Kia Classic third-round notes and interviews

Kia Classic
La Costa Resort and Spa
Carlsbad, Calif.
Second-round notes and interviews
March 23, 2012

Yani Tseng -12, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Jiyai Shin -9, Rolex Rankings No. 8
Caroline Hedwall -7, Rolex Rankings No. 24

Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng is seeking her third victory of the season and yet another point toward the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame following a 69 on Friday at the Kia Classic. Tseng will try to capture her 15th career LPGA Tour win tomorrow as she takes a three-shot lead over Jiyai Shin into the final round at La Costa Resort and Spa. The 69 today was the eighth sub-70 round in her last nine attempts and the ninth consecutive under-par round dating back to the Honda LPGA Thailand for Tseng.

Tseng’s day, which climaxed with a 370 yard drive on the 18th hole where her ball hit the cart path, rolled over a bridge, could have been much better if not for four short birdie misses on the front nine. The 23-year-old also missed a short birdie putt on the 17th hole, but managed to maintain her lead entering final round play.

“No. 18 that was a pretty lucky shot,” Tseng said. “I don't know how that happened. It goes over the bridge, and the bridge was like three yards wide. People are telling me, Yani, you just hit a 370 yard drive there, so that was probably the longest drive I've ever hit.

“I was very happy because I just got lucky there. To be able to hit it on the green for the second shot. But overall with my round I just wasn't happy. I couldn't believe how much short putt I missed out there.”

Closing Time: This marks the 12th time in Yani Tseng’s career that she has led or co-led heading into the final round of a tournament. In the 11 previous instances, Tseng has gone on to win six times. She went 0 for 4 to start her career in 2008 and 2009, but since then she’s 6 for 7, her only loss coming at last year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, where Stacy Lewis became a Rolex First-Time Winner in 2011. Tseng was tied for the lead with Ai Miyazato heading into the final round of last week’s RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup before shooting a final-round 68 to capture the victory.

So how does Tseng feel heading into the final round of play this week?

“I kind of feel pretty relaxed,” Tseng said. “I mean, I was pretty happy today. But after I'm going to go putt a little bit and practice a little bit. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. I'll play with Jiyai, maybe. I mean, we're good friends, so I think we're going to have lots of fun on the golf course and try to beat each other.”

Return of the final-round queen? Jiyai Shin earned the nickname “Final Round Queen” early in her career for her propensity for coming back and winning in the final rounds. Now she’ll have another opportunity to see if she can stage a fourth-round comeback.

Shin will enter Sunday sitting three strokes behind Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng. For Shin, who lost to Sandra Gal on the 72nd hole at last year’s Kia Classic when it was played at Pacific Palms just outside Los Angeles, it will be another chance to claim a tournament that she would very much like to win.

“This tournament is a Korean company that sponsors it, so I'm all the time thinking about that,” Shin said. “I appreciate the sponsor every time. In California, here they have a lot of Korean people, so they're watching and cheering for me, so it feels like I'm really ready to go when I play. The last couple years I played good in this tournament, so I only have good memories.”

In addition to her runner-up finish at last year’s event, Shin also finished T3 when the 2010 Kia Classic was played here at La Costa Resort.

Walking on Sunshine: Jiyai Shin has two top-10 finishes already this season and has finished no worse than 18th in her four previous events this year. So what has been a key to Shin’s strong play at the start of the year? Shin said that one thing she worked on this offseason was improving the way that she walks during her round. Sound strange? The 23-year-old South Korean that she felt an increased confidence in her walk might help her overall demeanor.

“I don't know when I got the problem, but last year when I looked at my walking, it looks like tired and so flat,” Shin said. “So I tried to get more confidence with walking first.

“So when I play with a strong player, some people they already feel like oh, she's good, she's good. They already give up before they start. But I know how I'm good, and I have a lot of confidence right now in my shot and my putting is okay. So I just keep focusing for my confidence and for my play.”

A birdie hole: There were plenty of birdies to be seen on the 17th hole during Saturday’s third round, just not the typical golf kind. A flock of coots took over the final two holes on the South Course during play and made for an interesting sight as they mingled on the 17th green.

Yani Tseng was asked if it was a little bizarre to see all the birds on the green at 17 when she was hitting her approach shot in from the rough.

“That was very funny because at the beginning of today I just told my caddie that the ducks might be trained before because they never walk on the green,” Tseng said with a laugh. “They only walk on the fairway. Until the 17th hole, I saw like all the birds on the green. I was really surprised.

She hit her shot to around four-feet without knocking any of the birds, but she wasn’t able to make a “birdie” of her own as she missed the putt.

“I was ready to hit, and I see all the birds there and I backed out again,” Tseng added. “I said, I think I'm going to hit the birds and I don't want that. Is there anyway the birds can go away? And my caddie said, if I run there, the birds are going to run away, but if I come back, they're going to go back on the green again. And my caddie just told me, you won't hit a bird, and I said, okay. Then I didn't make birdie, too.”

Chasing No. 1: Caroline Hedwall has yet to win on the LPGA Tour, but she is no stranger to what it takes to pull out a victory. Hedwall spent the majority of the 2011 season playing on the Ladies European Tour and captured four victories on the LET en route to earning the Tour’s Rookie of the Year honors.

“I think I'm used to the situation,” said Hedwall, who will enter Sunday’s final round five shots back of Tseng. “It's not really any different from playing in Europe. I feel the same pressure wherever I am, and hopefully I can play well.”

And while Hedwall will be trying to chase down the No. 1 player in the world, she understands what her approach will have to be going into the round.

“I know that she knows how to play well under pressure, and obviously, I'm going to have to get off to a good start and try to put as much pressure as possible on her,” Hedwall said. “She knows how to win. That's obvious.”
Moving on Up! Final-round tee times for the 2012 Kia Classic have been adjusted to account for inclement weather in the Sunday forecast. Tee times will begin at 7:30 a.m. PT in threesomes off the first and 10th tees with the leader group finishing on the 18th hole between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m.

The low round of the day belonged to Sun Young Yoo, who shot a 5-under 67. The round helped Yoo to jump from a T9 into sole possession of fourth place at 7-under-par. She’ll enter Sunday’s final round sitting four shots back of leader Yani Tseng.

Tweet of the Day: “You know you're doing OK when your drive bounces on a cart path over a bridge on the 18th. Yani, making it look too easy.” -- @Golfweek_Baldry

YANI TSENG, Rolex Rankings No. 1

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our current leader Yani Tseng into the interview room. Congratulations. Nice round of 69 today. Some little interesting moments at the end of the round for you, including that drive on 18. Can you just take me through the day and some of your thoughts on the round overall?
YANI TSENG: Actually on No. 18 that was a pretty lucky shot. I don't know how that happened. It goes over the bridge, and the bridge was like three yards wide. People are telling me, Yani, you just hit a 370 there, so that was probably the longest drive I've ever hit.
It was fun. I was very happy because I just got lucky there. To be able to hit it on the green for the second shot. But overall with my round I just wasn't happy. I couldn't believe how much short putt I missed out there. I mean, five or six times, especially on the front nine, four in a row, and I didn't make any putts.
But I stayed really patient today. I kept telling myself, it's okay. You just need to keep hitting the shot close to the pin, and one day you will make it. And that's all I kept telling myself like one day, one hole, you've got to have one hole to make it.
So with 3‑under and bogey‑free today, it was so‑so. I feel like I could have shot so much better than I did today, so much better than 3‑under.
But I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully the putts will drop in because the greens were pretty bumpy playing in the afternoon. But I heard tomorrow's going to be bad weather. So hopefully I stay patient another day and I'm looking forward to it.

THE MODERATOR: That putt on 17 that you were talking about the frustration, it looked like you were a little frustrated after that one. Did you have to take a breath? Was it starting to kind of build when you were missing some shorter putts like that?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, on 17, I couldn't believe I missed that. I made a good stroke. I see my ball it was like boom, boom, boom, and it jumped to the right. It was just like, what is this happening? I mean, you can see very clear the ball is jumping to the right. It's not like I misread it or something.
That's sometimes going to happen like this on this golf course. So I guess the only thing is to stay patient and try to make a good stroke on every putt.

THE MODERATOR: You've become pretty accustomed heading into the final round with the lead. Is there any different mentality that you take when you do go into Sunday with a three‑shot lead like you have today?
YANI TSENG: No, no, I kind of feel pretty relaxed. I mean, I was pretty happy today. But after I'm going to go putt a little bit and practice a little bit. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. I'll play with Jiyai, maybe. I mean, we're good friends, so I think we're going to have lots of fun on the golf course and try to beat each other.

THE MODERATOR: Jiyai actually said how excited she was. She was thinking if she made some birdies down the stretch, she might get to play with you tomorrow.
YANI TSENG: I can't remember the last time we played. But in the last three weeks she's always in front of me, or I'm always in front of her. So we're just one time last year we practiced together in Orlando. So I haven't played with her for a long time. I think we're both going to make some birdies out there.

Q. You've had two chip‑ins and the drive off the cart path. Have you had any other breaks that we haven't seen this week?
YANI TSENG: No, probably not. But I haven't missed that many short putts in one day though. I mean, last week I had three in one day, but today I had like four or five. But I just stayed really patient.
But I guess I got some good breaks and I got some bad breaks. This is golf. Some things are going to happen, and that's why golf is so much fun.

Q. Jiyai mentioned playing with you in Singapore. Does that ring a bell? Did you guys play together there?
YANI TSENG: This year? We did? I'm sorry. I must have forgotten.

Q. She had a similar series of short putts. She actually missed three short putts right around the turn and then came back and made a couple long birdies. Just sort of talk about mentally how you get over that and then start making putts?
YANI TSENG: It's tough because, like I say, you just need to keep telling yourself to be patient. Keep telling yourself this is going to happen. It's going to happen to everybody, not just me. It's going to happen to everybody on these greens.
So be patient and try to make sure you go through your routine and do the best you can. If you miss, just smile because it's going to happen. You made it and just comes up a little bit because these greens are just like this.
Tomorrow I'm just going to be really patient all day. But of course I'm still hoping to drop some more putts tomorrow.

Q. They're anticipating some bad weather tomorrow. That's why tee times have been moved up. Does that just give you one more thing that you have to think about tomorrow, or is that maybe a good thing for you that you're going to be teeing off early?
YANI TSENG: I don't know. I think it's a good thing. You finish early. You're driving back home. I have a house in Beaumont. My sister still lives there, so it's a good way to finish early. I heard the weather's going to be bad, and I love the bad weather. I like the wind and the rain. When we played the British Open, it's always like that.
But sometimes you don't expect that the weather is going to be like that here. But last week I had a one‑time experience, so I don't worry about too much. Tomorrow I'll just keep warm.

Q. Did you miss four straight short putts on the front?
YANI TSENG: Yeah.

Q. What were the distances on those, and what were the holes?
YANI TSENG: On number 1, I made a good putt. Number 2 I missed a six‑footer. Number 3, I missed a three‑footer. Number 4, I missed a five‑footer, and number 6, I missed a six‑footer.

Q. Then the one on 17, I know you were disappointed with that because that's below the hole.
YANI TSENG: Yeah, that's about three or four feet. So, yeah, that's about it.

Q. What was it like standing in the rough, hitting your third shot on 17, and there's like three dozen coots on the green? It's one of those bizarre scenes because you just don't see it in professional golf. What were you thinking? When you're trying to focus and concentrate on where you want to hit your ball on the green and all you see is birds?
YANI TSENG: I know. That was very funny because at the beginning of today I just told my caddie that the ducks might be trained before because they never walk on the green. They only walk on the fairway.
Until the 17th hole, I saw like all the birds on the green. I was really surprised.
But I was ready to hit, and I see all the birds there and I backed out again. I said, I think I'm going to hit the birds and I don't want that. Is there anyway the birds can go away? And my caddie said, f I run there, the birds are going to run away, but if I come back, they're going to go back on the green again. And my caddie just told me, you won't hit a bird, and I said, okay. Then I didn't make birdie, too.
So I hit a good shot, and I didn't hit the birds. I was pretty lucky because all the birds were on the green. But that was a great shot I hit. I was just thinking my yardage and where I'm going to hit it. I wasn't thinking if I'm going to hit anything.

Q. The back nine, you didn't hit it very well in spots. You were all over the place, but you saved par. You stayed patient. Was the back nine kind of evidence of how you're playing now? That even with these bad shots you can recover.
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I mean, if you're on the green, it's easier to recover. Just trying to make two putts. But like you say, on the back nine, I don't have many chances, many birdie chances. I was kind of hitting all over the place.
But I stayed patient. I hit on the green, even if it was ten yards or 15 yards, I still tried to make two putts and just save par for everything. I was probably just trying too hard. On the back nine, I didn't have good yardage on my second shot, so that's why sometimes I was finishing very short or finishing too long. Sometimes you just need a little luck to have a full shot or have an easy shot to hit it.

Q. How was playing with Se Ri Pak?
YANI TSENG: You know, we were having fun. I had so much fun playing with her because we've been playing many, many times. But I've got to say I was not as nervous as four years ago. So today I had so much fun and we talked some. She's a great person, and she's always very nice.
She always gave me some experience playing on the Tour. But like today we didn't talk a lot because on the back nine I was all over the place, so we weren't able to walk together very much. But just having so much fun to play with her.

Q. What did you talk about?
YANI TSENG: I was asking where is good food around here. Oh, I was saying lots of Asian players ‑‑ Asian families live around here, because today there were so many Koreans on the golf course. I felt like I was playing in Korea. So there was a big crowd out there, and that's what we were talking about.
We were talking about that she was still living in Palm Springs, and she was training there too. That kind of stuff.

 

JIYAI SHIN, Rolex Rankings No. 8

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Jiyai Shin into the interview room. Congratulations on a great round today, 4‑under par.
JIYAI SHIN: Yes, thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Putting yourself right up there in the final group for tomorrow. I know you're very familiar with being in that position, but just tell me your thoughts about heading into tomorrow a couple shots behind Yani.
JIYAI SHIN: I have another 18 holes, and then I'm just three shots behind Yani. So I think 18 is all I need (laughing).
I played with Yani in Singapore, and we're very close. We're very good friends, so I'm really excited to play with Yani. She hit it really long, so I just keep focusing on my game.

THE MODERATOR: Take me through the round today. What was working well for you and what was your goal heading into the round?
JIYAI SHIN: This morning when I swung, the feel was so good, so I knew I'd play well today. The first three holes, I made all birdies, so it was a good start. I tried to stay close to the leader. But since 8 to 12 I missed a lot of short putts, so I lost score on those holes. But I made three birdies on the back nine. So I prefer that for tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: I was going to say when you get off to that hot start, three birdies in the first three holes, are you thinking a pretty low number in your head, or knowing this golf course, were you just trying to maintain that momentum?
JIYAI SHIN: Just a couple minutes. I was thinking for the lower score. Because last year on this tournament I hit 9‑under par on the second round, so I was thinking, oh, maybe I have a chance for 9‑under.
But I know this course very well too. It's pretty hard, and the greens are very tough and hard to read. I just keep focusing every shot.

THE MODERATOR: Last year you did come so close to winning this event. Came down to the final hole before Sandra hit that wedge shot in and sunk the putt. What would it mean for you to be able to come back this year and be able to pull out a victory here?
JIYAI SHIN: First, this tournament is a Korean company that sponsors it, so I'm all the time thinking about that. I appreciate the sponsor every time. In California, here they have a lot of Korean people, so they're watching and cheering for me, so it feels like I'm really ready to go when I play.
The last couple years I played good in this tournament, so I only have good memories.

Q. You hit a real rough stretch there right around the turn with the missed putts at 9, 11 and 12. They all looked very short, within maybe three feet. What was happening there?
JIYAI SHIN: This green is pretty bumpy. So when I hit it just straight, it bumped to the right or to the left. I just tried my best every shot. But I was just thinking it was unlucky.

Q. You turned it around very quickly, because then you made rather long putts at 13 and 14 for birdies. How do you get over the frustration of what you went through those previous four holes?
JIYAI SHIN: Actually after the 12th hole when I missed the short putt I talked to my caddie. He said what are you thinking? I said, I don't know what I'm thinking (laughing). So the first front nine, the first six holes my putting was perfect. It felt smooth and was hitting perfect.
So I just kept reminding myself on my putting on the front nine so that helped me make more birdies on the back nine.

Q. What difference does it make now when you go into a final round and you're chasing Yani and knowing how well she's done over the past year and how many times she's won? Does it change your mindset at all about what you have to do in the final round?
JIYAI SHIN: I think so. First, I played with Caroline today. She played good, but on the back nine I'm thinking I really want to play with Yani tomorrow. So I focused more on the 17th for a birdie. Because I know if I make that putt, I play with Yani for tomorrow.
I was really looking to play with Yani on the final day. So she plays good, and I know she's strong, but it's a good challenge for me.

Q. You've been in contention a lot the last three years. What have you learned that you're going to be able to apply tomorrow when you go out there with Yani?
JIYAI SHIN: Actually, off‑season I'm practicing and training on my walking. I don't know when I got the problem, but last year when I looked at my walking, it looks like tired and so flat. So I tried to get more confidence with walking first.
So when I play with a strong player, some people they already feel like oh, she's good, she's good. They already give up before they start. But I know how I'm good, and I have a lot of confidence right now in my shot and my putting is okay. So I just keep focusing for my confidence and for my play.

 

CAROLINE HEDWALL, Rolex Rankings No. 24

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Caroline Hedwall into the interview room. Congratulations on another solid round 70 for you today. Can you take me through the day and how it was out there for you?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I don't really remember my round. I just forget about it every time I get in, but I felt like I played pretty solid. I could have made a couple more birdies. I felt like I left a lot of putts short, but hopefully they'll roll in tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: I know not quite the ending you would have liked with the bogey on 18. Can you take me through that hole?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: I just wanted to hole the putt, and got a long second putt. Oh, well, I will forget about it pretty soon.

THE MODERATOR: Still put yourself in position heading into Sunday to be in contention. To be up there towards the final round, how excited are you to be in this position heading into Sunday?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I love being in this position. This is what I practice for. I'm very excited about Sunday to start.

THE MODERATOR: I know this is unfamiliar territory on the LPGA Tour for you, but it's not overall. You had such a successful year last year on the Ladies European Tour, named Rookie of the Year. How much experience did you gain by capturing all your victories there last year and by being able to do what you were able to do on that Tour?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I think I'm used to the situation. It's not really any different from playing in Europe. I feel the same pressure wherever I am, and hopefully I can play well.

Q. It looks like Yani's going to be the leader heading into tomorrow's round. What difference does it make chasing a player of her caliber? Someone that's been up there in that No. 1 position for so long? Do you not even think about who is in that lead spot when you head out to play?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I know that she knows how to play well under pressure, and obviously, I'm going to have to get off to a good start and try to put as much pressure as possible on her. She knows how to win. That's obvious.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the decision to play on the LPGA Tour this year.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I just felt like having such a good year on the European Tour last year, I felt ready to compete against the best players in the world. So it was a pretty simple decision when I knew I had my full card out here.

Q. I believe it was the 12th hole you ended up turning over a club and hitting the shot that was right next to the bunker. Talk about that. Do you enjoy those situations that kind of test your ingenuity?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I do. I really like challenges. But it's fun because when I practice my short game, play around a lot. I felt comfortable hitting that shot. You just have to dare, and that's what I did, and it ended up good.

Q. You ended up making that putt, didn't you?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yeah, that's right.

Q. You played college golf at Oklahoma State. That's obviously been a real powerhouse of a men's program. I'm not positive who was there when you were there. But I know guys like Kevin Tway and Rickie Fowler.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Peter Uihlein and Morgan Hoffman. Yeah, there are plenty of them.

Q. So you knew a lot of those guys from your time there?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, Rickie played on the team my first year and a lot of other great guys, obviously. It's great to see them practice and hit the ball. It was a great experience.

Q. Did you ever get involved in matches with those guys or playing with them in charity tournaments or anything like that?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: A couple of times, but I like to practice by myself. It's enough just to look at how they practice and how they hit the ball.

Q. Your English is impeccable. Have you been studying it from a young age?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, thanks. No, I pretty much learned English when I came over to the states. I obviously knew a little bit of English before I came over here, but that helped a lot just to help to speak English all the time.

Q. What did the Solheim Cup experience do for your confidence?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, it was just an unbelievable week. After that week I felt like I could compete against the best players in the world. Suzann was there and Cristie Kerr was there and a lot of good players. It was great for my confidence.
I also felt that I could perform under pressure because that's pretty much the most pressure you can get.

Topics: Kia Classic, Tseng, Yani, Hedwall, Caroline, Shin, Jiyai, Notes and Interviews [+]

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