ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Composite Course
First-round notes and interviews
February 9, 2012
Stacy Lewis -4, Rolex Rankings No. 10
Sarah Kemp -4, Rolex Rankings No. 181
Yani Tseng -3, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Karrie Webb +2, Rolex Rankings No. 19
Rolex Rankings No. 10 Stacy Lewis and Australia native Sarah Kemp share the first-round lead after shooting a pair of 4-under 69s at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open on Thursday. Playing in back-to-back groups, Kemp and Lewis posted the two low rounds of the day. Kemp managed to get around the Composite Course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club without a bogey while Lewis had two bogeys in her front nine while tallying six birdies.
Trailing Lewis and Kemp by one shot are Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng, No. 9 Brittany Lincicome, and Paraguay native Julieta Granada.
Stringing the rounds together: Sarah Kemp is no stranger to finding herself near the top of the leaderboard after the first day of a tournament. But figuring out how to string together four solid rounds to capture a victory on the LPGA Tour is something that has alluded her so far in her career. And that’s why this year her focus is on gaining more consistency throughout a tournament week.
Kemp said that she was branded “the next Karrie Webb” following a very successful amateur career in Australia. But it’s proven difficult for Kemp to produce the same type of success as her Australian counterpart. Kemp finished 85th on the LPGA Official Money List last year and has Category 11 status on the LPGA Tour this season. Her hope is that this week she can carry her success from the first round into the final three rounds.
“You go back to the drawing board and try again,” said Kemp of her history of following up a birdie-filled round with a score that’s less than ideal. “I have done that several times. I think the more you are in that situation and the more you do it, the better you will be at it. Whatever happens tomorrow and on the weekend happens. I will work it out and I will get better.”
A little inside help? Stacy Lewis said that she fell in love with Royal Melbourne the first time she played the Composite Course this week. Of course it didn’t hurt that she got a few tips from honorary Royal Melbourne member Greg Norman before her trip.
Lewis plays at Norman’s course, the Medalist, in Florida and she said that a few of the LPGA players who are members there sought out advice from Norman before heading overseas to this week’s event.
“You can hit a lot of similar shots in practice there,” Lewis said of her course in Florida. “We hit a lot of bump and runs up to the greens. That was good practice. We got some tips from him. He said to be below the hole and if we were above the hole make sure the next one was below it. And always take the shorter club if you are in between. I used that today”
Back at it again: It certainly didn’t take long for Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng to find herself back near the top of a leaderboard once again. Tseng, who is coming off 12 worldwide victories in 2011 including one at last year’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, shot an opening-round 70 on Thursday and sits one shot back of the leaders in the 2012 season-opening event.
Tseng had six birdies on the day but bookended her round with bogeys, one on the 10th to begin the round and finishing up with a bogey on the par-4 9th hole.
“It was disappointing to finish with a three-putt on the last hole,” Tseng said. “It is probably the toughest hole on the course. But I am still very happy shooting three under today. That's three under on an amazing golf course. I am really excited and can't wait to go out and challenge it again.”
A little help from my friends: Karrie Webb got a little assistance from one of her fellow Australians during Thursday’s opening round when a fan noticed that Webb was about to replace her ball in the wrong spot on the green.
Webb had moved her ball mark for her playing partner, Tseng, and when she went to put it back, she moved it in the wrong direction. Just before Webb was about to putt, the fan spoke up and informed her of the mistake. It allowed Webb to replace her ball in the proper spot and saved her a two-stroke penalty.
“It really caught me off guard,” Webb said. “It was pretty courageous of him. There was a group of people and they were talking. I was hoping that they'd settle down before I got over the putt. They were all discussing that I had moved it the wrong way.”
The LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member, who shot a 2-over 75 on Thursday, went over to personally thank the fan after the hole and Webb gave him her ball as a sign of her appreciation for his courage to speak up.
Quick learners: Stephanie Sherlock and Janice Moodie didn’t arrive at Royal Melbourne until Wednesday afternoon after two flight cancellations had them stranded in Los Angeles for two days. It left very little time for the two players to practice, as Sherlock didn’t even get a chance to play a practice round on the tournament course.
Still, the delays didn’t seem to bother either player too much. Moodie shot an opening-round 70 while Sherlock finished the first round with a 1-over 74.
STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 10
MODERATOR: Does this golf course suit you?
STACY LEWIS: It does. I fell in love with place the first time I played it. You have to be so creative and hit so many different shots. I love that.
MODERATOR: Did you watch any of the Presidents Cup before you came here?
STACY LEWIS: I watched a little bit but they were playing in such different conditions. I really did not want to watch the ball rolling off the green. I think it is better to get your first look hands on.
Q. Inaudible question.
STACY LEWIS: I started on the back nine and turned a couple under. I made some late birdies coming in. The day was actually pretty easy for me. I did not have to stress over too many putts. I hit a lot of fairways and played consistent.
Q. Did you find it tough out there?
STACY LEWIS: Early on it was about as easy as it could play. Towards the end there, when the wind started blowing, nine and 18, the greens were really firm. It played easy this morning. I don't want to say it was easy but there were definitely holes you could make birdie on. There are some where you have to take par and move on.
Q. How does an American prepare to play a course like this?
STACY LEWIS: I play at Greg Norman's course in Florida, the Medalist. You can hit a lot of similar shots in practice there. We hit a lot of bump and runs up to the greens. That was good practice. We got some tips from him. He said to be below the hole and if we were above the hole make sure the next one was below it. And always take the shorter club if you are in between. I used that today.
Q. Were they personal tips?
STACY LEWIS: There are a couple of us who are members there. We asked him in general what he thought.
Q. Are you more confident after having a good year in 2011?
STACY LEWIS: Yes, I'm much more confident. It was a consistent year. I was in contention quite a bit. You get really comfortable there. You don't worry when you are a couple under. You see you name on the leader board and it is not as big a deal. I am more comfortable and confident in my game.
Q. Was there a shot today that was especially satisfying?
STACY LEWIS: There wasn't really anything that turned it around. I made a bad swing on eight. I hit my drive way down there on the par five. I only had about 165 to the front and hit it into the really short bunker and made about a 30-footer for birdie. It gives me some momentum going into tomorrow. I hit a bad iron shot and a bad bunker shot and still made birdie.
SARAH KEMP, Rolex Rankings No. 181
MODERATOR: Great round. You were hoping for it but did you expect it?
SARAH KEMP: Yes. I hit the ball really well. I have been hitting the ball well lately. I did not hole that many putts last week but I hit the ball pretty similar to today. The conditions were really good this morning. I guess I took advantage of it.
MODERATOR: You know your way around this course pretty well, don't you?
SARAH KEMP: No. I was in the Australian Institute of Sport. I'm pretty sure we played a lot of golf here but I must have been away on those days. My first round was on Tuesday.
MODERATOR: What do you think of it?
SARAH KEMP: I love it. It's tops. I can see why it is Australia's best golf course. It is a privilege to have the first women's professional golf tournament here. It is awesome.
Q. Has your other Sand Belt experience helped you?
SARAH KEMP: I think it does. Everything around here is pretty similar. I've played a bunch at Victoria and everywhere else I have played a lot. The style is pretty similar, firm greens, running fairways, all of that.
Q. Were the greens faster today than yesterday?
SARAH KEMP: I don't think so. Quite a few shots out there I got a bit of spin on. With my eight iron in, it just took the one big hop and then I got some spin. With a five iron or a six iron, it would not do that. I thought they were okay. I thought they could make them a little harder on the weekend.
Q. Don't tempt them.
SARAH KEMP: I did not say that.
Q. Inaudible question.
SARAH KEMP: My goal this year is to put four really good rounds together. Over the last couple of years I've been able to put two and three together. I have put four together but not on a consistent basis. That is my goal for this year. Last year I struggled a bit. I'd do something on Thursday that was different in my preparation from Friday or Saturday. If I could keep it the same each day, do the same practice and hit the same amount of balls, I think that will bring out more consistency in my game.
Q. Was there a particular shot today that was more satisfying that others?
SARAH KEMP: I hit a really good four iron into seven. I hit it to about two feet. I think it nearly went in. That was pretty cool. You would take four there every day.
Q. You had no bogeys. Were there any good saves?
SARAH KEMP: I did not have a bogey but I felt like I had one when I had a three-footer for birdie and eight and I missed it. There were no really good saves. It was just solid. I hit the fairways and hit the greens. It was nice and calm. I did not feel stressed out at all. I did not have a 15-footer for par so it was nice.
Q. What is happening with your game?
SARAH KEMP: I have my full card (in America) except for the limited events for the top 60 on the money list. Everything else I'll get in to. I also have my European Tour card. I'll play a little bit there. Last year was just inconsistent. I'd have a good week and then a bad week, a good week and a bad week. I have been working on trying to keep things the same each day.
Q. Has it been frustrating?
SARAH KEMP: Absolutely. I guess when I had a really good amateur career I won everything Webbie did when she was young. I was branded the next Webbie. I got my card and played two years in Europe. But Webbie is one in a million. That kind of career is pretty spectacular. If I could have a quarter of that, I'd be stoked. I did not try to put too much pressure on myself. I'd say that my best years are still to come.
Q. Is it frustrating to shoot 66 to lead a tournament and then follow it with a 74?
SARAH KEMP: Yes. You know you did it yesterday and you can't do it today. You go back to the drawing board and try again. I have done that several times. I think the more you are in that situation and the more you do it, the better you will be at it. Whatever happens tomorrow and on the weekend happens. I will work it out and I will get better.
Q. Do you watch someone on the range or try to emulate someone?
SARAH KEMP: Not really. I try not to copy anybody. I tend to play the course and focus on that rather than anybody. There are people I look up to who have been very consistent over the years but I try not to focus on anyone and work it out myself.
Q. Are you playing in Singapore next week?
SARAH KEMP: No, I am going to New Zealand.
Q. What would a win on the LPGA mean to you?
SARAH KEMP: Everything. Huge. That is my dream.
YANI TSENG, Rolex Rankings No. 1
MODERATOR: That was a really good round except for the last hole.
YANI TSENG: It was disappointing to finish with a three-putt on the last hole. It is probably the toughest hole on the course. But I am still very happy shooting three under today. That's three under on an amazing golf course. I am really excited and can't wait to go out and challenge it again.
MODERATOR: Did the wind start to pick up towards the end?
YANI TSENG: Yes, especially the last hole. The wind was swirling. It was downwind and when I went to hit it, it was into the wind. Then it turned to downwind again. I hit 20 yards past the pin. I miscalculated a little bit. Sometimes you hit a ball like that and you hit a great shot and I does not end up the way you want. I did my best.
Q. It was a pretty solid round after your second shot on the first hole of the day.
YANI TSENG: It was the first poor shot I've hit for three days. I don't know why that happened. Maybe I was too nervous. I was hitting very solid today and made a couple of putts for par. I was hitting a lot of shots close to the pin and did not make them. But still, three under for the first day, I am pretty happy.
Q. Was that the worst score you could have had?
YANI TSENG: I don't think too much. After the first hole I was thinking how many birdies I could make. Was I one under or two under? I don't know how many birdies I had. I was playing one shot at a time and doing my best.
Q. Did the greens scare you?
YANI TSENG: They were not that bad if you landed on the right spot. Just put every shot below the pin and you should be okay to putt. But at the last hole I was 20 yards past the pin. It was very, very fast downhill. I putted six feet by. Everything else I left pin high or short of the pin so I always had an uphill putt.
Q. Did you hit a three wood to the last hole?
YANI TSENG: No I hit a rescue.
Q. That second shot into the 18th from the rough, not much green to work with, tough lie. Do you like that sort of challenge?
YANI TSENG: Yes. That was a great shot. It was probably the shot of the day. My caddie and I were thinking about going to the left side because it was a better angle to the pin. I was thinking of hitting a normal shot onto the fairway and make a high fade for the second shot and it could be okay. I had a good lie so I was pretty lucky. I aimed at the TV tower and faded a little bit. It was perfect.
Q. Does it put a smile on your face when you do that?
YANI TSENG: Yes, of course. If you hit a shot like this, you have to enjoy it.
Q. A spectator stopped Karrie from putting. Have you seen that before?
YANI TSENG: I thought it was Karrie's friend but I don't know.
Q. Question about strapping on her elbow.
YANI TSENG: I have been has been like this for four years, always playing under injury. It is not me. I think lots of players have a back or a hip problem or some injury. This happened and it never went away. I do a lot of ultrasound, I always ice after I play. It helps. Today we had good weather. It was not hurting as much. If I hit it bad, at impact it is hurting. It hurts more when it is cold and when the ground is very hard. The driving range is a little harder than on the course so I did not hit too many balls on the range.
Q. Have you been wearing for a long time?
YANI TSENG: I wear it sometimes. Last year I did not wear it much because it did not hurt.
KARRIE WEBB, Rolex Rankings No. 19
MODERATOR: That was not the score you would have expected. Did you leave some shots out there?
KARRIE WEBB: I did not know what score to expect, actually. I probably did leave some shots out there. I think there were a couple of momentum putts, if I had made them, I would have had a much more respectable score. On the 12th I had a reasonably straight-forward birdie putt and missed. When I made the turn, I had a birdie putt at No. 1 that lipped out. If those couple of putts go in, they change how you feel about things. It probably would have made me feel more comfortable early on...
I did not drive it great. Unfortunately Royal Melbourne does this, the tee shots I hit poorly, I really paid the penalty. That started to get better as the round went on. I did not putt consistently well for the whole round. When I hit good putts, the speed was off or the line was slightly off. I'm not too disappointed with how I played. It could have been better. With the swing changes, I saw some good things out there and hopefully I'll be a little more comfortable starting tomorrow.
MODERATOR: What happened on the 13th green?
KARRIE WEBB: He actually saved me a couple of shots. Yani asked me to move my marker. When I went to move it back, I told myself I had to move it towards me. I just blanked. I don't even remember moving it the other way but I guess I did. There were about 15 people standing on the other side of the hole and I was just about to pull the trigger and he spoke up. It really caught me off guard. In the end he saved me a two-shot penalty...It was pretty courageous of him. There was a group of people and they were talking. I was hoping that they'd settle down before I got over the putt. They were all discussing that I had moved it the wrong way.
Q. Your caddie put up his hand to quiet them.
KARRIE WEBB: Yes. It was really quite courageous of him to speak up. I'm thankful that he did.
Q. Did you speak to him?
KARRIE WEBB: I went over and gave him my ball and thanked him. I told him he had saved me a couple of shots.
Q. Question about swing changes.
KARRIE WEBB: Yes and no. On the range they are getting better. They are quite good on the range. On the golf course it is hit and miss. If I feel uncomfortable or I am not committed to the shot I want to hit, it is hot and cold. Probably the best iron shot I hit was into nine. That was my last hole. I had a hold up five iron against the breeze and landed it perfectly where I needed to. Those are the shots the shots I am capable of doing. It is just a matter of trusting that I can do it.
Q. What are the changes?
KARRIE WEBB: The top of my swing at the end of last year had too much arm travel and not enough hinge. This led me to have a downward, forward movement with my upper body. To recover from that I'd slide through the golf ball. It made contact very inconsistent and I ended up losing distance. The more I tried to gain distance, the more the arm travel went and it progressively got worse through the year. That is very exaggerated but those are the things I am working on.
Q. Are you playing well enough to catch the leaders?
KARRIE WEBB: That is the ultimate goal but I don't want to get that far ahead of myself. It is not a course where you can say, I've got to come out and shoot six under. Six under would be a spectacular round. I don't want to view it that way. We played in the morning. The breeze is going to get up in the afternoon. I don't think the scoring is going to be low every day, if the wind's there. If there is no wind, six under rounds are quite possible. I thought the pins were quite well set up today for the first time that we've ever played at Royal Melbourne. There were a lot of back pins that we could get to with the firmness of the greens. I think they did a good job getting up the course for us. I would love to say that by Sunday I am close to the lead and have a shot. That's what the goal is. I've never really set a target for scores. You could either limit yourself or set something that is impossible to do.