LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf
Ko Olina Golf Club
April 21, 2012
Final-round notes and interviews
Weather Report: Temperatures in the low 80’s with winds from the east at 8-10 mph gusting to 15 mph
Ai Miyazato claimed her eighth-career LPGA victory by four shots over Azahara Munoz and Meena Lee at the inaugural LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Miyazato, the No. 8 ranked player on the Rolex Rankings, shot 70 in the final round to end the week at 12-under-par 276. Throughout the afternoon, the trio of Miyazato, Munoz and Lee were tied atop the scoreboard at various points, but the Japanese star broke away from the pack with birdies at three of her last five holes – Nos. 13, 15 and 17. The win nets Miyazato $255,000 of the $1.7 million purse and increases her season earnings to $629,783 – second only to the Yani Tseng.
A tie for 56th place at the Kraft Nabisco Championship led Ai Miyazato to try several putting changes that paid off this week. Her dad, who serves as her swing coach and part-time putting coach, suggested a change in her stance and a weaker grip, both of which she worked on in the time off before Hawaii. “He gave me a couple tips, so I worked really hard with the two tips last couple weeks, and now it's, you know, perfect rolling,” Miyazato said prior to the final round.
Azahara Munoz matched her career-best finish with a tie for second at the LPGA LOTTE Championship. The Spaniard previously finished second at the 2011 Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. The 24-year-old was 3-under-par on the front-nine Saturday, but bogies at No. 10 and No. 14 – coupled with a strong finish from Ai Miyazato – knocked her off the top of the leaderboard. Regardless, she was pleased to be in a position to win. “That's what we practice for,” Munoz said. “I’ve been missing this. At the end the year last year I was couple times in the last group, and I love it. That's why we play golf.
Meena Lee was in position to challenge Ai Miyazato for a victory on the 18th hole, but an untimely double bogey dropped her into a tie for second. Lee, who won at Ko Olina during the 2006 Fields Open, was tied with Miyazato for most of the back-nine – in fact, she led for a brief period at 10-under-par – but a poor shot from the greenside bunker on 18 followed by a three-putt dropped her to 8-under-par 280 in a tie with Azahara Munoz. Lee, a South Korean who resides in Orlando, won twice in the first 30 tournaments of her career in 2005 and 2006, but is winless since.
So Yeon Ryu continued her quest for Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors with a tie for fourth at the LOTTE Championship. Seo, the winner of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open as a member of the KLPGA, now has a tie for second and three ties for fourth through seven events in 2012. She boasts a 141-point lead in the Rookie of the Year race over Lexi Thompson.
Golden ticket winners: Meena Lee, Azahara Munoz and Cristie Kerr punched their "Ticket to CME Group Titleholders" at the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf, 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.
Miyazato is going to Canyon Ranch. With her victory at the 2012 LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf, Ai Miyazato earned an all-inclusive stay for two at a Canyon Ranch resort. In a combined effort to promote health and overall well-being among Tour players, Canyon Ranch will provide every winner of an LPGA event with one all-inclusive stay at one of Canyon Ranch's two destination resorts.
Of note… Yani Tseng continued her top-10 streak with a tie for 10th. She has finished in the top-10 of all seven events this season and eight in a row dating back to 2011… The par-4 18th hole played the second hardest overall to the tune of 4.27. Miyazato played the hole in 1-under-par this week… The four active players who have been Rolex Rankings No. 1 finished in the top-10: Miyazato (win), Cristie Kerr (T4), Jiyai Shin (T7) and Yani Tseng (T10).
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to welcome the inaugural LPGA Lotte Championship presented by J Golf winner, Ai Miyazato. Ai, congratulations.
AI MIYAZATO: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Shot a final round of 2-Under par, 70 to win the tournament at 12-under par by four strokes. But on the back nine, three of you, Meena Lee, Azahara Munoz, and yourself, seemed to be tied for a while.
AI MIYAZATO: Yeah.
MODERATOR: How did you win by four shots?
AI MIYAZATO: I don't know what happened, but I just focus my game and, you know, just finish by four shots. But I was pretty nervous towards the end because I know that everyone is playing really well. I have to finish really strong, so that's why I got really nervous.
But I just keep saying to myself just to be patient and no rush. Take one shot at a time and see what's going to happen. So I had lots of good self-talk today. And that's why I think I shot 2-under today.
MODERATOR: This is your eighth LPGA victory. You're currently ranked 8th in the world, and you'll probably move up on the Rolex Rankings. How nice is it to get a win here early in the 2012 season?
AI MIYAZATO: Oh, it's so nice. I been playing so well this year. I was disappointed about the Nabisco, but than after Nabisco I worked on hard and kind of said to myself, you know, just to keep going.
So I'm very happy right now that I won this. My mom was here and, my auntie was here, so it was very special time. It couldn't be better.
MODERATOR: Last one from me before he we turn it to the media. Last two times you finished runner-up this season, Yani beat you.
AI MIYAZATO: Yeah.
MODERATOR: How nice is it to win and not have to worry about Yani this time?
AI MIYAZATO: Honestly, she is so good. But, no, Yani has been playing really solid, and I'm very impressed about her. We are kind of totally different types of player, but then it's so inspiring that she's playing so well.
So that's why I'm here. We're kind of inspiring each other. Just having a nice influence. So I won this week, but then I'm looking for next week naturally now.
Q. Can you tell us how long the birdie putts were? Three of them were very long, yeah?
AI MIYAZATO: Which ones?
Q. The birdie putts.
AI MIYAZATO: Last one?
Q. All of them.
AI MIYAZATO: All of them? Oh, okay. I don't remember anything. (Laughter.) First one was -- oh, yeah, the first one was -- I know in meters; is that all right?
MODERATOR: That's okay.
AI MIYAZATO: The first one was seven meter, and 13 was -- it was long, this one. It was like about 12 meters. 15 was six meters. And 17 finally was short, three meters.
Q. Were those the most important putts of the day, or were there some of the par saves that you felt better about?
AI MIYAZATO: Definitely important putts, especially on 13, par-5, because I made bogey on 12. It was actually nice up and down, though, but after the bogey that I made birdie, that meant a lot to me.
I feel I just had a few chance to win. I said to myself just keep it going. So it was really. It was a birdie putt that kind of pumped me up for the rest of the round.
Q. At what stage did you hear about Meena's double bogey? Where were you when you heard about that?
AI MIYAZATO: Oh, no, I didn't know that until 17, that she made double bogey at last. When I saw the last time the scoreboard was, I don't know which one, 15 or 14 or something, so I thought we were tied.
After 17 I realize she make double bogey, so...
Q. Does that change what's going on in your head for the last holes?
AI MIYAZATO: No, nothing, because 18 is really difficult hole. If I hit this tee shot I think I don't have to think anything, but before that I was still, you know, focus my game.
So nothing change actually.
Q. You make hitting the ball and putting look is easy. Everyone in this room knows it isn't, but some people watching it on TV might think, Wow, that's real easy. What can you say to those people about the work it takes?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, definitely not easy, no. It's definitely a compliment when people say that I make it look easy, but I also feel that it looks that way that maybe I'm playing simple and also playing in a good state of mind.
So very happy.
Q. You kind of made the hoola look kind of easy, too. Was that the first time you did it?
AI MIYAZATO: Oh, my God. So embarrassing. That was the first time that I dance. Both ladies teach me really nice, so that's why I was like relaxing and had a good time.
Q. How much time did you have to prepare for that?
AI MIYAZATO: Nothing. I just get there and just dance, so... It was fun, though.
Q. Can you just talk about new event on the schedule, Lotte is a new sponsor, we're back in Hawaii, and you're the winner. How does that all feel?
AI MIYAZATO: So excited, you know. This is the perfect place for a golf tournament, so I just appreciate Lotte having us this week.
It's really nice to come back next year to defend my title. So, you know, still season long way to go, but I can't wait to come back next year.
Q. Last year when you put together the group to raise money for Japan, I'm wondering, do you kind of have an idea of how much you raised? Beyond that, what was the most meaningful part that you accomplished with that?
AI MIYAZATO: Roughly $130,000 U.S., and really like to thank that the three of us got together and was able to raise money for Japan, for charity.
But the things are still tough in Japan, so I want to keep on working and raise money. It was definitely a good experience for all of us.
Q. Tough day. You played well. Ai played better. Just take me through the day.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: You know, I had a really good front nine. I was 3-under. I made two really, really, really long putts. I was playing really well.
On the back night nine I just miss my second shot on 10 and I had a really bad lie in the bunker. Then I think the key point was 14, the par-5. My second shot -- I mean, the fairway is like 50 yards wide, and I was like, you know, it doesn't matter where it goes.
I wasn't focus, and just missed it in the rough. The ball was sitting down and I didn't know what it was going to do. I missed it to the right and bogeyed that one.
But I hit really good putts; just didn't go in. On 13 I hit a really nice putt; didn't go in. 14, same thing. On 15, just short.
But you know what, it was a really good day. She just played really well, especially when she needed to. All I can do is say congratulations to her.
Q. How good did it feel to be in contention, to feel the pressure coming down the back nine, tied for the lead early on the back nine?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: It's really good. That's what we practice for. I been missing this. At the end the year last year I was couple times in the last group, and I love it. That's why we play golf.
I can't wait to be in contention again. Hopefully I learn from today and get the win.
Q. Are you more frustrated that you weren't able to win or pleased with how you handled yourself and looking forward?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Both, because Ai didn't really give me a chance. She beat me by four?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I mean, yeah, I made stupid mistakes, and maybe if I hadn't made bogey on that one things would have turned out different.
But she played really well at the end. She made really nice putts, amazing up and downs. It's a little frustrating for not win, but at the same time I'm happy.
I was second starting the day and I finished second, so it's not that -- I mean, I didn't do anything atrocious.
Q. Just really tough ending there at 18. Just take us through what happened.
MEENA LEE: I tried on the second shot, but a little bit downwind. (Wind disturbance.)
I try to go to the pin, but I don't (indiscernible) and made a 3-putt.
Q. Talk about your day.
MEENA LEE: Yeah, really good day, so I'm working very good with my caddie on the distance control, and club selection is really good.
Q. How good did it feel to be in the hunt to get a win?
MEENA LEE: Well, I tried, but I don't know.
Q. How did you feel the atmosphere was out here? Similar to when you won in 2006?
MEENA LEE: Same condition. I like this golf course. Really good condition. Almost same.
Q. Is it safe to say that when they announced that the LPGA would be coming back do it course you were one of the happiest golfers on tour to play here again?
MEENA LEE: Yeah.
Q. How happy were you with the start of the round? I think you were in a pack of about five golfers. Did you feel like you had to be aggressive to start out and make that jump early?
MEENA LEE: Yeah, was really good putting and iron shots, so eventually I'm going to make good -- the three birdie in the row first nine holes, so was really good day.
I mean, really good iron and putting.
Q. So tough day out there. You were in the hunt early in the day; didn't work out for you. Just talk about how you played.
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I didn't play well today. I didn't give myself lots of chance to make birdie. I had lots of chance to make par.
Just not my day out there. I don't know what's happen. My distance was way off today. 10, 20 yards too far or 20 yards too short. Just never get close to the pins.
So I try my best, and just hopefully come back next year or looking forward play next tournament.
Q. Did the wind really affect the distance, do you think, or was it you?
YANI TSENG: I think both, but I feel the wind we just probably didn't good as good yardage and the way we want to hit it.
Q. Last one: Overall this week, probably another top 10 finish, you're still playing well. What do you take away from this week?
YANI TSENG: I mean, everybody's enjoy out here, so I mean, I am looking forward to come back next year to fight it back and play well again next year.
It was a great tournament. We're all enjoy here, and very happy that the tournament is back here again. Sometimes the wind just didn't goes -- you're not going to be perfect every time.
But like you said, hopefully I can still finish on top 10.