Reignwood LPGA Classic Wednesday Notes and Interviews

Reignwood LPGA Classic
Pine Valley Golf Club
Beijing, China
Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews
October 2, 2013

Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Shanshan Feng, Rolex Rankings No. 9

The LPGA Tour begins its five-tournament Asia swing this week at the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic outside of Beijing, the Tour’s first trip to the capital of China. In conjunction with the China Golf Association and the China LPGA, the Pine Valley Golf Club will play host to 81 LPGA and CLPGA players who will compete over 72 holes for a chance at the $270,000 first-place check and be the first to etch their name on the tournament’s trophy.

Headlining this week’s event will be Rolex Rankings No. 10 Shanshan Feng, the top-ranked golfer who hails from the People’s Republic. Feng made history last year when she captured the Wegmans LPGA Championship title, becoming the first Chinese golfer -male or female - to win a major championship. Her feat has helped spark a golf boom in her home country.   

Six of the top 10 golfers in the Rolex Rankings are slated to be in the field this week including No. 1 Inbee Park and No. 3 Stacy Lewis, who are both seeking title defenses during the fall’s Asia swing. While Park currently leads the Rolex Player of the Year race, she’ll be looking to strengthen her grip on the award after Suzann Pettersen put herself within 77 point s after she captured back-to-back victories at the Safeway Classic and The Evian Championship. Pettersen unseated Lewis from the No. 2 spot, providing for what looks to be a dramatic finish to the 2013 season.  

Well-deserved break: Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park is hoping to break out of a bit of a funk she’s found herself in the last few months and thinks a two-week break in the Tour’s schedule following the Evian Championship was exactly what she needed. Park had some time off with family and then fine-tuned her game at a KLPGA event the following week.

“After Evian I had a week off,” said Park. “It was Korean Thanksgiving week. So our family gathered and we had a really good time. Then the week after I actually played in the KLPGA tournament in Korea. It was a good two weeks off. I finished 10th in last week’s KLPGA tournament and my swing and my putting got a little better than at the Evian. I think my game is on the good side and progressing in a good way. Hopefully this week I can post a good number.”

Park said she knows there will be stretches throughout the year with hot and cold streaks and after a dominating first half of the season that including three-consecutive major wins, there was really nowhere to go but down. Since her last victory at the U.S. Women’s Open at the end of June, Park has failed to finish in the top-10 in five starts and best finish came at the CN Canadian Women’s Open where she tied for 13th.

“You always get your bad months and you get your good months through the season,” said Park. “You sometimes play really well for some and a little bad for these months and I think this was my time. I think I really needed some break and this is at the end of the season. Hopefully after this season I think I’ll be more relieved.”

Park, who always says she feels comfortable playing on Asian turf, feels no different this week in Beijing.

‘I walked nine holes yesterday and the course is in really good shape and I really like it here,” said Park. “It’s really similar like all the Asian courses to my home course so I feel comfortable. I think it will play quite challenging and it’s going to be a lot of fun.” 

Eye on the prize: Inbee Park has never been one to talk about goal setting but the South Korean has made it no secret she has winning Rolex Player of the Year at the top of her list of accomplishments to check off in 2013. Having notched six wins already this season and rewriting golf’s history books through her impressive run in major championships this season, Park has turned to the Player of the Year title for some motivation to finish strong this year.

“Next seven events I need to play hard and try to catch the Player of the Year award because that’s something I couldn’t do last year,” said Park. “I think it’s already good I actually have a chance. Last year I was quite behind Stacy so it was tough to catch her even if I played good in these events. If I’m able to play good in these events, I’ll be able to achieve my goals so I’m really in a good position.”

If Park finds herself receiving the award at the Rolex Awards reception at CME Group Titleholders in November, she’ll be writing her name in the record books once again. She’d become the first South Korean to win the award and genuinely said it would mean everything to her. She currently has a 77 point lead over Suzann Pettersen.

“That would mean so much,” said Park. “That’s something no one has ever done as a Korean and that will be something new in the Korean golf history but that’s something that I’ve really wanted to achieve this year. That’ll be just everything.”

Sign me up! It’s undoubtedly a big week for China native Shanshan Feng and the major champion’s influence on helping bring an LPGA event to mainland China was on full display yesterday at a press conference at Pine Valley Golf Club. A signing ceremony was hosted in the clubhouse to announce Feng signing an endorsement deal with this week’s tournament’s title sponsor, Reignwood. Feng proudly showed off a patch on her left sleeve on Wednesday and said she’s looking forward to the partnership.
 
“I just got to sign with Reignwood yesterday,” said Feng. “Now you see now on my left shoulder. And I think Reignwood is a really great company and it’s really pushing Chinese golf to move forward. I’m really happy to be another face of the Reignwood company.”

Masson on track for top rookie honors: Germany’s Caroline Masson currently leads the rest of the 2013 rookie class in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race and is in good position to become the first German to win the coveted award. Masson leads Japan’s Ayako Uehara (374) by 50 points and Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn (364) by 60 points with her 424 total but is by no means running away with the title just yet.

No rookie has broken into the winner’s circle yet this season and a victory would provide a 150 point boost in the race. With limited fields playing the rest of the 2013 season, rookies in the running will be trying to notch every last point awarded for top finishes. Players in bold below are in the field this week while American Lisa McCloskey (6th) rounds out the group of four rookies in action.

Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Points Points Breakdown by Finish
Rank Player Points Finish Points
1 Caroline Masson 424 1. 150
2 Ayako Uehara 374 2. 80
3 Moriya Jutanugarn 364 3. 75
4 Chie Arimura 282 4. 70
5 Austin Ernst 212 5. 65

 

Odds are good a new country will be added to the esteemed list of LPGA Rookie of the Year winners. Out of the current top-5 in the rankings, four of the players hail from countries without an LPGA Rookie of the Year. Masson (Germany), Ayako Uehara and Chie Arimura (Japan) and Moriya Jutanugarn (Thailand) will try to etch their nation’s flags on a list that includes LPGA and World Golf Halls of Famers Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak, Lorena Ochoa and Yani Tseng.

Ten total countries are represented on the list with the United States leading the pack with 28 winners. The nine remaining nations are as follows with number of winners: South Korea (9), Sweden (3), Canada (2), Australia (2), Spain (1), Mexico (1), England (1), Scotland (1).

Kia Most Compelling Performance nominees in action: Voting for the Kia Most Compelling Performance Award opened to the public yesterday and will run throughout the entire month of October to honor the LPGA player who put on the most compelling performance this season. Players were nominated for their performances each month from February through September and five of the nominees are in action this week in Beijing.

Yani Tseng (February), Stacy Lewis (March), Inbee Park (April), Beatriz Recari (June) and Caroline Hedwall (July) have all earned nominations for their outstanding play. Players will be looking to earn votes in order to win a 2014 Kia Cadenza which will be presented at the Kia Performance Awards Ceremony on Wednesday at the season-final CME Group Titleholders.

 

INBEE PARK, Rolex Rankings No. 1

Q. Thoughts on coming into this week. You had a two-week break after Evian. Tell us about how you’re feeling about your game and what you’ve been working on in the off weeks.
INBEE PARK: After Evian I had a week off. It was Korean Thanksgiving week. So our family gathered and we had a really good time. Then the week after I actually played in the KLPGA tournament in Korea. It was a good two weeks off. I finished 10th in last week’s KLPGA tournament and my swing and my putting got a little better than at the Evian. I think my game is on the good side and progressing in a good way. Hopefully this week I can post a good number.

Q. Everybody said it’s that time in the season where you needed a little bit of a break. Do you think that will help you coming into this week?
INBEE PARK: I didn’t exactly have that much of a break. I only had about five days of break. You always get your bad months and you get your good months through the season. You sometimes play really well for some and a little bad for these months and I think this was my time. I think I really needed some break and this is at the end of the season. Hopefully after this season I think I’ll be more relieved.

Q. Last year around this time heading into the Asian swing was when you really started catching fire. You won in Malaysia which is coming up next week where you’ll be defending. Talk about finishing the season on a strong note- you’re leading the Rolex PLayer of the Year. What’s the outlook for the last seven events.
INBEE PARK: Next seven events I need to play hard and try to catch the Player of the Year award because that’s something I couldn’t do last year. I think it’s already good I actually have a chance. Last year I was quite behind Stacy so it was tough to catch her even if I played good in these events. If I’m able to play good in these events, I’ll be able to achieve my goals so I’m really in a good position.

Q. What would that mean to you to get Player of the Year? You’d be the first South Korean to do it. What would that mean?
INBEE PARK: That would mean so much. That’s something no one has ever done as a Korean and that will be something new in the Korean golf history but that’s something that I’ve really wanted to achieve this year. That’ll be just everything.

Q. Thoughts on this course? Players have been giving good reviews. It’s in good shape. What are your thoughts seeing the past couple days.
INBEE PARK: I walked nine holes yesterday. The course is in really good shape and I really like it here. It’s really similar like all the Asian courses to my home course so I feel comfortable. I think it will play quite challenging and it’s going to be a lot of fun. 

 

SHANSHAN FENG, Rolex Rankings No. 9

Q. You’re the star of the week. Everyone’s been looking forward to have you come home and play in this event. There’s been so much build up. Are you happy it’s finally here?
SHANSHAN FENG: Oh yea. I’ve been real excited for it. Like half a year already. I miss Beijing duck so much. I’m really happy we’re having an LPGA tournament again in China. This time in Beijing, actually on the mainland. Last time we were in Hainan on the island so I couldn’t show the girls too much. But this time I could show them around and tell them where to go, what to eat. Of course I see many fans this week and they’re supporting me. So I’m really really happy.

Q. It’s been a pretty cool week so far, you had the photo call on Monday and the gala dinner last night downtown. What have the girls been chattering about? I know Stacy gave you a shout out at the press conference yesterday thanking you for this week pretty much. What has been the reception of the players so far?
SHANSHAN FENG: First of all, they’ve been really impressed about how the course is. They think it’s great and a great design. Course conditions are really good and really fast. They are difficult also. A lot of the girls went to the Great Wall already. They said it was really steep and fun and incredible. We have really good player dining in the hotel. They have Beijing duck there too. So everybody was trying it. It’s exciting.

Q. There was a signing with you and Reignwood yesterday, tell us what happened there.
SHANSHAN FENG: I just got to sign with Reignwood yesterday. Now you see now on my left shoulder. And I think Reignwood is a really great company and it’s really pushing Chinese golf to move forward. I’m really happy to be another face of the Reignwood company. I’m really happy to be here. It’s actually my first time to play the Nicklaus Course and I really want to do well.

Q. How crazy, considering you want to do well and get a win, but how crazy would this place get if you were to get in the winner’s circle this week.
SHANSHAN FENG: Oh I don’t know. I know one thing, we do have many many people in China. But I don’t know how many people will be watching. Maybe on the weekend, but anyway I’ll try my best.

Q. You played well at Evian, so you’re going to try to keep that momentum going. How do you feel about your game coming into this week?
SHANSHAN FENG: My putting was a little off. I felt like I was hitting it really really well at Evian. So I brought my coach, Gary Gilchrest with me this week and he fixed my putting two days ago. So I think my putting is good now.

 

 

 

Topics: Reignwood LPGA Classic, Notes and Interviews

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