Honda LPGA Thailand 2012
Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course
Final-round notes and interviews
February 19, 2012
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng successfully defended her title at the Honda LPGA Thailand and captured her first win of the 2012 season. Tseng nearly knocked her 104-yard approach shot in the hole on the par-5 18th and sank the tap-in birdie putt to capture a one-shot victory over the 2010 champion of this event, Ai Miyazato.
Tseng got off to a hot start en route to firing a final-round, 6-under 66. She recorded an eagle on the first hole before tallying birdies on three of her next six holes to go 5-under through her first seven holes. Tseng's lead was at three when she made the turn but the gap closed down the stretch. Bogeys on the 10th and 13th opened the door for Miyazato and Jiyai Shin to put pressure on the world's No. 1 player.
And despite falling into a tie for the lead when Shin made birdie on the 17th, Tseng held her composure. She birdied the 17th to regain a one-shot lead and after Miyazato knocked her third shot close on 18 to give herself a putt to tie Tseng, that's when Tseng hit her impressive approach into the 18th green that pretty much sealed the victory.
"I had a one-shot lead and I was thinking maybe make par and I win," Tseng said of heading into the final hole. "But after I see Ai hit it so close, I kind of thinking that I have to make birdie to win it. I didn't know my ball was that close. After I saw that, I was really happy. It wasn't like two feet and then I would be really nervous. That tap-in putt was great. It feels really good to win here again."
Tseng was asked in her post-victory press conference if the tears had anything to do with the pressure that she felt to repeat her tremendous 2011 season, when she captured seven wins on the LPGA Tour and a total of 12 victories worldwide.
"Yes, of course," Tseng said. "I feel much more pressure coming into this year. Last year when I started, I was nothing, I was just in the top 5 in the world but I don't have 12 wins or World No. 1 title. After last year, I have World No. 1 and I had 12 wins and that pressure keep going on and on. I kind of drive my team crazy. They were thinking I feel so much pressure. So sometimes I wasn't happy and I wasn't quite nice to them. They keep telling me, ' think you have some pressure, you need to relax yourself' and we kind of have a team meeting to keep me relaxed and not feeling like I had pressure. So I think my team did a great job and helped a lot through this week. It was just great. I feel really good about that."
Back-to-back: Tseng's consecutive wins at the Honda LPGA Thailand in 2011 and 2012 marks the second time in her career that she has successfully defended one of her titles on the LPGA Tour. Last year, Tseng won the RICOH Women's British Open for the second straight year – having also won that tournament in 2010.
So close again: Ai Miyazato is no stranger to winning in Thailand, as she captured her second career LPGA victory at the Old Course at Siam Country Club in 2010 en route to winning five titles that year. But this time she fell just short of making it two titles for herself in Thailand.
Despite three bogeys en route to shooting an even-par 36 on the front nine, Miyazato managed to keep things together and put pressure on Tseng during the final few holes. She went bogey-free on the back nine and shot 32, which included back-to-back birdies on the final two holes.
"I felt like maybe if I had some patience, there might be another chance towards the end," Miyazato said. "Then I made birdie on No. 10 and I felt like it was a re-start. So I told myself, 'All right, I'm going to start right now.' I had two birdie chances after that. I didn't make them and maybe those two putts cost me the tournament. But overall I played really well and I'm very happy that I could finish strong today. I really enjoyed playing with Yani. But next time I want to win laug."
This was Miyazato's first event of the 2012 season and despite falling one stroke shy of winning, she was overall pleased with tallying a runner-up finish to start the year.
"I feel really strong confidence now because everyone is in good shape and that's inspiring too," Miyazato said. "I played really good too. I feel like I can keep going and I'm looking forward to the next tournament.
Aces aplenty! Morgan Pressel became the latest player to join the hole-in-one club at the Honda LPGA Thailand this week.
Pressel tallied the third ace of the week when she holed out from 136 yards with an 8-iron on the par-3 eighth hole. It was the fourth career hole-in-one for Pressel on the LPGA Tour. Her last came in the opening round of the 2009 Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV.
The other two hole-in-ones this week were carded by Paula Creamer and Karrie Webb and both were recorded on the par-3 12th hole.
Strong finish for the rookie: In just her second LPGA event as an official member of the Tour, Lexi Thompson finished with a flourish. Thompson shot a final-round 66, which included five birdies on the back nine, to finish at 6-under par in a T14.
"I'm really happy with the way I'm hitting it," said Thompson, who made a change to her putting alignment before the final round. "I'm playing consistent. Just need to get a few more of those putts to drop like today and I can shoot a few rounds but I'm happy with the way I've played in my three tournaments so far this year."
Thompson finished T24 at the LPGA's season opening ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open last week. She also played in the Gold Coast RACV Ladies Australian Masters on the Ladies European Tour and finished T15.
Golden ticket winners: Yani Tseng, Jiyai Shin and Ai Miyazato punched their "Ticket to CME Group Titleholders" at Honda LPGA Thailand, each earning a spot in the season-ending CME Group Titleholders event, which will be held Nov. 15-18, 2012 at The TwinEagles in Naples, Fla. The second annual CME Group Titleholders is a season finale with a field made up of three qualifiers from every LPGA Tour tournament.
Tseng is going to Canyon Ranch. With her victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand 2012, Yani Tseng earned an all-inclusive stay for two at a Canyon Ranch resort. In a combined effort to promote health and overall well-being among Tour players, Canyon Ranch will provide every winner of an LPGA event with one all-inclusive stay at one of Canyon Ranch's two destination resorts.
Tweet of the Day: "For those of you that have never experienced Thailand, you're missing out. One of the greatest places on earth." -- @TheChristinaKim
Of Note… Rolex Rankings No. 2 Suzann Pettersen shot a final-round 78 and finished in a T21. In her three previous tournaments on this golf course, she had finished no worse than T8…LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb, who was T3 entering Sunday's final round, shot 75 which included a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5. She finished in a tie for ninth.
Q. We'd like to welcome the 2012 Honda LPGA Thailand champion, Yani Tseng into the interview. Congratulations on your victory. It's the second time in your LPGA career that you have successfully defended a title. Can you just take me through all of the emotions that were going through your mind today?
YANI TSENG: I played really well on the front nine but it was tough on the back nine, especially when you see Jiyai and Ai keep making birdies. At one time I had a four shot lead and then it got tight down the stretch. It was tough. I feel like I had lots of emotions today. I was tired and I tried my best. I tried hard to play well every shot and do my best and wish I could win.
Q. Can you take me through that front nine? You eagled the first hole to put yourself tied for the lead and then birdied three of your next six holes. What was it like to get off to such a quick lead?
YANI TSENG: I feel good. Before I go out there, I told myself just like yesterday I want to try to make birdie every hole and do the best I can. I feel really good on the first. I hit a good drive and a good second shot and make a good putt. That was really my thought for every hole to try to make birdie.
Q. When it was getting tight on the back nine, how did you keep yourself from getting overwhelmed by what the other two players were doing and focus on your own game?
YANI TSENG: It was hard. On No. 10 I got a little stressed from all of the cameras and making noise, so I wasn't happy on that hole. But I keep telling myself, just try to keep focused as I can. I tell myself to not to look at anyone else. But it's hard. I know Jiyai is making birdie and Ai was saving par. I know everything that was going on there. I just had to keep telling myself to making more birdies.
Q. You've been through key moments before out on the golf course but that third shot on 18 when you almost holed it, where does that one rank? What were your feelings when you hit that shot?
YANI TSENG: It was an incredible shot. I think it's the shot of the week. Especially I saw that Ai hit it so close and I knew she was going to make that putt. So I tell myself I need to get this close. It was tough; I had 104 to the pin and a little uphill. I know my ball is going to spin a lot so I just tried to keep it low and not spin too much. It was just a great shot. I was very proud of myself for hitting that shot into 18 and making birdie to win this tournament.
Q. I saw you got a little emotional on 18 after the win. Everybody talks about the great year that you had in 2011, but it's also a lot of pressure to follow up a year where you had 7 wins on the LPGA and 12 wins worldwide. Was that emotion a little bit of you letting go of some of that pressure that you felt coming into this year?
YANI TSENG: Yes of course. I feel much more pressure coming into this year. Last year when I started, I was nothing, I was just in the top 5 in the world but I don't have 12 wins or World No. 1 title. After last year, I have World No. 1 and I had 12 wins and that pressure keep going on and on. I kind of drive my team crazy. They were thinking I feel so much pressure. So sometimes I wasn't happy and I wasn't quite nice to them. They keep telling me, ' I think you have some pressure, you need to relax yourself' and we kind of have a team meeting to keep me relaxed and not feeling like I had pressure. So I think my team did a great job and helped a lot through this week. It was just great. I feel really good about that.
Q. When did you have that meeting?
YANI TSENG: Actually they had the meeting and I did it on my own. I talked to Naya, my manager, and she tells me what she thinks about me from the outside. I didn't feel that way. I didn't think I felt the pressure or felt like I was getting mean with them. I felt I was nice but they said,' No, you were very mean last week.' So I kind of tried to change myself and be relaxed. Today when I go out I try to tell myself to smile always and keep me relaxed just like last year, always smile.
Q. Did you notice you were smiling more this week?
YANI TSENG: Yes, I tell myself to always do that because I can feel more relaxed and feel like I'm enjoying the game.
Q. Yani, do you think this victory had anything to do with the wish that you made to the statue this week in Thailand?
YANI TSENG: I think so. It feels really good. I had some luck out there. I shot 1-over the first round but I came back very soon and played 20 under the next three days and it think that's really nice. I felt like I could improve a lot and I feel like something gave me luck.
Q. Last year you made a wish on the statue and won too. Did you make the same wish?
YANI TSENG: I just wish I could win this tournament laug.
Q. What did you and Ai talk about?
YANI TSENG: Everything. We are good friends and always very happy to play with her. I feel very, very relaxed and she is very nice people. We are kind of very different styles of players so I can always learn something when I play with her. I tell her next time I want to go practice with her and try to learn something from her. We were just talking about where to eat, where to go shopping for fun. That kind of stuff.
Q. You played with Ai and she played well in the back nine. Jiyai also was playing well. At any time did you notice the score?
YANI TSENG: I know the score by the crowd. I know she made birdie when the crowd went crazy. There were lots of fans following Ai today too. I just tell myself to keep focused on my game and my caddy tells me that too. So my caddy, Jason, keep me very calm today and focused on every shot today.
Q. Is there motivation from playing with Ai when she played so well?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I think we kind of motivate each other to play well. These two rounds I play with her, we both play very, very well and she make putts on the back nine. It's fun to watch her to play so well. It was always really, really nice and really thankful to play with her.
Q. How is your elbow?
YANI TSENG: It's getting better. It's just a little sore sometimes when I'm hitting driver and everything else is fine.
Q. On 18, the past few days you had gone for it in two. Today you laid up and went for it in 3. Why?
YANI TSENG: I just hit a bad drive. I wish I had hit it on the fairway and could try to reach the green in two. But I hit a bad drive to the left and it was in the rough. The rough is really thick out there so it's hard to make it on the green so I just played a three-shot hole.
Q. Were you thinking about a playoff?
YANI TSENG: I wasn't thinking about a playoff. I don't want to go to a playoff. Who wants to go to a playoff? I had a one shot lead and I was thinking maybe make par and we win. But after I see Ai hit it so close, I kind of thinking that I have to make birdie to win it. I didn't know my ball was that close. After I saw that, I was really happy. It wasn't like two feet and I would be really nervous. That tap-in putt was great. It feels really good to win here again.
Q. Last year you had four wins at this time. This year only one now. Is it a different feel for you?
YANI TSENG: No, not really. I have just played two tournaments. It's a good start for me. I finished top-10 last week and won this tournament. WE still have another 20-something tournaments out there for us. So just have to keep working hard and doing well and try to win another 12 tournaments too laug.
Q. Great playing today, shooting a 4-under 68 to finish runner-up. It was quite a finish there as Yani's lead narrowed in the final few holes. Can you take me through that final stretch?
AI MIYAZATO; Where do I begin? laug The first nine holes it was kind of up and down. I was just trying to be patient. I felt like maybe if I had some patience, there might be another chance towards the end. I kept saying that to myself. Then I made birdie on No. 10 and I felt like it a re-start. So I told myself, 'All right, I'm going to start right now.' I had two birdie chances after that. I didn't make them and maybe those two putts cost me the tournament. But overall I played really well and I'm very happy that I could finish strong today. I really enjoyed playing with Yani. But next time I want to win laug.
Q. Your first event of the year, to have this kind of finish you've got to feel pretty good about the momentum that you're carrying into the rest of the season.
AI MIYAZATO; I feel really strong confidence now because everyone is in good shape and that's inspiring too. I played really good too. I feel like I can keep going and I'm looking forward to the next tournament.
Q. It's tough whenever you are chasing someone in the final round but when it's Yani, does it make it a little different?
AI MIYAZATO; Yeah, especially knowing she started with an eagle and after five holes she was 5-under. I kind of expected this. Of course Yani is No. 1 so I knew it wouldn't be easy today. I kind of expected her to play that way so I was ready.
Q. Congratulations on a great round today, a 6-under 66. What was the biggest difference for you today?
LEXI THOMPSON: I got a few of the putts to drop. I figured something out. My dad helped me to line up the right way and then I just put a confident stroke on it.
Q. You're now two tournaments into your rookie season on the LPGA Tour. I know you've been used to being out here in previously seasons playing on exemptions but has there been any difference for you this year?
LEXI THOMPSON: I don't feel any different. I'm playing the same way but I'm really happy with the way I'm hitting it. I'm playing consistent. Just get a few more of those putts to drop like today and I can shoot a few rounds but I'm happy with the way I've played in my three tournaments so far this year.
Q. How much do you think it's going to help you to play a consistent schedule out here on the LPGA Tour this year?
LEXI THOMPSON: It will definitely help. Playing week to week, I love keeping the flow going and keeping the attitude going. That was the way that I used to play with amateur golf so I'm looking forward to it.