Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club- East Course
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Third-Round Notes and Interviews
October 12, 2013
Rolex Rankings No. 21 Lexi Thompson shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 to take a three-shot lead after the third round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. Thompson’s three-day total of 17-under 196 leads second-round leader Ilhee Lee who shot 1-under 70 on Saturday. No. 2 Suzann Pettersen (67) and No. 8 Shanshan Feng (70) are in a tie for third at 11-under par and six shots back.
Play was suspended for an hour and six minutes, starting at 10:56 a.m. local time due to lightning in the area. But nothing was holding Thompson back from her third-round surge that featured a strong putting performance by the 18-year old.
“The last few events have actually been a lot better with my putting,” said Thompson. “I went back to my old style of putting and just went to how I was putting when I was really little. Hitting them a little firmer and staying a little farther away. So I'm feeling really confident with my putter, and mainly that is what putting is all about. It's just getting over the putter and saying you're going to make it.”
Thompson trailed second-round leader Ilhee Lee of South Korea by one shot at the start of the day and moved into a tie for the lead early after Lee missed a three-foot par putt on the par 4 2nd hole. She took the lead with her second birdie on No. 6 and extended her lead to four shots after two more birdies on Nos. 7 and 10.
“I think this game is all about momentum,” said Thompson. “Once you make a few birdies you feel good and just try to keep that going. But I'm just trying to focus on my game, not the other players I'm playing with. Ilhee and Shanshan are great players, so I had a really fun day today. Like I said, just focusing on my own game. That's all I can do. Just trying to make birdies when I can and pars on the holes that have difficult pin locations.”
Thompson picked up her final birdie of the day after sinking an 18-footer on the 13th hole and had her lead cut to three after Lee made a five-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
“Yeah, I knew that's going to be big for tomorrow,” said Lee on cutting the lead down to three shots.
Thompson’s three-day total of 17-under 196 marks a career low, improving on her previous 54-hole best of 201 at the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic. The American is playing for her second LPGA Tour victory and first since the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic when she became the youngest winner on Tour at the time.
Lexi the leader: Lexi Thompson has lead or co-lead after the third round just twice in her career before earning a spot atop the leaderboard this week in Malaysia. Both of those occasions came in 2011 at the Avnet LPGA Classic and the Navistar LPGA Classic. The teen sensation held the outright lead by five shots at Navistar and went on to win her first career victory at the age of 16. The Coral Springs, Fla. native said it feels great seeing her name at the top, but knows not to get comfortable even with a three-shot lead.
“It feels really good,” said Thompson. “Every player wants to go into the final round with a lead. But like I said, you just to have take one shot at a time and not get ahead of yourself. It's golf, so anything can happen. There are a lot of great players behind me, so I know I have to keep up the great play and make birdies out there.
Ilhee Lee, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen and No. 8 Shanshan Feng are all within six shots of Thompson and have the target set on her back for Sunday.
“I know players will go low tomorrow,” said Thompson. “There are top players here. They're going to make birdies. I just have to top 'em, I guess.”
Favorable change: Suzann Pettersen did a good job of keeping herself in contention this week with a 4-under 67 on Saturday but the 13-time LPGA Tour winner said it wasn’t pretty on the greens.
“I'm playing pretty steady, hitting almost 18 greens, and not making a putt,” said Pettersen. “It's very hard to stay patient. 4 under is pretty much the worst score I could shoot, and that's pretty much the start of the week. Just glad there is one more round. Lexi is playing great, so there's definitely a low one needed tomorrow.”
Pettersen has some room to make up as she trails third-round leader Lexi Thompson by six strokes. But the Norwegian has proven she can go low on the East Course at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. She shot 64 in the second round of the event last year and said she fully considers herself in contention.
“I mean, obviously I can easily be there,” said Pettersen. “I've shot low round scores before. If you get it going on these greens, the par 5s are somehow reachable.”
Pettersen brought new Nike balls with her this week to Malaysia and said she has reaped the benefits in distance with the change.
“I've changed balls and I'm actually hitting it further, which is nice,” said Pettersen. “Finally an equipment change has gone to my favor. I'm almost an iron longer and I'm hitting the driver a lot longer. It's been a good change for me. It's a prototype. RZN and black. It's been it was kind of a chance that I felt like it was worth taking coming here and starting to develop a new ball and getting that in play.
“Played with it a couple times, practiced with it back home, and felt like I was hitting it fairly well,” said Pettersen. “It's always hard to tell under the gun. Feeling very comfortable today overall.”
Making moves: Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist made the move of the day on Saturday after recording a 6-under 65 in the third round and jumped from a T29 into a tie for fifth. Nordqvist had the best round of the day and said improved ball striking made all the difference.
“I mean, I haven't hit the ball I didn't hit the ball very well the first two days, but today I hit it much better,” said Nordqvist. “I think I hit 17 greens today, which made it a little easier. Pretty good seeing greens all week. But it was nice. I had a couple tap ins after the break, and just felt like I gave myself a lot of chances.”
Pretty in pink: Saturday was Pink Day at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia to raise awareness and help support the tournament’s official charity, Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF). Players, caddies and staff were encouraged to wear pink clothing or have pink items during Saturday’s third roun d of play. Caddie bibs and pin flags also featured the color pink. In its four-year history, the event has held the ‘pink-out’ every Saturday.
Of Note…Rolex Rankings No. 1 and defending champion Inbee Park shot her best round of the week, a 2-under 69 and sits in a tie for 28th at 3-under par. No. 3 Stacy Lewis sits in a tie for 13th after a third-round 70.
SUZANN PETTERSEN, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Q. How was your day today? Pretty steady?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I'm playing pretty steady, hitting almost 18 greens, and not making a putt.
It's very hard to stay patient. 4 under is pretty much the worst score I could shoot, and that's pretty much the start of the week.
Just glad there is one more round. Lexi is playing great, so there's definitely a low one needed tomorrow.
Q. I saw a couple times you looked very frustrated on the greens. You said keeping patient. Is that something you think you did well?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Yeah, it's tough when you hit so many greens and you have so many chances and you don't really convert.
The overall game is very solid. Happy to be back in a playing mode. Just nice at least finish with two birdies on the last three.
Q. How big is that, having a good finish?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Obviously makes you feel a little bit better, but like I said, the stats are pretty much the same every day. Been hitting most of the fairways, most of the greens, and just not so far not the best week on my putting.
There is room for improvement.
Q. I think you're five shots back now. Position you think you're comfortable in during the chase on Sunday?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Yeah, I mean, obviously I can easily be there. I've shot low round scores before. If you get it going on these greens, the par 5s are somehow reachable. I've changed balls and I'm actually hitting it further, which is nice. Finally an equipment change has gone to my favor.
I'm almost an iron longer and I'm hitting the driver a lot longer. It's been a good change for me.
Q. What were the clubs?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: No, just a new ball. It goes a little bit further. Better ball for me.
Q. The Nike what now?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I don't know. It's a prototype. RZN and black. It's been it was kind of a chance that I felt like it was worth taking coming here and starting to develop a new ball and getting that in play.
Played with it a couple times, practiced with it back home, and felt like I was hitting it fairly well. It's always hard to tell under the gun.
Feeling very comfortable today overall.
Q. Did the stop in play get in the way?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Not really. I feel pretty good of what I'm trying to do. Even though I'm old, I can keep the machine going.
Q. Any holes that were particularly challenging?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: No, I thought it was good today. They tried to move up the tee on 16. It was very much into the wind when we played it.
They changed a few tee boxes like a little bit, ad that makes it that much more interesting. I think 16 plays a little better from that upper tee. Course is in good shape.
Q. Will we see a more aggressive approach tomorrow?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I'm playing pretty aggressive. Only so much more I can do. I keep feeding myself a lot of great chances and got to start converting.
Q. Going back to the putting green to work on something?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: You got to start praying. (Laughing.)
SHANSHAN FENG, Rolex Rankings No. 8
Q. A nice back nine. What happened on 17 or 18?
SHANSHAN FENG: No, 15 is the bogey.
SHANSHAN FENG: That was the par 3, which the wind and the pin position today it's like a pressure shot, and I chose just to hit it longer on the left side.
Then went to the restroom, so it was my turn so I didn't really take my time. First one I misread for like four feet, and then I just missed the second one.
Q. Not that many low scores today. Course conditions were tougher?
SHANSHAN FENG: I think today there was more wind, so it was more windy. I think maybe the rain made the fairways a little softer too, so the balls weren't going as far.
I would say the pin positions were pretty hard. So it was hard to get it close to the pins.
Q. Okay. In general felt good about the round?
SHANSHAN FENG: I didn't bring my A game today, but I'm still happy shooting 1 under. I think 1 under is not that bad. It's still keeping me to have a chance tomorrow, so I'm happy.
LEXI THOMPSON, Rolex Rankings No. 21
MODERATOR: I would like to welcome in our third round leader, Lexi Thompson, into the media center.
Awesome round today: 5 under today, leading by three. Take us through the round. You have to feel good. Take us through how you felt today and all the goods.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I felt really well going into today. I had a good practice session before my round, so I was pretty confident going into the round.
All I'm really focusing on is just committing to every shot and being positive with it. Pretty much trusting every shot.
MODERATOR: Now, you're trailing by one; got off to a pretty decently quick start. Ilhee bogeyed 2. Kind of in the mix tied. Do you think that kind of jump started it? You talked about momentum yesterday.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I think this game is all about momentum. Once you make a few birdies you feel good and just try to keep that going.
But I'm just trying to focus on my game, not the other players I'm playing with. Ilhee and Shanshan are great players, so I had a really fun day today.
Like I said, just focusing on my own game. That's all I can do. Just trying to make birdies when I can and pars on the holes that have difficult pin locations.
MODERATOR: Everyone talked about a couple difficult pins. Not nearly as many low scores today. Talk about course conditions today. Everyone said pins were also tough.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, the pin locations were definitely tough today, closer to the edges. Especially like 15. They tucked it way right and barely on over there, so pretty much just playing in the middle of that green and taking par.
Yeah, you just to have play smart out here when they tuck pins like that.
MODERATOR: Now, putting has been a little bit of your Achilles' heel. I know you've been working very, very hard. Today it looked like you couldn't miss. Talk about what you've worked on. Today it looked like you were almost unstoppable on the greens.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, the last few events have actually been a lot better with my putting. I went back to my old style of putting and just went to how I was putting when I was really little. Hitting them a little firmer and staying a little farther away.
So I'm feeling really confident with my putter, and mainly that os what putting is all about. It's just getting over the putter and saying you're going to make it.
MODERATOR: I know you changed it up. Are you back to now? How would you describe it?
LEXI THOMPSON: Just conventional. I overlap a finger underneath. Nothing too crazy. Haven't switched it up.
MODERATOR: All right. Now, holding the lead for the first time for the third twice you held it twice in 2011 with the Avnet and then the Navistar when you won. How does it feel going into this fourth round? You have to be pretty fired up. This is the position you want to be in.
LEXI THOMPSON: It feels really good. Every player wants to go into the final round with a lead.
But like I said, you just to have take one shot at a time and not get ahead of yourself. It's golf, so anything can happen. There are a lot of great players behind me, so I know I have to keep up the great play and make birdies out there.
MODERATOR: Yeah, a lot of birdies to be had; a lot of scoring opportunities. People can go low tomorrow. Is that something you have in the back of your mind, knowing people will be gunning for you?
LEXI THOMPSON: I know players will go low tomorrow. There's top players here. They're going to make birdies. I gist have to top 'em, I guess. Just focus on one shot at a time and try to make birdies out there.
Q. When you're going into the fourth round can you usually stay focused?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, I have no different mindset than I had the last three days. I'm pretty focused before my round. I have my iPod on and just getting in my zone and getting warmed up and not really worrying about what's going on.
Like I said, just focusing on one shot at a time. Just going to try to do what I did the last three days. Not going to be any different mindset than tomorrow.
Q. You mentioned smart play just now. How crucial is that going to be tomorrow? Is it a bit different that you have a cushion to work with?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, smart play is very important, especially in final rounds if you're in contention.
Obviously you know with being in the final and what the other players are doing when to be aggressive and when to play smart. You can take advantage on a few of the holes, but if pins are tucked tomorrow you just play to the middle of the green and take a two putt. Or if not, make a putt and keep going.
Q. You have been named tippy toes.
LEXI THOMPSON: What's that mean?
THE MODERATOR: I don't know. What was that referring to? Oh, when you get up on your toes.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I've always had that. Even as a little kid you can see I get up on my toes. I've tried to stay pretty stable on the ground and it just doesn't work for me. I just love hitting my driver, so I go into 100% confidence and I get a little airborne.
Can't really control it.
Q. Can you just sum up the tournaments here in Malaysia?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, this is one the best events. We have a lot of fans out there today supporting us. The golf course is one of the best. It's always in such great shape for us. This is only my second year, but it's always so well run with the shuttles for us every day and the hospitality.
It's an honor to come back to this event, and I look forward to it every year.
Q. You mentioned just now that you had made some changes with your putting. Now you've gone back to your conventional style. What had you done before that wasn't working?
LEXI THOMPSON: I was messing around a little bit with my setup and sometimes my grip. I would do crosshand, and I was pretty much standing closer to the ball trying to get my eye over it.
Even as a little kid I stood and lined up way differently. Just going back to the way I feel nice and relaxed and have a lot of confidence pretty much.
ANNA NORDQVIST, Rolex Rankings No. 24
Q. Well that was awesome. Heck of a day.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah it was good.
Q. Not as many low scores. By far the lowest that's come through. Any harder conditions?
ANNA NORDQVIST: No, I mean, I haven't hit the ball I didn't hit the ball very well the first two days, but today I hit it much better. I think I hit 17 greens today, which made it a little easier.
Pretty good seed a greens all week. But it was nice. I had a couple tap ins after the break, and just felt like I gave myself a lot of chances.
Q. And nothing on the course that really stuck out to you that was particularly challenging?
ANNA NORDQVIST: No, I mean, I think this course is pretty challenging as it is. Couple back pins, couple tucked pins.
But certain holes you just got to play for the middle of the green and take your two putt and go. Where you can be aggressive, you can be aggressive.
With the break in there, you got to get your mind straight after that.
Q. Moving day on Saturday. How happy were you to move up?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I'm very, very happy with the day. 6 under, I'll take that any day. I feel like my ball striking is much better today. That's all I can ask for.
Q. Were you affected by the delay?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, you kind of know that there is probably going to be delays. You just got to make the best out of it. Same for everyone.
Q. How are the greens playing?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I still think the longer irons still release on these greens. I felt the greens might have got a little slower after the rain delay.
But overall, I think they have been rolling very good this week. Obvious they haven't had much rain, so playing a little firm at times.
ILHEE LEE, Rolex Rankings No. 39
Q. Talk about the bogey on 2, a little rough start but you bounced back.
ILHEE LEE: Yeah, what was it, missed short putt...
Q. On 2?
ILHEE LEE: On 2. It was like less than three feet.
Q. You were frustrated a little bit?
ILHEE LEE: Yeah. I mean, I think I tried too hard. I tried to like make everything.
ILHEE LEE: Yeah, but after that was okay. My driver was not good, but I knew it's hard to play four days in a row. So this is very good day for me.
Q. Right. You didn't lose too much ground, which is good.
ILHEE LEE: Uh huh.
Q. You're happy about that, that you're right in the mix?
ILHEE LEE: Yeah.
Q. How do you feel about tomorrow in terms of being second and right there?
ILHEE LEE: Last hole birdie was big for tomorrow, I think. I will having fun tomorrow, too.
Q. Yeah, I'm sure. Birdie on 18, cutting it to three strokes versus four, how big was that?
ILHEE LEE: Yeah, I knew that's going to be big for tomorrow.
Q. Anything specifically you want to make sure you get done for tomorrow that you think will be needed to win?
ILHEE LEE: Tomorrow?
ILHEE LEE: I don't know. Enjoy.
Q. Just have fun?
ILHEE LEE: Yeah, just have fun out there.