Evian Masters: First Round Notes and Interviews

Evian Masters Presented by Société Générale
Evian Golf Club
Evian-les-Bains, France

July 26, 2012
First-round Notes and Interviews

Stacy Lewis -9, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Hee Young Park -7, Rolex Rankings No. 35
Ilhee Lee -6, Rolex Rankings No. 123
Paula Creamer -4, Rolex Rankings No. 13
Suzann Pettersen -3, Rolex Rankings No. 6
I.K. Kim -3, Rolex Rankings No. 11
Karine Icher -2, Rolex Rankings No. 61

Propelled by a string of seven straight birdies, Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis tied the course record with a 9-under 63 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the 2012 Evian Masters Presented by Société Générale. Lewis’ round tied the 18-hole tournament record which Helen Alfredsson shot in the second round in 2008 en route to her third victory at the event.

Lewis’ birdie streak began on the par-4 fifth hole at the Evian Golf Club and ended when she missed a birdie putt on the 12th. Her seven consecutive birdies were just two shy of Beth Daniel’s LPGA record of nine straight birdies at the 1999 Phillips Invitational Honoring Harvey Penick. But Lewis said that she was most proud of the fact that she finished with two straight birdies to carry momentum into Friday’s second round.

“I kind of got off to a slow start,” Lewis said. “Didn't really have anything going the first few holes. I don't know what changed or what clicked, but I think the pretty close on 5 and made a long putt on 6; barely missed eagle on 7.

“From there I started to hit some good shots.  Made about a 20‑footer on 11, which is the last of the seven. So, I mean, it was just one of those days where you just get in this rhythm where you're just hitting golf shots and not thinking about a score or trying to make birdie.  It's just playing golf.”


On a roll…The round of 63 also marked Lewis’ career-low round on the LPGA Tour. Her previous low score was a 64, which she shot in both the second and fourth rounds of the 2012 Manulife LPGA Classic in June. So the outstanding round seems to be a continuation of the strong play that Lewis has been delivering all season. The 27-year-old currently leads the Rolex Player of the Year race, following two victories already this season, and Lewis has also tallied nine top-10s this year as well.

So what’s been the difference in her game this year?

“That's what everybody asks me,” Lewis said with a laugh. “I don't feel like I'm doing anything different.  I think a lot of it is being comfortable making five birdies in a row and going ahead and making two more. You know, I think probably this time last year I would get on the leaderboard and be unsure and start protecting the lead or something like that. I'm comfortable there.  I'm fine with seeing my name up there and playing in those final groups.  I think that's what really kind of changed things for me this year.”



Hee Young Park used a belly putter for the first time on Thursday and seemed to find her rhythm with the putter right away. Park carded a 7-under-par 65 with eight birdies – including five consecutive from holes five through nine – and one bogey to sit two shots back of Lewis after 18 holes of play.

So what was the key to Park’s success on Thursday? The 25-year-old began practicing with a belly putter 10 days ago and used it for the first time in competition today. Park said that she used the belly putter during her pro-am on Wednesday at the Evian Masters and shot 6-under. So it gave her confidence going into Thursday’s round that the switch might be a good one.

“It’s really, really new,” Park said with a laugh. “And then my around people are saying, ‘Really?  Are you going to use that?’  Yeah.  Did you know that Ernie Els won last week with the belly putter?  Did you see that? I got more confidence [from that].”

Park became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2011 CME Group Titleholders and has three top-10 finishes this season including fifth at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. In four previous appearances at the Evian Masters, Park’s best finish was a tie for sixth in 2008.


Frenchwoman Karine Icher shot 2-under-par 70 on Thursday in front of family and friends at the Evian Masters Presented by Societe Generale. The face of French women’s golf recorded four birdies and two bogies and is currently tied for 17th. Icher hopes the annual LPGA Tour stop in France will help to inspire the next generation of French golfers.

“I hope to have more young French girls come to golf after watching Evian on TV,” she said. “We have the Ryder Cup in 2018, so everything (is going) to help golf in France, which is good, because it's a small country, not a lot of golfers.”

A 10-year veteran of the LPGA, Icher continues to seek her first Tour victory. She has two top-10 finishes in 12 starts this season and currently sits 39th on the LPGA Official Money List with $187,939. Last year, Icher played an abbreviated schedule due to the birth of her first child, a girl named Lola.

“She's almost one and (this is the) first time she's in France,” she said. “So I'm glad she was able to see all the family and friends.  It was cool. Grandma and Grandpa taking care of her so we have a little rest, because she had a hard time sleeping when we're traveling.”


A much needed break? Another thing that Park credited for her success on Thursday was the time off that she took following the U.S. Women’s Open. Park, who missed the cut at the event at Blackwolf Run, took the two-week break as a chance to put down her golf clubs. She instead went on vacation to upstate New York and Massachusetts where she spent time by the lake and

“It was pretty pressured, the major,”  Park said. “After I play US Open and then kind of frustrate, and then just needed something to forget about.  Most like good things like mom's cook or like family. But is far away from my family, so I got to do something.  I found some good lake or like something to do, and that was so fantastic for me”

Park wasn’t the only player who stepped away from the game for a bit and found good results in the opening round of the Evian Masters. Norway native Suzann Pettersen went back home to Norway over the break and spent time catching up with friends and family. It meant a few hiccups in her game but despite a few struggles with her driver in the opening round, Pettersen still managed to shoot 3-under 69. And she’s put herself in good position after Thursday’s first day of play.

“I really needed it,” Pettersen said of her time I was drained after the U.S. Open.  It was a lot of golf in a three‑week stretch.  For me, not to pick up a golf club, that means a few painful days coming back. But it's nice I got going today and it felt good.  Another session on the range and hopefully I will be able to keep up the better form tomorrow.”


Of Note…Defending champion Ai Miyazato fired a 1-under 71 in Thursday’s first round and is tied for 24th. Miyazato has won two of the last three years at the Evian Masters, picking up her first career LPGA Tour victory at the event in 2009…Na Yeon Choi shot 3-over-par 75 in her first LPGA round since winning the U.S. Women’s Open… Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng’s struggles continued with a 4-over-par 76… 2005 Evian Master champion Paula Creamer is five shots off the lead at 4-under-par 68.


Quotable: “She played awesome.  Honestly it was fun to watch.  First day and you're out there and shoots 9‑under.  That's a pretty incredible score on any golf course, and especially this one with all the little breaks.  It was impressive. “ – Paula Creamer on playing partner Stacy Lewis’ 9-under 63

STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 3

MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome our current leader, Stacy Lewis, into the interview room.  Congratulations.  63 ties the tournament record, which was set by Helen Alfredsson back in the second round in 2008.  What a string you went on with those seven straight birdies. Thoughts overall on the round and take me through that string of birdies and what was going through your mind during that stretch.

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, you know I kind of got off to a slow start.  Didn't really have anything going the first few holes. I don't know what changed or what clicked, but I think the pretty close on 5 and made a long putt on 6; barely missed eagle on 7.

From there I started to hit some good shots.  Made about a 20‑footer on 11, which is the last of the seven. So, I mean, it was just one of those days where you just get in this rhythm where you're just hitting golf shots and not thinking about a score or trying to make birdie.  It's just playing golf.

I was happy, more happy to finish with the two birdies than even the seven just to get some momentum going into tomorrow.

MODERATOR:  When you're on such a hot streak like that, are you aware of how many you have in a row?  Are thinking about it?  Is it your group say anything to you?

STACY LEWIS:  After about the fifth one we started talking about it a little bit.  T.J., Brittany's caddie, just said, Are you going to birdie every hole?  I said, Well, why not?  That's what we're out here to do, right? So we started talking about it 6 and 7.  I barely missed my birdie putt for the eighth in a row, and Paula goes, Well seven is pretty good.

I mean, it was just one of those days where stuff just starts going your way and you make a few putts.

Q.  Last year you finished runner‑up here.  You seem to like this golf course.  What is it about it that suits your game?  I know there have been some slight changes to the course already this year.  How is that affecting play out there?

STACY LEWIS:  I don't think it's really changed anything the way the course plays.  Playing well on this course is all putting well and making birdies.  I think every year I've learned the greens better and better, and that's the key.  I'm playing good golf.

I love coming here.  It's so relaxing to come here.  The hotels are great and they take care of us so well that it's such an easy week.

I don't know, can't help but put you in a good mood and makes you play some good golf.

Q.  Have you had a run like that before?

STACY LEWIS:  I don't know for sure.  I know I made six in a row before, but I don't think I've done seven.

Q.  Because you've had a lot of streaks.

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I usually make birdies in kind of streaks.  Usually make two or three at a time.  I don't know why I do that, but I kind of get some momentum going. I definitely think this is one of the lowest rounds I've ever shot.  I don't know 100% on that.

Q.  That was going to be my next question:  Is this your best round ever?

STACY LEWIS:  I think it is.  I don't know 100%.

MODERATOR:  We'll check on that.

Q.  I'm not trying to push you.

STACY LEWIS:  I honestly have no idea.

Q.  Do you never think as the rest of us think, you know, I've made three birdies and things are going to go wrong now?

STACY LEWIS:  Not really.  I think it's more because on this course so many under par usually wins every year that the moment you stop thinking about making a birdie or hitting a good shot, that's when you do.

You just know in the back of your mind you have to make birdies and you have to keep hitting good shots.  What's done is done, and just keep trying to do what you're doing.

Q.  So you made eight in a row you say.

STACY LEWIS:  Made seven.

Q.  Seven.  So what was your thinking when you tee'd up at the next then?  Do you forget the ones that have gone before?

STACY LEWIS:  I definitely know that I made seven birdies in a row.  You definitely know you've done that. But, I mean, you still have to hit the golf shot at hand.  It's hard to not think about that.  You play a little defensive.  But my birdie putt on the next one went right over the edge.  I did everything I could to keep it going, but...

I mean, you try not to get ahead of yourself and think back too much about your round either.  Just stay in the moment, and that's what I did today.

MODERATOR:  You've been on such a hot streak this year in terms of your play.  We were joking in the media room that it's not surprising to see you get on a run in a round.  Overall when you look at this year and how well you've been playing, do the rounds just seem to come naturally right now to shoot low?  Just feeling very comfortable with your game?

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I feel really good with my game.  Coming of the U.S. Open I was really disappointed with the way I played there.  I went back and worked hard these last couple weeks just mentally getting in a better place.

I got really upset with myself and got ahead of myself at the Open and just really wasn't working on my game the way I should've.  I was really disappointed with that.

So to come out today and follow that up with a really good round, I think it does a lot for my confidence.

Q.  As a follow up on that, what else have you done this year that has really given you this super momentum?  You're just everywhere and doing really well, which is great.

STACY LEWIS:  I don't know.  That's what everybody asks me.  I don't feel like I'm doing anything different.  I think a lot of it is being comfortable making five birdies in a row and going ahead and making two more.

You know, I think probably this time last year I would get on the leaderboard and be unsure and start protecting the lead or something like that. I'm comfortable there.  I'm fine with seeing my name up there and playing in those final groups.  I think that's what really kind of changed things for me this year.

Q.  There's no technical changes or anything you've gone through?

STACY LEWIS:  No.  I mean, over the last couple years I've been working on the same things with my swing.  It's kind of a gradual getting it into better position.

It's really been all confidence for me.  My putter is all confidence.  If I feel good over it, I'm going to make the putt.  If your confidence is high, I think I can make a lot of putts.

Q.  You sure did today.  Keep them up.

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, thanks.

 

HEE YOUNG PARK, Rolex Rankings No. 35

MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Hee Young Park into the interview room.  Congratulations on a great round, 7‑under par, tremendous way to start this tournament. Just take me through your day and what was really working well for you.

HEE YOUNG PARK:  I mean, before the Evian Masters I did a lot of work.  I did a lot of workout like kayak, bike, little bit ever run, tennis.  I really enjoy it and then everything fresh my body.

And then also this week really fresh air, and actually my group was really nice with Beatriz and So Yeon.  We were really enjoyed it.  Today like perfect weather.  Not really cold.  A little bit of warm breeze, but not really.

THE MODERATOR:  Taking that break, did you feel like you needed it?  Was there something that made you say, I'm going to take a little bit of a step back maybe?

HEE YOUNG PARK:  Yeah, it was pretty pressure of the major.  After play US Open and then kind of frustrate, and then just needed something to forget about.  Most like good things like mom's cook or like family.

But is far away from my family, so I got to do something.  I found some good lake or like something to do, and that was so fantastic for me.  So I got to do more than before.  Yeah, a little bit more.

THE MODERATOR:  In the round today what was it that really got you going?  Was it the putting?  What kicked in to be able to shoot so low today?

HEE YOUNG PARK:  Yeah, actually, I been play 15 years I never use the belly putter.  Then like 10 days ago, I just change the belly putter.

Then I was kind of like really nervous about the change in my putter, and then first, second hole was really nervous, but I'm just forget about it.  Do like same practice round or whatever.

THE MODERATOR:  So the belly putter is that new, huh?

HEE YOUNG PARK:  Yeah, really, really new.  And then my around people are saying, Really?  Are you going to use that?  Yeah.  Did you know that Ernie Els won last week with the belly putter?  Did you see that? Then I got more confidence.

Q.  (No microphone.)

HEE YOUNG PARK:  That was nearby Albany.  I live in Orlando Florida, but that was like around New York.

Q.  (No microphone.)

HEE YOUNG PARK:  Massachusetts.

THE MODERATOR:  Massachusetts, too.  So toured a little bit up in the east coast in the U.S.

HEE YOUNG PARK:  Yeah.

THE MODERATOR:  What made you decide to go up there?

HEE YOUNG PARK:  I just tour.  Let's see, after U.S.  Open it Chicago, right, very close to Chicago?  So hang out in Chicago for like half day, and then actually I planned this trip like four months ago.  It was fantastic.  I saw Internet and everything like quiet.

THE MODERATOR:  And with the belly putter, how long did it take for you?  Did you have a feel for it right away?

HEE YOUNG PARK:  Um, yeah, I learned it before like few times like in 10 minutes every time.  But, you know, kind of pretty different feel.  But it works really well, even in 10 minutes after practice.

But my caddie was really old‑style, old school, so he say, When you done with the 15 years with the normal putter, then this is the test.  I want to try last even 10 minutes I done really well, and then feels kind of little bit different but working really well I think, so I really want to use before I get older.

So I think good to change.

Q.  (No microphone.)

HEE YOUNG PARK:  Actually, it has been five years in LPGA, and then I used to play KLPGA, Korean Tour.

MODERATOR:  Last year at the end of the year you won your first LPGA event at the CME Group Titleholders.

HEE YOUNG PARK:  Yes.

MODERATOR:  How much has that helped you in terms of confidence?

HEE YOUNG PARK:  Yeah, I mean, everything is not really important.  Just another game to me about the confidence.  Even without golf in my life, getting more change, more positive thing, and everything change good for me.

ILHEE LEE, Rolex Rankings No. 123

Q. Great playing.  Seven birdies in the first 12 holes.  Did you feel really good about your game today?

ILHEE LEE:  Yeah.  First 12 holes was the driver and second shot, and then putting in hole or like tap‑in, par.  It was really fun first 12 hole. And then, yeah.

Q.  What was the biggest thing?  Approach shots?  Were you hitting it close?

ILHEE LEE:  First 12 holes I feel putt was feel really good, so that's why I made many, many birdies first 12.

Q.  And as you said, a few weeks ago you didn't even know you were going to play this event.

ILHEE LEE:  Uh‑huh.

Q.  So just coming in with the approach of trying to do the best you can and take advantage of the opportunity?

ILHEE LEE:  Yeah.  I mean, I was not really good position, I mean, to play here before U.S. Open.  I play really good week.  I had really good tournament U.S. Open, so I made this event. Yeah, it's like bonus.

Q.  And having played well at the U.S. Open, do you feel like you’re carrying that confidence and the way you've been playing into this week?

ILHEE LEE:  Yeah.  First, I feel comfortable with this year, first, because I can make card easily. Then, yeah, everything is changed for me.  I can play few more ‑ a lot more ‑ events.  I can play a lot more, so it made a lot of difference.

Q.  That helps in the confidence level.  It's amazing when you talk to players about confidence how much that changes things for everyone.  Hee Young Park was saying after she won her first event how that carries over and it just snow balls.

ILHEE LEE:  Yeah.  Confidence is important for the golf.

 

PAULA CREAMER, Rolex Rankings No. 13

Q. 4‑under par today.  Nice way to start the week.  Just talk about how you played.

PAULA CREAMER:  I played pretty solid.  Made some good putts, made a couple good up‑and‑downs.  Been kind of the difference of my round today and the past couple months.  The back is just making some putts, so it's nice.

Q.  Talk about the reception we get here.  Obviously Evian, they do it right.  Great event, great crowds here.

PAULA CREAMER:  No, I mean, they love women's golf and it shows.  They do such a good job of hosting us.  And the fans, they've been pretty incredible over the year.

It will be interesting to see it as a major next year.  But we have this year to play, and looking forward to the next three days.

Q.  Quick thought on Stacy's seven birdies in a row.  You don't see that every day.

PAULA CREAMER:  No.

Q.  How did she play today?

PAULA CREAMER:  She played awesome.  Honestly it was fun to watch.  First day and you're out there and shoots 9‑under.  That's a pretty incredible score on any golf course, and especially this one with all the little breaks.  It was impressive.

SUZANN PETTERSEN, Rolex Rankings No. 6

MODERATOR:  When we were walking up here you were saying that you weren't hitting the driver the way that you wanted to today.  Do you at least feel pretty pleased that you could at least come out with a 3‑under par?  I know you had it to 4 at one point, but overall.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  It's been two weeks with barely touching a golf club so it was so nice to get a round in today.

Overall putting great.  Greens are very, very fast.  The course is in good shape.  I'm surprised there are not that many low scores for the perfect conditions. This course is challenging no matter what, I mean, if you feel comfortable.  You never really have a flat lie, so that's the one challenge.

MODERATOR:  I know 3‑putt down towards the end of stretch not exactly what you wanted to do, but can you take me to the final few holes and what happened there.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Well, I felt like I hit a good shot into 15; gave myself a good putt for birdie and missed it just.  Then hit a good tee ball, didn't really hit a good second shot, and left myself a very, very fast putt.  Putted off the green way too fast, way too hard.

And then didn't really have too good of a chance on last couple.  So 3‑under.  I think as you said it's my second best opening round in Evian, so I guess that's decent.

MODERATOR:  There's been some slight changes already to the golf course, and there will be more dramatic ones heading into next year.  Do you notice them already in terms of how the course is playing?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I think this course plays longer now than it has in the past.  I think last year the rough was really tough.  This year the rough is doable.

The length on a couple holes, the length on the par‑3, 14, which I'm not a huge fan of.  Par‑3 where you know none of the players can hit a long iron into.

But we don't set up the course, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays next year with all the changes.  I mean, it's a good combo now.  I mean, there are a lot of short par‑4s, and I think it's good to kind of have some longer par‑4s.

Some of these holes don't necessarily set up for it.

Q.  What have you been doing the last two week, organizing a kids’ tournament?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  No, I mean, I was just seeing a lot of friends, having a blast.  Filled up the social card and not really the golf card.  So the tank [on the golf course] felt a little empty.  Usually the other way around.

But it's fine.  Sometimes you need a refuel of a different aspect of your life to get your energy back on the golf course.

So at least any inspiration and motivation is pretty good.

MODERATOR:  Hee Young talked about that earlier.  She said for the last two weeks she really didn't pick up a golf club and took some time off.  Sometimes, especially after the stretch where you have the Women's Open and the pressure‑packed majors, it's nice to kind of have a little break.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, I really needed it.  I was drained after the U.S. Open.  It was a lot of golf in a three‑week stretch.  For me, not to pick up a golf club, that means a few painful days coming back.

But it's nice I got going today and it felt good.  Another session on the range and hopefully I will be able to keep up the better form tomorrow.

 

I.K. KIM, Rolex Rankings No. 11

Q. Pretty good round today.  3‑under par.  You had it to 4, back to 3.  How did it feel?

I.K. KIM:  It's nice to be back in Evian.  I had a good rest last two weeks, and I'm really excited to come back and play some good golf. You know, the golf course have been changed a little bit.  There is few holes, few par‑3s, and you know, just they make it a little bit longer, I guess.  But, you know, if you play well you can shoot some low scores here.

I had a good day.  It could have been lower, but I'm happy with where I'm at.

Q.  What did do for the two weeks off?  Practice?  Vacation?

I.K. KIM:  I had two weeks off, so I did a little bit everything:  rest, worked out, eat some good food, and hang out with friends.  Getting ready for this week.

Q.  Talk about the rest of the week.  You put yourself in a good position.  Hee Young went pretty low today, but still anybody's ballgame.  How do you feel for the next three rounds?

I.K. KIM:  I feel really comfortable.  I just want to keep my good attitude.  You know here you got to hit a lot of good, solid shots and still make some putts.

Yeah, like you said, you never know what's going to happen.  You just got to keep playing your own game and see what happens.

 

KARINE ICHER, Rolex Rankings No. 61

Q. Played well today.  Take me through your round and how you played.

KARINE ICHER:  Played well.  Very good driving.  Very happy with my tee shots today.  Good putting.  Just disappointing about the end of the course, 15, 16.  15 I miss like six‑foot putt for birdie; 16 I missed my shot on the right side so I was dead.

So maybe two shot here otherwise would be minus‑4 so it would be great.  But anyway, to be under the par here it's good.  Happy to be in France.  Happy to play in front of my friends and fans and family, so that's cool.

Q.  Obviously the reception you get from all the media, they don't care about anybody else now that you're playing well.  They want to talk to you.  How good does that feel?

KARINE ICHER:  It's amazing, because usually when I play in the U.S., I am not American, so I have interviews when I'm playing well.  Here in France I have obviously some work to do, so that's nice, too.

It's important to talk to the media.  Obviously I hope to have more young French girls come to the golf after watching Evian on TV, maybe trying to play golf. To be a major next year going to help for sure. We have the Ryder Cup in 2018, so everything gonna to help golf in France, which is good, because it's a small country, not a lot golfer.  So that's good.

Q.  Last one:  How nice is it to come home with your baby daughter and have your whole family here?

KARINE ICHER:  Well, the first time she was in France, so amazing.  Yeah, she's almost one and first time she's in France.  So I'm glad she was able to see all the family and friends.  It was cool.

Grandma and grandpa taking care of her so we have a little rest, because she had a hard time to sleep when we're traveling.  It's good.  It's okay.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, The Evian Championship

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