 have retained their LPGA cards after this year.  I think that's a fairly impressive percentage.  Three of them are here this week, Mo Martin, Sydnee Michaels and Jane Rah. 

There are 37 Symetra Tour alum in the field here this week, which I think speaks volumes about the Tour and the direction, and we're only going to grow it from here through your support as well. 

Esther, I want to ask you a question.  You represent a lot of players and there are some other graduates that are here.  Let me run those names off to you.  Julia Boland is here.  Do you want to raise your hand and let people know, right back in the back.  Victoria Elizabeth is here as well.  These are cardholders, graduates.  Daniela Iacobelli, Nicole Smith and Sara-Maude Juneau is here in the back.  For media members, Esther is representing the entire lot.  You were Number 1 on the list.  We talk a lot about how things are different on the LPGA.  What did you see this past year on the Symetra Tour that makes you the most proud?

ESTHER CHOE:  I think the Symetra Tour is just an awesome proving ground and a great place to develop your game, to know yourself week in and week out, how you perform.  And I always thought in my mind if I'm good enough to win out on the Symetra Tour, then I belong on the LPGA and I'll be just fine.  So I feel like it's just been an awesome year of growth and I'm excited for next year and anything that may happen, just really excited.

KRAIG KANN:  You'll be out on the LPGA Tour.  They just talked about the continued growth of the Symetra Tour and this new opportunity for a couple of the grads to be able to be sponsored at the next level.  What would that mean to a player if you were to start your year over again knowing that that would be dangling in front of you? 

ESTHER CHOE:  That means a lot just because starting out, we're basically starting out, we need that support.  And to know that you've come playing through the Symetra Tour and having them behind you as you grow into an LPGA player, that would mean so much and I'm really bummed I missed out by a year.

KRAIG KANN:  Rick, this isn't the greatest economy, I think we all know that, but this says a lot about your commitment not only to the LPGA but to the Symetra Tour in general.  Can you talk about the growth from your perspective of where you maybe expected it to be in year one and where it seems to be in the end of year one?

RICK LYONS:  Of course we were hopeful that the growth would be there and we've seen that both in our company and the LPGA, so it's turned out much better than we thought.  Just the customer engagement with the ladies is really the key, I think.

KRAIG KANN:  What's the one thing that surprised you the most that maybe you weren't expecting when you started this journey with us?

RICK LYONS:  I think it's the interaction with the golfers.  I thought there would be a certain aloofness and they're just very engaging, very excited and it's a pleasure to be a part of it.

Q.  The question I had was is that there's kind of an affinity for people watching minor league baseball of watching players develop and we're seeing that here also with this Tour because 47 of the top 100 players are under 25, and I'm wondering if, just maybe across the board, if this is why you have gotten so much more involved in this event?

RICK LYONS:  Yeah, absolutely.  The bigger this gets, the more our name gets out there and we're very pleased with the growth, it's been awesome.

KRAIG KANN:  Mike, do you want to comment on that?

MIKE NICHOLS:  I think just having started in my role in July, I was able to attend nine tournaments and the one thing that I really saw with each of the cities and the folks in those cities who were organizing the tournaments was that the passion that the people felt for being a part of the journey for these ladies. 

When you host an LPGA tournament, there's a certain star power that comes with an LPGA tournament, so the people who volunteer are excited to sort of be a part and rub elbows with the stars of the LPGA. 

On the Symetra Tour, it's more about being part of the journey and the majority of our players when we travel from place to place stay in private housing, so they become a part of the community, they become part of that family that they stay with, they exchange Christmas cards with those folks at the end of the year.  So it's really a family not only amongst the players themselves, but in terms of these people who sort of adopt another daughter and want to be a part of helping see them to the next level on the LPGA Tour.

KRAIG KANN:  There's definitely a commitment from the LPGA and from the folks at Symetra to try to prepare people like Esther for the next level.  I think that's one of the biggest things

So you all know, the players that are sitting in here today are here for a couple of reasons; to see the great golf this week, but also to see what's out there for them and some professional development going on this week, some lunches, some meetings, get to know some of the players, et cetera.  We're trying to prepare them for the next level, which I think is very important for all of them. 

Esther, I'm going to go back to you.  Talk about how you might feel more prepared having been out there for a year than you would say in January.  What are some of the big things you learned to be ready?

ESTHER CHOE:  It is huge, not just your golf game but outside of it, learning to travel and just week in and week out knowing that you have a bad week, it's okay, you've got the next week, you can't be down about it or else it's going to keep happening; just the ebbs and flows of traveling and scheduling and making sure you've got the right support system behind you and everything that goes along with playing golf.

KRAIG KANN:  Any other questions out there?  Final comment from you, Rick?

RICK LYONS:  We're really looking to seeing you all in Charlotte again next year.

KRAIG KANN:  Mike?

MIKE NICHOLS:  Just again I want to thank Symetra and we hope that this relationship continues to grow and that you continue to see more value from the partnership.  So thank you very much.

KRAIG KANN:  Thank you.  Esther, congratulations on all you accomplished.  To all the players that are here, thanks for being here this week, and any questions you all might have for any of them or anybody up here or Commissioner Mike Whan, who is in the back as well, to talk about the Symetra Tour and the growth.  Thanks everybody, appreciate it very much. 

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, CME Group Tour Championship, Tseng, Yani, Lewis, Stacy, Pettersen, Suzann, Symetra Tour [+]

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