Reignwood LPGA Classic First Round Notes and Interviews

Reignwood LPGA Classic
Pine Valley Golf Club, Nicklaus Course
Beijing, China
First-Round Notes and Interviews
October 3, 2013

NA YEON CHOI, Rolex Rankings No. 6
JESSICA KORDA, Rolex Rankings No. 26

Rolex Rankings No. 6 Na Yeon Choi and No. 26 Jessica Korda got off to blazing starts at the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic and share the first-round lead after both shooting 9-under par 64. The duo has a four-shot lead over a group of three players that includes No. 3 Stacy Lewis and South Koreans Hee Kyung Seo and Hee Young Park.

Choi and Korda are both playing for their first wins of the 2013 season and put themselves in good position to make a run this week in Beijing. Both players were bogey-free through their first 18 holes, carding nine birdies each.

Korda shot a 5-under 31 on the front nine and picked up four more birdies in her last seven holes. It was a banner day for the third-year LPGA Tour member and the round of 64 ties her career low which she shot in the final round of the 2012 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. She said she’s hungry for her second-career win and has made 35 starts since she became a Rolex First Time Winner at the 2012 ISPS Women’s Australian Open. The Bradenton, Fla. native seems to be close to a breakthrough and said her runner-up finish at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in May has kept her fire going.

“I finished second in Alabama this year and got a little taste of it and that second win,” said Korda. “I’m kind of going after it. I had a great break for two weeks after Evian back in Czech Republic with my family and I feel really relaxed here. It seems to be a really good golf course; it suits my eye. I’m excited for what the next three days bring.”

Korda was the clubhouse leader with four groups to play and closed out her round with a hard-fought par on the par 5 18th hole.

“The wind switched on me on the tee box so it was left to right when I first got there then I backed off of it because I thought it was right to left,” said Korda. “We adjusted the line accordingly. I hit the shot and the wind changed and brought it back into the water. And I was like ‘ok we’re going for par now.’”

It would look like Korda’s round of 64 would hold up but Choi made a run in the final group of the day. Her solid back nine included four-consecutive birdies on the final four holes which actually came as a surprise to the South Korean.

“I feel I had a perfect game out there especially those last four holes,” said Choi. “I didn’t expect to have four birdies on the finish. I finished very strong. I played one Korean tournament last week but I didn’t finish well so I didn’t expect to play well today actually. I just tried to be more relaxed out there.”

Choi has a calming presence with her this week and brought long-time caddie, Paul Fusco, back on the bag after a short hiatus.

“My old caddie came and I talked a lot with Paul and really enjoyed it a lot out there,” said Choi. “It helped a lot. Especially the last few months my putting didn’t work very well. But today every time I went to putt, he would say good aim or gave me a lot of trust or confidence. I think that’s why my putting was working really well today.”

Choi’s last victory came at the season-finale CME Group Titleholders last year and said she put a ton of pressure on herself earlier this season when she held the No. 2 world ranking. She said she’s learned to do a better job to manage expectations for herself.

“The good thing is I learn every day,” said Choi. “The beginning of this year I didn’t do that much, maybe trying too much. But right now I know what I have to do and what’s my job. So I just need to stick with it. I think especially this year I put a lot of pressure on myself. This year I was No. 2 in the world and I tried to be No. 1, over trying”

The seven-time LPGA Tour winner said her opening round on Thursday was reminiscent of her third round of her first-career win at the 2009 Samsung World Championship. Choi said she felt like she was hitting on all cylinders.

“It’s kind of more relaxed out there now with Paul and try to enjoy it. It kind of reminds me of how I won the Samsung World Championship in 2009. I shot 8-under there with Paul and I felt great today.”

CLPGA member Liying Ye was the top Chinese performer on Thursday after a 4-under 69. She’s currently in a tie for 6th and five shots off the lead. China native and major champion Shanshan Feng turned in a 3-under par 70

NA YEON CHOI, Rolex Rankings No. 6

Q. What an awesome finish. Four birdies to close out. Talk about those last four strong holes.
NA YEON CHOI: I feel I had a perfect game out there especially those last four holes. I didn’t expect to have four birdies on the finish. I finished very strong. I was very surprised there were so many Chinese fans supporting me and I was really thankful.

I played one Korean tournament last week but I didn’t finish well so I didn’t expect to play well today actually. I just tried to be more relaxed out there. My old caddie came and I talked a lot with Paul and really enjoyed it a lot out there.

Q. Talk about Paul coming back on the bag and having a comfortable presence. How much did that help today?
NA YEON CHOI: It helped a lot. Especially the last few months my putting didn’t work very well. But today every time I went to putt, he would say good aim or gave me a lot of trust or confidence. I think that’s why my putting was working really well today.

Q. You’ve had two runner up finishes this year; you’re still looking for that first win. What do think is holding you back and what will put you in the winner’s circle this week?
NA YEON CHOI: Honestly, I’m not going to be looking for the next few days, I’m just going to do my best one shot at a time. And I think especially this year I put a lot of pressure on myself. This year I was No. 2 in the world and I tried to be No. 1, over trying. It’s kind of more relaxed out there now with Paul and try to enjoy it. It kind of reminds me of how I won the Samsung World Championship in 2009. I shot 9-under there with Paul and I felt great today.

Q. Do you think that has been part of the maturing process how you’ve tried to manage expectations in terms of world rankings and winning?
NA YEON CHOI: The good thing is I learn every day. The beginning of this year I didn’t do that much, maybe trying too much. But right now I know what I have to do and what’s my job. So I just need to stick with it.

JESSICA KORDA, Rolex Rankings No. 26

Q. You turned in a 9-under 64, ties your career-low. Tells us about your round, no bogies. What an awesome way to open up this week.
JESSICA KORDA: It was a really fun round. I had a lot of fun out there. We started picking up some fans watching. I had a great group. I had Morgan Pressel and Ilhee Lee and we just had a blast out there.

Q. Looked like you had your putter going, had some lengthy putts early on. Tell us what you thought about the greens and how you were able to handle them.
JESSICA KORDA: The greens were really good. I did a pretty good job reading them. I would say at the end of the day they were a little bouncy and you could see some spike marks. I think the gold course is in great shape and I’m excited for the next three days.

Q. You’ve been having a solid year so far. Six top-10’s you had a good week at the Solheim Cup. Talk about your goals heading into this last stretch of seven events. You obviously want to get that win.
JESSICA KORDA: I finished second in Alabama and got a little taste of it and that second win. I’m kind of going after it. I had a great break for two weeks after Evian back in Czech Republic with my family and I feel really relaxed here. It seems to be a really good golf; it suits my eye. I’m excited for what the next three days bring. course

Q. Run through what happen on No. 18.
JESSICA KORDA: The wind switched on me on the tee box so it was left to right when I first got there then I backed off of it because I thought it was right to left. We adjusted the line accordingly. I hit the shot and the wind changed and brought it back into the water. And I was like ‘ok we’re going for par now.’

Q. You’re distance had to help you today.
JESSICA KORDA: I wouldn’t say I was hitting it that great today. I had a lot of good drives and think I onlt reach one or two greens. Other than that I had a really good day.

Q. You’re best score as a professional?
JESSICA KORDA: It is. I tried to get a birdie on the last hole but the wind switched up on me on the tee box and that happens. I was just trying to get away with what I had.

Q. You peppered the pins on a number of holes but particularly No. 13, the par 3. Can you talk us through that shot?
JESSICA KORDA: I think it was 185 yards to the pin and my caddie and I were talking about the wind switching again and the firmness today which was a little different than what we’ve experienced in the practice rounds. I hit this really nice five iron and I was like ‘oh that was a great shot’ and picked up my tee and walked off and all of a sudden all these people started clapping and this big roar off the green and I said ‘please tell me I did not make that and not see it in.’

Q. You’ve been having a good time here in China. You got to go to the Great Wall earlier this week.
JESSICA KORDA: That was a lot of fun. It’s a great experience and I’m just thankful to be here and get to play.

 

 

Topics: Reignwood LPGA Classic, Notes and Interviews

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