LPGA LOTTE Championship Second-Round Notes and Interviews

LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf
Ko Olina Golf Club
Kapolei, Hawaii
April 19, 2012
Second-round notes and interviews

Azahara Munoz, -8, Rolex Rankings No. 40
Ai Miyazato, -8, Rolex Rankings No. 8
Cristie Kerr, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 4

Weather Report: Temperatures in the low 80’s with winds at 10-15 mph gusting to 20 mph

Rolex Rankings No. 8 Ai Miyazato and 2010 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Azahara Munoz share the lead at 8-under-par 136 following two rounds of play at the inaugural LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Fourteen-time LPGA winner Cristie Kerr and two-time winner Jimin Kang lurk just two shots off the lead at Ko Olina Golf Club outside Honolulu Kerr is in search of her first win since The inaugural LOTTE Championships features a 144-player field is vying for a $1.7 million purse with $255,000 going to the winner. The tournament marks the LPGA’s return to Ko Olina for the first time since 2008 and ninth time overall. The four-round event will finish on Saturday.

Azahara Munoz matched a career-low round of 8-under-par on Thursday to take a share of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf lead. Her day included seven birdies – including tap-in putts at No. 14 and No. 17, a bogey at No. 2 where she missed a two-foot par putt, and an eagle at the par-4 sixth hole where she holed a wedge from 102 yards. Munoz shot her previous career-best round of 8-under-par in 2010 at the Tres Marias Championship, where she carded a 65 on a par-73 layout. The third-year player is coming off consecutive top-15 finishes at the Kia Classic (T12) and the Kraft Nabisco Championship (T15).

Ai Miyazato match her season-low round on Friday with a bogey-free 65. She made birdie on 14, 15 and 16 to take a share of the lead alongside Azahara Munoz after 36 holes at the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Miyazato previously recorded a 65 in the third round of the Honda LPGA Thailand, where she finished second. Entering this week, she was second in the Vare Trophy for low scoring average race to Yani Tseng. Coincidentally, Tseng is the winner of both events where Miyazato has finished second this season.


Meet the LOTTE Leaders

Ai Miyazato (-8): The 26-year-old Japan native is a seven-time winner on the LPGA with more than $6 million in earnings. She reached the top of the Rolex Rankings for 11 weeks in 2010, a year in which she won a career-best five times. Miyazato won her seventh tournament last season at the Evian Masters, a tournament that also marked her Rolex First-Time win in 2009. This season, Miyazato has runner-up finishes at the Honda LPGA Thailand and the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, where she crossed the $6 million mark in career earnings. She has four top-10 finishes in five events played this season.

Azahara Munoz (-8): The 24-year-old Spaniard is a third-year member of the LPGA. Her career-best finish is a tie for second at the 2011 Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. The 2009 Arizona State University graduate turned professional in September of 2009 and qualified for the Tour the same year via the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. She went on the earn Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors in 2010. Munoz has one professional victory – the 2009 Madrid Masters on the Ladies European Tour (LET) – and was a member of the victorious 2011 European Solheim Cup Team.

Cristie Kerr (-6): The 34-year-old American is a 14-time winner on the LPGA and a six-time member of the U.S. Solheim Cup Team. In 2010, she became the first American to reach the Rolex Rankings No. 1 position, spending five weeks in the top spot throughout the season. Known as one of the most consistent putters on Tour, Kerr is also an aspiring Sommelier with her own wine, Curvature, the profits of which are entirely donated to breast cancer research. Kerr has at least one win in eight of the last nine seasons and career earnings of more than $13.6 million.

Jimin Kang (-6): The 32-year-old South Korean is a two-time winner on the LPGA with nearly $2.2 million in career earnings. Her victories came at the 2005 Corning Classic and the 2010 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. Kang has made four cuts in 2012 with a season-best tie for fifth at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Of note: The cut was made at 3-over-par 147... Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng shot even-par 72 on Friday and is currently five shots behind the leaders… Rolex Rankings No. 5 IK Kim withdrew after the second round… Mi Jung Hur withdrew during the second round… Beatriz Recari holed a 90-yard wedge on No. 1 for eagle… Local favorite Michelle Wie shot 78-76=154 (+10) to miss the cut… Paula Creamer, the last player to win at Ko Olina, shot 67 on the second round and is currently four shots behind the leaders… First-round leader Beth Bader shot 77 on Friday…. Mariajo Uribe carded a career-low 65 in the second round.

Azahara Munoz, -8

Q. So tied for the lead with a really nice putt there on 18.  You shot 64 today.  In this wind, that had to feel really good.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah, you know, the good thing about this wind is at least it's consistent.  When it's gusting it's really difficult to judge.  But I don't feel that the wind really bothers me, especially after yesterday, because yesterday was super strong.

But, yeah, I hit really, really good shots.  On 6 I holed my second shot, and then hit another two like that close.  So, you know, I made really good putts, so it was a really nice round.

Q.  Do you remember what club you hit on 6, your yardage?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah.  It was a really easy wedge.  Oh, my yardage?  It was 102, I think.

Q.  When you came here this week, did you feel like you had a 64?  Were you feeling good about your game?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah, I've been playing much better last couple weeks.  At Kraft and then at San Diego I've been hitting the ball much better, but my putting was kind of out. These last two weeks I been working really hard on my putting.  I kind of change my setup and I think I'm stroking it better, and I think it's paying off.

Q.  With the conditions, with the hard wind, is that one of your best rounds maybe ever?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  With this much wind, yeah.  Probably, yeah.  My best round is 9-under, so it's pretty close.  I think I shot 9-under in Morelia.  Yeah, I'll take it.

Q.  So what do you do to deal with the wind?  Obviously your good at it.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Well, as I said, the good thing about it is that it's consistent.  So you just have to aim where you're aiming and just trust it.  Forget about where the pin is and focus on the target.

Q.  First two years you've been out here, what's the most important thing you've learned?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  I been lately just trying to enjoy a little more.  I used to get -- well, except for the last three weeks -- so frustrated on the golf course.  Every time I miss a shot I was so pissed.  Now I'm trying to let it go. Like on 2 today I miss a two-footer.  Normally I would have gone crazy, but today I just said, You know, it's okay. Then I made birdie on the next hole. That was good.

Q.  You hit close on what two holes?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  On 6 I made it and 14 I hit it like that (motions one foot) and on 17 like that, too.

Q.  Easy then.  That's cheating.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah.  No.

Q.  Does to help when you're group is combined 19-under?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Both of them are really nice to play with.  We were talking all the time.  Especially these two rounds that have been pretty slow out there, it's really nice to get nice people that you can talk to and laugh with. I was making lots of birdies, so you kind of feed of it I guess.  It's fun.

 

Ai Miyazato, -8

Q.  So 8-under par overall.  You're tied for the lead right now.  You played a great round today.  Just talk about your round.
AI MIYAZATO:  Well, my putting was really good today.  I had really solid so many putts, and I hit the ball well and I didn't miss any fairways today.  So my short game was actually really good too.  That's why I shot 7-under.

Q.  Just talk about the conditions.  Obviously very windy.  Everybody has to deal with it.  Was it similar to yesterday?
AI MIYAZATO:  Yeah, been same direction since last couple days.  I'm kind of used to it now. But, still, it's not easy out there.  Just try and take one shot at a time and just focus my game.

Q.  There is a lot of really solid names on the leaderboard up there:  You, Kerr, Tseng, Pettersen.  Is there something about this course that all the top players are playing really well?
AI MIYAZATO:  I don't know.  Maybe because it's in Hawaii.  You know, everyone have a really nice time outside of the golf course.  So just when you're off the golf course you can have a nice and relax time, and when you're on the golf course you can just focus like that. (Snapping fingers.)

So that's why everyone is playing good.

Q.  With the culture of Hawaii, is your comfort level a little more maybe than on the mainland?
AI MIYAZATO:  Yeah, I think so, because I'm from Okinawa in Japan, which is like same as here.  I grew up by the seaside, and when I was young I go to the beach every day.  You know, it's like over here.

Q.  How different was today's round from yesterday's round?  You played well yesterday, too.
AI MIYAZATO:  Yeah, I played good yesterday, too, but then towards the end I couldn't make some putts.  That's why I lost the scores and didn't finish really strong.

But then I said to myself, you know, it was really windy, so that was good.  So I felt really good my game this morning.  That's why I play well.

Q.  Any changes on the putting?
AI MIYAZATO:  No, nothing.  Just the mind.  That's the golf though.  Even though if it's windy, you just focus your game.  If you have a good self-talk, then it's going to work, so...

Q.  People like me and you, we can go under the wind.  Does that help?
AI MIYAZATO:  Well, how should I say?  I mean, wind is still difficult.  Like I said, I grow up kind of windy place, too, so when it gets windy, you know, it makes me thinking of my hometown, too. So it's pretty comfortable for me.

 

Cristie Kerr, -6

Q. 68 today; bogey-free.  Great round.  Just tell me about what went right.
CRISTIE KERR:  You know, just Jason and I really worked on strategy.  I feel like sometimes in the past we've hit good shots and been in not so great places.  So we're really focusing on where we want the ball to finish on the greens. That's really making a difference as far as even if you do miss a shot you have somewhat of an easy up and down instead of being short-sided or whatever. I hit some hooks today, but I hit a lot of really good shots today and made some great par saves when I had to.  Just been working really hard on my game.  The last couple days I haven't really tried that hard, and I think that's made a difference. Just trying to be as determined as I can be in every shot.

Q.  Just compare yesterday to today conditions-wise.  We haven't really talked to anybody about what the wind was like out there for you guys today.
CRISTIE KERR:  I would say it was pretty similar.  Maybe starting out the day we might have had a smidge less wind, but it picked up like right on like two holes into our round.

So pretty similar.  Same wind direction.  Some of the pins were a little bit more accessible.  I would say pretty similar conditions, though.

Q.  Seems like based on the leaderboard that the top-ranked players are enjoying the scores.  We've got you, Ai, Pettersen, Tseng, all up in the top five.  Can you explain that?  Is it a shot-makers course?  Is it designed for a better player?
CRISTIE KERR:  Yeah, I think it is.  You have to definitely control your ball flight.  If you get a hook wind and the pin is on the left side, you've got to aim right and not hook it.

You have to really control the shape of your shots.  When it's windy, it's definitely more creative.  I think that's why you're seeing a lot of top players at the top.

Q.  Last one.  Just looking forward to the next two days, your strategy would be?
CRISTIE KERR:  Keep doing what I'm doing.  Try and shoot in the 60s the next two days.  Seems like the conditions are going to be pretty identical. You know, if I miss shots, grind for the pars.  I've been putting great, so the more greens I hit the better chance I have.

Topics: LPGA Lotte Championship, Miyazato, Ai, Munoz, Azahara, Kerr, Cristie, Kang, Jimin [+]

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