Manulife Financial LPGA Classic Third-Round Notes and Interviews

Manulife Financial LPGA Classic
Grey Silo Golf Course
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Third-Round Notes and Interview
June 23, 2012

Inbee Park -14, Rolex Rankings No. 26
Brittany Lang -12, Rolex Rankings No. 35
Hee Kyung Seo -12, Rolex Rankings No. 37
Anna Nordqvist -10, Rolex Rankings No. 31
Nicole Hage -9, Rolex Rankings No. 503
Sandra Changkija -9, Rolex Rankings No. 527
Karin Sjodin -9, Rolex Rankings No. 87
Lexi Thompson -8, Rolex Rankings No. 23

2008 U.S. Women's Open champion Inbee Park is in position to claim her first victory in nearly four years with a two-shot lead entering the final round of the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. Park fired a third-round 66 and sits at 14-under-par 199, two shots ahead of Hee Kyung Seo and Brittany Lang at 12-under-par 201. Her day, which included six birdies, was nearly flawless aside from a bogey at the 17th hole.

"I hit the ball very good today, I hit a lot of good iron shots, and I think I played par 5s really good today; that helped me a lot," said Park. "There was some more putts out there that I could have made, but I was really happy with the way I hit the ball today and hopefully tomorrow it will be a better putting day."

Park has been steady this season, finishing inside the top 26 in each of the past eight tournaments dating back to the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. This week is Park's 79th tournament since becoming a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2008 U.S. Women's Open. Her best finish in that stretch is second at the 2010 Kia Classic. She has become a regular player on the LPGA of Japan (JLPGA) in recent years, amassing four victories including one last month. Park has earned just north of $3.1 million in her six year career is currently 30th on the 2012 LPGA Official Money List with $180,144.

Brittany Lang is in search of her first victory on the LPGA Tour after an eagle at the 18th hole propelled her into a tie for 18th. Lang, who has her brother Luke on the bag, carded 15 pars on her day before going 4-under-par through her final three holes with birdies at 16 and 17 and an eagle at 18 where she knocked her second shot inside five feet to card a 4-under-par 67.

"I hit some good putts and some good shots and I just couldn't get anything going," said Lang. "But I stayed patient and positive and finally made the birdie on 16 and got some energy and hit a great shot into 17.  That was a great ‑‑ and even that, it's tricky to read the greens out here.  You can hit good putts and not make them, but I stayed positive and just hit two awesome shots on 18.  I'm very happy with that finish."

A two-time member of the U.S. Solheim Cup Team (2009, 2011), Lang is considered to be one of the best players on the LPGA Tour without a victory. The 26-year-old Texan has five second-place finishes in her career including the 2011 RICOH Women's British Open where she was runner-up to Yani Tseng.

2010 Kia Classic champion Hee Kyung Seo is seeking her first victory as a member of the LPGA Tour this week in Waterloo. The 25-year-old South Korean shot 4-under-par 67 on SaturdaySeo claimed her first LPGA title while playing on a sponsor's exemption as a member of the Korea LPGA (KLPGA). With that victory, she earned LPGA status for 2011 and went on to win Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors. Seo started her 2012 campaign strong with a tie for second at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, where she lost in a six-way playoff to Jessica Korea. She also recorded a tie for sixth at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and a tie for fourth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She enters this week coming off a missed cut at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

On paper, Stacy Lewis was the favorite entering this week's inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. In the last four tournaments, the 27-year-old has posted two victories (Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, ShopRite LPGA Classic), a tie for fifth (Sybase Match Play Championship) and a tie for second at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. The No. 2 player on the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings is currently six shots back with 18 holes remaining at Grey Silo Golf Course. Lewis started the week slow with a 1-over-par 72 on Thursday, but went low on Friday, posting a 7-under-par 64. Lewis added a 2-under-par 69 on Saturday to give herself an outside chance at her third win in the last six events.

Playing in just her second tournament of the 2012 season, Nicole Hage finds herself in unfamiliar territory. The 26-year-old Floridian recorded an eagle on the 18th hole to move into a tie for fifth at 9-under-par 204. Hage's career-best finish came at the 2010 Navistar LPGA Classic where she tied for 20th. A member of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour, Hage has played five tournaments this season on the Road to the LPGA with a season-best tie for seventh at the Sara Bay Classic. On Friday, Hage carded a career-low 65

Happy Anniversary! Saturday was a special day at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic as this week's title sponsor Manulife Financial celebrated its 125th anniversary. Manulife Financial is a leading Canadian-based financial company with extensive international operations. The company operates as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia and primarily as John Hancock in the United States. John Hancock is also celebrating 150 years in 2012.

"This has been the nicest tournament I think I've ever played in," said Nicole Hage. "This is my fifth year on Tour and it's just been first class from just every little detail and the fans out here are just unbelievable. I played in seven Opens and these fans are awesome."

Quote of the day: "Her swing sometimes seems painfully slow, but it works." – Golf Channel analyst Judy Rankin on Inbee Park's deliberate golf swing

Tweet of the day: @Paige_Mackenzie: Most think Title IX was about sports, when it was really about providing equal opportunity in all aspects of education. It made its biggest impact in sport...I know this bc of the research I did in a college public speaking class...which was thanks to a scholarship in sports

Of note… Of the five Canadians who made the cut at the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, rookie Maude-Aimee Leblanc was the only one to break par today. The long-hitting rookie shot 3-under-par 68 on Saturday and leads the pack at 4-under-par 209… The 18th hole at Grey Silo could produce a fantastic finish tomorrow at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. The 471-yard par-5 has produced 188 birdies and nine eagles through three rounds of play… In her bid to win back-to-back tournaments, China's Shanshan Feng is five shots off the pace of leader Inbee Park… Two-time LPGA winner Anna Nordqvist is four shots off the lead at 10-under-par 203. She is seeking her fourth top-10 finish in the last five tournaments.

Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 26

Q.  All right.  Good playing.  Can you just tell us what you did well today?
INBEE PARK:  I hit the ball very good today, I hit a lot of good iron shots, and I think I played par 5s really good today; that helped me a lot.  There was some more putts out there that I could have made, but I was really happy with the way I hit the ball today and hopefully tomorrow it will be a better putting day.

Q.  You haven't won since 2008.  So what would it mean for you to win finally?
INBEE PARK:  It would be great.  I haven't had a win for a while, so it will be nice to win tomorrow.  But I'll just go out there, just play like today with no expectations, just play like a normal day.

Q.  What do you think the score's going to be tomorrow that wins this?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  I think the score is going to be good tomorrow too, I think, because the greens are still a little bit softer after that rain yesterday so it is still scoring conditions, so a lot ‑‑

Q.  You'll more than likely play with Brittany Lang and Hee Kyung Seo tomorrow.  Are you good friends of any of them?
INBEE PARK:  Yeah, I'm good friends with both of them, so it will be a good day tomorrow.

Q.  Probably wanted to stretch out your lead a little bit, but everybody seems to be all packed up for some reason.
INBEE PARK:  I mean, there's a lot of birdies out there.  Today the holes are a little bit tricky, it was tough to read the putts today.  Hopefully I'll do better tomorrow.

Brittany Lang, Rolex Rankings No. 35

Q.  All right.  Great finish.
BRITTANY LANG:  Thank you.

Q.  What all did you do well today, and can you kind of take me through the day?
BRITTANY LANG:  Yeah, you know, I parred the first, what was that, 15 holes?  Man, I hit some good putts and some good shots and I just couldn't get anything going.  But I stayed patient and positive and finally made the birdie on 16 and got some energy and hit a great shot into 17.  That was a great ‑‑ and even that, it's tricky to read the greens out here.  You can hit good putts and not make them, but I stayed positive and just hit two awesome shots on 18.  Very happy with that finish.

Q.  It's a big push for you ‑‑
BRITTANY LANG:  It absolutely is.  I was kind of bummed I didn't make up any ground because I was so far back, and I was really happy with that finish because now I'm only 2 back, so it helped me for sure.

Q.  You'll probably be in the last group tomorrow, I'm thinking.
BRITTANY LANG:  I hope so.

Q.  So a little bit of pressure there, golfing with the leader‑‑
BRITTANY LANG:  Yeah, it's good experience for me.  The more I can be there, the better, so I can finally get a breakthrough.  But this is so good for me to grow as a golfer, so I'm just enjoying it.

Q.  I know you talked earlier to the Golf Channel that your brother's been a pretty big influence and kind of helped you out.

Q.  Did he keep you calm today?
BRITTANY LANG:  Yeah, Luke's so good with that.  He's good at being positive and just telling me to stay patient.  He always tries to make me laugh even when I'm really mad.  He usually gets me to laugh when I want to scream, so he's good at that.  But yeah, we had a good time out there.  He's a good brother, good caddie.

Q.  Kind of the obvious question, you'll be the first Duke University graduate, I think, to win.  What would that mean to you?
BRITTANY LANG:  That still blows my mind every time I hear it.  It would be so cool.  I mean, I like to represent my family and my hometown well, but to do that, that would be amazing, to be the first Dukie to win.  That would be awesome.

Q.  We know you can close out well.  How important is it for you to get a good start tomorrow?
BRITTANY LANG:  Yeah, you know, it really is.  I think if you make even just one birdie early, you can really plot your way around this course and take it low.  I think it's very important.  I'm going to focus to get off to a hot start because that back nine is not very difficult, and I think if you shoot even 1‑ or 2‑under on that front side, you can really shoot a low number on the back and get some good momentum.

Hee Kyung Seo, Rolex Rankings No. 37

Q.  Two days in a row we're talking to you.  Another solid round today.
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Thank you.

Q.  Just tell us about it.
HEE KYUNG SEO:  It was a great day.  I was trying to be patient because I make mistakes.  I tried to bounce back and it worked a lot and I (inaudible) really good and putt real good, but it was a little bad luck on the 18th hole.  It's okay, but it's very satisfying.

Q.  Do you notice any changes in the course compared to the first round and the second round?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Yeah, today it was a little less breeze, it was a little easier to hit the shot to the green.  I think green was a little softer than yesterday afternoon, so it was a little easier to get close to the pin.  The pin placement wasn't that easier than the last two days so some of the players try to hit the shot to the right spot, but it was okay.

Q.  So what's your approach heading into tomorrow?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Well, I don't know how many behind me, but always a win.  I have a few opportunities to win but I lost every time, so if I have a chance to win, I want to.

Q.  I know you said yesterday that you stay calm.  Do you think you'll stay calm tomorrow?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Yeah, I'll just stay in the plan and work a process, my routine, yeah, that's all.

Q.  Are there any jitters there when you go in so close to the lead?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  No, I have many experience in Korea, so it will be fun.

Q.  What about the big crowds out there?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Yeah, it's amazing.  I was really surprised that lots of people came out here and I saw many Koreans, too, so it's really good to have a crowd here.

Q.  You posted a good score today.  Did you do any scoreboard watching to see where everybody else was?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Yeah, I always watching scores.  Doesn't matter.

Q.  What do you think about this as a finishing hole?  It will be interesting tomorrow.
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Yeah, it could be change a lot because, like me, if someone hits a little bad shot can get a birdie or get an eagle easily, so it's a really nice hole to finish.

Anna Nordqvist, Rolex Rankings No. 31

Q.  You have a good shot at this thing.  How did you feel about your play today?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I thought it was solid.  I played really well yesterday afternoon, couldn't make a putt, shot 1‑over, so I was a little bit disappointed after yesterday.  So I think it kind of got me a little, you know, a little momentum coming into today.  It was solid.  I hit a lot of greens, took advantage of the par 5s and I think that's the keys on this course.

Q.  Did the course play any different than it did on Thursday and Friday today?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Well, I think it played shorter on Friday.  I had a lot more shorter irons into the greens on Thursday with the wind, but I think today and yesterday, you know, you just have to get a feel for which greens are firm and which greens are a little slower.

Q.  After yesterday's round, did you play more aggressive today?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I mean, I thought about it, but no, I stuck to my game plan.  I had so many good putts yesterday but they wouldn't drop, so I forgot about my game going into today, so it was really a matter of keeping going and staying patient.

Q.  It was a good bounce‑back round for you?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Absolutely, I'm really happy and put myself in a position to put some pressure on the leaders tomorrow.

Q.  What's your approach tomorrow?  Do you think it's going to be a bit of a shootout?  How low do you think you have to go?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I mean, Inbee is up around 13, 14, 15, I don't know where she's at.  There's definitely birdies out there on this course.  Sunday, anything can happen.  People are going to be nervous and anything can happen, so I think you just have to go out there and try to shoot as low as you can.

Q.  What's the atmosphere like out there for you?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  It's amazing, it's so much fun like playing in front of the crowds.  This is definitely the biggest crowd I've seen all year, so it's fun, everyone cheering on you and it's really friendly atmosphere, so I can't wait for tomorrow. 

Nicole Hage, Rolex Rankings No. 503

Q.  All right, good round, nice finish.  Can you just tell me what you did well?
NICOLE HAGE:  I just stayed patient today.  I knew it was going to be a long day after waiting on the 2nd hole, I knew we were going to be waiting a long time.  I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities and nothing dropped, so I knew I just had to kind of stay patient, it was going to just kind of be a two‑putt kind of day.  Then I hit a great drive and a great second shot into 18.

Q.  I know kind of all year you've been lingering, you've kind of been right there playing really well.  How has this helped your confidence moving forward?
NICOLE HAGE:  It's been great.  I've known I've been so close and it's just been a matter of like one or two putts just dropping like to just turn a whole round around and I just haven't had that, so this has been really nice.

Q.  This is Manulife's 125th anniversary today.
NICOLE HAGE:  Oh, wow.

Q.  Can you just talk about what they've done as a sponsor and how the tournament's been?
NICOLE HAGE:  This has been the nicest tournament I think I've ever played in.  This is my fifth year on Tour and it's just been first class from just every little detail.  And the fans out here are just unbelievable.  Like, I played in seven Opens and these fans are awesome.

Sandra Changkija, Rolex Rankings No. 527

Q.  Another good round, you're right in there for tomorrow.
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Yeah.  I just tried to play steady, hit fairways, hit greens.  Some putts didn't drop, but, you know.

Q.  How about yourself the last couple days [sic?]
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  I guess I'm building confidence as I go.  I've learned a lot of things throughout every event, and with this event I guess I'm building my confidence.

Q.  I'm sure a lot of people thought after the first round, hey, there's a surprise leader, but here you are two days later, you're still in it and you know that you can shoot a 63 out here.  So how do you feel going into the final round?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  I feel a bit more calm.  Like I said, just a little more confident that I can shoot something under par.

Q.  Performing in front of these huge crowds though, do you shut them out or what do you do?  Do you just enjoy the moment?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Well, I think playing with Stacy and Lexi, it was nice to play with them.  They actually made me feel pretty comfortable out there.

Q.  How so?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  I really don't know, but I kind of sort of knew them beforehand.  I've kind of seen Lexi around when I've been practicing down in south Florida and I played with Stacy in a practice round at ShopRite.

Q.  So did you all talk a lot today on the golf course?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Not much.  I was pretty much just quiet, I was just trying to stay focused.

Q.  So what all went well today?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Hit a lot of fairways, definitely a lot of greens.

Q.  How do you go at it tomorrow?  What's your approach?
SANDRA CHANGKIJA:  Just do the same thing, keep doing what I'm doing.  I just want to shoot a good number.

Karin Sjodin, Rolex Rankings No. 87

Q.  So how has Title IX helped you?  It's their 40th anniversary.
KARIN SJODIN:  Well, it gave me an opportunity to come to Oklahoma State and play golf with some of the best men's and women's players in the world.

Q.  This is Manulife's 125th anniversary.  Can you just tell me how the tournament's been so far?
KARIN SJODIN:  It's been amazing.  The crowds are unbelievable even when you're not paired with Michelle Wie.  So it's nice and everything's organized great.  It's been just a great week so far.

Lexi Thompson, Rolex Rankings No. 23

 LEXI THOMPSON:   I didn't play as well as I wanted to, but you know, it's golf.  I had a few bad holes, you know.

Q.  Do you think they're going to rename 5 and 6 Lexi's Corner?
LEXI THOMPSON:  That would be nice. I definitely take advantage of those two holes, take advantage of my length, but just try to make birdies out there.

Q.  The fact that you're such a long hitter, that seems to be helping you out here.
LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, it is helping me.  I have a lot of wedges in, but just finding the (inaudible) is the key to any golf course.

Q.  So what's your approach heading into Sunday?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Just play hard, play the way I have been, just consistent and drop some putts out there.

Q.  Anything you're going to try and tweak practicing or on the putting green or anything?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Nothing on the putting green, I feel like my putting is great right now.  Ball striking, I over‑hooked a few shots, but you know, might be just be from being tired.

Q.  What happened on 8?
LEXI THOMPSON:  8?  Double?

Q.  Double.
LEXI THOMPSON:  I don't really want to talk about it, but it was the worst shot in golf and it happened to me.  It went way right, let's just say that.

Topics: Changkija, Sandra, Seo, Hee Kyung, Park, Hee Young, Park, Inbee, Sjodin, Karin, Thompson, Lexi, Hage, Nicole, Manulife Financial LPGA Classic [+]

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