LPGA LOTTE Championship Third-Round Notes and Interviews

LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf
Ko Olina Golf Club
Kapolei, Hawaii
April 20, 2012
Third-round notes and interviews

Ai Miyazato, -10, Rolex Rankings No. 8
Cristie Kerr, -7, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Azahara Munoz, -7, Rolex Rankings No. 40
Yani Tseng, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 1

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

Seven-time LPGA winner Ai Miyazato holds a three-shot lead over Cristie Kerr and Azahara Munoz entering the final round of play at the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Miyazato shot 2-under-par 70 on Friday during the third round at Ko Olina Golf Club on Oahu. The Japanese star recorded four birdies – including a four-foot putt at No. 18 – and two bogies to move to 10-under-par 206. “It was really tough out there.  Still windy, and basically same direction, but it's still tough to play out there,” she said. “I really handled (it) well, so I'm very happy with my round today.”

A tie for 56th place at the Kraft Nabisco Championship led Ai Miyazato to try several putting changes that are paying 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.”

Although Ai Miyazato has a four-shot cushion entering the final round, some of the Tour’s biggest names are lurking. Cristie Kerr, a 14-time winner, is three shots back, while Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng, former No. 1 Jiyai Shin, four-time winner Angela Stanford and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion and Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year points leader So Yeon Ryu are four behind at 6-under-par. “Four or five shot is not really nothing on this golf course,” Tseng said. “Because, I mean, it was really windy. Get a couple more birdies back and then try to make birdie on par-5s and be patient tomorrow, and you never know.”

Saturday’s final group will showcase Golf’s Global Tour with the top-ranked players from Japan, the United States and Spain vying for the LOTTE Championship title. Miyazato and Kerr, both former Rolex Rankings No. 1’s, and Azahara Munoz tee off at 10:42 a.m. local time. Live coverage on Golf Channel airs from 7 to 10 p.m. Eastern Time.

 

Meet the LOTTE Leaders

Ai Miyazato (-10): 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 (-7): 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 (-7): 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.

Of note… At various points in the third round, the four active players who have been Rolex Rankings No. 1 were in the top-four… Angela Stanford rolled in a 50-foot birdie putt on 18 to move into a tie for fourth at 6-under-par… Yani Tseng is looking to keep her top-10 streak alive tomorrow. She has seven consecutive top-10’s dating back to the 2011 CME Group Titleholders… The par-4 18th hole at Ko Olina has ranked as the second-hardest hole this week, playing downwind with a 4.299 stroke average.

 

Ai Miyazato, -10

MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Ai Miyazato, our third round leader at the LPGA Lotte Championship.  You're at 10-under par, a three-shot lead over Cristie Kerr and Aza Munoz. A windy day and a tough day, but you played well.  Tell us about your day.
AI MIYAZATO:  Yeah, it was really tough out there.  Still windy, and basically same direction, but it's still tough to play out there.

But I said to myself because I played so good yesterday, just, you know, not trying to be like really greedy.  Just stay focused everything the shots, and, you know, try to manage myself.

I really handle well, so I'm very happy with my round today.  

MODERATOR:  No. 18, you hit a nice shot in there, very tight, rolled in the birdie.  How nice was that to extend your lead to three shots?
AI MIYAZATO:  Yes, it was really strong finish.  I was really happy about this.  The 18 is really difficult tee shot, and of course second shot was really tough, too.  I had a really nice number today.  I just hit a nice and easy 7-iron, and, you know, just a short bounce in front of the greens.  It was perfect, so I'm very happy with that, that I made birdie.

MODERATOR:  Last one from me before questions from the media.  For those who don't see you every week, you have a very slow and rhythmic swing.  Can you explain why your swing is like that and what advantage you think it gives you.
AI MIYAZATO:  Why my swing is slow?  (Laughter.)  I don't know why.  I have this tempo since when I was little, so it's been like long time that I have this tempo.

But, you know, I'm not tall and I'm not big either, and so I just focus on, you know, like accuracy, you know.  So the tempo makes more consistent.  You know, hit the ball well, consistent and then the ball slice makes consistent, so that's why I keep my tempo so far.

It's actually not easy to keep tempo in this wind, though.  It was really difficult last few days.  But, you know, I had really good focus out there, so that's why I think I'm still can keep my tempo.

So one more day.

Q.  The weekend at Kraft, that might have been your worst weekend of the year.  What did you do in between Kraft and coming here that got to you this point?
AI MIYAZATO:  Right.  Well, after the Kraft Nabisco I was very disappointed because I had such a great start the beginning of the season, and I felt really good about my game before the Kraft.

But I couldn't putt.  You know, I just couldn't make some putts in the Kraft Nabisco, so that's why I didn't play well.

After that, my dad is my teacher, swing teacher, and he is working my putting, too.  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.

So that's why.  That's the difference.

Q.  I'm playing for like $150 on Monday.  What were the two tips?
AI MIYAZATO:  (Laughter.)  Well, I had a wide stance last year with my putting.  Then this year I try to make a little bit narrower, but then after Kraft Nabisco it was too narrow so my putting stroke was a little bit off.  My balance was a little bit off, too.

So I'm trying to be a little bit more wide stance now.  Plus, my right grip was a little bit strong, too, so that makes more hook, you know, rolling with the ball.

So now it's a little bit weak, good position, and so those two points.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about the tour returning to Hawaii.  You enjoy playing here?  Do you enjoy being here?
AI MIYAZATO:  Oh, I love Hawaii.  I'm very happy to be here again.  I'm from Okinawa, which is very similar weather than people over here.  So it feels like my hometown here.

And even though we have this wind, I'm very enjoying to stay here.  When I'm off the golf course, you know, you can just two to the beach and nice and relax.

It's perfect place for the tournament, I think, so I'm very happy to be back here.

Q.  Going into the last round, tell us what would be the key to this golf course?  And also going in with the lead, you've done that many times before.  What's the key to that for you?
AI MIYAZATO:  For tomorrow?  I think with the three shots leading is nothing mean for me, because if it's get windy tomorrow it's going to be really tough again.

I heard it's going to rain too tomorrow, so it's going to be a tough condition out there tomorrow.

Just need to focus my game one more day.  Like I said, keep my swing tempo and try to hit the fairways and greens and make some putts, you know.

Just think really simple out there.  So that's the key points.  You know, not against any other players.  Not against the scores.  Just take the shots at a time and see what's going to happen.

Q.  Last hole, what was your yardage and how close was it to the hole?
AI MIYAZATO:  Which hole?

Q.  18.
AI MIYAZATO:  You mean birdie putt?

Q.  Yeah, how far how far did you hit the 7-iron?
AI MIYAZATO:  Oh, second shot was 154, and I hit 7-iron.  Birdie putt was one meter, four feet.

 

Cristie Kerr, -7

Q. Talk about how you played today.
CRISTIE KERR:  Yeah, I think I played pretty solidly.  I had some putts on the front that I misread.  I probably just under-read the putt on 7.

Just over-read the one on 8.

9, just kind of made a lazy swing at it into the green.

10 was an under- read.

I mean, I played good.  I made one really bad swing all day, and then had a bad gust, made bogey and came right back.  You know, made a couple good key up and downs coming in.

I thought it played a little tougher today where the pins were and the way the wind was a little different angle and a little stronger than yesterday.

Q.  You hung in there.  It's tough conditions.  Only a couple shots back.  Just talk your mindset going into the final round?
CRISTIE KERR:  Well, again, try and shoot in the 60s.  I kind of woke up and was a little sick this morning from some food that I ate.

So I did good.  I hung in there.  Just do a little bit of practice and go home and rest.

 

Azahara Munoz, -7

Q. So 1-over par today.  You toughed it out and you're still in the hunt.  Just talk about your day and how you think you played.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  You know what?  I think I played much better than the result.  I didn't make birdie on 1, and then the wind was really hurting from the left on 2 and 3, and I aimed way left and it didn't come back, so I went into the bunker and hit it flat both times.

So I made bogeys on there.  And then on 5 I was hitting a 4-iron into the green, and I was stupid.  I should've just played right of the green, and I just tried to get too cute, hit it in the water, and save a really nice par.

I played much better after that.  On 9 I hit a really bad putt; on 10 I hit a really good putt, but I didn't think it was going to break and I lipped out.

You know, after that I kept like I have playing like I was, and I made really nice birdies on -- 16 I made bogey.  We couldn't figure out the wind, and I went like 30 yards over the pin.  So I made bogey.

But other than that, I played really well.

Q.  Did you draw on anything today, maybe the Solheim Cup or your win in Madrid?  Anything being in the final group that you think about?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  No, you know, I was just trying to -- I haven't been nervous all day, and I think actually at the beginning I was a little too calm.  Sometimes it's nice to be a little nervous.

But playing with AI is so nice, so it was just like yesterday and the day before.

Q.  Talk about Ai, playing with her, so rhythmic and so slow.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  It's awesome, because between shots we talk.  She's always smiling.  Obviously now she's playing good.  But even I played with her once at Grand Cypress, and I think she shot 5-over and she was that nice.  Like it doesn't matter what she's shooting.

You know, I got a lot to learn from that.  I'm happy I'm getting to see that, because that's what I'm working on.  I like it.

Q.  Last one.  Looking forward to tomorrow, some thoughts on probably playing in the final group again.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  I'm three behind, right?

Q.  Yeah, tied for second.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah, with Cristie right?

Q.  Yeah, so probably you, Cristie, and Ai.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah.  You know, hopefully I shoot lower than today.  But, yeah, just trying to keep calm and just try to smile a little more.  Hopefully I don't make so many stupid mistakes.  Just going to try to enjoy it.

 

Yani Tseng, -6

Q.  So you're a few shots back.  Talk about your day, how you played.
YANI TSENG:  I played really solid round today.  I make a lot of putts.  I had one three-putt on No. 12.  Missed a few feet for par.

But everything else I played pretty well.  I save a lot of par putt today and make a few birdie, but I still hit it into the water on No. 5.  I mean, I did it twice in a row.  Same as No. 10, I did it twice in a row the last two days.

But was happy I hit on the fairway on No. 10.  Hopefully tomorrow on No. 5, because that's kind of a birdie chance, kind of a reachable birdie chance, so hopefully tomorrow I can get lower on this hole.

Everything else I'm pretty happy for the day.  Three shot back, and looking forward for tomorrow.

Q.  At some point today -- not right now -- but you Cristie, Ai, and Jiyai, all who have been No. 1 in the world, are the top four.
YANI TSENG:  Oh, that's cool.

Q.  Is there something about this golf course that you think the top players are doing better?
YANI TSENG:  I think just the wind.  I mean, you have to hit a solid shot.  If you hit it too high, in this wind is not going to work.

Be patient is another important things.  Just be patient and do your tempo and doesn't care the other players playing.  Just play your game on this golf course.

Q.  Last one.  Looking forward to tomorrow, probably be four or five shots back, nothing you haven't done before.  Talk about your mindset.
YANI TSENG:  I'm still thinking to win.  Four or five shot is not really nothing on this golf course.  Because, I mean, it was really windy.  Get a couple more birdies back and then try to make birdie on par-5s and be patient tomorrow, and you never know.

I mean, I can maybe play like -- tomorrow play like Ai on Friday, you know; on Thursday shot 8-under, who knows.

But, I mean, you just go out there and have another fun day tomorrow and enjoy.

 

Topics: LPGA Lotte Championship, Miyazato, Ai, Munoz, Azahara, Kerr, Cristie, Tseng, Yani [+]

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