Honda LPGA Thailand 2012
Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course
Third-round notes and interviews
February 18, 2012
Rolex Rankings No. 11 Ai Miyazato fired a 7-under 65 in Saturday's third round to take the outright lead heading into the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand. Miyazato, who won this event in 2010, leads Rolex Rankings No. 1 and defending champion Yani Tseng by one shot.
Miyazato, who led after the first round, had eight birdies and one bogey en route to taking back the lead at 14-under-par on Saturday. It was a long day for those on the top of the leaderboard, including Miyazato, as she had to return to the golf course early in the morning to complete the second round before teeing off a few hours later for third round action.
Defending champions galore: This year marks the fourth time that the Honda LPGA Thailand has been held on the Old Course at Siam Country. And for the three players who have won on this course previously - Miyazato, Tseng and Suzann Pettersen - there appears to be something they just really like about playing here in Thailand.
All three players are once again in the hunt heading into Sunday's final round. MIyazato leads at 14-under-par with Tseng, who is the defending champion, sitting one back at 13-under-par. Pettersen, who won here in 2007 and has finished no worse than T8 at this golf course, sits four shots back at 10-under par.
For Miyazato, there is no question that she feels comfortable here at Siam Country Club.
"I think i have a good feeling with this golf course," Miyazato said. "It's just the beginning of the season and a beautiful golf course and a nice temperature today. The people are really nice over here and I'm just having a really good time over here so that's why it makes me really comfortable. So that's the big reason why I can play really well out there."
Here comes Yani: It certainly didn't take long for defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng to make her presence felt once again near the top of the leaderboard
Tseng followed up her second-round 65 with another 65 on Saturday to put herself right back in the mix, just one shot off the lead. This week marks the first of many opportunities that Tseng will have to defend an LPGA title this season and she certainly is eager to capture a second straight victory here in Thailand.
"I hit so many great shots today and I just feel like my game is there," Tseng said. "I'm pretty confident and just will try to do it again tomorrow."
Not your typical day: 2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Hee Kyung Seo shot a 2-under 70 in Saturday's third round to move into a tie for 45th at 2-over-par. But Seo's round was far from ordinary as she had seven birdies to along with a 10 that she carded on the par-5 18th hole.
Seo began her round on the 10th hole and got off to a hot start. She was 3-under for her round when she headed to the 18th, which was her ninth hole of the day. A tee shot into the rough forced Seo to lay up with her second shot and she had about 100 yards remaining on her third shot. That's when the trouble started.
Her wedge shot from 100 yards landed short of the pin and rolled off the front of the green. She then hit three chip shots that rolled off the green back at her. Finally on her seventh shot of the hole, Seo hit her ball across the green. This time, she was left with a downhill chip back toward the pin. She didn't hit that one nearly far enough, nervous to hit the ball off the front again, she said. And then she two putted to finish off her 10 on the hole.
"I hope I learned a lot from that," Seo said with a slight laugh after her round. "I was just trying to hang on. I don't know. I was out of my mind after that hole."
But while it would have been easy for Seo to fold after taking a 10, she instead went on to shoot a 4-under 32 on her second nine which included back-to-back birdies on her final two holes.
"It was really hard to get back emotionally after that hole," Seo said. "It took about three holes and I had a birdie opportunity on the 10th hole and didn't make it. I was trying to think positive. Fortunately this was the third round and I had 27 more holes. So I was trying to think positive. It was a perfect round except for that one hole."
Back on track: After severe weather halted play on Friday afternoon with 14 players remaining on the course, the golfers were back at Siam Country Club early on Saturday morning to finish up the second round. Play resumed at 7:28 a.m. and the second round was officially completed at 8:27 a.m. Karrie Webb held a three-shot lead at the finish of the second round.
Everyone was able to complete the third round on Saturday but it did make for a long day for some of the leaders, including Webb who is now two shots back heading into Sunday's final round.
"It was definitely a lot steeper this evening after a 4:45 a.m. wakeup call this morning," Webb joked of the walk up the hill on the 18th. "So I'm glad to be done. There are still 18 holes to go so hopefully I'll be in good shape for tomorrow."
Hometown girl: One of the best rounds of the day belonged to 16-year-old amateur and Thailand native Ariya Jutanugarn, who shot a 7-under 65 to move into seventh at 9-under-par for the tournament.
Jutanugarn won the 2011 U.S. Junior Girls' Championship and was also named the 2011 Rolex Junior Player of the Year. She is no stranger to competing against LPGA players. In 2007 at age 11 years, 11 months and 2 days, Jutanugarn became the youngest to play in an LPGA event via qualifying.
Tweet of the Day: "With some young golfers in Thailand…" - @natalie_gulbis
Of Note…The top of the leaderboard is quite crowded heading into Sunday. There are 12 players within seven shots of the lead with 18 holes left to play in Thailand…Rolex Rankings No. 7 Jiyai Shin shot a 4-under 68 and sits two shots back at 12-under heading into Sunday's final round…There are currently two Americans - Stacy Lewis and Amanda Blumenhurst - in the top 10.
AI MIYAZATO, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Q. We'd like to welcome our current leader, Ai Miyazato, into the interview room. Congratulations on another great round out there today, a 7-under 65. I know it's been a long day out there for you, having to come out early and finish the second round. Can you just take me through your day and what it was like to get up so early and parts of two rounds today?
AI MIYAZATO; Like you said, it was a really, really long day for me. I've been up since 4 o'clock this morning so it's been awhile. But the temperature dropped down today so that helped a lot too. So that's why I think I could control myself out there. I kept a really strong focus. It was a really long day out there but I felt really good.
Q. You've had a couple chip-ins so far this week, including today. How much does that help your game?
AI MIYAZATO; I think I chipped in on the first day too so it's been like four times this week. My short game is in good shape. I just had a good feeling. I had a good image and I trusted by instincts so it was almost better than my putting laug. Why not? If you have a good image then you can chip it.
Q. We had talked before about how you won this event back in 2010. Just watching you out there it looks like you have a real comfort level out there on this golf course. Do you feel really good when you step out there on this course?
AI MIYAZATO; Yeah, I think i have a good feeling with this golf course. It's just the beginning of the season and a beautiful golf course and a nice temperature today. The people are really nice over here and I'm just having a really good time over here so that's why it makes me really comfortable. So that's the big reason why I can play really well out there.
Q. This is your first event of the season. Did you expect to be able to come out and shoot these kind of numbers right away? Or is there something different this year that has made this possible?
AI MIYAZATO; That's a good question. I just didn't have any idea when I went out there on the first day. I had a quality offseason but you never know what is going to happen you know. I just hoped that hopefully the results will follow. But so far I'm playing really good. Tomorrow I might feel some pressure because every other player is playing really good too. So I have to focus my game and just try to do my best tomorrow too.
Q. How relaxed were you today playing with Yani?
AI MIYAZATO; It was really fun. It's always fun to play with Yani. We talked a lot and I think we're very close. Just the attitude that she brings, I really like it. I think we have good vibes with each other.
Q. What topics did you talk with each other about?
AI MIYAZATO; It was just a lot of things. Not really important things but we did talk about one day practicing together. We also laughed about that since we are two different types of players, it could be a little fun. She also told me that I'm hitting the ball longer so that was a nice compliment.
Q. Did the rain last night affect the golf course and did you enjoy the cooler weather out there today?
AI MIYAZATO; I think the greens are definitely softer than yesterday and the fairway was kind of wet too. My driver distance was a little bit off. But then like I said, the greens are receptive so I could be really aggressive out there. So it was half and half, I think.
Q. How many times have you been in a playoff to decide a tournament?
AI MIYAZATO; I don't think it's many. But once on the LPGA Tour. I won it back at the 2009 Evian Masters with Sophie Gustafson.
Q. What's the most important thing tomorrow for you to win?
AI MIYAZATO; Well I think I just need to focus my game. I know everyone is going to try to be aggressive tomorrow. If I can stay in my game until the last putt, I think I have a chance tomorrow.
Q. Another great round out there for you today. You're making the 18th hole look like an absolute walk in the park.
YANI TSENG: I know it was really close. I tried to make eagle on that one. I thought the ball was in but I made a good try and finishing 7-under I was really happy today.
Q. Two consecutive rounds of 7-under-par so you are one shot behind Ai Miyazato going into the final round. How good are you feeling about tomorrow?
YANI TSENG: I feel good. I am always very happy to play with Ai. I feel relaxed and we both are two very different style of players. So it's always fun to learn something from her. We talked a lot, we talked everything on the golf course. It was really fun and it kept me really relaxed. Hopefully tomorrow I can play with her too.
Q. You exploded in 2011, winning the first four events that you played in worldwide. You didn't win the first event of the LPGA season last week but how special would it be for you to repeat here?
YANI TSENG: I really want to win this tournament. To be a defending a champion would be great. I always really enjoy it out here to see a lot of fans and I'm very excited about tomorrow and looking forward to it.
Q. You hit a number of great shots out on the golf course but your second into 13 today was particularly good.
YANI TSENG: I hit so many great shots today and I just feel like my game is there. I'm pretty confident and just will try to do it again tomorrow.
Q. Your putting, you had a number of putts that were within 10 feet. It's amazing how difficult they are to read and you got many to drop today.
YANI TSENG: It was tough putting out there, the greens are tough. But I try my best. You are going to miss some but I did try my best and I hope tomorrow I will continue to drop a lot of putts.
Q. A round of 71, not the best by your standards but you grinded it out on the course today
KARRIE WEBB: Yeah I'll take 1-under. I really didn't swing it well and it progressively got worse as it went on so I made some really good pars out there today when I really was struggling with my swing. I'm glad that I haven't played my way out of it, I'm only two shots back so I'll have a nice Thai massage tonight and my body will be back to normal by tomorrow hopefully.
Q. It was an early start this morning as you came out to finish the second round. You just said that the legs were feeling it on the 18th walking up that still.
KARRIE WEBB: It was definitely a lot steeper this evening after a 4:45 a.m. wakeup call this morning. So I'm glad to be done. There are still 18 holes to go so hopefully I'll be in good shape for tomorrow.
Q. You are very much in contention, you're a proven winner on the LPGA Tour with 38 career wins. Just two shots behind Ai Miyazato and Yani Tseng is one shot ahead of you, what are your thoughts going into tomorrow?
KARRIE WEBB: Hopefully I'll have more of the momentum that I had yesterday and the good swing feels and just the lightness in my body. Get out there and just play some good golf. The course this year is obviously softer than it has been. So there is going to be some low scores shot tomorrow. I think anyone from 9-under on up has a chance to win. Just go out there and play and see what I can shoot.
Q. Slippery putt there on the 18th. They aren't easy, are they?
KARRIE WEBB: No they are not. I saw Na Yeon's race by and I thought…I knew I had pushed it and that I had missed it but I didn't think I hit it four feet past so I was glad to see the next one go in.
Q. You've got a great record here in Asia. Is there something about these courses?
KARRIE WEBB: I've played particularly well at this golf course so hopefully that holds me in good sitting again tomorrow.
Q. So to shoot a 2-under 70 and have a 10 on your card, have you ever had anything like that?
HEE KYUNG SEO: No, it was a good experience. I hope I learned a lot from that. I was just trying to hang on. I don't know. I was out of my mind after that hole.
Q. That was pretty good hanging on right there. Can you take me through 18 and what happened with the 10?
HEE KYUNG SEO: Well my drive was in the rough, I was laying up before the bunker. For my third shot, I had about 100 to the pin and I thought I got a pitching wedge and I thought it was pretty good. But it landed short of the pin and it came back. The first lie in front of the green was not so good. The grass was burned by the sun and not much grass. We had preferred lies so it was OK. But I didn't swing through enough and it came back. After two short shots, I had no idea what was happening. I finished with a 10.
Q. After three short chips, you then hit the ball over the green and had a downhill chip to the hole. What were you thinking at that point?
HEE KYUNG SEO: It was super downgrain so I was afraid it was going to fall down again so I chipped really short. And then I tried to finish with two putts. There was no meaning to why I had a 10, three or four chips down there. I just wanted to finish that hole.
Q. How were you able to go on and shoot as well as you did on the next nine holes? Were you able to just put it behind you?
HEE KYUNG SEO: It was really hard to get back emotionally after that hole. It took about three holes and I had a birdie opportunity on the 10th hole and didn't make it. I was trying to think positive. Fortunately this was the third round and I had 27 more holes. So I was trying to think positive. It was a perfect round except for that one hole.