Honda LPGA Thailand 2012 Pre-tournament notes and interviews

Honda LPGA Thailand 2012
Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course
Chonburi, Thailand
Pre-tournament notes and interviews
February 15, 2012

Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1 and defending champion
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Michelle Wie, Rolex Rankings No. 17

The LPGA Tour travels to Chonburi, Thailand this week for the second event of the season at the Honda LPGA Thailand 2012. Yani Tseng returns to Siam Country Club's Old Course as the 2011 champion with hopes to defend her first title of the season. She posted a 15-under-par 273 through four rounds at last year's event to defeat Michelle Wie by 5 strokes.

Tseng will face a tough task in repeating as the top 30 players from 2011 LPGA Official Money List are slated to be in the field this year, including Karrie Webb, I.K. Kim and Paula Creamer who all finished in the top 10 in Thailand last year. Webb went on to record her 37th and 38th LPGA career victories in the two weeks following the 2011 Honda LPGA Thailand with back-to-back wins at the HSBC Women's Championship and RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.

All eyes on her: After winning seven LPGA events in 2011, Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng will find herself in position to defend a title quite often this season. And this week kicks off Tseng's LPGA title defense as she looks to repeat for a second straight year at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Tseng made huge strides in the 2011 season, becoming the youngest player ever to win five majors after claiming the RICOH Women's British Open and was the youngest LPGA player to win four majors after her victory at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Tseng also enters the season as the youngest player to consecutively win Rolex Player of the Year awards and currently holds the No. 1 spot for 2012.

"I try not to think too much about it and just enjoy it," said Tseng of defending all of these titles. "Last year has already passed. This new is a new year, a new tournament so you don't try to think about the past. I am going to try to make as many birdies as I can on this golf course starting tomorrow"

One thing that Tseng did during the offseason was to make a slight tweak to her swing. Her goal was to cut back on the amount of effort she needed to put into each swing yet still maintain her distance, after finishing first in driving average on the LPGA Tour in 2011.
"I decided that I needed a little more consistency," Tseng said of her swing changes. "I want to hit it straighter and improve my driving accuracy. I want to make more putts. I just want to improve every part of my game. I have been working with my coach Gary Gilchrist the last few months, like 3-4 times a week to get my swing improved and I think I'm hitting more consistently now."

Trying to keep her in reach: Yani Tseng has a very strong lead in the Rolex Rankings with nearly seven points separating her and Rolex Rankings No. 2 Suzann Pettersen. But while it doesn't look like she'll be giving up that top spot anytime soon, Tseng's competitors seem to view her strong plays as a motivator.
"I think she is the most intimidating player," said Na Yeon Choi, who is paired with Tseng in the first round. "She was the very clear cut No. 1 last year and she is playing so well. I think we are good rivals and I think everybody motivates each other. I think it will be fun tomorrow."

A victory of a different kind: Michelle Wie will be seeking to improve upon last year's runner-up finish in Thailand when she tees it up for her first event of the year on the Old Course at Siam Country Club this week. But for Wie, the start of the 2012 season also means that another special moment in her life is right around the corner – college graduation.

On Wednesday afternoon, after finishing the morning nine-hole pro-am, Wie was sitting inside the clubhouse working on a paper for school. That won't happen for much longer as Wie will be finishing up her classes at Stanford next month and will go through graduation with her classmates in June as she receives a degree in communications.

"It's been a little weird entering my last quarter, well hopefully it's going to be my last quarter if I pass all my classes," Wie said. "It will be really embarrassing if I don't laug. I'm looking forward to it. I'm kind of sad because it's been such a great 4 ½ years of my life but I'm excited about this year. I'm excited to enter the real world, as they all say. But I'm also excited just to have more time to do things and excited to see where my game is going to go. This is going to be the first time in forever since I started playing golf that I won't have school. So it's going to be interesting. I think I'm really looking forward to it."

Time to get started: This week is not only the first event of the season for Wie but also for Paula Creamer and Na Yeon Choi.

Creamer was a bridesmaid in the wedding of her friend, fellow golfer Taylor Leon, last weekend and so she didn't make the trek to Australia for the LPGA's season-opening event at Royal Melbourne. Instead, Creamer will begin her season with hopes of improving on her fifth place finish in Thailand last season.

While Creamer didn't tally any victories in 2011, she certainly had a stellar season. She tallied 10 top-10 finishes in 2011 including ties for second at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. She placed ninth on the 2011 LPGA Official Money List after collecting just shy of $1 million. But Creamer has been working this winter to make her game even better.

"I actually really broke down my golf swing and tried to do a lot of different things with it," Creamer said of her offseason practice. "It's going to be a definite work in progress but it has to happen so I've been working very, very hard in that aspect of my game. It's taken a lot of time, just bringing it to the golf course is going to be a different feeling. Hopefully I can do that and by the end of the year, it will be where I want it to be."

Helping Thailand: It was just a few months ago that floods ravaged Thailand during the monsoon season and left the country with what has been described as one of the world's most costly natural disasters. So on Tuesday night at the Honda LPGA Thailand's annual charity event, players donated signed items to be auctioned off to help with the flood relief and they helped to raise 458,000 baht during the live auction portion of the event.

Having spent so much time in Thailand for this tournament in recent years, the players were certainly glad to do whatever they could to help the cause.

"It's great everything that Thailand has done following the floods," said Paula Creamer. "For us to be here, it's pretty amazing that this country has gotten back on its feet so fast and so strong. Last night, all of the auction money that was made to help the floods is something that's very important. I think all of us are pleased to be here. We didn't know what was going to happen a couple months ago but it's nice that there is so much love here and that they appreciate us coming here. It's good to be back."

Tweet of the Day: Happy Valentines everybody! Had such a great day. I got to hang out with Tiger. Cool dude :) -- @TheSandraGal

Of Note… Numa Gulyanamitta, the 2011 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament medalist, will make her second start of the season and first in her native Thailand. Numa, sister of former LPGA member Russy, missed the cut in her first event as a member of the LPGA last week…In three trips to the Old Course, Suzann Pettersen is a combined 43 under-par with one victory, a runner-up finish and a T8 finish. "Ever since we've played here, it's just been one of those courses that suits your eye," Pettersen said. "I love the layout. I think it's in great shape. The greens are rolling great."

Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1 and defending champion
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Michelle Wie, Rolex Rankings No. 17


MODERATOR: Thank you everyone for joining us today at the Honda LPGA Thailand. I'd like to welcome five of our players who are currently in the top 20 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings. Thanks ladies for joining us today and could you just give us some of your thoughts about being back here in Thailand.
NA YEON CHOI: This is my first tournament for 2012 and I'm very excited to play in my first tournament. I had great winter training in Orlando so I feel like I'm ready for the tournament.
YANI TSENG: It's always great to be back in Thailand and to be the defending champion. I played the course already and it's in great condition. I can't wait to get out and make lots of birdies.
MICHELLE WIE: This is also my first tournament of the year and this is my third time back in Thailand. It's awesome to be back here and I can't wait for the tournament to begin. The course looks great and I'm very excited to play.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: It's always a pleasure coming back here to Thailand. This course I've done well on in the past. It's exciting to be here. It's hot but it's nice. I can't wait to get started.
PAULA CREAMER: I'm excited to be here. It's great everything that Thailand has done following the floods. For us to be here, it's pretty amazing that this country has gotten together so fast and so strong. Last night, all of the auction money that was made to help the floods I think is very important. I think all of us are pleased to be here. We didn't know what was going to happen a couple months ago but it's nice that there is so much love here and that they appreciate us coming here. It's good to be back.

MODERATOR: Yani, can you talk a little bit about what it means for you to be the defending champion and how do you approach it?
YANI TSENG: Always very happy to be back here. It's kind of my routine every time I come back to Thailand to pray at Chidlom and wish for a great year. We've got a very strong field this year. I've been working really hard throughout the offseason and last week in Australia so I'm excited to see how things go this week.

MODERATOR: Suzann, you talked about great this course has been to you in the past. You've never finished worse than T8 here. What is it about this golf course that suits your game?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I don't know. Ever since we've played here, it's just been one of those courses that suits your eye. I love the layout. I think it's in great shape. The greens are rolling great. They are fast, downhill greens so you have to be careful. As a Norwegian, we come to Thailand a lot. It's a place that we go on vacation and relax in the sun. When we're here you have to work hard and it's long days but it's always good to come back. It's one of my favorite stops during the year.

MODERATOR: Paula, like Michelle and Na Yeon, this is your first event of the year after being a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of your friends last weekend. Coming off a year last year when you didn't capture a victory but had 10 top-10 finishes, how do you feel about your game heading into this season?
PAULA CREAMER: I feel good. Like Na Yeon said, I was in Orlando also and had a really good offseason. And I was in a wedding, not my wedding last week laug. It's great. I always look forward to starting off the season strong. But at the same time, it's a long year and you have to try to get back into it. I played my first practice round yesterday and I kind of forgot what to do in a practice round. Had to get into the rhythm of things. This is my eighth year so I'm looking forward to starting up a good season.

MODERATOR: Michelle, this is your first event also. You also have another exciting event coming up in your life – college graduation. You are almost finished with your degree at Stanford. What is going to be different about your season this year now that school will be done for you next month?
MICHELLE WIE: I've also had a really great offseason training and going to school, finishing up the school year. It's been a little weird entering my last quarter, well hopefully it's going to be my last quarter if I pass all my classes. It will be really embarrassing if I don't laug. I'm looking forward to it. I'm kind of sad because it's been such a great 4 ½ years of my life but I'm excited about this year. I'm excited to enter the real world, as they all say. But I'm excited just to have more times to do things and excited to see where my game is going to go. This is going to be the first time in forever since I started playing golf that I won't have school. So it's going to be interesting. I think I'm really looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: Na Yeon, you talked about how well your offseason went. What are your goals and aspirations heading into the 2012 season?
NA YEON CHOI: I have some general goals because I had a great year last year and I worked very hard with my offseason. I had my personal trainer and I worked very hard with him. I'm really looking forward to this year and I hope to get some good results this year.

Q. Michelle, what are you studying at Stanford?
MICHELLE WIE: Communications

Q. Yani, I read that you've been working on your swing. Why did you decide that you needed to change your swing?
YANI TSENG: I decided that I needed a little more consistency. I want to hit it straighter and improve my driving accuracy. I want to make more putts. I just want to improve every part of my game. I have been working with my coach Gary Gilchrist the last few months, like 3-4 times a week to get my swing improved and I think I'm hitting more consistently now.

Q. Yani, have you gotten longer?
YANI TSENG: No. But I did get straighter. I think irons maybe a little bit but not driver.

Q. Na Yeon, tomorrow you will play with Yani. The last time you two played together I think was in Malaysia. So how do you feel about tomorrow?
NA YEON CHOI: I think she is the most intimidating player. She was the very clear cut No. 1 last year and she is playing so well. I think we are good rivals and I think everybody motivates each other. I think it will be fun tomorrow.

Q. Michelle, last year you finished runner-up. Think you can go one better this year?
MICHELLE WIE: Hopefully. We are all working for the same goal. I worked really hard throughout the offseason thinking about this week. During the winter time. I'm really excited to play tomorrow to show what I've done in the offseason…I'm just really excited to play. I haven't played in a while, since Dubai, so I'm just excited to get out there and try to shoot low scores every day. Sunday is a long time from now so start on Thursday and just go hole-by-hole.

Q. Paula, what did you do in the offseason?
PAULA CREAMER: I played in Taiwan at the Swinging Skirts so I didn't take much time off after CME. I took the rest of December off and started back up pretty soon on January 2. I actually really broke down my golf swing and tried to do a lot of different things with it. It's going to be a definite work in progress but it has to happen so I've been working very, very hard in that aspect of my game. It's taken a lot of time; just bringing it to the golf course is going to be a different feeling. Hopefully I can do that and by the end of the year, it will be where I want it to be.

Q. Paula, who is your coach?
PAULA CREAMER: David Whelan

Q. Paula, what is your favorite part about Thailand?
PAULA CREAMER: The people definitely. I think the culture here is incredible. Everyone is just so friendly. There is a special feeling when you get here. The people respect you and what you do. I think it's very nice that there are so many fans who only get to see us once a year and they are just so supportive. That's something that you just don't' get everywhere you go but you do have that here in Thailand.

Q. Yani, how hard is it to be a defending champion?
YANI TSENG: I try not to think too much about it and just enjoy it. Last year has already passed. This new is a new year, a new tournament so you don't try to think about the past. I am going to try to make as many birdies as I can on this golf course starting tomorrow.

Topics: Honda LPGA Thailand, Tseng, Yani, Pettersen, Suzann, Choi, Na Yeon, Creamer, Paula, Wie, Michelle, Notes and Interviews [+]

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