HSBC Women's Champions First-round notes and interviews

HSBC Women’s Champions
Tanah Merah Country Club
Feb. 23, 2012
First-round notes and interviews

Angela Stanford, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 17
Na Yeon Choi, -4, Rolex Rankings No. 2
I.K. Kim, -4, Rolex Rankings No. 11
Amy Yang, -4, Rolex Rankings No. 12
Yani Tseng, -1, Rolex Rankings No. 1

For the second time in three years, Angela Stanford holds the first-round lead at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore. The 34-year-old Texan carded a bogey-free 6-under-par 66, one shy of Lorena Ochoa’s tournament record of 65 (2008, second round), to take a two-shot advantage over five players after 18 holes of play at Tanah Merah Country Club. In 2010, Stanford held a share of the first-round lead with Cristie Kerr and Hee Young Park at 4-under-par 68 and went on to tie for ninth. Her career-best finish at the HSBC event came in 2009, when she tied for third.

Stanford’s day started with a birdie at the 10th, her first hole, before making the turn at 2-under-par 34. She added birdies on holes one, two, seven and the par-5 ninth – where she topped her second shot with a 3-wood, but recovered to drain a 30-foot birdie – to finish the day at 66.

Patience, please. Patience isn’t a virtue that comes easily to Angela Stanford, in fact, when it comes to holding the lead, she tends to force the issue. “As much as I think sitting here being 34 and think that I'm pretty mature, I'm not,” she said. “I'm still extremely impatient out there.” This time around, Stanford hopes to put less pressure on herself and let things come to her. In her 12th year on Tour, the Texan has four victories, the most recent coming at the 2009 SBS Open at Turtle Bay.

A pack of five players sit two shots behind Angela Stanford at the HSBC Women’s Champions. Five-time LPGA winner Na Yeon Choi, three-time LPGA winner I.K. Kim, two-time LPGA winner Momoko Ueda, 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu and Amy Yang each shot 68 on Thursday. Among them, Yang is the lone player without a victory on the LPGA. “I really want to have my first win on the Tour,” Yan said. “I'm going to keep trying hard. My game feels good.”

Momoko Ueda overcame an early-week stomach bug and a double bogey on her first hole of the day to stay in contention at the fifth-annual HSBC Women’s Champions. The 25-year-old began the day on the 10th hole with a double bogey, but played the next 17 holes in 6-under-par – holding the lead for much of the round – to finish the day with a 4-under-par 68. Ueda reeled off three-consecutive birdies on two separate occasions Thursday on holes 15, 16 and 17, then again on five, six and seven. “I had a good feeling today,” she said. “My start was so bad, but I stayed patient.” Ueda won the 2007 Mizuno Classic as a member of the LPGA of Japan (JLPGA) and returned in 2011 to claim her second-career victory at the same tournament, defeating Shanshan Feng in a three-hole, sudden death playoff.

Na Yeon Choi is looking for her second victory in four months in the region. Choi recorded her fifth-career LPGA victory in neighboring Malaysia last October at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. She has topped the $1 million mark in earnings in each of her four previous seasons on Tour including 2010, when she led the LPGA Official Money List with more than $1.8 million and won the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. She has finished in the top-10 of the two previous playings of the HSBC Women’s Champions, including a career-best sixth place finish at the Singapore-based event last season.

Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng battled a sore elbow en route to a 1-under-par 71. Tseng, the winner of last week’s Honda LPGA Thailand, admitted that her right elbow is prone to soreness following a three-week break from golf in the offseason. “Today it wasn't hurt, just sore,” she said. “I feel I'm in pretty good shape and just ice later. Yesterday, when hitting driver and hitting shots out of the rough, it's very painful. But I did some ultrasound and ice and physio work, so it's getting much better.” She carded three birdies and two bogies to begin the week five shots out of the lead. Last week, Tseng earned her 13th career LPGA victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand, overcoming a seven-shot first-round deficit.

Of note… Temperatures were in the mid 80’s on Thursday with light winds from the Northeast… Defending champion Karrie Webb shot even-par 72… 2010 HSBC winner Ai Miyazato shot 3-under-par 69, while 2009 winner Jiyai Shin carded a 2-under-par 70.

Angela Stanford, -6

ANGELA STANFORD: Well it was a pretty good start, birdied 10 and hit it pretty close on 11, in the past I think I've struggled with that stretch right there, 10,11, 12.
So the fact that I hit some pretty solid shots off the bat kind of gave me some confidence throughout the round.

MODERATOR: Can you just talk about the birdie at the 9th to take the outright lead?
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, the second shot was not a desirable outcome.
So the good news was, it stayed in the fairway and basically like laying up. I think it was probably sitting down a little bit in the fairway and we just kind of sit there for a while. Laid up to a pretty decent number and at that point I thought, well, if I can just give myself a shot at making birdie, we'll see what happens. Hit a really good putt and really enjoyed watching that last one go in.

MODERATOR: Can you just take us through the last two weeks, did you feel this round coming based on your play?
ANGELA STANFORD: Right before I left home, before Australia, I started hitting it; and there was things that I was thinking about in my swing that in 2008, 2009, they were the same kind of concepts but I was actually doing it again.

I think I got a little bit stronger in the off season in my lower body and that's really the key to my swing is how strong my lower body is. I felt pretty good coming into the year, and Australia, Royal Melbourne, is such a different golf course than I think anybody expected. It's more of a British Open style course.

So that was kind of difficult right off the bat. And then last week my final three rounds were under par. I felt pretty good coming into this week.

Q. Can you paint a picture of the 9th, we didn't realise quite what had happened to you; you need to be more explicit.
ANGELA STANFORD: I just need to say for all of you guys: I topped it.

Q. Your second shot?
ANGELA STANFORD: Yeah, second shot. We were like 215 to the front and like 250 to the flag. It seemed like the ball was kind of running away from me in the fairway, and looked like it was sitting down a little bit and I didn't hit it very well.

Q. Can you tell us when you last topped a shot like that?
ANGELA STANFORD: I can honestly tell you, I've never topped a shot and made birdie on the same hole. That's a first, right? But no, I cannot remember one.

Q. But if you do hit a bad shot, what is it? What is your usual bad shot?
ANGELA STANFORD: Nobody heard I topped it in there

Q. I'll tell them.
ANGELA STANFORD: My usual bad shot is starting right and ending left. So you know, that the thing is about golf, if you hit a bad shot, like if you top it in the fairway on No. 9 on your second shot, you still have an opportunity to make birdie. You know, if I hit my usual bad shot on that hole, I'm dropping another one.

So it's easy to laugh about it now, because I made birdie. I probably would still be laughing about it if I made par. But golf is just you have to be able to miss it better than anybody else. So, in that situation that was a good miss.

Q. After topping the ball, do you laugh?
ANGELA STANFORD: We laughed, because I mean, we had been standing there so long, and my caddie did say right away, "I wanted you to lay up" because I think he saw that the lie was kind of funny, too. Just think, try to get it up there as far as you can. And I had been hitting it pretty decent all day. So why not. And it worked out.

Q. You started birdie; starting early, would you say helps a little bit?
ANGELA STANFORD: For sure. Even my last round, I started extremely early. I think there's something about getting out on the golf course first; and it's very peaceful, and sometimes it's really good. That was really good for me last week. I needed to kind of get out there and be alone out there and get some things together.

I do; I enjoy being one of the first ones on the course, and it is a lot cooler around here then. I felt that on our back nine, about midway on our back nine, it gets pretty hot around 5 and 6 on the golf course; 5, 6, 7 and so it was starting to heat up out there.

Q. What club did you use?
ANGELA STANFORD: 3 wood. Nobody likes a 3 wood.

Q. (Inaudible.) how would that affect you for coming around?
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, I think today more than a couple of years ago helped just with confidence. You know, when you're playing with the best players in the world, you just have got to stay out in front of them.

So any chances you get to have a good day and get out in front of this field, you have to jump on it. So if anything, last week, I had a really bad first round. Well, you're playing catch up all week.

So at least now I can continue with my game plan and, you know, hopefully continue like this. But it just really hard when you're playing against the best when you dig a hole and to come back. Maybe your first round, you get comfortable on this course.

Q. Using different inaudible this time around?
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, it would be easy for me to sit here and say, I'm going to be patient. I'm not patient person. So, you know, that but sometimes you have to kind of fight some of these demons to grow up.

So, you know, as much as I think sitting here being 34 and think that I'm pretty mature, I'm not. I'm still extremely impatient out there.

You know, if anything, I'm going to use this week to just kind of let things come to me instead of getting impatient and forcing things, which usually is the case. I usually tend to press. I think everybody kind of does that.

So you just have to know when to take your chances and when to save par, and I haven't fully learned that lesson yet. I'm still working on it.

Q. You mentioned that does it help, that the crowds do you like that or do you prefer having more attention on yourself?
ANGELA STANFORD: I think in both cases you take positives from both. I think when you have a bunch of people following you, there is an adrenaline rush from that and you do stay more focussed with more people around.

People at home always ask me, like, how do you hit those shots with all of those people standing around you? Well, it kind of helps you. Kind of forms a tunnel and you kind of you know that people are making noise, so you just focus in a little bit more and you don't let little distractions bother you because you know they are out there.

So I think both sides can work for you. When there are a lot of people around, it helps with my focus.

Q. Do you have a coach you speak to every day?
ANGELA STANFORD: Yes. Like a swing coach?

Q. Yes.
ANGELA STANFORD: His name is Mike Wright. We don't speak every day over here but we've had an occasional e mail, and he'll send a text or an e mail and I'll text or e mail him.

Q. So did you text him when you mentioned the topped shot?
ANGELA STANFORD: Probably. Actually, he will probably read the transcript and he will probably text me before I text him (chuckling).

He likes for me to keep it fun. And you know, he's the type of guy that he'll probably tell me to try to work on that shot on the range anyway. So he's just really great about, laugh it off.

Q. You said you're impatient, but you're really placid, aren't you? You don't throw clubs.
ANGELA STANFORD: I threw one on the range yesterday. Caddie didn't like that. I have learned that it doesn't help. You know, it not going to help when you throw a club on the golf course it might today.
You know, I have a bit of a temper. And I'll slam a club occasionally, but it doesn't get you very far. I've learned that I'm wasting energy, and there have been moments where I've gotten so mad that you do kind of need to release that.

But I'm just learning that it's a waste, a waste of energy.

Q. Distance to the pin?
ANGELA STANFORD: I'm going to give you all the details now. 215 to the front well, 260 to the pin. So after I topped it, we had 191 to the front and 131 to the pin. And I made a birdie sorry, 191 to the front. 131 to the pin.

MODERATOR: Other way around
ANGELA STANFORD: Third shot I had 31 to the front and then 191 to the pin on the third shot. I'm just glad I made a birdie so I can laugh about it.

Na Yeon Choi, -4

MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Na Yeon Choi to the interview room at the HSBC Women's Champions. A 4 under par 68 in the first round; if you would, just tell us about your day today.
NA YEON CHOI: Well, very hot out there, and I had I think a pretty solid day, like the first day. I had one bogey on 16, but you know, I really don't have any regret for that shot.
And then I tried to focus on my game and then I tried to trust myself, and then me and my caddie, we worked very hard today.

MODERATOR: You said just before that after last week, you, and Paul, your caddie, kind of refocussed on your game. What kind of things did you talk about?
NA YEON CHOI: Well, actually like every beginning of the year, like first couple of tournaments, I had a very hard time for trusting myself.
So after last week, I talked to my caddie. Like I feel I couldn't trust myself last week in the third round and fourth round, and then he said, "Please, like when you felt something, just tell me and then we will figure out on the course. I will try to encourage you."

So I think like after bogey, he tried to, you know, encourage me and I think that was helping me.

MODERATOR: After the round, the fans really came to you. They really support you. How good does it feel to have such great fans here in Singapore?
NA YEON CHOI: Well, this is one of my favorite cities in Singapore. I mean, this is like fifth year, my fifth time I've been here, and then some fans and some friends are here, so they always support me. So I feel great here, and it feels like it reminds me of home.

Q. You said you had a bogey, but you didn't have any regrets for that shot. Can you describe that shot?
NA YEON CHOI: Okay. That hole, actually if I hit a solid driver, I can reach it on the green from the tee shot. But I missed to the right side of the pin and the pin was like three yards off the right.

So the pin position was very difficult for my second shot. And I tried a flop shot for the second shot, and I hit a little decel and my ball was short and my ball went into the bunker. I kind of missed the shot, but I don't have regret; I didn't have any choice for that situation. So I tried to trust that shot but I I had a bogey but still I think I had a good round.

Q. How do you like playing out there when it's really hot, hot?
NA YEON CHOI: Singapore reminds me of Seoul, like big city, tall buildings, a lot of people work hard. Singapore is one of my favorite cities. I mean, when I play in here, I have a lot of friends, Singaporean friends, and some friends always support me. I think that helps me a lot.

Q. Did you find the weather challenging today?
NA YEON CHOI: I did last week already. I played like this hot weather, so I think I'm used to it right now.

Q. How do you take care of yourself when you're travelling, anything special?
NA YEON CHOI: Well, no, not really. Maybe I travel with a lot of suitcase. I travel with my trainer and my caddie, so

MODERATOR: Do you work out on the road?
NA YEON CHOI: Yeah, that's why I hire my trainer. So I try to drink a lot of water on even the airplane and when I get here, I try to work out three or four times a week. I try to keep healthy.

Q. Have you tried any local food yet?
NA YEON CHOI: Not yet. Not yet.

MODERATOR: Well, you're used to the hot weather, because last year you won the Sime Darby event in Malaysia and it's always warm in Kuala Lumpur; right?
NA YEON CHOI: Actually I have a little sun allergy, like here (indicating). But I think when I play in hot, warm weather, I feel better, a lot better than when I play in cold weather. So you know, even in decent hit it further, and my body conditioning is a little flexible. So I feel better.

Q. The sun allergy, is that in hot weather or cold weather?
NA YEON CHOI: Hot weather, because I think it's too humid, so I feel really like painful like under my eye.

I.K. Kim, -4

Q. 4 under par today, 68, just talk about your day and what went right for you?
I.K. KIM: I had a good start. I almost made it on 1, and I birdied 2 and 3 and that kind of kept me going. On 4, I didn't have a very good drive but I had a really good up and down.

So I think I kept the momentum going, and did a lot of great things on the back nine. The wind was changing and it was hard to adjust, but you know, yeah, it was a good day. Everything was, you know, in the right place.

Q. Just talk about last night, with those diamonds on, how did you feel?
I.K. KIM: Oh, my God, it was good. It was something, I've never done it before, but I thought it was interesting. It was nice to wear those glamorous jewelry, the 4 million that Suzann had. It was a fun night.

Q. Do you think it's important for you guys to do stuff like that to show your glamorous or fashion side?
I.K. KIM: Yeah, I was talking to other friends, it was on the newspaper and they said like LPGA got glamorous, and then they got dirty. And I'm like, we didn't get any dirty. I thought it was a really fun night and I think a lot of people enjoyed it, so that's good.

Amy Yang, -4

Q. Amy, 4 under par 68, just tell me how you played today?
AMY YANG: Played really good today. Had only pars through seven holes, but after that, I made some good shots and good putts. Overall, a lot of things were working good in the afternoon.

Q. So you were even through seven, and then you were 4 under on the last 11. Did anything change?
AMY YANG: I was hitting the ball better, yeah. Shot certainly feels better from the eighth hole, and I think that's really helped.

Q. You've been really close, playing really well in the last year or so. Can you just talk about how much you want to win an LPGA event?
AMY YANG: Yeah, really want to have my first win on the Tour. I'm going to keep trying hard. My game feels good. I had great year last year. I have very like really good confidence from that. Looking forward to it.

Yani Tseng, -1

Q. We know what you did last week in the last three rounds after a bit of a poor start but you're a little bit better today in your first rounds?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, two shots better than last week. Today I had lots of birdie chances, missed a couple of putts, but that's okay, I finished 1 under, still not bad. Still three days to go and looking forward to make more birdies.

Q. Just watching you on those closing holes, probably in the last six or seven holes, you did miss a lot of opportunities, didn't you?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I did. I had a good stroke and my speed just a little off, and just work on it a bit and trust myself and more confidence.

Q. You hit a lot of very close iron shots, just the putting that was missing?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, that's why I just tell myself it's okay. Just keep building confidence every hole. My skills are in good shape and I'm hitting it good. So sometimes the ball is going to miss.

Q. This course is playing a little bit longer and you need a little more carry this year, as opposed to other years, which probably suits you a lot more, because you can carry the ball a long way. You must be feeling especially after last week's win, pretty confident?
YANI TSENG: I do feel pretty confident. This golf course every year I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to winning the tournament. I know the course pretty well and my iron shots are good, too, which is good on this golf course.

Q. How do you compare the front nine to the back nine?
YANI TSENG: Back nine was much better, hit shots closer to the pin. The front nine, I just didn't hit a good drive. My driving accuracy was bad. But I just stayed patient and tried to make birdies.
I missed slots of opportunities on the back nine but sometimes you're going to miss some putts, and sometimes you're going to make it. So just be patient and keep building confidence every hole, every shot and hopefully fighting back tomorrow.

Q. How is the course different compared to last year?
YANI TSENG: I think it's a little bit longer because it's raining, but everything's good. Your 14 clubs in the bag, it's a tough golf course to play. You just need to play smart on this golf course, and some of the par 5s, the par 4s, you're just happy if you make pars. So just need to play smart on this golf course.

Q. What happened on 16?
YANI TSENG: I missed a 3 foot putt. That one I didn't make a good stroke. But it's okay. I mean, sometimes you're going to miss. I just try to make it the next hole. But the next hole I still miss. It's okay. If I don't make it today, I'll make tomorrow.

Q. How is your elbow?
YANI TSENG: Still a little sore but it was okay. I mean, today it wasn't hurt, just sore. I feel I'm in pretty good shape and just ice later.
Yesterday, when hitting driver and hitting shots out of the rough, it's very painful. But I did some ultrasound and ice and physio work on my arms a little bit. So it's getting much better.

Q. What is the actual injury?
YANI TSENG: Triceps tendonitis.

Q. Did it affect your driving distance today?
YANI TSENG: Probably not. If I'm hitting straight, I don't worry about my driving distance.

Q. So much attention on you here; is it affecting your may in any way?
YANI TSENG: No, sometimes the attention it's fun. I enjoy it. But like two weeks ago, I really get so much more pressure than the last year. But after the win, I feel more comfortable and that gives me more confidence coming into this week.

Q. You looked very gorgeous last night; did you enjoy dressing up?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I enjoyed it. I walking with Tiffany jewelry and everything, catwalk, it's my first time to do it. So it's lots of fun, fun more than I think.

Q. So you were nervous before but enjoyed it?
YANI TSENG: I was very nervous. I was afraid I fall down, but everything was good. I was having fun.

Topics: HSBC Women's Champions, Notes and Interviews, Stanford, Angela, Choi, Na Yeon, Yang, Amy, Kim, I K, Tseng, Yani [+]

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