ShopRite LPGA Classic Second-Round Notes and Interviews

ShopRite LPGA Classic
Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, Bay Course
Galloway, New Jersey
Second-round notes and interviews
June 2, 2012

Stacy Lewis -12, Rolex Rankings No. 7
Anna Nordqvist -6, Rolex Rankings No. 32
Azahara Munoz -5, Rolex Rankings No. 20
Yani Tseng -4, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Jennifer Johnson -2, Rolex Rankings No. 124
I.K. Kim & Peter Wheeler- Special Olympics

 

Rolex Rankings No. 7 Stacy Lewis will carry a six-shot lead into Sunday’s final round at the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. Lewis shot her second consecutive round of 65, tying the tournament two-day record. Lewis had eight birdies in her round on Saturday with the only blip coming on a double-bogey on the par-4 6th hole. Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist shot a 4-under-par 67 on Saturday and sits in sole possession of second place at 6-under-par while four others, including 2012 Sybase Match Play Champion Azahara Munoz, are seven shots back at 5-under-par.

 

Pedal to the Metal…Stacy Lewis took a commanding lead on Saturday after carding a 6-under-par 65 and put herself a good distance ahead of the rest of the field entering the final round. It will be the second time this season the American will lead the field at the start of Sunday’s round and it’s a place Lewis is happy to be in. The last time she was in the position, the No. 7 ranked player in the world recorded her second-career LPGA Tour victory at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in April. Lewis hopes to carry the lessons she learned during her second win in Alabama into tomorrow’s round.

“I took so much from Mobile,” said Lewis. “I had a couple-shot lead, but then I think at the turn [on Sunday] I had a five-shot lead. I made the mistake of playing safe and not really staying into my game and what I was doing and worrying about what other people were doing, watching leaderboards.”

Lewis learned her lesson and made sure to keep her eyes off the leaderboards on Saturday. She focused on just carding low numbers, hole by hole and to create as big of a lead as possible.

“So today out there I made the turn I think I had a two-shot lead and kind of told myself ‘let's see how big we can get this,’” said Lewis. “So I just tried to stay in what I'm doing and can't worry what anybody else is doing and keep the pedal down.”

 

Shooting for the top spot: When planning out her goals for the 2012 season, Stacy Lewis was realistic in where she set her sights. She knew that taking over the No. 1 position in the Rolex Rankings from Yani Tseng was nearly impossible so she focused instead on another top spot – that of top American in the rankings.

“That was kind of my No. 1 goal coming into the year was to lead the Solheim Cup point list and be the No. 1 American, just because Yani's lead,” Lewis said. “Yani's lead in the rankings, she's so far ahead of everybody, you know, that's kind of out there.  So that was my main goal coming into the year.  And I just -- every time I'm practicing and working out or whatever it is, that's what I'm working hard for and that's No. 1 for me.”

Lewis is currently No. 7 in the Rolex Rankings, sitting two spots behind No. 5 Cristie Kerr who has long held the spot as top American. The two are separated by .26 points in the rankings. Taking over the top spot would mean an increase in attention for Lewis, but that’s something that the once-shy player is now welcoming.

“I think I've gotten a lot better doing interviews and being that face,” said Lewis. “Obviously it goes along with it, so you kind of have to deal with it. I mean I want that.  I want the pressure.  I want people to talk about me being the No. 1 American.  I want that there.  So I don't know.  I'm okay with it. “

 

Praise from No. 1…Stacy Lewis’ strong play the first two days at the ShopRite LPGA Classic has certainly not gone unnoticed. The No. 1 player in the world admitted how impressed she has been with Lewis’ play this season. Not bad coming from the player with top-10 finishes in all eight events played in 2012. Yani Tseng said Lewis is handling the course like no other this week.

“She must be playing a different golf course,” said Tseng. “A six-shot lead, that's a lot. She even make double today…She's a very, very good player.  She can make putts, and she hits the ball very solid. I think she's very aggressive, too.  And it's always fun to play with her.”

Tseng took off the week Lewis won in Mobile but said she was still watching.

“I didn't play Mobile, but I was watching it on TV,” said Tseng. “I was very happy for her, and hopefully tomorrow I still have a little chance, but hopefully tomorrow I can still be competitive. But I'm very impressed with how much she's done.”

 

Shooting for Top-10’s…When you’re the No. 1 player in the world for 68-consecutive weeks, it’s not easy to continue coming up with new goals. But despite recording 12 victories last season and three already in 2012, Tseng is keeping her eye this season on the number 10.

Last year even I had 12 wins, but my scores were still very up and down,” said Tseng. “I had a lot of finishes 30, 40, 50, so this year our team and I set a goal: let's try to make the top-10 every week.”

That’s not to undermine the highest goal of getting a win week in and week out, but Tseng knows setting out for a victory each week may not be attainable even if she feels she’s always in position to make a run.

“I expect to win every week, but I just kind of give my best, give my 100 percent effort every week,” said Tseng. “If I don't win, then hopefully just finish top-10.  So that's kind of our goal to make sure everything, my skill, my mental, my physical, everything ready for the tournament.”

 

Sticking around for Sunday: A total of 85 players made the cut, which fell at 4-over-par 146

 

Heart of gold: I.K. Kim was announced as a Special Olympics Ambassador during a press conference on Saturday afternoon and the day turned out to be a truly memorable one for the three-time LPGA winner.

Kim was joined in her press conference by Special Olympics Chief of Strategic Properties Peter Wheeler and Special Olympics Athlete and Global Messenger David Egan. A video featuring welcome messages from fellow Special Olympic Ambassadors, including South Korean Olympic Gold-winning figure skater Yuna Kim along with Bart Connor and Nadia Comaneci, was played during Kim’s press conference. Egan presented Kim with a certificate welcoming her as an Ambassador and she was nearly brought to tears by a moving speech from the 31-year-old athlete, who has competed in numerous Special Olympic sports including swimming, soccer, basketball, ice skating and softball.

To conclude the press conference, Kim presented Special Olympics with a donation of more than $100,000, which was half of her winnings from the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Kim vowed after the win to donate her entire first-place check of $225,000 to charity, with half going to the Lorena Ochoa Foundation and the other half to a U.S.-based charity to be named later. The three-time LPGA winner carefully selected Special Olympics as the second recipient of her donation because she wanted to support a cause or organization that’s truly making an impact and she has seen the powerful work of Special Olympics.

Kim headed out to the driving range where she took part in a Junior Golf Show with more than 150 Korean kids in attendance and then she conducted a putting clinic for local Special Olympic athletes from New Jersey.

“I think for me golf is a very individual game, and a lot of times I just think about how I'm going to improve myself, and I think ti is just sharing with others, and if I can help other people, I think that would be great,” Kim said. “Hopefully my work will help other younger people to educate and inspire to make a difference in the community through Special Olympics, and I just want to say thank you again [to Special Olympics] for giving me this great opportunity.

Lights, Camera, Action! After they finished their second round play on Saturday at the 2012 ShopRite Classic, Azahara Munoz and Belen Mozo knew their work for the day was not over just yet. The Spanish duo made their production and directorial debuts during the tournament’s live broadcast on Golf Channel. Munoz sat in the producer’s chair while Mozo directed for the half-hour segment. Both pros agreed it was much more difficult than they imagined.

“You totally underestimate what they do,” said Mozo. “You don’t even know what goes into it.”

Munoz was taken aback on the number of camera angle options the crew has to deal with and decisions they have to make within seconds.

“Of course you see all the cameras on the course but I never knew there were so many different angles and different shots,” said Munoz.

The two had a bit of a shocker when they sat down into the seats and put on the headsets during a commercial break and had a two-minute tutorial on how to run a live professional golf telecast. Anyone can imagine the nerves that might develop before they gave the countdown to go on air.

“I was a little nervous but I realized that if we messed up, it’s not what you do; it’s not your job,” said Munoz.

Mozo agreed that she didn’t have many expectations because the task at hand was so new.

“I just didn’t want to embarrass myself because I didn’t really know what to do,” said Mozo. “I wasn’t nervous just more anxious.”

They got their feet under themselves about half way through the segment and were visibly more comfortable as the telecast went on.

Golf Channel producer Beth Hutter told Mozo she didn’t need to say ‘please or thank you’ after she called her directions.

Laughs were aplenty throughout the entire time the pros were in charge and both agreed they would love to do it again in the future.

 

Tweet of the Day: “Great day at the @LPGA @shopritelpga! IK Kim conducted a putting clinic for Special Olympics athletes.” -- @SpecialOlympics.

Of Note…The biggest move to the day belonged to second-year LPGA member Jennifer Johnson, who shot an 8-under 63 to vault from a T114 into a T17 at 2-under-par…Wendy Ward and Song-Hee Kim withdrew after the first round…Haru Nomura was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard and Meredith Duncan was disqualified for not signing her scorecard…Defending champ Brittany Lincicome shot a 1-under-par and sits at T25 at even par.

 

STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 7

THE MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome our current leader, Stacy Lewis, into the interview room.  Second straight round of 65 out there today.  Congratulations.  Six-shot lead, it looks to be like, heading into Sunday.  How was it and what was working well today?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, I don't know.  It was a really solid day again.  I birdied the first hole and got off to a good start, and made double on -- made another double.  I don't know what the deal is, but made another double on I think it was 6 and then I was proud of the way I came back after that because I really could have gone the other way, but hung in there and made a bunch of birdies on the back.  So it was good.  It was easy.

THE MODERATOR:  When you look back, this is the second time that you will be heading into a final round with the lead.  The last time was back just last month in Mobile.  Do you feel more comfortable now kind of looking, being in that position, I guess, heading into Sunday looking at yourself at the top of the leaderboard and did you take anything from that last experience?
STACY LEWIS:  I did.  I took so much from Mobile.  I had a couple-shot lead, but then I think at the turn I had a five-shot lead, and I made the mistake of playing safe and not really staying into my game and what I was doing and worrying about what other people were doing, watching leaderboards.

So today out there I made the turn I think I had a two-shot lead and kind of told myself let's see how big we can get this.  So I just -- I don't know.  I took so much from Mobile, just to stay in what I'm doing and can't worry what anybody else is doing is keep the pedal down.

THE MODERATOR:  You've talked about not performing well on this golf course in the past.  What has been the biggest difference this year?
STACY LEWIS:  I have no idea.  I really haven't played well here, so I don't know what the deal is, but I'm playing really well, and so I guess that takes everything out of it.

Q.  Stacy, isn't it a case that you're playing so well it doesn't really matter what course you're playing, you're still shooting lights out.  Is there a way to just kind of like focus on how you're playing rather than the course you're playing?
STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I think -- the course is -- I mean obviously I think the more you hit good shots on it, the more comfortable I'm getting on it, so it's starting to fit my eye more.  But like today we had a complete opposite wind than we had yesterday, so you really had to kind of think more, hit more hybrids and 3-woods off the tees.  So I don't know.  It didn't allow me time to even think about not liking the course too much.

Q.  Could you talk about the sixth hole; you said you had a double bogey there and the process of basically erasing that and going forward?
STACY LEWIS:  I probably should have hit 3-wood off the tee.  I was worried about my driver going through the fairway, so kind of laid off the driver and hit it into the brush, chipped out and then had an ugly three-putt.

But from then on my caddie told me, he was just like, you know, when you hit a bad shot, we gotta slow down, you gotta get back in what you're doing.  And I did that the rest of the way.  I made a really good birdie on 9, and then just followed on the back.

Q.  When you're walking out there on the course, are you watching the leaderboard to sort of see like where you are compared, because you're saying like you did it last time in Mobile you watched it and sort of played safe, but this time you wanted to extend it.  So what are you looking for, I guess, when every once in a while you see the board and you kind of peek at it?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, today I think it was a little different because I think everybody that was in second or close to me, they were done, so they couldn't really -- they couldn't improve their position, so I was in a different place that I kind of knew what the goal was and knew where everybody else stood, but going into tomorrow it's going to be -- I'll be playing with them.

You can usually kind of feel what people are doing around you just by what the crowd's doing and things like that.  So -- but I don't know, I just gotta keep doing what I'm doing.  I'm hitting it really well, driving it really good off the tee and then making some good putts, so can't really do anything about what anybody else is doing.

Q.  You talked about how well you were driving the ball yesterday, but it seems like as you just mentioned, it seems like you're putting really well right now, too.  What, if anything, has changed there, and is it the same thing there, that the confidence really makes you a better putter, or what about your stroke is it that you're really happy with right now?
STACY LEWIS:  I think the main thing I've been working on is my tempo of the stroke.  I tend to get quick and fast and kind of come up and out of it some, but I think on these greens I'm actually reading them really well.  They're really tricky, kind of have some really subtle little peaks and valleys in there, so I'm really seeing how the ball is breaking and just trusting those lines.  I think that's the hardest part.  But I'm just seeing the reads, and my speed's been pretty good all week, too.

Q.  On sort of a separate topic, the pace of play issue that's been the hot topic lately, especially after what happened at the Sybase, what's your thought on that and what do you think this tour can do to improve?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, I think pace of play is an issue in golf in general.  It needs to be played faster, not even at the pro level; college, junior.  Everybody needs to play faster.  I don't want to watch somebody play a five-and-a-half-hour round.

But our policy is just tough.  I don't think there's really a fair way to do it, because unfortunately if you have a fast and a slow player and you're on the clock, it doesn't matter who put you on the clock.  And I don't know if there's a way to make a rule that gets the slow players all the time, I don't know.  But I think a lot of it has gotta come from us as players.

I know the rules officials are doing a lot to help players, timing them, even when they're not on the clock, just letting them know, you're taking this amount of time and helping people improve.  I talked to Sandra Gal about it.  She's gotten a lot faster over the last year, and the rules officials are actually helping her play faster.  So I think people kind of need to take some ownership for their play and realize that it is an issue.

Q.  Do you feel like players need to help each other or talk to each other when they see other players not playing fast, or should you all just mind your own business?
STACY LEWIS:  No.  I mean I think you can do it in the right way.  It has to be done in the right manner, obviously.  No yelling at someone to speed up or anything like that.

I don't know.  I think it's just out of respect for your competitors, I think, a lot of it is.  You know, you don't want to watch somebody take two minutes to hit a putt because then you're standing around, you get out of your rhythm and things like that.  So I think just out of respect for the whole tour, I would encourage people to try to play faster, and I know it's hard.  It's not an easy thing to do.

Q.  What would it mean to you rankings wise to move ahead of Cristie Kerr and be the top American in the rankings?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, that was kind of my No. 1 goal coming into the year was to lead the Solheim Cup point list and be the No. 1 American, just because Yani's lead -- and she just walked in.  Yani's lead in the rankings, she's so far ahead of everybody, you know, that's kind of out there.  So that was my main goal coming into the year.  And I just -- every time I'm practicing and working out or whatever it is, that's what I'm working hard for and that's No. 1 for me.

Q.  And going back to slow play real quick, how are the officials helping Sandra?
STACY LEWIS:  I know she's been using, like we have a timecard sheet and she keeps track of where we are, just even letting her know because they're just timing people when they're sitting out there, just trying to let people know how much time they're taking for certain shots because most of the time they don't know that they're taking a long time.  To them it doesn't seem that long.

So just trying to encourage them and help them realize like what they're doing in their process that is slow.  But I mean give her some credit for stepping up and wanting to help and wanting to do it.

Q.  Going back to the American thing, how have you grown more comfortable in dealing with the media and would you enjoy that spotlight?  I mean obviously you want it from a competitive standpoint, but all the other things that go along with that.  How have you grown in that area?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, I don't know.  I think I've gotten a lot better doing interviews and being that face.  Obviously it goes along with it, so you kind of have to deal with it.

I mean I want that.  I want the pressure.  I want people to talk about me being the No. 1 American.  I want that there.  So I don't know.  I'm okay with it.

Q.  Stacy, when you did your TV interview, you mentioned the fact that not looking at the leaderboard, wanting to extend your lead, and you said it was a game you're playing with your caddie.  Is it a serious game or is it one you have a little fun with where the caddie says now you're up by six or now you're up by five?
STACY LEWIS:  No.  Actually I never really talked about it with my caddie at all.  We never really talked about where we were.  It was just kind of something in my head.  I got such a big lead in Mobile and kind of let it go.  I was like, all right, just put your head down and see how big we can make this at the end of the day.

I didn't think another 65 was out there.  I mean it was playing tough today, and you know, I don't know.  I feel pretty fortunate to be where I am and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

 

ANNA NORDQVIST, Rolex Rankings No. 32

Q.  All right.  We're here with Anna Nordqvist after a great round out there today, 4-under.  Congratulations.  Can you just take me through your round out there and what was working well for you?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Well, it was really solid.  I think I hit 16 greens solid to set it up pretty good.  I put it on the right spot on the greens.  There were some really tough hole locations overall today, so it was hard to get to them.  But I gave myself good birdie opportunities and I'm in an interview.

Q.  Definitely different conditions out there today than we had yesterday.  What was the biggest key today to being successful out there?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Well, it was so windy out there yesterday, so anything less windy than that is going to be a positive surprise this morning.

It was still pretty windy in the beginning, but I think the key is trying to hit the fairways and put yourself on the greens.

Q.  This week's a little different than most weeks being it's only a 54-hole event.  Tomorrow is the final round.  How do you feel about the position you've put yourself in?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I feel great.  I gave myself a lot of opportunities today.  And I think I shot myself right back at it.  And I'm ready for it.  It'll be fun.

Q.  And how would you say your season has gone to this point?  Not as good as you think or better than you thought?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  No.  I've been playing pretty solid golf.  Haven't really made a lot of putts in the beginning of the year.  So it's been solid.  Obviously you don't make a lot of putts, you're not going to score that great.

Q.  Does it get frustrating after a while that the ball striking is much better than the putting?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  It does.  But I've been working on good stuff and starting to come along and making a lot of good putts the last couple weeks, so I think I'm working on the right stuff.

Q.  And how did you feel the putting went today?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Putting was great.  I made a lot of short birdie putts, and I made I think two putts over 20 feet.  So that was great.

Q.  Did you see a big difference in the greens between yesterday and today?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, absolutely.  Especially in the afternoon.  Yesterday it was so windy, so they dried out pretty good, and even from the practice rounds they still (indiscernible) yesterday, but today you were putting spin on the wedges and it's tough to get them close when they were tucked in the corners or tucked in the back corners because you can't really fly it all the way.

Q.  So you think they'll be the same pins tomorrow, like very tough you think?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I hope so.  It brings out the best in everyone.  It's a great challenge for all of us.

 

AZAHARA MUNOZ, Rolex Rankings No. 20

THE MODERATOR:  All right.  We're here with Azahara Munoz after her round.  Congratulations.  A great day today.  Can you just take me through the day out there and what was working well for you?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Thank you.  Yeah, you know, I've been playing pretty good lately.  Today I actually missed a couple of shots, but I'm putting really well and chipping really well, too.  So that kind of saved me today.

Q.  I know you're coming off your first victory at Sybase a couple weeks ago.  What was that experience like and how have you taken that and kind of used it for your game this week?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  It's amazing.  You know, because you are waiting for that moment for so long, so finally when it happens, I didn't even know how to feel, but you know, now it kind of hit me and I'm just really, I mean proud of myself.  I'm really happy that I got that first win, and here now, I guess it gives me a little more confidence, you know.  I know I can win and hopefully I'll do it more.

THE MODERATOR:  And the course conditions out there today, definitely different than yesterday.  Not quite as windy it seemed to be.  Can you just take me through what the conditions were like?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah, it was kind of confusing, actually, because, I guess it rained a lot overnight and the greens were pretty soft.  So sometimes I played for the ball to release, like yesterday.  Then it didn't and the balls bounced back way too much, but it is playing a little softer, so that's going to make the conditions more scorable.

Q.  And I know you have an exciting afternoon ahead of you.  You're heading into The Golf Channel truck to produce this afternoon.  What are your thoughts about that and how excited are you to try out something a little different?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  I'm excited because I think it's going to be fun, but at the same time I'm scared I'm going to screw everything up, but I don't even know what to expect, because I don't know what it's like.  But I guess I'll get a little more appreciation of what the guys do behind the scenes.

Q.  What was working well for you today?  You played the entire round without a bogey.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah you know, I hit pretty much every green, or when I missed, it was by just a little bit.  I made a chip, so I birdied missing a green.  And then on No. 2 I missed it pretty good on the right side but I made a really nice up-and-down and after that everything was pretty simple, hitting a lot of greens.

Q.  What hole did you chip in on?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  I chipped in on 12.  I just went over and chipped it in.

Q.  How much confidence does the win two weeks ago do for your game?  Did you come in here really, really confident?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  No.  I was playing really well before Sybase, too, so it's not that just because I won I'm just a different person or anything.  You know, I was getting more confidence and more confidence after every week because I was playing pretty good, so I guess just a little more.

Q.  How did you find the attention in your off week considering what happened at Sybase with Morgan?  Did you find last week wasn't really an off-week because people wanted to talk to you about it?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  No.  It wasn't too bad.  I got a lot of interviews the first couple of days, but then after that it was calm and relaxing.

Q.  And two weeks later what do you think of the whole episode?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  You know, it is what it is.  Everything happened and I'm on a different tournament now and I just want to focus on this one.

 

YANI TSENG, Rolex Rankings No. 1

THE MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng into the interview room.  Congratulations.  A nice solid round out there for you today.  Can you take me through the day and what was different today than your round out there yesterday?
YANI TSENG:  I make more putts today.  Yesterday I didn't make any, but I still played a really good solid round yesterday, but finished even.

But today I hit the shots better also and I just make a lots of putts, and I had one three-putt like hitting the second shot in from 50 yards, so that was kind of a disappointing hole for me.

But everything I'm very happy today.  Like hitting 4-under, get back in Top 10 again and back in the room again.  So I was very happy.

THE MODERATOR:  We were talking about earlier this week about how you finished, even though you lost in the Sybase, you still managed in the Top 10 and finished in the Top 10 in every event you've played in so far this year.  Is that a goal that you set at the beginning of every week?  I mean we know how much you want to compete for a win.  But is that important for you to keep that streak going?
YANI TSENG:  Yes.  Last year even I had 12 wins, but my score was still very up and down.  I had a lot of finished 30, 40, 50, so this year our team and me set a goal let's try to make the Top 10 every week, but I expect to win every week, but I just kind of give my best, give my 100 percent effort to do every week.

If I don't win, then hopefully just finish Top 10.  So that's kind of our goal to make sure everything, my skill, my mental, my physical, everything ready for the tournament.

THE MODERATOR:  I just got done talking to Stacy about her round again today and she's now leading by six shots over the field.  How impressed have you been by her play with her win a few weeks ago in Mobile and how she's playing out there so far this week?
YANI TSENG:  She must be playing a different golf course.  A six-shot lead, that's a lot, and she even make double today.  I saw the leaderboard on 18.  So it's great.  She's a very, very good player.  She can make putts, and she hits the ball very solid, and I think she's very aggressive, too.  And it's always fun to play with her.

And I mean I didn't play Mobile, but I was watching it on TV.  I was very happy for her, and hopefully tomorrow I still have a little chance, but hopefully tomorrow I can still be competitive tomorrow, but I'm very impressed with how much she's done.

Q.  With the way the course has played, does that lead, though, feel insurmountable?  Does it feel so far away with how far Stacy is above everybody?
YANI TSENG:  I mean everybody is trying to win the tournament, but I just try to not think about Stacy with a six-shot lead and maybe try to think about she's just a couple-shot lead ahead of us and still get some motivation going, still try to win the tournament.  If I don't win, I want to still play good on Sunday tomorrow.

She's a good player and she can hold the pressure pretty well, but you never know, this course has got some par-5s reachable for me and maybe a couple of putts tomorrow and maybe a 65 round, I maybe have a chance.

Q.  You have the U.S. Women's Open coming up in a few weeks.  We know that that's the one that you really, really want.  Can you tell us a little bit about how you feel going into that event?  And I know you've got another major before it, but just since we know that that's the one that you focus on a lot, how do you feel mentally and game wise going into the U.S. Women's Open?
YANI TSENG:  Yeah, that's one of our goals, to win a U. S. Open.  But now I feel very excited.  I don't know.  Just excited to be there.  I want to go there as soon as I can, but I heard the golf course is very tough, so I'm very excited to play the tough golf course and enjoy that place and play with all the best players around the world, but I wasn't thinking too much.

It wasn't like last year.  I think last year I had more pressure to go in there, even a couple months before, but now I know my game's ready, and my trainer is here with me for these two weeks, after these two months, and Gary is with me a lot and we're kind of working on my swing and we will get ready in next month for the U.S. Open coming up.

Q.  I know this is strange to ask of someone your age, but what do you think is the reason for why that's the one that has slipped away from you in the past?  What is it about that event that makes it the only major you don't have?
YANI TSENG:  I think because it's my first ladies golf tournament I watch is U. S. Open when I was 13.  So at that time Ernie brought me there and Juli Inkster won that tournament.  And I was 13, and I'm still holding the flag to get all the players sign.  I had Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb.  I even had Jill McGill's signature because she was leading after Saturday.

So I was just like a little junior there to give me an autograph to sign my ticket to sign.  And I tell Ernie, I think I can be that kind of player, but I didn't know how big this tournament is.  I know it's the U. S. Open, but I didn't know it was like the toughest tournament in the world to win, so I mean I have no idea.  I want to play.

So that's why we go to play some USGA event and try to qualify the U. S. Open.  So first couple years when I turned pro, I was thinking it's like a dream come true, even I'm playing U. S. Open.  So I still feel very nervous.  I mean even I'm going to the driving range.  Like first tee, I'm so nervous the morning of the tournament.

But after a couple years on tour and now it's getting much, much better.  Last couple years I finished Top 10 in Oakmont.  So that's the best score I have.  So I was very, very happy.

So every year I'm getting better, so this year seems more calm and more relaxed than other years, so hopefully I'll really more enjoy this year.

Q.  Well, good luck.
YANI TSENG:  Thank you.

Q.  So Sybase, I know you weren't exactly happy with every part of your game after Sybase.  What did you work in the off week with Gary?  What did you guys concentrate on?
YANI TSENG:  My swing and my club distance.  My club distance wasn't quite consistent and I don't think I trust myself more.  And we talk a lot, and we didn't work on the swing very much because he said my swing is good.  I just putting too much and try to be perfect every shot, every tournament.  So after we have a good talk and we work on the swing a couple hours and things goes very well.  We didn't change any swing.

We do some little drill just like before, but it's nothing major.  So after that he went to BMW in Europe.  So I kind of spend a week off with myself and my trainer, we practice a lot for the distance and I go on the golf course to practice a lot, and we're hitting from 80 to 50, and my trainer using a baseball glove to catch my ball from like every five yards.  So it's kind of work pretty hard.  So I'm expecting to play well.

Q.  So the distance control is mostly your wedges, then, when you were having issues with?
YANI TSENG:  Yes, because like I said at the beginning of this year, my distance was like seven, eight yards longer, so my wedge and my pitching wedge and 9-iron kind of still need a bit more practice to feel how much it's going to go.

Q.  Yani, you seemed to be going really well there when you hit the front nine for your second nine and then a couple of bogeys kind of threw you off track.  Did you feel you left some shots out there and was it kind of disappointing that the 67 wasn't a little lower?
YANI TSENG:  Yeah.  Every day you're going to feel you left some shots there.  But I mean one hole, No. 4, that's the one I was very disappointed.  I hit a driver and I was only 50 yards to the pin.  So that's not good strategy.  I mean we should have hit 3-wood off the tee and had a full shot into the second shot.  But I hit driver and hit it too hard.  It was like 20 yards past the hole and I make three-putt there.  Missed the four-footer short putt.

So that's the one I really feel I left out there and there's nothing else I feel I was missing today.  I played well.  I stroked good, and even if I didn't make it, I feel when I stroke good and I'm still happy with it.

 

JENNIFER JOHNSON, Rolex Rankings No. 124

Q.  Just I guess go through what was the difference, what was clicking today, maybe the wind a little factor?
JENNIFER JOHNSON:  Well, definitely all my -- well, out of my nine birdies, like two or three were long putts, but the rest were short.  So I was hitting my short shots a lot closer.

And yeah, the wind yesterday, I just didn't get any good breaks, and that was a little frustrating.  But 63 is my lowest round of my career by two shots.

Q.  You had six birdies on the front nine in a span of four, I guess numbers 2 through 5.  Just take us through that stretch, what was clicking, how you kind of kept carding the birdies?
JENNIFER JOHNSON:  Let's see.  On 2 I rolled in a pretty good birdie putt and just had perfect speed.  And then 3 and 4, they were both about six, seven feet.  And then 5 I almost made.  It was about one foot, and my only bogey was a three-putt on 6.

Q.  And what's your stance, I know a couple of the players say they like three-day tournaments.  Some say it's tough.  Obviously you had a rough day yesterday coming into today.  Obviously you knocked the lights out.  Do you like shorter tournaments, the three-day, 54 holes or it's kind of a no-room-for-error type deal?
JENNIFER JOHNSON:  I think it works out good, because next week is a major, so it's nice being a little more rested.  But I like the four-day, more traditional, more time to keep moving up the leaderboard.

Q.  When did you sense that you were going to hit it crisply today?  Was it on the range?  Was it the second hole?  When did you figure, hey, this could be a really good day?
JENNIFER JOHNSON:  I think when I finished yesterday, because I mean I had to go out and play well.  I mean I played horribly yesterday.

So I just was determined today, and it worked out for me.

Q.  And do you know like, is it kind of a one shot at a time deal or do you have to keep yourself from getting a little too amped because things seem to be going your way?
JENNIFER JOHNSON:  Oh, yeah.  I definitely got a little excited after I made four birdies in a row.  But yeah, you just gotta stay focused on one shot, and I thought I did that pretty good today.

Q.  And how did you find the golf course, contrast Friday to Saturday, just the golf course conditions, weather conditions and all that?
JENNIFER JOHNSON:  Oh, they did a pretty good job.  I think my ball only got in mud on like two shots today.

 

I.K. KIM, Rolex Rankings No. 8

Peter Wheeler, Special Olympics

THE MODERATOR:  All right, everyone.  Thank you for joining us today here for this very special announcement.  I'd like to welcome our three special guests that we have here today.  First of all, we have three-time LPGA Tour winner, I. K. Kim.  Next to my right here is Special Olympics chief of strategic properties, Peter Wheeler.  And we'd also like to welcome David Egan, one of our Special Olympics athletes from West Virginia and you're a global messenger for the Special Olympics.  Thank you very much.  I'm going to pass the mic over to Peter, and can you just let everyone in on why we are here today for this very special announcement?

PETER WHEELER:  Sure.  Good afternoon.  It's such an honor to be here today representing Special Olympics, the movement, a worldwide movement of Special Olympics.  We're here in New Jersey we have Special Olympics New Jersey, we have a number of athletes which we'll introduce in a few moments, but Special Olympics of New Jersey is one of our great programs, not only in the United States, but worldwide.  So it's an honor to be here in New Jersey and also to be here at this wonderful country club, which will be the host of our Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational next year when the athletes from throughout North America will come here and play the same course that I. K. is playing.

We also want to thank the LPGA who have been such wonderful friends to our movement, and we hope that this relationship continues to grow, and we want to thank Kelly and Sean and everyone at the LPGA Tour for really welcoming not only the movement, but most importantly welcoming our athletes.

So I wanted to give you just a real quick -- a little background about Special Olympics.  We're 44 years old as an organization.  Or young.  We'll call it young.  And we have over the last ten years, we've gone from one million athletes to four million athletes.  We are now in 170 nations.  So that's the good news.

We also, out of that four million athletes, I. K., we have 30,000 golfers.  That's rounded off, but we have 30,000 golfers of which 10,000 are women and 20,000 are men.  So we hope that with your involvement we're going to have -- that gender equality is going to -- within the next year we'll have 20,000 women and 20,000 men.  But that's all the good news.

The not-so-good news is that there are 200 million people with intellectual disabilities around the world.  Many of those athletes or people with intellectual disabilities who are not athletes live in isolation.  They live in loneliness.  They live with daily discrimination and neglect.  And Special Olympics, what we look to do is reverse that.  And we reverse that in a simple way, by bringing a soccer ball out, by hitting a golf ball, which for many of us isn't very simple, but to really using sports to really -- and use the universality of sports to bring people together, bring people from the community together.

And what happens with that simple idea of using sports to change people and change our athletes and have them stand up on a podium for the first time, have the parents come out and celebrate their achievements, what happens along the way is we all change, the world changes, the community changes.

So what I'd like to do is cue up a quick video.  It's only a two-minute video about Special Olympics and what sports teaches us.

THE VIDEO:  Sport teaches us when we train, it teaches us to dream.  When we struggle, it teaches us determination.  When we win, it teaches us joy.  And if we lose, sport teaches us the will to try again.  Sport teaches us who we really are.

Who can benefit the most from this lesson?  Those of us who are told most frequently that we can't, those of us who are labeled most often by others, those of us who are judged most unfairly and told that we are this or that.  Sport teaches people who they really are, and we teach people sport.  We're Special Olympics.  Founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968, we provide millions of athletes with intellectual disabilities in more than 170 countries the opportunity to experience all the empowering benefits of sport with over 44,000 competitions a year and World Games every two years, and though it all starts with sports, Special Olympics is much more.  We're a network of families who share information, understanding and support.  We're Special Olympics Healthy Athletes, the largest provider of free health services for people with intellectual disabilities.  We're volunteers and builders of communities reaching and helping people who would otherwise be forgotten in some of the most neglected areas of the world.  We're bridge builders helping to forge relationships and acceptance between our athletes and young people without intellectual disabilities teaching them to become leaders in their own ranks.  We're champions and advocates for learning, research and policy changes across the globe.  Most importantly, we're also a catalyst for social change, because once you see what our athletes are capable of, you start to lose your preconceptions.  So sport teaches people who they really are, and we teach people sports, but in the end it's really they who teach us all.  

PETER WHEELER:  So last night I came down from Vermont, and yesterday we had -- all of our programs throughout the United States do summer games, and I was at the summer games in Burlington, Vermont.  And when we say you meet the best people in Special Olympics, you truly do.  So I was honored last night to be with 1200 of the best people in Vermont.  And today we have some other great people with us from New Jersey.

And if I could just ask you to stand, we have Matt Duman, Joanne Dinicossea, Sam Pignatelli, Tracey Mussara, John MaCormac.  Did I miss anyone?  Oh, Matt do you March.  Okay.  So thank you all for coming.  (Applause).  We also have Carmen Bannon who is the director of outreach for this area, but Carmen was a volunteer.  He started off as a volunteer.  He's been involved for 30 years with Special Olympics.

So again, I. K., when you come into our family, you meet the best people.  And today we've talked about what's been happening with Special Olympics, but we're looking to the future.  And we're looking and so excitedly to welcome you as I. K. Kim, an extraordinary athlete, an extraordinary humanitarian to our family, to Special Olympics as our newest sports ambassador.

You know, since I. K. came on the tour, many of you all know what she's done.  Amazing, unprecedented, she has in the five years that she's been on the tour, she's been one of the Top 10 women golfers in the world.  In the world.  How amazing is that?  But she's also taken not only her passion for golf, but she's also shown a passion for people, for community.  And she's the first golfer ever who took her winnings from one tournament that she won, the Lorena Ochoa tournament in Mexico in 2010 and decided this check I'm going to do something really meaningful, and she gave the check to a charity, Lorena Ochoa's school, and then she's also going to give the check to another charity today, hopefully.  (Laughs).

But the amazing thing is we know what passion she brings to the golf course and to the game of golf, and we see that every time she steps up to the tee.  But we're also learning every day the passion you bring to life, the passion you bring to making a difference, and we're so excited that I. K. as the sports ambassador is going to teach our athletes to be better athletes.  She's going to help raise awareness for our movement that continues to need awareness, especially outside the U. S.

We're in 170 countries, as I mentioned.  The U. S. everyone knows about Special Olympics, but not so much in places like Korea, which will host our next Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2013.  In eight months I. K.'s homeland, Korea, will bring 2300 athletes from around the world.  And you want to meet the best people, again, go to the World Games in Korea and you'll meet not only 2300 athletes and the coaches representing 112 countries, but you'll meet wonderful citizens from Korea, over 10,000 volunteers that are coming to really welcome our athletes to the wonderful country of Korea or the Republic of South Korea.

So I. K., we know that you are every day making a meaningful difference, and as an ambassador, I think the one message that we're excited you'll tell to people around the world, that everyone counts, everyone matters, everyone has value and everyone belongs.

So we welcome you to Special Olympics, and thank you so, so much for stepping forward and taking on this very special and very important role.  (Applause).

Now I have the great honor of introducing a global messenger who has spoken before Congress, has represented Special Olympics around the world at World Games.  He's a great swimmer.  But most important, he's not only a great athlete, but he's a great advocate for all athletes and a great leader himself in Special Olympics.  So let me introduce David Egan from Special Olympics Virginia.  (Applause).

DAVID EGAN:  Thank you, Peter.  Good afternoon, everyone.  How is everyone doing today?  I hope that you are having a great time on the green.  Are you in the scheme of things keeping your eyes on the prize?  Are you ready to meet a great golfer, I. K. Kim?  My name is David Egan, and I'm a Special Olympics athlete and global messenger.  I'm so happy and honored to be here at this golf event to announce I. K. Kim as our Special Olympics sports ambassador.

She is a successful golf competitor who has proven herself since a young age, qualified for the tour on her first attempt and was named Rookie of the Year for 2007.  She's a great athlete, and we are so happy that I. K. Kim decided to join the Special Olympics family and become a spokesperson for our cause.

Thank you, I. K. Kim, for your commitment to the movement.  This means a lot.  This means a great deal to me and all of the athletes who I represent.  We're relying on you to spread our message all over the world.  We are proud to have you as our ambassador and our fan.  Thank you for believing in us and taking on this new role of Special Olympics sports ambassador.

Let me tell you about my involvement with Special Olympics and what it means to me.  I have been in Special Olympics for the past 26 years, since the age of 8, almost as the same age as I. K. Kim started in golfing.

I competed in speed skating, soccer, basketball, softball and swimming.  I do also like to putt-putt on miniature golf and have made quite a few holes-in-one.  However, I'm not a golfer, but golf is a Special Olympics sport.

Special Olympics provides year-round athletic competition for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.  But Special Olympics is much more than competitions and medals.  I gained confidence when I started competing with Special Olympics.  I was able to win.  I was able to show my abilities.  My family was involved, and they could see me succeed, and they are very proud of me.

The mission of Special Olympics is rooted in the values of hope, love and opportunity, to create an opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities where we can compete, showcase our abilities, experience success and demonstrate our best.  To be the best is one thing, but to give it one's best is what matters at the end.

I speak about Special Olympics and carry this message wherever I go.  But without volunteers, sponsors and ambassadors like you, Special Olympics would not be the organization it is today.  You are our spokesperson, joining many others who are leading the change we all wish to see in the world.  It's about community revolution evolution.  As Tim Shriver, Special Olympics chairman, coined the term, Special Olympics is a movement that promotes respect, unit and potential through sport.

Like in our oath, and it goes like this, "let me win, and if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."  Will you please repeat this with me?  Let me win.

THE AUDIENCE:  Let me win.

DAVID EGAN:  And if I cannot win.

THE AUDIENCE:  And if I cannot win.

DAVID EGAN:  I may be brave in the attempt.

THE AUDIENCE:  I may be brave in the attempt.

DAVID EGAN:  When I was 12, I dreamed about winning the competitions.  I still like to win many races, but now I have a dream of changing the minds and hearts of many.  I dream of a world where people with disabilities do not have to hide.  Special Olympics has changed my life, and it can change yours.

Thanks, I. K. Kim, for joining the long line of spokespersons around the world.  I can assure you that this is a new adventure and you will not regret it.  Thank you for being our new ambassador taking our message to the golf community and to the whole world.  Please do not ever forget that Special Olympics, while a serious cause, is after all a fun experience.  Thank you.  Thank you all.  (Applause).

PETER WHEELER:  I. K., we have a few messages that we'd like to show you from some other ambassadors that are welcoming you.  I think you'll recognize them all.

(BY VIDEO:)

UNA McGARRY:  I would like to welcome and congratulate you on joining the Special Olympics family.  It is a global and national organization and I am really proud to be a part of this great team.  I've been able to witness firsthand the passion of Special Olympics athletes every time I meet them.  It has truly been a (indiscernible).  As a global ambassador for the 2013 Special Olympics in 2013, I hope you will make the games next year.

BART CONNER:  Hi, I. K., it's Bart Conner.

NADIA COMANECI:  And Nadia Comaneci.

BART CONNER:  And we're here to tell you how excited and grateful we are to hear that you're the newest Special Olympics sport ambassador.  Nadia and I have been involved with the Special Olympics movement now for many years, and we can tell you from the bottom of our hearts that there's nothing more rewarding and heartwarming than the Special Olympics movement.

NADIA COMANECI:  On behalf of the board of directors of Special Olympics, we want to welcome you to our organization and our cause, and on behalf of more than four million Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities, we want to say thank you for giving your time and energy and limitless (indiscernible) to help them achieve a better life.

BART CONNER:  I. K., like you, we understand the dedication and sacrifice it takes to be a world-class athlete.  That's why we're so humbly grateful for your decision to become a Special Olympics sports ambassador.  We're sure your personal time is very limited and very valuable.  It's a great gift you've offered our organization and we are honored you have chosen to join our team.

NADIA COMANECI:  Thanks, I. K.  We will be cheering for you on the LPGA Tour and look forward to seeing you in Korea at the 2013 games.

TIM SHRIVER:  Hello, I'm Tim Shriver, and it's a great pleasure for me to be a part of a movement that includes over four million athletes around the world, athletes who aspire to be and lively claim the title of the best in sports.  They're athletes that compete in over 20 winter and summer sports.  They compete in countries all around the world, in villages and towns, in big stadiums and on small fields.  They are the athletes of Special Olympics.

We believe they are the greatest heroes of sport.  They compete for the love of competition, to use their bodies to express their spirit, to try with everything they've got to leave it all on the field and to never want to defeat another as much as they want to do their best, to strive for excellence as a way of showing the world that they too count.

It is on their behalf that it is a great honor for me to welcome I. K. Kim as a sports ambassador for our movement, and it is not difficult to say how important and powerful this welcome is because, I. K., you are like the athletes of Special Olympics, an example of the best in sports, someone who strives, works tirelessly, who putts and drives and chips in a way that mesmerizes people, but who also has a heart just as big as her skill, who also has a spirit just as dedicated to excellence as your swing is.

So for us, a woman who comes with the great gift of sport, but also the great gift of generosity as you have shown so many times, is a welcome ambassador for our movement.  In some ways, I.K., it is for us to say thank you for all you've already been just as much as we are thanking you now for joining us as an ambassador for what you will and what we hope together we will create.  Next year we'll see special Olympics World Winter Games in Korea, two years later Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, California, but every day hundreds of Special Olympics competitions that bring to life the best in sports.

We're thrilled now that I. K. Kim is on that team, the best in sports welcomes the best in sports.  Thanks, I. K.  Welcome to the Special Olympics family.

I.K. KIM:  I don't know how I can follow this great speech and everything.  Thank you so much all for joining here today.  Thank you, Peter and Kelly, LPGA and David for a great introduction.  I'm very happy to be here today.  I've been looking forward to it and looking forward to meeting all of you here.  I hope this experience will stay in my memory for a lifetime.  So thank you so much for giving me the opportunity.

I'm very proud to be the sports ambassador for the Special Olympics.  And I'm very overwhelmed, but you can understand after watching the videos and meeting people just for a couple -- ten minutes, that this organization really matters.  This is a great organization.  They have four million -- more than four million athletes around the world and 170 different countries, and all the volunteers.

And I'm just very pleased to be a part of the organization, and I'm looking forward to work with the athletes by the lessons and clinics, and mostly, I think, awareness because a year ago I didn't know about the Special Olympics, and I think a lot of people just didn't have education and a lot of people doesn't know about this organization.

I think for me golf is a very individual game, and a lot of times I just think about how I'm going to improve myself, and I think it's just sharing with others, and if I can help other people, I think that would be great.

And yeah, hopefully my work will help other younger people to educate and inspire to make a difference in the community through Special Olympics, and just want to say thank you again for giving me this great opportunity.  Thank you.

PETER WHEELER:  Thank you, I. K.  So I. K., this is a plaque that says, "Special Olympics Sports Ambassador I. K. Kim is hereby welcomed to the Special Olympics movement as a sports ambassador to promote acceptance, inclusion and respect for people with intellectual disabilities throughout the sport of golf.  Celebrating the vision of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, you stand as a symbol of dedication, support, volunteerism and acceptance for the athletes of Special Olympics in the hearts and the minds of communities around the world."  (Applause).

So you know, I. K., we can't thank you enough for your generosity.  All of these funds will go to really support a lot of our outreach efforts here in the United States focused on golf and also our work with youth.  So we'll be reporting back to I. K. on how this money has really supported some of the things that David talked about and how we really will stretch this and make it really meaningful and make you proud of how it is spent.

It also is a wonderful example for all of our ambassadors throughout the world, Una, Bart Conner, Nadia, about here is someone like I. K. that's not only supporting us in helping our athletes become better athletes when you see her out doing the clinic today, but she's also contributing.  So generous to also make sure that we have the means to do more, and so we can't thank you enough for your generosity and your time and talent and your spirit as Tim Shriver said.  Thank you.  (Applause).

THE MODERATOR:  Does anybody have any questions for I. K.?  I guess I just would like to ask you, if you could just talk a little bit about -- we know how much it meant to you when you won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational back in 2010 to donate that entire first prize check to two different organizations.  Can you tell us about what made you decide after this time, I know you were thinking really hard and wanting to do something that was very special to you, what made you choose Special Olympics to be involved in and to make this donation?

I.K. KIM:  Since after the tournament I just wanted to do something in the U.S., so I was looking for the organization and charities through LPGA.  Shawn's right here, but he's been helping me with getting to know and learn about the Special Olympics, and I didn't know about the Special Olympics, like I said, but since I learned and heard about it, I really wanted to get involved and to learn and really be part of the organization.

So yeah, I'm very excited to do something, you know, really meaningful and also that I can continue to help not just one-time fundraising, but kind of -- you know, I just wanted to get myself out there to really do something meaningful.  That's why I chose Special Olympics.

THE MODERATOR:  Any more questions for I. K.?  Well, thank you very much for sharing this special announcement with all of us today.  And for anyone who's interested I. K. is now going to go outside and take part in a junior golf show with some others and spread the message of Special Olympics and then she'll be working with some of the athletes out there as well.  So we'd love to have you join us out there.

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