RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup
Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
Final-round notes and interviews
March 18, 2012
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng held off Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato and the darkness in Phoenix to capture a one-shot victory at the 2012 RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. Tseng two-putted from 45-feet on the 18th green as darkness fell upon the Wildfire Golf Club to secure her 14th career LPGA Tour victory.
Despite a day full of lightning delays, hail storms and unseasonably cool temperatures, the final round of the tournament certainly didn't lack for excitement. The final group was on No. 10 when play resumed for a second time and Tseng seemed to get a surge following that delay. She tallied birdies on five of her next six holes to take a two-shot lead with three holes left to play. Birdies by Choi and Miyazato on the 16th hole cut Tseng's lead to just one but the world's No. 1 managed to par the final two holes to secure her fifth victory in her last 11 starts.
"In my mind I was feeling like we were going to finish tomorrow, so we were really lucky to finish today and finish in the dark the last few holes," Tseng said. "Because of my eyes, I couldn't see much of a distance, so I tried to keep telling myself, okay, just finish these few holes, just hit a good shot, good contact, play one shot at a time."
Turning things around: After falling behind by three strokes on the front nine, Tseng seemed to find her groove after the second rain delay. She came back out from the delay and birdied the 10th – one of five birdies she would tally over the next six holes.
"I'm proud of myself," Tseng said. "I hung in there on the back nine. I think the second time raining, like second time or first time raining --I think was a good break for me because I finished nine holes, was one over and I had a birdie chance on No. 10, but then we have a break. So I take a little bit my time and come back here to relax a little bit and rethink, restart the day."
Her playing partners Na Yeon Choi and Ai Miyazato didn't seem surprised by Tseng's charge on the back nine but were once again left impressed by her ability to take her game to another level.
"She's amazing," Choi said of Tseng. "I mean she plays so well. She never ‑‑ I mean she never looks nervous or if there's pressure on her. So I think she's ‑‑ she has a lot of confidence right now.
"I don't know who can stop her right now. I mean she's so amazing, and she hit it really far. Me and Ai, we tried to like our best, but she's pretty far away from us."
Final-round play was suspended a total of three times. The first delay came at 11:53 a.m. PST due to lightning in the area and resumed at 1:07 p.m. At 2:48 p.m. play was suspended once again due to lightning in the area and resumed at 3:54 p.m. There was a third delay in play due to weather at 4:58 p.m. and play began again at 5:39 p.m. PST.
So there was a total delay of 3 hours and 1 minute due to weather on Sunday. But the delays were far from the only unique weather that players experienced during the fourth round of play in Phoenix.
A cold front blew through the Valley on Saturday night, bringing with it much colder temperatures and breezy conditions. Temperatures were in the 40s when players teed off for the fourth round of play. Even a little hail didn't keep play from continuing early in the day.
"The most difficult thing is no warmup for us," Miyazato said. "You know, just suspended and then you're just back to the golf course and suspended and then back to the golf course again. So it was a little bit difficult for me because all my tempo comes from the warmup. So it was really a little bit difficult adjustment on the golf course."
Back woes: Na Yeon Choi was pretty pleased overall with how she played in Sunday's final round, shooting a final-round 68 to fall one stroke shy of a victory, but she wasn't feeling 100 percent as she tried for her first tournament victory of the season.
Choi said that she was battling a slight back issue throughout the final round, which was not helped by the many delays and the weather conditions.
"I got a little problem, my back little hurts from last night," said Choi, who recorded her second straight runner-up finish. "So I have to find out what happened to my back. I was so hurt, painful out there, because I think the weather is cold, too. So that's why I got more painful in my back."
On a roll: Rolex Rankings No. 9 Ai Miyazato began the day tied atop the leaderboard with Yani Tseng but after shooting a final-round 3-under par 69 she came up one stroke shy of earning her eighth career LPGA Tour victory.
Miyazato gained control early in Sunday's final round after Tseng tallied back-to-back bogeys on No. 7 and 8 to drop three shots behind Miyazato.
After a second delay, the tables began to turn as Tseng began her birdie run and never looked back. This week's tied for second finish marks Miyazato's third consecutive top-10 finish of the season. Miyazato's most recent victory came at the 2010 Evian Masters Presented by Societe Generale.
Day to go low: Not even rain, lightning or hail could stop Hee Young Park from posting a blistering 5-under par 67 during Sunday's final round. In the midst of four rain delays, Park managed to record only one bogey and six birdies to move from a tie for 20th into fifth.
Park began the day at 9:24 a.m. in winter-like temperatures before the cold was accompanied by small pea sized hail and electrifying lightning.
Last year, Park became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. This week marks Park's second LPGA event this season. She previously missed the cut after shooting rounds of 76-81 at the 2012 ISPS Handa Australian Open.
Golden ticket winners: So Yeon Ryu, Hee Young Park, and Caroline Hedwall punched their "Ticket to CME Group Titleholders" at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, each earning a spot in the season-ending CME Group Titleholders event, which will be held Nov. 15-18, 2012 at The TwinEagles in Naples, Fla. The second annual CME Group Titleholders is a season finale with a field made up of three qualifiers from every LPGA Tour tournament.
Tweet of the Day: "Wild happenings at Wildfire here @lpgafounders right now! Might be a while before the hail can be cleared for play!!" -- @craftymate
Of Note…Defending champion Karrie Webb shot a final-round one-over 73 and finished in a T14 at 8-under-par.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We'd like to welcome the 2012 RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup winner, Yani Tseng into the interview room. Congratulations. What a win today, quite a dramatic day out there, full of lots of delays, some hail, some rain. Can you just take me through the day?
YANI TSENG: I know, it was a little drama out there today. I mean I didn't play very well on the front nine. It was like hail on the first hole and it was like hail three holes today, and I just was really patient. We were back on and off like three, four times.
And in my mind I was feeling like we were going to finish tomorrow, so we were really lucky to finish today and finish in the dark the last few holes, and because of my eyes, I couldn't see much of a distance, so I tried to keep telling myself, okay, just finish these few holes, just hit a good shot, good contact, play one shot at a time.
Today, on the front nine I had a few little bad mistakes, and I mean I just ‑‑ but I'm proud of myself. I hung in there on the back nine. I think the second time raining, like second time or first time raining ‑‑ first time raining I think was a good break for me because I finished nine holes, was one over and I had a birdie chance on No. 10, but then we have a break. So I take a little bit my time and come back here to relax a little bit and rethink, restart the day.
So it was a good break for me there and I had a birdie on No. 10 and played well on the back nine.
THE MODERATOR: That birdie on No. 10 got you into a hot strike where you birdied five of six holes. Did you get going there? Did you just find your comfort level? Did something change mentally where you felt this is the time to make that push?
YANI TSENG: I just felt this is the time. I told myself, we have nine more holes, okay, three shots back. You still have a good chance on the back nine. Just play like on the first day, try to make birdie every hole. I played 7‑under here before, so maybe I can do it again. I played 5‑under, so it was pretty close.
THE MODERATOR: You had a two‑shot lead until Na Yeon and Ai birdied on 16. Take me through those final two holes when you had the one‑shot lead and darkness was creeping in. How were you able to maintain your focus and not let any of the other things distract you from what you were doing?
YANI TSENG: I didn't think too much, but I think 17 hole, that four‑foot putt, make par, I think that's very important for me because I know if I make this, I can win the tournament, so I just stayed really focused and tried to not think too much. And I don't think we're going to play in the dark or something. If I don't finish, it's okay. So I kind of not rushed, just, you know, step by step and not thinking too much.
Q. It seemed like the breaks maybe helped you more than anyone else. Why do you think that happened where you kind of were able to come inside, cool off for a bit? Other people sounded like they had trouble, they had to get stretching and get warmed up again. Why do you think maybe that helped you?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, you know, first time I didn't think it helped me because I didn't play quite well. I didn't hit a good shot and driver was so‑so. I made good putt, but I missed. So it was not very special front nine, so I feel I just give myself lots of advantage to come back here, have a little lunch, you know, chatting and do something with friend, and you know, just like stay relaxed here and don't try to be stressful on the golf course. Thinking try to make birdie, try too hard on the golf course. It was good coming back here.
And the second time it was kind of a little hard because I kept making birdie and all of a sudden the horn is blowing again. I was like, oh, I wish I could keep there and start making birdies, so I was pretty lucky, I got back and start making two birdies, and I thought we could not finish today and it was just very lucky. I'm really happy that we finished today, and I just thank all the people for staying here with us all day.
Q. How long was your birdie putt on the par‑4, 13th when you took the lead?
YANI TSENG: 13?
Q. Right after the delay, the last delay.
YANI TSENG: It was a par ‑‑ par‑3?
Q. The 14th hole.
YANI TSENG: Par‑3. Isn't that a par‑3?
YANI TSENG: Like 20 feet. I had 20 feet for birdie, and I mean I was really cold when I get back there. My hand was ‑‑ it was like a rock. I mean I have no feel with my hand and tried to get warm, and it was just really tough. The weather was really tough out there today.
Q. Did the speed of the greens change at all after the delays when it got wet?
YANI TSENG: It is. I think especially third time when we were back out and it was raining very hard and hailed again, and green kind of getting a little slower. So last three putt I been hitting short like a little bit, but it is getting slower a little bit the back.
Q. Just how do you explain the start of the year for you, two victories? Obviously this is the streak that you would like to continue; right?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, of course. I'm just very proud of myself because like after nine holes I was three shots back, and I just hung in there and do my best and try to not worry about other people doing because actually yesterday I went back to look a little golf on the senior tour, and here is something like they were doing. They don't care what other people are playing, you know. You just kind of focus on yourself.
So I mean I just kind of remind myself that, don't worry about anybody playing and you just do your best. If you don't win, it's okay. You try next time. If you win, I mean you're good, so I mean I'm just very proud of myself to hung in there.
And I mean Ai and Na Yeon, they played so well today, so it was really good. They pushed me to become better and better, to let me feel like under pressure all the time and the three of us, we were trying to win. I mean we were so close like today. So it was very good. They both played very well today.
THE MODERATOR: Yani, you've won a lot over the past year, but this victory with it being the Founders Cup and seeing the Founders here all week and a lot of the pioneers of the LPGA Tour, is this one special knowing what it means to celebrate the history of the LPGA?
YANI TSENG: I think so. I think it's very special. I mean this year is the most special tournament on the LPGA because last year we played for charity, so I mean that's very special. I mean everybody, doesn't matter how much they played, I mean you make birdie, you donate money to charity or all your prize money to charity and this year all the Founders are here. We see five of them, they were here.
So I mean we wouldn't be here with all the Founders. I just really thank them to give me and give all the girls junior to have a big opportunity to come here and play on the LPGA. I'm one of us and I'm really appreciate and it's my honor to be a part of this.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We'd like to welcome Ai Miyazato, one of our runners‑up into the interview room. I know it's not the result you were hoping for. It's not a victory, but pretty pleased with the way you were able to play today, especially considering all the delays in the weather and how crazy it was out there.
AI MIYAZATO: It was definitely a long day, and I've never seen this weather this Phoenix before, but I will thank God we finished.
I played really well today, but I didn't make some putts on the Back 9, so that's why I think I finished second place, but I'm very happy.
THE MODERATOR: I asked Na Yeon about the run that Yani went on on that Back 9. What were your thoughts when you saw her come back out after that second delay and just go on a birdie run like that?
AI MIYAZATO: I don't know that ‑‑ over the breaks it seems like it worked on her, especially for Yani, because of her putting. It just keep getting better towards the end, and she made some clutch putts.
That's the point, though, but you need to make some putts, especially towards the end. But like I said, I didn't make some putts, so that's the decisive point.
THE MODERATOR: I know you talk about being happy to finish, but what was it like out there on 18 as the darkness was coming in? Was it mostly just a rush for all of you guys to try to get this in today?
AI MIYAZATO: No. I was just trying to make birdies. Of course. It was a little bit dark to read my birdie putt, but it wasn't breaking much in the end. So that's why I missed the putt.
But I think I had a good stroke, so I'm glad I made a par and we finished.
Q. How difficult was it, Ai, to get into a rhythm when you had to go back out there after delays twice? Was it difficult to stay in a rhythm with your swing?
AI MIYAZATO: Yeah. It was really ‑‑ the most difficult thing is no warmup for us. You know, just suspended and then you're just back to the golf course and suspended and then back to the golf course again. So it was a little bit difficult for me because all my tempo comes from the warmup. So it was really a little bit difficult adjustment on the golf course.
But yeah, it was really hard to pick up my pace.
Q. How confident were you feeling after the front nine and your performance? Did you feel like that was a strong start that you were looking for today?
AI MIYAZATO: Yeah, I was very comfortable with my game, and I thought I had a great start in the front nine. So I felt really, you know, I had a good feeling with my game.
But it just depend on the weather, especially on the 15. I think the 15 was really a key point hole because if I made birdie on that hole, I think I still had a chance. But it rained so hard, and it was really cold, and my hands was like didn't have a feeling, so it was really tough to make a birdie putt. I mean tough to make a play good, but you know, but overall I played really well, so I still have confidence.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We'd like to welcome Na Yeon Choi into the interview room. I know it probably wasn't the result that you were hoping for today, but can you just take me through what was kind of a crazy day full of delays and hail and some wild weather out there today.
NA YEON CHOI: It was so like long day, and then it was a really tough day. I mean I'm really cold right now, so I can't speak.
I think today we had like really great match, like me and Yani and Ai. I was very excited to play with them.
Yeah, I finished runner up, but you know, it just happened. I think next week or next time it will come to me. So I don't have any regret for today. Just weather was so bad. But you know, just I like to ‑‑ I mean right now I'm finished, so I'm very happy, and congratulations to Yani.
THE MODERATOR: Can you take me through that 18th hole and you guys had darkness falling outside, and Yani went into it with a one‑stroke lead. What were your thoughts on 18?
NA YEON CHOI: Actually, yeah, it was really dark on 18, but I was very happy to finish it today. And then she hit the putt first, then me on the green. And then I saw her ball move to the right, and then I tried to ‑‑ because I couldn't see very well because it was so dark, so I tried to the same putt as Yani, but my speed was short. I couldn't think about like slow, slow of the green, so my speed wasn't perfect, but I'm finished today.
THE MODERATOR: How far was your putt on 18 would you say?
NA YEON CHOI: Almost ten yards. Yeah, so 30 feet.
THE MODERATOR: Take me through that Back 9 when Yani got off to ‑‑ it seemed really close when you guys were heading back out there after that second delay and you were on 10 and then Yani got on that tear where she birdied five out of six holes. What are your thoughts when you see her start to go on runs like that?
NA YEON CHOI: She's amazing. I mean she plays so well. She never ‑‑ I mean she looks never nervous or pressure on her. So I think she's ‑‑ she has a lot of confidence right now.
I think ‑‑ I don't know who can stop her right now. I mean she's so amazing, and she hit it really far. Me and Ai, we tried to like our best, but she's pretty far away from us.
Q. Were you outside when it was hailing? Did you see the hail?
NA YEON CHOI: Yeah.
Q. Have you experienced that before?
NA YEON CHOI: Actually, that was my first time playing with the hail.
THE MODERATOR: Overall, how tough is it when you are playing on days like this where it's delay after delay? Did you feel like you still were able to find a rhythm and are you still pretty pleased by the way you were able to handle yourself through that?
NA YEON CHOI: I mean I tried my best because my body is not flexible when I got delayed, so I have to do a lot of stretches on the course, and then I tried to accept this weather.
Like when I got this happened the first time, I think it was very difficult, but right now I think I'm used to it. So it was okay, just a little cold out there.
Actually, I got a little problem, my back little hurts from last night. So I have to find out what happened to my back. I was so hurt, painful out there, because I think the weather is cold, too. So that's why I got more painful in my back.
THE MODERATOR: Is there anything that you could do to kind of help the back throughout the round?