Manulife Financial LPGA Classic First-Round Notes and Interviews

Manulife Financial LPGA Classic
Grey Silo Golf Course
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
First-Round Notes and Interview
June 19, 2012

Sandra Changkija -8, Rolex Rankings No. 527
Anna Nordqvist -7, Rolex Rankings No. 31
Shanshan Feng, -5, Rolex Rankings No. 4

Karin Sjodin -4, Rolex Rankings No. 87

Suzann Pettersen -4, Rolex Rankings No. 5

Angela Stanford -4, Rolex Rankings No. 16

LPGA Tour rookie Sandra Changkija carded a career-low 8-under-par 63 on Thursday to take the first-round lead of the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. Changkija (@SandraChangkija) shot 6-under-par 30 on her inward nine – the front-nine at Grey Silo – to match the low score of the season on the LPGA Tour and take a three-shot lead over newly minted major champion Shanshan Feng (5-under-par 66) and Anna Nordqvist (-5 through 13). Changkija’s 63 also marks the lowest first-round score on Tour in 2012.

“My ball striking's been good, you know, for most every tournament I've played in,” said Changkija. “I just missed a few fairways here and there.  I've been keeping up with my ball striking and just needed to make some good strokes.”

A graduate of the Symetra Tour – Road to the LPGA, Changkija played 11 events on the developmental circuit in 2011 with a season-best tie for fifth. The 23-year-old was standout at Nova Southeastern University, where she claimed 16 tournament victories and was a four-time NCAA Division II Player of the Year (2008-2011). Additionally, she is a four-time NGCA Division II All-American First Team selection (2008-2011) and a three-time member of the winning NCAA Division II Women's Golf Championship team (2009 - 2011).

Changkija heads into Friday’s second round with a one-stroke lead over two-time LPGA Tour winner Anna Nordqvist. A suspended first-round due to inclement weather forced Nordqvist to finish her opening round Friday morning. Nordqvist’s first round consisted of nine birdies and two bogeys en route to a 7-under-par 64.

In search of her first LPGA Tour victory since the 2009 LPGA Tour Championship Presented by Rolex, Nordvist took full advantage of the less windy conditions Friday morning.

“Well, yesterday was really, really windy, so I just tried to keep the ball in play, and I'm hitting my irons really well,” said Nordqvist. “I had a lot of birdie putts inside, say, 10, 15 feet and I was rolling them pretty well, so it's just been solid.”

An impressive group of players currently sits at 5-under par including the youngest winner on the LPGA Tour, Lexi Thompson, 2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, Hee Kyung Seo, recent Wegmans LPGA Championship winner, Shanshan Feng, and Auburn University standout, Karlin Beck.

Changkija by the numbers: The 23-year-old entered the week at No. 527 on the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings. She has made two of seven cuts as a rookie in 2012 with a career-best tie for 55th at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Changkija has $6,708 in earnings.

Applying Pressure…Becoming an LPGA Rolex First Time Winner is exhilarating but it can also come with some added pressure. Shanshan Feng recently became a Rolex First Time Winner at the Wegmans LPGA Championship where she became the first player from the mainland China to win on the LPGA Tour.

This week serves as Feng's first tournament since her recent victory and she admitted to feeling some pressure prior to today's first round.

"You know, I thought a lot before I started because I know that after you win a tournament, maybe sometimes you'll be too like expecting yourself to do too well and then that would give yourself actually pressure," said Feng. "But that was what I was trying to tell myself, I said just keep patient and just focus on shot by shot and try your best."

Feng held up under the self-applied pressure as she shot a first-round 5-under par 68 and finds herself three-strokes behind the lead heading into tomorrow.

The Time is Now? Coming off a 2011 season that included two LPGA Tour victories and an impressive showing at the Solheim Cup, it is surprising to think that Pettersen has yet to secure a win this season. Nipping on the heels of her first victory this year, Pettersen played solid golf during the first round of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic to shoot a 4-under par 67.

This year Pettersen has recorded six top-20 finishes including a season-best tied for second finish at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Despite the windy conditions and increased amount of golf, Pettersen's confidence and feel for this week's greens could catapult her into the winner's circle in Waterloo, Canada.

"I actually got off to a pretty good start," said Pettersen. "I just feel like I've played a lot of golf lately, I'm feeling I'm playing very good, I have a good feel for the greens. It got really windy after a couple holes.  It's tough, but it's not that tough, but it's tough enough when the wind gets up, that's the only thing that's going to protect this course.  But I'm right there, it's good."

Open Opportunity…Karin Sjodin finds herself in contention at yet another LPGA tournament this year but this Swede has her sights set on entry into the U.S. Women's Open. A win this week would do just that for Sjodin and she has put herself in prime condition to do just that after an opening round 4-under par 67 has her a mere four-strokes behind current leader Sandra Changkija.

"Tom (Sjodin's caddie) thinks that a win might get me into the U.S. Open," said Sjodin. "I haven't checked to see if that's the case, but getting into the U.S. Open would be fun." 

In the midst of a breakthrough season, Sjodin has four top-20 victories this season and knocked on the door of her first LPGA Tour victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Her impressive play as of late has given everyone the opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse of her outgoing personality and quick wit.

During today's first round of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, Sjodin was Mic'd Up during Golf Channel's two hour telecast.

"It was fun," said Sjodin. "I messed up a couple of times, but I think -- I think I talk a lot when I play, so I don't think I did anything different today than I normally do. I kind of talk a little to everyone that wants to listen. Fortunately enough, my big mistake was when the little guy that has to be within like 20 yards of me, he wasn't there, so it wasn't bad."

Feels Like Home… Angela Stanford might be from Texas but this Texan feels right at home in Canada. Since 2006, Stanford has finished in the top-17 five times in the CN Canadian Women's Open including runner-up in 2006 and tied for second in 2009.

"I like it," said Stanford. "It's always been good to me. I've always played well up here and the people are so friendly, so I like Canada."

Stanford utilized last week to focus her attention on improving her ball striking and putting. The hard work has paid off for Stanford as she finds herself amidst a pack of players at 4-under par.

"I got off to a steady start and just really got comfortable out there," said Stanford. "I did some work last week hitting balls and working on my putting. I kind of like the golf course. The front side, made a couple putts, and just it was a good day. I hit the ball really well and made some putts."

Sandra Changkija, Rolex Rankings No. 527

Q. What went well today?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Just hitting greens and making good strokes.

Q.  I think that's your best round of the year.  Did you feel that was coming along?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  I was hoping it was coming along.

Q.  Have you been playing well all week here?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  My ball striking's been good, you know, for most every tournament I've played in.  I just missed a few fairways here and there.  I've been keeping up with my ball striking and just needed to make some good strokes.

Q.  Not too hard -- it's easy to hit fairways out here, they're pretty generous, I think?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Yeah, but a lot of times, whatever event it is, I'm always like on the second cut, so it's a few less fairways.

Q.  So you were a big, I can't remember if it was D-I or D-III standout?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Division II.

Q.  That was your background?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Yeah.

Q.  So maybe you can just give us a little bit of your background?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Four-time Division II national player of the year, four-time first team All American.  My teammates just captured their fourth team championship, 16 collegiate wins.

Q.  You had offers from D-I schools though, right?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Not full rides.

Q.  Sandra, you're a rookie out here.  How have you been able to adjust and adapt?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  I mean, I'm learning every week.  I think I've got like a good handful of players I can always talk to about whatever, whether it's practicing or on the course or just how to handle myself each week.

Q.  Who's your big sister?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Beth Bader.

Q.  Tell me about the round today.  I saw you were 7-over -- excuse me, 7-under -- yeah, not 7-over.  7-under there.  How did the round go and tell me about the course?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  The first like six holes it was just straight pars, I just tried to find the speed with the greens.  Then I birdied I think 16 and 18.  I was comfortable with the 2-under.  Then the next couple birdies, I hit it pretty close, just needed to make a good stroke.  Putt one in the last three birdies.  They were kind of long ones.  I had the right line, I just had to get it close and it just went in.

Q.  What did you think of the course?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  I like it a lot, it fits me well.  It definitely got windy once we got to the back nine -- front nine.  Just keeping it in play.

Q.  How good does it feel to be on top of the leaderboard?  I know it's early, but an 8-under score on opening day is really nice?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Yeah, I haven't looked, but it's definitely a good number, especially for a new venue.

Q.  How have you liked Canada so far?  
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Everyone's really nice here, yeah, that's what I like about it.

Q.  What's been the biggest adjustment to becoming a professional you've found?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  There's a lot of traveling, it's more like impromptu traveling, just last-minute things.  I don't really have a sponsor, so I can't quite buy all the plane tickets right away, just kind of go week to week.

Q.  Are you billeting or staying in hotels?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  I'm doing a little bit of housing and hotels, using volunteer transportation.  Just trying everything out because I know renting a car and getting a hotel is probably the easiest one, but I figured I would try everything as much as I can and try and save some money.

Q.  It's not easy, is it?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  No, sometimes it's hard to get the volunteers to come out at 5:15.

Q.  What time are they picking you up this morning?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  5:15.  No, some other events they said 6:00.  I said wow, what about a 7:30 tee time.  Kind of just have to work around it.

Q.  A lot of people have been expecting really low scores out here this week.  Obviously you set the early pace.  What's your goal going into tomorrow?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Just going to keep doing what I've been doing, hit fairways, hit greens, just make a good stroke.  I'm putting really well, I've got a new putter.

Q.  When did you going to start using the new putter?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  After Wegmans.

Q.  What's the putter?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  It's a TaylorMade Rossa Ghost.

 

Anna Nordqvist, Rolex Rankings No. 31

Q.  Good playing.  You had to come out and finish this morning.  What went well?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Well, yesterday was really, really windy, so I just tried to keep the ball in play, and I'm hitting my irons really well.  I had a lot of birdie putts inside, say, 10, 15 feet and I was rolling them pretty well, so it's just been solid.

Q.  What's your mindset for the rest of the day?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  You know, it's such a beautiful day, so I'm just going to try to go out and have fun and enjoy it as much as I can.  I'm working on my game and hopefully I'll make a couple more birdies.

 

Shanshan Feng, Rolex Rankings No. 4

Q.  Can you just take me through the day?
SHANSHAN FENG:  I think the whole day was -- I was very consistent.  I started with a birdie on 2nd hole.  I mean, I had to save a par on the 1st hole and made the birdie putt on the 2nd hole.  Saved a par put again on the 3rd, so I think my putting was pretty good on the front nine.  This course, I think it's wide, it's very wide, so I can try to hit it as hard as I can and just have a lot of birdie chances and just try to make putts.

Q.  Did I hear you were over in China?
SHANSHAN FENG:  No, I wasn't.  I wanted to go back, but there was not enough time.  I'm going back to China after the U.S. Open.  That's the time to celebrate.

Q.  Right.  You said yesterday you want to get out here and focus on this tournament.  Obviously you were able to do so.  Did it feel good to get sort of back into the heat of competition?
SHANSHAN FENG:  Yes.  You know, I thought a lot before I started because I know that after you win a tournament, maybe sometimes you'll be too like expecting yourself to do too well and then that would give yourself actually pressure.  But that was what I was trying to tell myself, I said just keep patient and just focus on shot by shot and try your best.

Q.  I believe it was the 15th hole you put it in the back bunker and put it back on and it went down the ridge a bit.  Were you happy to get out of there with a bogey?
SHANSHAN FENG:  I mean I had six birdies and one bogey; I don't think it's a bad round.  And that one, I think the second shot, because the wind was swirling a little bit, I kind of chose, you know, like the club was too long and then it was in the bunker.  I didn't really take my time in the bunker, so that shot was a little over, but I'm okay.  I mean, a bogey's fine.

Q.  Does it help your game when your playing partners are playing well?
SHANSHAN FENG:  Yes, because I think when the other group is playing well, then you want to beat them.  But -- and then you'll be stronger.  If you play with somebody not doing very well, then maybe you don't have that much, how to say --

Q.  Concentration?
SHANSHAN FENG:  Yeah, concentration maybe.

Q.  Is this hot?
SHANSHAN FENG:  No, it's not.  It's blocking the sun actually.  It's protecting the skin. 

Karin Sjodin, Rolex Rankings No. 87

Q.  All right.  Another good round this year.  Can you just take me through the day?
KARIN SJODIN:  It was a good day, ball striking especially.  In the beginning I made a few putts, and on the back nine, I call it boring golf; you hit all the fairways, all the greens and don't make anything.  And I think Tom figured out the wind really well.  There was one hole we messed up on and ended up -- I hit a good shot that was about 35 yards short into a bunker and made a bogey.  But other than that, I think I figured out the wind and hit it pretty good.

Q.  You've been right there all year, kind of just knocking on the door of a win.  Can you just take me through your thoughts for the rest of the week?
KARIN SJODIN:  I don't know if I've looked that far into it, but of course I'm going to try to win.  Tom thinks that a win might get me into the U.S. Open.  I haven't checked to see if that's the case, but getting into the U.S. Open would be fun.  Of course it's something I aim for every week, but I think when I'm out on the course, it's more shot by shot.

Q.  You were mic'd up today for the Golf Channel.  How was that?
KARIN SJODIN:  It was fun.  I messed up a couple of times, but I think -- I think I talk a lot when I play, so I don't think I did anything different today than I normally do.  I kind of talk a little to everyone that wants to listen.  Fortunately enough, my big mistake was when the little guy that has to be within like 20 yards of me, he wasn't there, so it wasn't bad.

Suzann Pettersen, Roex Rankings No. 5

Q.  4-under par, four shots off the lead.  Just tell me how you played.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I actually got off to a pretty good start.  I just feel like I've played a lot of golf lately, feeling I'm playing very good, have a good feel for the greens.  It got really windy after a couple holes.  It's tough, but it's not that tough, but it's tough enough when the wind gets up, that's the only thing that's going to protect this course.  But I'm right there, it's good.

Q.  We had one player go 8-under.  I mean, anybody could have done it, but most of you are at 4 or 5.  Obviously at Wegmans you're hitting the ball great off the tee.  Is that still the case, or --

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  No, I'm hitting everything good.  The wind here, you kind of make adjustments.  Overall, very good.  A couple lose shots here and there, but that's okay. 

Angela Stanford, Rolex Rankings No. 16

Q.  So you're right up there again, another tournament.  Can you just take me through the day?
ANGELA STANFORD:  I got off to a steady start and just really got comfortable out there.  I did some work last week hitting balls and working on my putting.  I kind of like the golf course.  The front side, made a couple putts, and just it was a good day. I hit the ball really well and made some putts.

Q.  I know you've been doing a lot of charity work recently.  How's that going?
ANGELA STANFORD:  It's good, it's really good.  The foundation, I just found out that our -- the kids that we're helping this year, the checks were sent, so that's always a good feeling to know that they're off to school.  They're on summer break obviously now, but they're on their way.  It's pretty cool.

Q.  What do you think of Canada?  What do you think of Waterloo?
ANGELA STANFORD:  I like it.  It's always been good to me.  I've always played well up here and the people are so friendly, so I like Canada.

Q.  You've already won once this year.  What would it mean, multiple winner in the same year?
ANGELA STANFORD:  Well, I've only done it once in my career, so I would like to do it again.  I guess it just gives you more and more confidence going into the last two majors.

Q.  There's still three more days, but what's sort of your mindset for the rest of the week?
ANGELA STANFORD:  I think we have to keep trying to go low out here.  I think if the wind blows the right way, people can make a lot of birdies, so I think you have to keep going low.

Topics: Changkija, Sandra, Pettersen, Suzann, Sjodin, Karin, Stanford, Angela, Feng, Shanshan, Manulife Financial LPGA Classic [+]

Andrews Sports MedicineArpin Van LinesFloridas NaturalMedjet AssistMichelob ULTRAPrudentialSmuckers