Kraft Nabisco Championship
Mission Hills Country Club
Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Second-round notes and interviews
March 30, 2012
Yani Tseng -8, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Haeji Kang -7, Rolex Rankings No. 120
Sun Young Yoo -6 Rolex Rankings No. 37
Lindsey Wright -6, Rolex Rankings No. 94
Na Yeon Choi -5, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Se Ri Pak -5, Rolex Rankings No. 33
Amy Alcott, 1988 Kraft Nabisco Champion, 2016 Olympic course design team member
The world's No. 1 player moved into more familiar territory after the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Friday, as Yani Tseng took a one-shot lead into the weekend of the season's first major. Tseng shot a second consecutive 4-under-par 68, putting her at 8-under through two rounds and giving her a one-shot lead over South Korean Haeji Kang.
Tseng started from the 10th tee on Friday and carded three birdies on the back nine and two on the front, recorded her only bogey on the first hole. The 23-year-old has now held at least a share of the lead in nine of her last 10 rounds, the lone exception coming after Thursday's first round at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage when she trailed first-round leader Amy Yang by two shots.
Haeji Kang finds herself in an unexpected position tomorrow playing in the lead group alongside Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng. She likened her expectations to playing her first LPGA round with Michelle Wie in Hawaii, where the crowds lived and died with each one of the Hawaiian's shots.
"The first tournament as a rookie I played with Michelle Wie in Hawaii, so that was a really good experience for me because everyone just walks away when I try to putt when Michelle finishes," said Kang. "But that's what you've got to handle out there. I mean, what can I do? So I'll just do my best."
Kang is a fourth-year LPGA member with just two top-10 finishes to her credit. Her career-best finish in a major came at the 2011 RICOH Women's British Open. She noted that her swing has undergone several changes since she first arrived on the LPGA Tour in 2009. Kang currently works with Kevin Smeltz from the David Leadbetter Academy.
Kang sits only one shot behind the world's No.1 player in the world after carding a 4-under-par 68. Kang notched four birdies on the front nine and three on the back and bogeys on Nos. 5, 8 and 17.
Back on top…Lindsey Wright's career-best finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship came back in 2009 when she finished fourth. Three years later, and after having gone through some personal travails, Wright finds herself in contention for golf's first major once again.
Wright shot a second-round 71 to put herself in a T3 at 6-under par, two shots behind leader Yani Tseng heading into the weekend. But it took a while for Wright to get her round started. After eight straight pars to start the round, she eagled the par-5 ninth, holing out her third shot from the rough. She used a 52-degree wedge to drain the shot from 93 yards. She followed up the eagle by sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on the 10th which moved her into a tie for the lead with Yani Tseng at 8-under-par.
So what was Wright's thought when she was tied for the lead?
"At that point I thought I think I'm going to make the cut," Wright said with a laugh. "So I was like, yeah, this is good."
After sharing her battle with depression and anxiety in her post-round interviews on Thursday, Wright said that she got a lot of positive feedback from friends, family and other players on Tour who appreciated her sharing her struggle.
"I check my emails every day, and I had about six hours to spare this morning," Wright said. "So I was checking some emails and Facebook. It was really good positive responses from people. It was encouraging. A couple of people who I played golf with and I know from playing golf came out and said, 'I feel the same way and I'm struggling right now. It's encouraging to have somebody like yourself say something.' It's nice to know that it's going to help somebody else by saying how I felt and maybe come to terms with their own personal problems. "
Sun Young Yoo shot back-to-back rounds of 3-under-par 69 leaving her in prime position heading into the weekend rounds. The seventh-year LPGA Tour member says she's been playing well since the RR Donnelley Founders Cup two weeks ago. Dropping a few more putts just might make the difference for the South Korean.
"I've been hitting it so good since Phoenix," said Yoo. "I was hoping that I could make some more putts today, but I didn't make any. I have two days to go, I have a great feeling and I'm looking forward to it.
Grand slam, thank you ma'am? LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Se Ri Pak keeps herself in contention heading into the weekend after shooting a second-round, 3-under-par 69 to put her at 5-under for the tournament. A win at the Kraft Nabisco this week would complete the South Korean's career grand slam.
Pak has won three LPGA Championships (1998, 2002, 2006) and one U.S. Women's Open (1998) and Women's British Open (2001). Her return to Mission Hills Country Club this week notches the 14th time Pak will play for the honor to leap into Poppie's Pond, something that has been in the back of her mind consistently.
"So this is my 14th time playing in Kraft," said Pak. "I'm waiting long enough to be up there at least once to get this trophy. It's taken a little while, but hopefully this week."
Pak says she feels added pressure from wanting a tournament so badly for so long, something she thinks may have a negative effect on her play.
"Of course, you think so much about how you really want a tournament and I gave myself a lot of pressure, so I don't think that helps my game a lot," Pak added. "So I'm very happy for this week. I'm playing as best I can, and I'm trying to enjoy golf as much as I could.
"So that's my weekend thought," said Pak. "So hopefully it's working well until Sunday, and we'll see you guys back here again."
Sticking around for the weekend: A total of 82 players made the cut, which fell at 4-over-par 148
Ace Alert! Jenny Shin earned shot of the day honors on Friday but also gets the best freebie pickup. Shin aced the par-3 17th from 176 yards with a 5 hybrid and was also awarded the keys to a 2012 Kia Optima Limited. Kia, the Official Automotive Partner of the LPGA, will give players the opportunity each day this week to win a free Kia Optima Limited with a hole in one on the 17th hole.
Wanna be a baller… Yani Tseng grew up playing basketball almost every day as a kid in Taiwan and still likes to hit the hardwood from time to time. Instead of a customary relaxing day many players like to take after their rounds, Tseng opted to have some fun and played some basketball on Friday afternoon.
But Tseng will not be giving up her day job for hoops any time soon.
"My putting is better than basketball," said Tseng. "But I like to run around and do some shooting and play three on three with other friends.
A self-proclaimed basketball fan, Tseng roots for the Orlando Magic and loves the recent media whirlwind around Taiwanese overnight superstar and Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.
"I've never met him before, but I would love to," said Tseng. "I mean, he's great. His parents are from Taiwan, and I'm so happy to see an Asian and Taiwanese player that is a huge star and plays so good in the NBA. I think that's going to give lots of motivation to lots of Asian people that maybe they can play on an NBA team. It's huge."
The First Leaper: Amy Alcott has been onsite for the week at Mission Hills Country Club, a place that holds a special place in her heart. Alcott is responsible for starting the famed tradition of leaping into Poppie's Pond after she took the plunge for the first time after her 1988 Kraft Nabisco Championship win.
She said it was a bit spontaneous on her end and did not have any intention of starting one of the most recognizable celebrations in golf.
"Well, I had three of the young girls, saying 'why did you jump in the lake?'" said Alcott. "I think it's something I had no idea that I was going to start such a tradition back in 1988. But I guess I'm glad I did."
Alcott joked about the overall reception that her jump received and the quality of the water that filled Poppie's Pond back then.
"I'm still in close touch with the Russian judge that gave me a 10 for the jump," said Alcott. "The Latvian judge didn't like me too much. But the water was very murky back in '88."
Alcott believes that whoever does get the honor of taking the leap this year, needs to appreciate the great glory that comes with it.
"I'm a big believer that the young woman who wins the event this week, if she does it or not, I'm a big believer in the young players in women's golf embracing their stardom," said Alcott. "This is the entertainment business. I had no idea what an impact it would make, but I was pleased about that. Always pleased. It was fun. It was just a moment of exuberance."
Olympic spirit…Alcott will add another notable accomplishment to her storied golf career but it won't come from any playing feat. She was named to the course design team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The team of Hanse Golf Design beat out seven other finalists when the selection was announced earlier this month.
Alcott hopes her involvement with the Olympics can translate into international growth of the game.
"My presentation was more about the legacy of golf," said Alcott. "I talked about how I grew up in Southern California, chipping and putting on my front lawn, putting into soup cans, watching the CBS golf classic, and Shell's Wonderful World of Golf, and I was inspired by the game.
"If golf can do that for me, if I can catch the bug from that, I can only imagine the kids in South America, and what this could leave behind, and what this would open up," Alcott added. "It could open up caddie programs. It could open up programs similar to the First Tee Program, and all the things that it could possibly do."
Ratings up: Golf Channel's round one tournament coverage of the Kraft Nabisco Championship delivered a 0.5 HH rating / 507,000 viewers, surpassing 2011 as the highest rated and most-watched round one for this event in 19 years. Viewership for round one on Golf Channel is up 12 percent vs. 2011, and up 193 percent vs. last time the event aired on ESPN2 (0.1 / 172,000) in 2010.
Tweet of the Day: "Check out Lindsey Wright's golf bag. Girl needs some sponsor love!"-- @Golfweek_Baldry
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the current second round leader and Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng to the interview room. You shot 4‑under par 68 today for the second day in a row. Was today better or worse than yesterday?
YANI TSENG: I think today was much better than yesterday. This morning I felt more energy coming out today, more than yesterday, and I just feel like today my focus was so much better than yesterday. I'm hitting very consistently today. I took advantage of every chance out there. Everything else was very good today, and I was very happy that I finished 4‑under today.
THE MODERATOR: So you finished your round and told some fans you were going to go play basketball. Is that true?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I might go to some cardio and play some basketball with my team and have fun.
THE MODERATOR: Do you think you'll be able to refocus after a hard game of basketball and the third round?
YANI TSENG: I'll take it easy. I was really happy how much fresh I am in the last few days. So I know my game's there and I need to keep focused on it and be patient all week.
THE MODERATOR: How good did it feel to finish with a birdie at nine?
YANI TSENG: It feels very, very good. To finish with birdies, I was very happy. And I saved par on number 17 and number 8, because I was like 16 and it was a big break. That was a huge save par for me, and I'm just very happy.
THE MODERATOR: If you are the leader at the end of the day, that will be nine of the last ten rounds on the LPGA that you've been the leader at the end of day. How does that make you feel?
YANI TSENG: I don't think about it all that much. I just kind of focus on every day. I still have two more days to go, and this golf course suits me really well and is in very good condition. I heard tomorrow's going to be very windy in the afternoon, so I just need to be patient.
Q. Yani, when did you become a basketball player? Are you a fan of any particular person or team?
YANI TSENG: Orlando Magic, because I live there. I played basketball since I was very young, almost every day I played. Then when I came to the states, I didn't have many friends here to play with. But it seems that my team, my manager, used to be a basketball player, so we play a lot together.
Q. Can you take us through that final birdie shot by shot, and what kind of momentum it gives you when you finish a round with a birdie?
YANI TSENG: I was feeling just so happy. It just made my day. Making me feel that I can relax and do something more fun. I hit a 3‑wood on the tee shot, and hit it very good down the middle. The second shot I hit a rescue to 75 yards to the pin, and hit a little 58 wedge and finished with 60 and made a putt.
Q. Should Orlando send Dwight Howard to the Lakers somehow?
YANI TSENG: Oh, no. Hopefully, he stays.
Q. Yesterday you said you shot 68 and were disappointed in the round. You weren't nearly as disappointed today, it doesn't sound like.
YANI TSENG: No, I felt very happy. Doesn't matter about the score. I think it's about (Indiscernible). I felt today my focus was so much better, but yesterday I had a couple shots I just missed, a couple shots I wasn't committed and I just hit it. But today every shot I gave my hundred percent focus on every shot. I the goal was the same, but I feel so much happier today.
Q. The score at 8‑under to lead this tournament after two rounds is that about where you figured it would be, or was the course getting tougher today?
YANI TSENG: Yes, I think the greens were much faster today. So the first couple holes I kind of got used to the speed again, but everything else on the course is perfect.
I really enjoy playing on this golf course and always have so much fun. This golf course is very challenging. You need to hit it on the fairway to give yourself more birdie chances.
Q. Every once in a while you hear a player say it's tiring to lead a golf tournament after three or four rounds in a single tournament. You've done this over a course of almost a month now. You don't seem to be tired from carrying that weight?
YANI TSENG: No, you never get tired when you want to win a tournament. I mean, it's very enjoyable. I was saying yesterday I just figured out I'm just kind of tired after the last two wins when you come into this week. Because normally two or three weeks is perfect for me, but this week the first few days I felt a little tired.
But after yesterday I had a good sleep, and I relaxed a few days. And I think I'm coming back with a fresh focus, and I'm really happy now.
Q. All sports but particularly golf are games of confidence. Have you ever been on a streak where you have felt more confident? Does golf seem easy right now?
YANI TSENG: I don't think it was easy. I just kind of play my best out there. But I think every tournament's different. Every ‑‑ because this tournament I played like four times already, so I know the course better. So I think that gave me a little more confidence so, maybe I can say it's easier, but I don't know.
I think every shot is a different challenge. You just need to do your best. You need to give a hundred percent effort for every shot. Nothing is easy about it. Even three‑foot putts are still hard. You just need to focus on the things that you can do and not try to think too much.
Q. If you had grown up in the U.S., do you think you might have been a basketball player?
YANI TSENG: I'm too short, no. I don't think so. I'm really happy I'm a golfer now. I really enjoy what I'm doing.
Q. How good are you? Are you a guard, I assume? Do you like to shoot the ball or play defense?
YANI TSENG: My putting is better than basketball. But I like to run around and do some shooting and play three on three with other friends.
Q. When did you first pick up the game or start playing basketball?
YANI TSENG: When I was fourth or fifth grade. So 8 or 10, yeah.
Q. How come?
YANI TSENG: I just love it because my house in Taiwan is very close to the park, and there is a basketball court there. So I just go there and play a lot and make some new friends over there.
Q. Did you play with guys or just girls?
YANI TSENG: Both, both.
Q. Since you're in a basketball mode, Jeremy Lin is of Taiwanese decent. His parents are born in Taiwan. What is your opinion about him? Have you met him?
YANI TSENG: I've never met him before, but I would love to. I mean, he's great. His parents are from Taiwan, and I'm so happy to see an Asian and Taiwanese player that is a huge star and plays so good in the NBA. I think that's going to give lots of motivation to lots of Asian people that maybe they can play on an NBA team. So it's huge.
He's a superstar in Taiwan, and I was very happy to see him play so well in the NBA.
Q. Who is a bigger star, you or him?
YANI TSENG: I would say him. I don't know, yeah.
Q. Maybe you can help us out with what they're saying in the media over in Taiwan. Are you getting more attention this time this year than you were last year?
YANI TSENG: Actually after last year after getting more attention in Taiwan and when I walk on the streets most of the people recognize me. Especially in the tournament last year in Taiwan, that was huge. I never expected so many people to come out and watch golf, and I was so excited. I was so happy to see how much golf is growing in Taiwan.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Na Yeon Choi into the interview room. Congratulations, a great round of 67 today, 5‑under par. One birdie on the front nine, and four on the back, which traditionally has been playing tougher. Can you just take me through the round today and what was working for you?
NA YEON CHOI: Yeah, I had a great round today, and I had only one bogey on the front nine. Then I was very calm and very patient. Then I had birdie on 10. After that, I got some momentum from there.
Then the weather was great, putting was good, so I was very happy to play on this golf course. I have a lot of confidence with this golf course, and my feeling was great. So I didn't give up. I tried my best, and then I got some good results today.
THE MODERATOR: We were talking about how you changed your putter back in January. How are you liking the new putter, and do you feel like it's helping you? You moved to that stretch to number two in the world, so you've been playing pretty well.
NA YEON CHOI: Yeah, I changed the putter in January. I used a Taylor Made putter, and I changed it to Bobby Grace. The putter from my swing coach, he used it a really long time ago, almost ten years ago. It looks not pretty. It looks a little weapon, but it set up great, and the feeling was great, so I loved that putter.
THE MODERATOR: Do you feel that it's helped you? You've always been a good putter, but do you feel your putting has improved this year?
NA YEON CHOI: I think so. That putter makes a better set‑up for me. So I changed the putter and then my aim was better. So I had better than last year.
THE MODERATOR: You've won a few times here on the LPGA Tour. What would a major championship win mean to you?
NA YEON CHOI: Actually, it means a lot to me. This is one of the major tournaments, one of my favorite tournaments. If I win this tournament or any major tournament, I'd be very honored and very happy.
THE MODERATOR: Is this one, considering the history of the event and the jump into Poppie's Pond, did that make it even more special? Do you even think about that during the week? Do you look at the pond when you walk by 18?
NA YEON CHOI: Every day I look at the pond, but I don't know how to swim, and I'm very scared of water because I had a very bad experience when I was young.
Actually, I told my caddie last year before the tournament started, I told him if I win this tournament, I can't jump in the water. You have to jump in the water. I can't. I'm very scared. But he said, you don't have to think about that. After you win, you have to figure it out.
So even this year I talked to my caddie. But, you know, if I win this tournament, I think I can do it.
Q. Why are you so afraid of water? Why are you scared of water?
NA YEON CHOI: When I was young, 4 or 5 years old, I think I was in the lake with my family. But I think I fell down in the water, and I almost died and my father saved me.
Q. Is jumping in the water scarier than trying to catch Yani right now? Can you talk about how well Yani is playing golf at the moment?
NA YEON CHOI: I think to catch Yani is more difficult. I'm really scared of the water, but I think when she's playing well, she looks like a very intimidating player, I think. She plays so well this day and last week and two weeks ago. I mean, she's an amazing player right now.
Q. Is she beatable right now? Can you beat her?
NA YEON CHOI: I couldn't tell you. She's playing so well and there are a lot people chasing her right now, so nobody knows.
Q. A lot of players the other day talked about the difficulty of the greens out here and even though you're feeling better with a new putter, did you struggle with them at all? What is your impression of them?
NA YEON CHOI: The greens conditions are very great. The speed is perfect at every tournament. So for me, it's not much difficult.
I think I know the course well, even the greens. I have a lot of lines on my yardage book. I just trust my yardage book, the lines. When my caddie tells me about a line, I always trust that. I just think about my target.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Se Ri Pak to the interview room at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco. You're three shots off the lead held by Yani Tseng. Similar situation to last week where you were in the hunt early in the week. Just tell us how good it feels to play well at the Kraft Nabisco?
SE RI PAK: It was actually. First of all, I was really glad to be back in my game, first of all. And I guess this is so far my best round for all career here, I think, for first two rounds. Of course, I've got two more days to go, but I'm really happy about my game.
First, I feel really calm on the golf course and I'm trying to play my own game. Everything's working out really well. I feel confident, and I feel great to go to the weekend.
THE MODERATOR: You've won other majors but not the Kraft Nabisco. Does that stay in the back of your head?
SE RI PAK: Always. So this is my 14th time playing in Kraft. I'm waiting long enough to be up there at least once to get this trophy. It's taken a little while, but hopefully this week.
Of course, you think so much about you really want a tournament and I gave myself a lot of pressure, so I don't think that helps my game a lot. So I'm very happy for this week. I'm playing as best I can, and I'm trying to enjoy golf as much as I could.
So that's my weekend thought. So hopefully it's working well until Sunday, and we'll see you guys back here again.
Q. You talked last week in San Diego about how you really started to enjoy playing golf again and reinvest in the game. Can you just tell the media here why that happened?
SE RI PAK: Why that happened? Well, let's see, I'm having trouble for five or six years, actually. I was learning every year what to do and what is a better way for me to really love playing golf. I still love a lot the golf game, and I can't quit it because I still really want to play.
It took a lot for myself to be happy. It wasn't too difficult, but it was difficult to find out. So it takes a little longer and a little while to find out. I said how lucky I am still playing and loving golf. Of course, I'm still healthy, and I'm still pretty much still young to be out there and play.
Just learning. Having a lot of experience being out there, traveling, playing with the players and making some friends and having a better social life, making it come automatically. This isn't so much for me to be out there golfing, and I know it should be enough to play golf out there. To me, there's nothing there. Just go out there and play my own game.
Some days you have to take it. But before I accepted it, I can't accept I'm having bad days. That's just part of it. So now I'm really happy I'm having some fun. So that helps a lot, and everything's going pretty well.
Q. This last couple weeks is this just a mental thing being happy or is it something physically that you're doing different with your game that's kind of come together?
SE RI PAK: Just everything's coming together. I mean, slowly I know I'm getting better and better, and my attitude and everything is getting slowly better. Starting last year around the fall, just, I don't know how, everything's really calm for me. Out on the golf course, I'm excited to go out and play again. There is no pressure. Just go out and play with the young players together and learn from them.
Of course I mean I was having back then that age to play out how they play and what they're thinking, just pretty much you go back and look at the season, it wasn't expecting too much. But I think I can learn a lot and how being on top feels and that brings a lot of expectations every week and a lot of pressure.
But I was thinking the other way to try to get less expectation. Just go out there and play my golf as much as I could, and everything comes together.
Q. When he mentioned that this is the one major you haven't won, you got that look on your face. Do you want to win this tournament because it's this tournament, or do you want to win it because it would complete the Grand Slam?
SE RI PAK: Really it would complete the Grand Slam. This is one of my goals I've set. So it's one of the biggest goals is getting into the Hall of Fame. Of course, that's the biggest, and next, trying to win a major like this. Then now this is the goal for me for 14, 15 years.
This is the one I need, but this is the one that always gives me a hard time. So hopefully winning this week. Of course, I'm going to do my best. We'll see. I'm trying to go out there and have some fun as much as I can.
Q. How dominant is Yani playing right now, and how hard is it to chase her when she's playing like this?
SE RI PAK: It's not easy because she has a lot of confidence in her game. Everything's being, as I said, I know how she feels. Because when you have a lot of confidence, it can do everything at the same time.
So still the door is open for a couple of players. So it's not easy, but behind it's a lot easier than top, you know? It's better than you're on the top and trying to look far away.
But she's a really good player right now. Her mental and everything has been just too good.
Q. You've been out here for a while and seen Lorena and Annika and other great players. How is Yani now compared to them as far as her dominance on the Tour?
SE RI PAK: It's kind of different. Back then, Annika really you've got four or five top really great players. Lorena, yes. She's a great player. And now, Yani just, actually, she's by herself up there. So of course it depends on ‑‑ it's pretty different. The golf course is different.
Mentally Yani is ready. She's really an aggressive player. Some players are different. But it's a different game playing. She's right now playing well enough to do something difficult. But back then it's great but really different. It's fun to watch at the same time.
Q. Do you think you can beat her this weekend?
SE RI PAK: Well, that's what we're here for, right? I think it's open for everybody. So it's probably not easy to chase from the back.
THE MODERATOR: You're up there near the top of the leaderboard, can you take me through the day and what was working for you?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Yeah, I've been hitting it so good since Phoenix. I was hoping that I could make some more putts today, but I didn't make any. I have two days to go, I have a great feeling and I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Everyone's been talking about the difficulty of the greens and getting the speeds down. How tough has that been for you?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Even though I had a chance out there, I had some tricky putts, so it wasn't easy to read. I just tried to get it close sometimes.
Q. You played with Yani in the final group last week, and you've been seeing how well she's been playing. Probably not surprising to see her name near the to top of the leaderboard again this week?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Yeah, everyone knows she's playing great these days. But it looks like I'm going to play with Yani tomorrow so far. I'm looking at the scoreboard. So I've been knowing her a long time, so I enjoy playing with her and look forward to it.
Q. What's most impressed you this year about her game? She played well last year, but this year she seems even more confident.
SUN YOUNG YOO: Yeah, I played with Yani last year, and she has such confidence. She's hitting it so good and she's making everything. So I was pretty impressed.
Q. It's major championship week. Every victory means a lot, but what would a major championship like this mean to win?
SUN YOUNG YOO: It would mean a lot. But I don't want to go get crazy about it. I just want to remain calm and play golf the next two days.
Q. What is special about this week and this specific event?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Everybody's saying it's a major. Good spectators out there, and it's nice and cool. So it's always good to be here and enjoying it.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We'd like to welcome Lindsey Wright into the interview room. Congratulations, another solid round today, 1‑under par 71. Still up near the top of the leaderboard. Pretty exciting to be going into the weekend of a major, in contention again. Can you take me through your day to day and what your thoughts were out there?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: Yep. I played pretty consistent golf today. Probably played as good as yesterday, and I just didn't make as many putts. I hit a great shot. 8 straight pars, and then on nine, hit a great shot that went in the hole for an eagle. That really kick started the day.
On number 10, I hit about a 30‑foot putt in for birdie, which is a nice birdie, and 11, 12, 13, 14, pretty standard pars again. On 15, I hit my shot right then hit a terrible recovery shot, which wasn't much of a recovery shot, so I had to hit another shot on to the green, and three‑putted for double bogey on 15.
Parred 16, hit a great shot in on 17, and missed the birdie putt. I think it was about 7 feet, and then 18 a par. So all in all, it was a good day.
THE MODERATOR: Take me through that eagle on 9. We all watched it. What were your emotions when you hit the shot? Were you expecting it to turn out as well as it did?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: I was just hoping it would stay on the green. Because coming out of the rough, if it lands on the front, you're kind of buggered. It's just going to shoot through to the back. I didn't want to play with the palm trees at the back of the green because I'd been there before.
So I didn't see it go in. I just heard the screaming from some spectators. So, yeah, it was really cool. It was good to hear everybody go crazy, and to hole out for an eagle is always a bonus in a major in any tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Yesterday we got into talking about the issues that you had with depression and anxiety, and it's gotten a lot of positive reaction from people supporting you and saying how nice it is to hear someone share their story. What have you heard since yesterday? Have you gotten a chance to hear anything from friends or family or other players out here about it?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: Yeah, I check my emails every day, and I had about six hours to spare this morning. So I was checking some emails and Facebook. It was really good positive responses from people. It was encouraging. A couple of people who I played golf with and I know from playing golf came out and said I feel the same way and I'm struggling right now. It's encouraging to have somebody like yourself say something.
Yeah, it's nice to know that it's going to help somebody else by saying how I felt and maybe come to terms with their own personal problems.
THE MODERATOR: As you head into the weekend, there is Yani once again at the top of the leaderboard. What does it take? We keep asking people is she beatable? What does it take to challenge her?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: Yeah, she's a force to be reckoned with, to be honest. She's an amazing golfer. She's won 3 out of 5 events now. But as history has shown us in majors, it really, unless she's got a 7 or 8 shot lead coming down the last nine holes, it's anyone's game. I mean it's the pressure of a major. If anything, there is probably more pressure on her than anyone else, because it is Yani, and we all expect her to win.
I think it's great to have her up there again. But it's also great to be able to challenge her and try to give her a run for her money.
Q. When you teed off, did you know what Yani had done? Had you paid any attention to that at all, of what her morning round was?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: Yeah, I could see on the leaderboard.
Q. Does that necessarily put a little pressure on you or is it just Friday and you don't care about it?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: Not really, no. I don't feel any pressure. Because if I'm starting to feel pressure and it's only day two, I'm wasting my time. At the end of the day everyone's going to keep going up the leaderboard. If anything, people really start to panic and stress out on the last nine holes on Sunday. But up until the last nine holes on Sunday, my intentions and every other players to try to make as many birdies as possible because we know that Yani is not going to start holding back and getting nervous.
Q. Yet you went out and tied her at 8‑under at one point. The shot on 15 looked like you were trying to keep it low, and it really stayed low.
LINDSEY WRIGHT: Oh, it was a terrible shot. It was a terrible shot. I think I just lost concentration, and it just goes to show you can't lose concentration at this level at these tournaments, because two shots are just basically ‑‑ or maybe one shot making a double bogey there was just unfortunate, you know?
Q. Did you get a little peak at the leaderboard when you were tied with Yani? Did you see it? Did you know that you had tied her?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: Yeah, I think so. I think I had seen it.
Q. What does that feel like to see a leaderboard in a major with your name on top?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: Oh, it's great. At that point I thought I think I'm going to make the cut. So I was like, yeah, this is good.
Q. I know there are predictions of some wind tomorrow. How does that suit your game? Do you mind playing in the wind?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: I'm not ‑‑ I don't like playing in wind, rain or snow. I like days like this, to be honest with you. But if I'm in the wind, then I'm pretty confident. I'm hitting the ball well right now. It's just a matter of controlling my attitude and the process of hitting shots and not getting quick. Once you start getting fast with your routines, then you make mistakes.
Q. There are people whose attitudes would have gone south after that double bogey. How important was it that par on the next hole, and how did you composure self or overcome that bad hole?
LINDSEY WRIGHT: Yeah, it's not like I tried to miss a five‑foot putt, you know or wanted to hit it right. So every shot I hit, I put a hundred percent in.
Going into the last three holes in my mind there were three more birdie opportunities, 16, 17, and 18. So the double was a little bit of a setback. But in saying that, I had an eagle on the 9th hole. I put no pressure on my game, so I didn't feel stressed out at all. I just thought, okay, bugger it. Just move on.
Q. You have quite a character on your bag in Mardi. How does she help relax you? I know she has kind of the same mindset as you of this not being the be all, end all.
LINDSEY WRIGHT: She's exhausting. She really is so funny. I don't think I've stopped ‑‑ I'm constantly laughing. She's great. I've known Mardi for a long, long time. She's fun to work with. She's a great caddie. Really is. We just have a laugh. We get along really well.
For me, I really start to focus when I pull the club out, do my routine, hit the shot, and then, okay, what are you doing for dinner or what happened last night. I don't like to ‑‑ I'm not always about golf. That's why we work well together, because she's not either. But once we're doing the job, we're doing it 110%. So it's a really good balance with her. But, yeah, she's constantly making me laugh.
HAEJI KANG, Rolex Rankings No. 120
Q. So 7‑under overall through two rounds. How have you been playing?
HAEJI KANG: I've been playing great. My shots and my drivers, I haven't missed any. I missed two total yesterday and today. So I was hitting it good and putting it better. That's how it is.
Q. You made a really nice birdie there at the final hole. How good did that feel?
HAEJI KANG: Yeah, I knew if I made that putt, I knew I was going out with Yani, serves really looking forward to it. Yeah, I'm pretty happy with that.
Q. F you were going to tell an American fan about yourself, what would you want them to know about you?
HAEJI KANG: Well, I like to smile. I'm kind of like relaxed on the golf course. So I would tell them, easy going.
Q. What about off the golf course, aside from golf?
HAEJI KANG: I mean, I enjoy hanging out with my friends, watching movies, go to the theater. I like to go to theme parks.
Q. Really? Like which ones?
HAEJI KANG: Like Disney, because I'm not good at riding like thrillers or anything. So, yeah.
Q. Can you talk about tomorrow? Do you feel like you've ever been in a position like this in the lead group at a major championship?
HAEJI KANG: No, no. I've never been in the championship group. So I'm really looking forward to it. But I'm a little nervous because I'm going out with Yani.
But this is a game that you play by yourself. So I'll just do my best and see what happens.
Q. A lot of people talk about Yani and how well she's playing. Do you think it will affect you to see the crowds for her and to know what she's done in the last two weeks?
HAEJI KANG: Yes, it will a little bit. But when I was a rookie, the first tournament as a rookie I played with Michelle Wie in Hawaii, so that was a really good experience for me because everyone just walks away when I try to putt when Michelle finishes.
But that's what you've got to handle out there. I mean, what can I do? So I'll just do my best.
Q. What do you think is your best accomplishment as a golfer thus far in your career?
HAEJI KANG: At first I'm playing on the LPGA. This is my fourth year. I came in here when I was the youngest ‑‑ I was the youngest when I first came here, so I think I changed my swing the last three years, so I'm settling in a little bit. I think that's one of the come accomplishments.
Q. Talk about your swing right now? What have you changed?
HAEJI KANG: I've changed ‑‑
Q. A lot?
HAEJI KANG: I've changed a lot. I'm working with Kevin Smeltz from the Leadbetter Academy, and he's been helping me with putting because I was struggling. I was in the Top 10 the first two years on the LPGA, but last year I was like over a hundredth place.
Yeah, my swing, I've been working on hitting it further and getting loose, because I really get tense on the golf course. I mean, it sounds easy, but that is the most hardest thing when you play out on the tournament. So I've been working on that.
Q. Do you live in Orlando?
HAEJI KANG: Yes, I live there.
Q. How long have you lived in the U.S.?
HAEJI KANG: Five years, almost five years.
Q. Why did you go there?
HAEJI KANG: That's where all the golfers go, and you can play golf in the winter time because it's not that cold.
THE MODERATOR: With us today a very special guest, she's a member of the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame, a three‑time winner here at Mission Hills Country Club, Amy Alcott. Amy, welcome.
AMY ALCOTT: Thank you. Great to be here.
Q. First of all, I know you're a Southern California person, but why are you actually here this week?
AMY ALCOTT: Well, good morning, everyone. I had a wonderful event out here on Sunday. It was our second annual, actually, Fresh & Easy Charity Pro‑Am, where I brought back 18 of the great legends in women's golf. The people that I get stopped all the time in airports by people saying we loved following you and Pat Bradley and Hollis Stacy and Betsy King, and all the great stars, Nancy Lopez, the list goes on. What are they doing now? And I get stopped constantly about that.
So I brought back in partnership with my friend, Tim Mason, the CEO of Fresh & Easy, we conceived an event together, which was a high‑end Pro‑Am that raises money for four Southern California charities two here in the Coachella Valley, two up in Los Angeles.
We had the first one last year that was very successful. So we decided to build on that and even add to it. So on Sunday, the amateurs got to play the Tournament course with an icon of women's golf. Then on Tuesday, we introduced an event called the Fresh & Easy Kraft Foods Junior Legacy Challenge, which the key about that is I'm a big promoter of mentoring. I love, and I think it's important to pass along your knowledge and expertise to young people. I get asked all the time whether I do clinics or wherever I am passing along to another generation.
So this event was an icon of women's golf, prepared with a junior World Golfer, scratch golfer, and an 18‑hole best ball tournament. We had that over on the Palmer course. People seemed to really love it.
So for the future, we think we're on to something. That was the main reason I was here in the desert and being here this week.
THE MODERATOR: You are credited with the inaugural splash into the pond, now called Poppie's Pond. How often do people bring that up to you? Do you ever get sick of talking about that?
AMY ALCOTT: Well, I had three of the young girls, the young juniors saying why did you jump in the lake? I think it's something I had no idea that I was going to start such a tradition back in 1988. But I guess I'm glad I did.
I'm still in close touch with the Russian judge that gave me a 10 for the jump. The Latvian judge didn't like me too much. But the water was very murky back in '88.
And I'm a big believer whether the young woman that wins the event this week, whether she does it or not, I'm a big believer in the young players in women's golf embracing their stardom. This is the entertainment business. I had no idea what an impact it would make, but I was pleased about that. Always pleased. It was fun. It was just a moment of exuberation.
THE MODERATOR: How special does it feel for you to know that you're a part of one of probably the biggest traditions probably on the LPGA?
AMY ALCOTT: Well, I'm thrilled about it. You know, it was funny. On Leap Day, February 29th, I look at my emails, and I had 112 emails from people I didn't even know. They said how could ‑‑ well, I'm not going to say anything bad about the Golf Channel. I watch it all the time. But I guess the Golf Channel had the greatest leaps in the history of golf, and they didn't have my jump in there.
I was like, I didn't know what to say, because I didn't see it. Then I got a copy of it, and basically I think they just showed Annika being pushed in the water. So if I let my ego get involved, it would bother me. But I think that my most special memory, if you can pull everything back was the leap in '91 with Dinah that really, that was an important thing for me and an emotional thing winning.
My mother had passed away, and jumping in with my caddie and Dinah, I think that was probably, next to my hole in one at Augusta on 16 that I had in 1999 and having Clint Eastwood sing to me that evening, that would probably ‑‑ and probably the Hall of Fame, those were probably be some of my great memories in golf.
THE MODERATOR: You've recently added one more memory, and that is being part of the Gil Hanse Design Team that won the bid to design the 2016 Olympic course in Rio De Janeiro. Take us through that evolution of your partnership with Gil, and what it means to be part of something so big for the game of golf?
AMY ALCOTT: Well, I, like everyone else saw that golf got passed in the Olympics in 2009. My immediate thought was that's great, but does golf really need to be in the Olympics? With all of the events in golf, the Walker Cup, the Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, the Federation, I mean, you can go on about cups and things where people are able to showcase their talents. I immediately thought.
Then as time went on I thought that would be really great. I wonder what the criteria is going to be for the teams? I thought it would be a really great thing. As I thought more about it, I thought that the design team, given the Olympics and everything about reaching and stretching and amateur golf, and equality, that this is a golf course, if they didn't have one in Brazil, should be designed by a male/female team.
I had mentioned that to somebody that had some kind of pull in the whole thing, and they liked the idea and they wanted to talk with me more about it. But then about a week or two later, I guess the idea had kind of gotten moved around. You probably should keep thoughts to yourself.
I noticed that Jack Nicklaus had asked Annika to be on his team, and Lorena was going to do it with Greg. I thought, huh, I probably should have kept that thought to myself.
But I thought, no worries, you know. And through the course of the next couple of months I was at Los Angeles country club. They were remodeling Los Angeles Country Club, and a friend of mine who is a writer, Fred Shackleford, said come on out and take a look at L.A. and see what we're doing. I want you to meet Gil Hanse.
So I sat and had lunch with Gil, and drove around the course and discussed traditions, because I worked on two golf courses as a co-designer. I love design. I love the artistic nature of it, and the creative nature of it.
It seemed like Gil and I kind of connected a lot on his minimalist design, his traditional design. He likes George Thomas, Donald Ross kind of courses. We just kind of connected. As I left, I said two things. I said if there's ever an opportunity to work with you on a remodel or restoration, I'd love to do that. Number three, I don't know if you've thought about bidding on the golf course for the Olympics, and he looked at me. He said, well, yeah, definitely.
I said, well, I'd love to be part of your design team. I'd love to do that.
So last May he called me up and I did a remodel of him ‑‑ not a remodel, but some consulting at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. It's a beautiful golf course. The LPGA Tour used to play there, and I think he was impressed by my ideas that I wasn't really out there to make the golf course better for women, although we were really working on resetting some tees, which have all kind of come to fruition.
But we talked about it more, and he said I'm going to bid on the Olympic course, but I'm going to do it under my own name. Do you have a problem with that? Meaning, kind of meaning, okay, it's going to be Gil Hanse design, and somewhere down in the first paragraph it will be Amy Alcott's name.
I thought, and I said that's fine. Because I wasn't so sure even with him that they would be looking for star power. We weren't so sure about that. But we knew anybody who ended up getting the job to design the golf course in the Olympics would do a great job.
So we put in the bid as with our partner Owen Larkin of the Larkin Group, all under Gil Hanse Design, Amy Alcott and whatever.
Then the RFP came out, a request for proposal, and through a couple months through this process, he called me up and said, Amy, we are in the final eight. You better start getting prepared to go to Rio. Because we had been discussing ‑‑ he hadn't even been down there. Once he got down there we started talking about what the layout, what the initial thoughts, and what the academy would look like. He wanted me very involved in the design of the academy.
So then we started talking about our actual presentation, and what it was going to be like. We all marched down there the first part of February, and I felt like we made a stellar presentation. I think it was an interesting room of people. The whole group, the people from Brazil, Anthony Dawson, head of the International Golf Federation. The room was very well‑represented.
We left thinking he talked about his minimalist philosophies. He talked about that he would move down there, which I think was a big commitment to make. You can't design a golf course from 4,000 miles away. He talked about what he would do with the land. How he and I would both interact. How we've worked on the thoughts about the tees and even thought about doing some more forward tees. Because as much as you're designing a golf course for the elite golfers of the world, you're going to leave ultimately a public golf course in the country where there are only a couple of golf courses in Rio.
Then my presentation was more about the legacy of golf. I talked about how I grew up in Southern California, chipping and putting on my front lawn, putting into soup cans, watching the CBS golf classic, and shell's wonderful world of golf, and I was inspired by the game.
If golf can do that for me, if I can catch the bug for that, I can only imagine the kids in south America, and what this could leave behind, and what this would Open up.
It could open up caddie programs. It could open up programs similar to the First Tee Program, and all the things that it could possibly do.
So we left, and our partner Owen Larkin spoke about sustainable design. So we left feeling we had made a great presentation, and we, like all the other teams, sat and waited and heard that it had been postponed. The decision had been postponed, but we were quietly optimistic. We didn't come meetly know why, but we felt like we were the team. I guess that positive energy was good.
THE MODERATOR: Can you talk about what your involvement will be moving forward now? How often you'll be there? You talked about being very involved in the academy.
AMY ALCOTT: Well, the first thing that will go on is a permitting process, and all the things that will have to be done. I think he will be making a trip down there in the next few weeks to do that, to really get the ball on the road. We probably, from my understanding, and I'm not quite sure, but it looks like we'll start getting underway in October moving some dirt around and kind of going in that.
I'll, of course, make a couple trips down there once we start moving dirt and dealing with all the nuances and all the discussion about ultimately once he gets on the tractor, all the things that I would add to the team and the academy, of course. Because it's going to leave a first class, state‑of‑the‑art golf academy there, and the design of that I'll have a big influence in the design of that.
THE MODERATOR: Shifting gears to a name on the LPGA that's been all year long at the top of the leaderboards. Just any thoughts you have on Yani Tseng and the current run that she's on?
AMY ALCOTT: Well, it's interesting. There is a lot to the domino effect. It's the players who are not playing well and want to be playing well. They don't appreciate it when they are.
I think she's an amazing talent. I think her focus, her mental strength and focus is pretty domineering now she's in contention every week she plays. It's hard to compare generations. When I came out on Tour, JoAnne Carner, and Kathy Whitworth, then it moved on to the '80s, with the six or seven of us, Alcott, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, we kept trading events during the '80s and 90's. Then of course the Tour has gotten global. You had great players from Sweden and Annika and Lorena, and this whole generation, and now the flood gates have truly opened for women's golf.
But I really feel that when you're playing well, you have to be just quietly confident. Strikes me that she's a quite shy person. I did talk to her in the clubhouse for a minute, and she seems in the zone, and that's a place where athletes want to be, desire to be, but it's very difficult to get there. Great play puts you there.
Q. Talk a little about what you think you bring to this design as opposed to Gil? What do you bring that he doesn't?
AMY ALCOTT: I don't need to tell Gil anything. He's a very fine young architect, and he's got enough work. He's a very understated man who lets his work speak for himself. I think we get along. I think we have a good synergy.
I think he's very open to my thoughts and ideas. If I say add a little more room to this green, possibly it would give you an extra pin placement. How about doing a tee over here? The flow of the golf course. I think that we just work well together, and I think his partner, Jim Wagner, they do great work.
What I would add to it is an understanding of how women in this day and age, how far they hit the ball, how they hit the ball, and bringing in for many, many years, women's golf design or an average golf course. Women have always thought themselves to be an afterthought. A lot of these golf courses during the 1920s and '30s or whatever that are all being remodeled. The women's tees, for example, are the forward tees. I'm totally into generics, because I think a golf course needs to be played by length and not by go play the forward tees. There are a lot of men that should be playing the forward tees, but you can't tell them that.
So I think you have to offer a variety of tee positions to make a short par‑4 playable for women and men, and bring in the trouble where you want to play it so it's not an afterthought.
I think I offer an experience and an understanding of that, and also from a standpoint of esthetics, I think I'm strong with esthetics. How something should look, the nuances to add to particular hole or design.
Q. You've been a big part of this tournament and someone else with a big association here is Judy Rankin. Could you talk about her how she is as a broadcaster and human being, Judy?
AMY ALCOTT: Judy, I played against Judy very early in my career when I said that there were players that were at the forefront that ‑‑ I turned pro at 18, so I was immediately out here playing against women that could have been my mother back in 1975. Judy Rankin was one of them. Kathy Whitworth, JoAnne Carner, Sandra Palmer, Sandra Post, Marlene Hagge, these were players of that generation.
I think one of the things that I remember and found very interesting was at one of the Hall of Fame inductions back after I had been inducted in '99 with Seve and Lloyd Mangrum was the year I went back and Judy Rankin was put into the veterans category. It's always interesting to hear player's speeches like what motivated them. She talked a little bit about her father.
I didn't know Judy. I only competed against her, so she was always a serious golfer, a serious player. But she talked about her father, but she also talked about in essence, thank God broadcasting, the opportunity to do broadcasting came along. Because as she said quote unquote, it's kept her close to a game that she really never liked very much. Her father kind of pushed her into it. I don't want to quote her on that, but you can speak to her about it.
But she grew to love it. She grew to love it more after she removed herself as a full‑time player. I thought that was an interesting statement that she made.
I internalized that, because I had parents that didn't play golf. My mother passed away not knowing the difference between a 9‑iron and a putt, and all the drive and desire to play golf came from me. So I didn't have parents like that. But it was like she said she grew to appreciate and love a game more doing broadcasting so she could stay close to the game. I don't know if that answers your question.
Q. As someone who did turn pro at 18, what advice would you give to 17, 18‑year‑old girls now who are trying to decide whether college is worth their while or whether they should just get out and play against the pros?
AMY ALCOTT: I was prior title 9, and I had one scholarship opportunity to go to Dartmouth and play on the men's golf team, and I had no idea where Dartmouth was. Somebody said it was New Hampshire, and the minute I heard it was cold there, I passed on that.
But as my teacher called me a little race horse and I was ready at 18 to go out, I didn't know if I was ready in 1975, but I had nowhere to go and I loved to play and compete.
I think that the players for the longest time I was one of the youngest players winning at 18 or on my 19th birthday to win an LPGA tournament. As time has gone on, you had Paula Creamer win early, you had young Jessica Korda win a few weeks ago. There is a whole generation there, and Michelle Wie, these players are getting younger and younger.
I think if they're mentally and physically prepared to go out and give it a shot and they're really sharp with their game, they should go do it. But it has to be for all the right reasons.
I always tell young players don't do it because you have some dream of standing on the 18th green to get a check from Dinah Shore. Do it because you erally want to compete, and you feel it in your heart because not everybody's meant to do this for a living. It takes a certain disposition and everything else.
I think some of my oldest friends from the LPGA who were never really that successful who I stay in touch with are glad they gave it a shot and glad they gave it a shot young.
But I think you have to know it inside you. It's not something your teacher or your father or some dream of monetary gain or whatever is out there. You've got to want to work at it, and you've got to want to eat, breathe, and sleep it because that's what it takes to be great.
Q. At that age, do you know if you have the right disposition for the Tour?
AMY ALCOTT: That's a very good question. I think desire is huge, passion for it, if you have the passion. All I'm saying is I think if it's coming from you, that's what's important.
used to the lifestyle out here, you know, I used to stay in private homes and eat at McDonald's and the pressures. I was telling somebody the other day I had 15 people put up $1,000 apiece for me to go out and start on the LPGA Tour when I was an 18‑year‑old kid. It was a two‑year deal.
Most people sponsor somebody thinking we'll never get our money back, and I had some ‑‑ Dean Martin was one of my original sponsors, and I felt this tremendous pressure and obligation because of the way I was raised to pay these people back.
And I learned a lot about life and a lot about business because that first year I set a career earnings mark for a rookie of $26,000. I was able to pay the 15 ‑‑ I played a whole year for $15,000. I couldn't play five events for $15,000 now.
I think I felt an obligation. So a lot of these young players maybe don't have that obligation or maybe they do. But I think if it's your controlling desire and passion, you feel like you have the game ‑‑ but it can't be somebody else's dream. It has to be your dream.
You have to understand that you're going to deal with the life out here, and the highs and lows and the slumps and everything else.
Sometimes it's better that you don't even know anything. Ignorance is bliss. I used to say that sometimes. Some of the greatest golfers maybe aren't the smartest. They don't know where the trouble is.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank you for coming in. Congratulations on a fantastic career, and best of luck in your next endeavor.
AMY ALCOTT: Thanks for having me here. I'm thrilled about it.