Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club- East Course
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews
October 8, 2013
The LPGA Tour heads to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the second event of the Asian swing, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. The highly acclaimed Kualua Lumpur Golf and Country Club will host a field of 72 players for the 72-hole stroke play competition. This year’s event will feature the largest purse in the tournament’s four-year history at $2 million, which offers this week’s champion a $300,000 check.
Leading the star-studded field of competitors is defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park. Seeking to defend a title for the first time in her career, the South Korean looks to build on an already impressive season that has produced six tournament wins, three of them being major championships. Her form has propelled her to the world No. 1 status and she currently leads the LPGA Tour’s Official Money List with $2,186,601 and the Rolex Player of the Year race with 281 points, a slim 77 points ahead of No. 2 Suzann Pettersen.
Pettersen will be back in action this week in Malaysia following a three-week break after her win at the Evian Championship last month. The Norwegian has enjoyed a stellar year with three LPGA Tour wins and one victory on the Ladies European Tour. She has climbed from No. 6 to No. 2 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings since the beginning of the season. This week, Pettersen looks to prepare for back-to-back title defenses coming in Korea and Taiwan the following two weeks.
Back to form: Last season, Inbee Park used her victory in Malaysia to help make a turnaround in her career that eventually led to the remarkable season she’s already had in 2013. Park used a back-nine surge on Sunday to catch Na Yeon Choi for her third career victory and second in six starts. Park hit an outstanding bunker shot on the final hole that she says she still remembers like it was yesterday.
“I was very nervous on the 18th hole,” said Park. “I was in the bunker on the third shot and had to go for the green which was a very challenging decision. It still sticks to my memory like it was yesterday. I’m really looking forward to playing here in Malaysia again. Especially with having good memories last year will help me go through this week.”
Park finished with a 15-under 269 four-day total which tied the tournament record. The 24-year old South Korean said she feels back on track after a rough stretch in the season where she failed to break the top-10 in five consecutive starts. She’s coming off a solid third-place finish in China last week where she posted all rounds in the 60’s.
“This season has been very special and up and down,” said Park. “I had a good finish last week which gives me a lot of confidence. This course gives me good memories. Looking forward to having another good week.”
World-class venue: The Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club is every bit of a world-class venue as its professional golf event schedule says. For the first time, the club will hold a PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and European Tour event all in one calendar year in 2013.
The men’s European Tour played the Maybank Malaysian Open in March in the capital and this month the club will host both the LPGA and the PGA Tours. The men will play two weeks after the ladies in the CIMB Classic which becomes the PGA Tour’s first official FedExCup event in Asia this year. An increased field of 78 players will be headlined by World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson.
The expansive clubhouse features an indoor bowling alley, movie theatre and aerobics room and gives good reason why LPGA Tour players consistently give the venue rave reviews. General Manager of the KLG&CC, Steven Thielke, realizes the management has a special opportunity to showcase their club.
“Yes, this is a very exciting year for us,” said Thielke. Three tournaments, two this month. But the members are very excited. This is a celebration of golf for Malaysia to have these stars of world golf right here on our doorstep in KL. It’s just fantastic. Working with the PGA and LPGA, they’re just such professional teams and backed up by IMG. It’s just been quite a pleasure actually to put these two tournaments together in one month.”
Thielke said the region hasn’t seen as much rain as usual this time of year leading into this month and said the track of the East Course may be drier than the LPGA players have been used to. A few adjustments to the bunkers are all that has changed from years past.
“The golf course is in superb condition,” said Thielke. “In fact we’ve had great weather for quite some time. Perhaps we would require just 5-10 millimeters of rain and it’d be perfect. But I hope the girls can back it up. But it’s in superb condition. The bunkers are a little different than last year. The sands a little bit whiter and pops out but overall no changes. Everything is pretty much the same as last year, no surprises. I think it’s in pretty good condition so we’re quite happy.”
Feeling hot, hot, hot: Players always expect to be taking extra steps in heat precaution when they come to Kuala Lumpur and this week will be no different. Temperatures are forecasted to hit the 90’s with humidity in the mid 80’s. The capital city is known to deliver rain delays throughout the week and players won’t be asking for any showers to help with dry conditions.
“Apparently it’s a little drier,” said Karrie Webb. “We don’t need anyone doing any rain dances. We can do without the 5 or 10 millimeters. We can use sprinklers if we need to (laughing).”
Webb, who finished third at last year’s event, said the weather suits her and is something everyone just needs to deal with.
“I grew up in north Queensland in Australia and live in south Florida so I’m pretty much in humidity about eight months of the year,” said Webb. “I don’t think you ever get used to humidity but you do drink lots of water and just try to not think about how much you’re sweating. I think my body actually appreciates because I grew up in it. I tend to play pretty well in the heat.”
Monday outing: A handful of LPGA Tour players didn’t waste any time in Kuala Lumpur to get out in the capital city for outings once they arrived on Monday. Beatriz Recari, Cristie Kerr, Shanshan Feng and sponsor invite and European Solheim Cup team member Charley Hull gathered at one of the capital’s busiest shopping malls, the Pavilion Shopping Centre, for an event to raise awareness of the tournament’s charitable efforts.
The foursome of players went head to head on a make-shift putting green to raise funds for the charity, before answering questions on the tournament and life as professional golfers from the general public in a question and answer session hosted by top local DJ Joanne Kam.
Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF) is the official charity of Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and is Malaysia’s first independent cancer research laboratory dedicated to cancer research in Malaysia. Its mission is to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Kerr, who has her own charity named Birdies for Breast Cancer, said it’s an easy decision to help out an organization who does such quality work.
“Unfortunately cancer touches the lives of everyone at some stage and that only reaffirms the importance of the work undertaken by organizations such as CARIF in trying to find cures. The tournament does a fantastic job in raising awareness and funds for the battle against breast cancer in Malaysia, which is highly commendable and I’m hugely supportive of.”
2013 marks the fourth consecutive year that Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia will be raising funds for cancer research. Some RM 1.5 million have been raised from the tournament over the past three years. Since October 2011, the tournament has contributed to more than 1,600 women having had subsidized mammograms as well as research to identify genes and lifestyle factors that cause breast cancer.
This year’s fund-raising and awareness building initiatives will once again include Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Pink Saturday on the tournament Saturday, during which players and caddies will be sporting pink attire to raise awareness for breast cancer. Net proceeds of the ticket sales throughout the tournament will be donated to CARIF, and spectators are encouraged to visit the CARIF booth to take part in interactive games and learn more about breast cancer as well as the charity’s work.
INBEE PARK, Rolex Rankings No. 1
STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 3
NA YEON CHOI, Rolex Rankings No. 6
KARRIE WEBB, Rolex Rankings No. 7
YANI TSENG, Rolex Rankings No. 20
MIKE WHAN, LPGA Commissioner
Q. Inbee, you’re defending champ this week and have to think back to that amazing final round you had here last season to jumpstart your spectacular year in 2013.
INBEE PARK: I was very nervous on the 18th hole. I was in the bunker on the third shot and had to go for the green which was a very challenging decision. It still sticks to my memory like it was yesterday. I’m really looking forward to playing here in Malaysia again. Especially with having good memories last year will help me go through this week. It’s such a nice spot to be in. You get to experience different culture and different food. I love the Asian swings because you get to experience a lot of different things. So this is one of my favorite spots to come. Thanks to Sime Darby for having us again.
Q. Inbee, six wins. Do you have to pinch yourself sometimes? Three wins and three LPGA majors in one season and it’s not even over yet.
INBEE PARK: I didn’t expect to win that much this year. I’ve gone beyond my expectations. The things I’ve done are incredible. This season has been very special and up and down. I had a good finish last week which gives me a lot of confidence. This course gives me good memories. Looking forward to having another good week.
Q. Stacy, you’ve had an emotional week battling down the stretch last week in China. Are you exhausted are feeling refreshed?
STACY LEWIS: Last week it was tough. It was a long week with some delays with the smog. But coming off that, I played some pretty good golf. That’s what I take out of it. I think in the last few months I shot 25-under and 19-under and finished second twice so I’m doing something right. I’m playing good golf. I feel good. After this week, I get three weeks off to kind of refresh for a little bit but my game is in a good place and that’s what I take out of last week.
Q. Yani, some of the old sights from you last week, on Sunday in particular. Has to give you a lot of confidence back there.
YANI TSENG: I was really happy. Every day I played better. I feel very comfortable. Reignwood was one of my sponsors and all the fans there gave me very big support. It gave me good motivation to play good there and I’m very happy to see how much Chinese golf is growing. I feel good about my game and really looking forward to this week.
Q. Karrie, you’ve played here quite a few times, you’re No. 7 in the world and very much so have the desire still to keep winning. How does it feel to be back.
KARRIE WEBB: It does feel great to be back. I did play well here last year and was in the last group with Inbee and Na Yeon. Inbee actually for a brief moment made me think I had a chance on the last here last year. But pulled off an amazing shot out of the bunker to cap off an great day. But I’ve always enjoyed and coming to Asia. I love all sorts of Asian food and experiencing different cultures around the world. It’s fun to experience that and come to newer countries where golf is developing and play in those countries. I think it’s great for women’s golf grow globally and with the amount of Asian tournaments we have now we’re doing a good job in that direction.
Q. Na Yeon, you’ve had a couple of runner-up finishes this year. Could you describe your year and the way you’ve been playing?
NA YEON CHOI: I think I’m doing great. I haven’t won yet this year but trying to do what I can control and also this tournament I have good memories here. I won in 2011 and finished runner-up last year so I’m always looking forward to this week. I can hope for my best result this year and see what happens on Sunday.
Q. Mike Whan, just wanted to know, the Asian swing is now five tournaments. Is there any possibility that it could grow in later years or is that difficult with the schedule on the continental U.S.?
MIKE WHAN: We’ve made a significant commitment to not only be global in terms of our membership and our television but to be global in terms of physically being global. The good news about that is that we make a lot of stops around the world. The bad news is that everywhere you stop they ask can you stop here more often? It’s always a challenge to put a quality schedule together. We’ve talked about it a lot. We probably have one more available week in the fall to complete a full Asian swing in the fall. But I think to expand significantly more than that we’d have to take away from some of the other markets that we’re going. I think we sort of make that commitment to keep going to a lot of places. I think there’s an opportunity to probably add an additional stop. There’s probably not an opportunity to add five or six more at least not in the schedule that we have and that will be coming up for the next couple years.
Q. I’d like to ask the club, you’re hosting three big international tournaments this year, one on the PGA, LPGA and European Tour. It is my understanding that this is a unique feat.
STEVEN THIELKE (KLG&CC General Manager): Yes, this is a very exciting year for us. Three tournaments, two this month. But the members are very excited. This is a celebration of golf for Malaysia to have these stars of world golf right here on our doorstep in KL. It’s just fantastic. Working with the PGA and LPGA, they’re just such professional teams and backed up by IMG. It’s just been quite a pleasure actually to put these two tournaments together in one month.
The golf course is in superb condition. In fact we’ve had great weather for quite some time. Perhaps we would require just 5-10 millimeters of rain and it’d be perfect. But I hope the girls can back it up. But it’s in superb condition. The bunkers are a little different than last year. The sands a little bit whiter and pops out but overall no changes. Everything is pretty much the same as last year, no surprises. I think it’s in pretty good condition so we’re quite happy.
Q. Stacy, you’ve got to play the course? Any differences to last year?
STACY LEWIS: It’s a lot drier than it usually is. I guess they haven’t had as much rain as they usually do. The golf course is in great shape though. The greens are perfect. They’re rolling really good. I did notice the bunkers and think they’re a lot better. So I think they’ve made some good changes and it’s in really good shape again for this year.
Q. How would you play this golf course differently than what you played last year?
YANI TSENG: For me it would be just hit it in the fairway (laughs) would be most important. My strategy is pretty simple. I need to be good with my driver to leave some short irons because the greens are really tough. Kind of play smart. Some holes you can be aggressive some holes you have to be smart. Last year was a great finish so to put myself in good position, just hit it in the fairways and I can make some birdies.
KARRIE WEBB: I do have good memories. But I haven’t seen the course yet. Apparently it’s a little drier. We don’t need anyone doing any rain dances. We can do without the 5 or 10 millimeters. We can use sprinklers if we need to. Until I see the course, I don’t see myself playing it any differently unless it is playing differently because it’s dried. But I really enjoy playing here. I think the course sets up where you can play aggressively in spots and play smart in other ways. I think the score is always quite low here so I think the key is getting used to the speeds of the green and try to make as many putts as possible.
Q. Karrie, you’ve played golf all over the world but this week is particularly humid. How do you adapt? Drink ridiculous amounts of water or anything differently? Because we all do feel the humidity for sure.
KARRIE WEEB: well I grew up in north Queensland in Australia and live in south Florida so I’m pretty much in humidity about eight months of the year. I don’t think you ever get used to humidity but you do drink lots of water and just try to not think about how much you’re sweating. I think my body actually appreciates because I grew up in it, I tend to play pretty well in the heat.
Q. For the Commissioner. Minding the strength of the Asians, is there room for an Asia versus the rest of the world event? Are the ladies ready for an Asia versus the rest of the world including America?
MIKE WHAN: Chris, you’re a good set up man for me for a chance to talk about a new event for us. First let me address the specific question you asked which is Asia versus the rest of the world. I’ve never been a fan of a team called rest of the world. Not really sure what colors to wear, what anthem to sing, what flag to wave. I’ve said when you travel around the world as much as we have, you realize Korea doesn’t want to play with Japan, they want to play against Japan. And Australia doesn’t want to be on team Asia they want to be team Australia.
We got talking a few years ago, how can we create something every other year on non Solheim Cup years that really gives the world a chance to see the world in the ladies professional world era. Not necessarily follow what the men do or what’s been done in the past. So starting in July next year we’re starting a new tournament called the International Crown and the basics of the International Crown is at the end of this season, we’re going to take the four best golfers from ever country and add their Rolex World Ranking together and that gives you a country rank. And the best eight-ranked countries get into the International Crown. Over the course of four days, four players per country, we’re going to see who is the best female golfing country in the world.
And we’ll do that every other year starting in 2014. I think people will be surprised how much depth there is and how hard it is to get into the event. And the good news is that I don’t decide the four, there’s no sanctioning body who decides the countries. Players and countries get in by their own merit. And it can change every two years. If a country gets much stronger and kicks another country out because of the Rolex Rankings so be it. It’s an event idea that I think can really stand the test of time and it gives us a chance to introduce the incredible talent from all different parts of the world.
A lot of differences about it. There are no coaches or caption. The players will get together and decide who plays with who and who will play in singles matches. It should be a lot of fun and it will be different. If you can imagine eight countries wearing their own flags, singing their own anthems, playing for their own country, it should be great television and in person view.
It’ll be played at Caves Valley outside of Baltimore in 2014 and at Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago in 2016. And people ask when will we hit the road with it. We want to play it in the middle of the year, not in November or December when no one is thinking about golf and in the middle of the season, most of the world’s best golfers are in the U.S. to get them started. Eight years or so down the road I believe we’ll see it being played on different continents. But to get started we wanted to make sure we made it convenient for the best players to play in it and not skip events in the process of doing so.
Q. Stacy you’re one of three American winners on Tour this year and you were the first American since 1994 to win Player of the Year. Do you feel like you’re still carrying the flag for the USA?
STACY LEWIS: I mean the last few years it’s felt like that and I talked to Mike before the final round last week and said I felt like I was playing in the International Crown. We had every country represented there in the top 10. It’s just what the Tour is. We’re international which is really cool. I think we need to get some of the Americans up there and winning more tournaments and I think that will help everybody. But I’m doing what I can to keep winning tournaments.