Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship - First-Round Notes and Interviews

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship
Sunrise Golf & Country Club
Yang Mei, Taoyuan, Taiwan
First-Round Notes and Interviews
October 24, 2013

Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Irene Cho, Rolex Rankings No. 101
Caroline Hedwall, Rolex Rankings No. 23

Alison Walshe, Rolex Rankings No. 95
Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 25

Despite difficult scoring conditions, Suzann Pettersen fired a 4-under 68 to take the first-round lead at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship.

Pettersen has put herself in position to defend her title as she carded six birdies and two bogeys on Thursday to take a three-stroke lead over Swede Caroline Hedwall, Americans Irene Cho and Alison Walshe, and Karine Icher of France heading into tomorrow’s second-round. 

“It was a tough day out there, conditions were not great,” said Pettersen. “I've played this course in nicer conditions. Once the rain stopped, the wind picked up, so I mean, it's your pick, if you want rain or you want wind.”

On a day where only five players were under-par, Pettersen faltered early in her round with a bogey at the second but was able to quickly recover with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 5 and 6. 

After an opening 1-under 35 on the front-nine, the birdies began to trickle in for the Norwegian as she recorded three consecutive birdies beginning at the 10th. Pettersen went on to pick-up another birdie at the 15th before giving a shot back with a bogey at the 16th to finish the day at 4-under-par.

The 13-time LPGA Tour winner claimed a three-shot victory at last year’s Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship but despite the win and the impressive opening round on Thursday, Pettersen admitted to feeling a bit uncomfortable with the swirling winds at Sunrise Golf & Country Club. 

“I don't know, I don't really feel comfortable around this place because the wind is all over, but I feel pretty good with my game,” said Pettersen. “I feel my ball-striking is pretty much where I want it to be.  I've got to just be very clear on what I'm trying to do and step up and do it.  I hit some great approaches on the back and I hit some good ones on the front.”

While Pettersen feels uncomfortable in the windy conditions, she has every reason to feel comfortable with her game as of late. In her previous four tournaments, Pettersen has claimed two victories, including The Evian Championship, and two tie for third finishes. 

As Pettersen continues to close-in on Inbee Park’s lead in the Rolex Player of the Year race and LPGA Official Money List, she admitted to being on the verge of playing the best golf of her career.

“I don't know, I mean, I work really hard on my game,” said Pettersen. “I've said for a long time, I feel like my best game is ahead of me so I think I'm just about to kind of touch on where I feel like I should be and when I put down the work that I feel is needed and kind of trust what I do, I feel this is where I should be.” 


Quite a day…
Paired together during Thursday’s first-round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, it was a quiet day on the golf course for Irene Cho and Caroline Hedwall.

Weather conditions that included fog, rain, and wind made for difficult scoring conditions as only five players carded under-par rounds. The tricky weather conditions forced players to increase their concentration on each shot at hand, rather than engage in the usual casual conversation with their playing partners.

“It was like we didn't even get a chance to talk to each other,” said Cho. “We were so busy doing stuff.  We just chatted, like, all right, one hole down.” 

“That's basically what we did,” added Hedwall. “And now the wind picked up a little. I think it was an advantage to start early today. It feels nice to be done now.”

While the weather seemed to get the best of nearly every player in the field, Cho and Hedwall managed to fire 1-under-par opening rounds to stand 3-strokes behind current leader, Suzann Pettersen. 

The pair had to battle through rain during the majority of their opening rounds as they were the first group of the day. While both players fired under-par rounds, the task of juggling umbrellas and increased communication with their caddies made the test of playing on Thursday more difficult.

“Under the umbrella, it's hard,” said Cho. “You can't like walk next to each other. This is a good week to test if you really like your caddie because you're spending a lot of time with him.” 


World Series watch…
This week marks the fourth week Alison Walshe has played in a tournament in Asia but the avid Boston Red Sox fan has kept a close eye on her beloved team as they compete in the World Series.

After this week, Walshe plans on heading home until the season-ending CME Group Titleholders so she can catch a game at Fenway Park. 

Despite the lengthy time change in Asia, Walshe has been able to keep a watchful eye on the Red Sox and had the opportunity to watch replays of the games last week in Korea.

“It's actually been nice, because like in the morning sometimes, down in Korea, I got to watch it in the morning kind of pre-tournament,” said Walshe. “and then they replay it every afternoon, so it's kind of nice, yeah”. 

While Walshe is looking forward to returning home to Massachusetts, she has been gaining momentum as of late as she has recorded a tie for sixth at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and a tie for 17th at last week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.

“I think it's just a mindset,” said Walshe who opened with a 1-under 71. “You start playing well and you're just confident and stuff.  So it's been kind of nice to just keep it going and hopefully I can continue.” 

Feeling the love… During the previous two years of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, fans have come out in droves to support their favorite LPGA Tour player. This year has been no different as not even the rain or wind could stop them from showing their support for their hometown hero, Yani Tseng.

The Taiwanese star opened with a disappointing 4-over-par 76 but the highlight of Tseng’s day was the love and backing she received from the gallery. 

“Of course, the fans,” said Tseng of the highlight of her day. “Even though today's weather is not that good and it's a little bit chilly, I'm very impressed with the fans' enthusiasm and passion, and makes me feel very warm and the fans always keep me very motivated.  I will try to keep a smile on my face and try to do better for the fans.”

After completing media obligations and working on her game, Tseng still sported her signature smile as she signed several autographs for her fans. Despite failing to earn a victory yet this season, Tseng still receives an overwhelming amount of support from her fans on social networks and on tournament site. 

“I felt very warm and I have my own Facebook and many fans will come on and encourage me and cheer for me, I'm very appreciative of fans caring for me and encouraging me,” said Tseng. “Today I'm really grateful for that fans are following me throughout 18 holes even though I'm not playing very well today.”

 

Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2 

THE MODERATOR:   Suzann, quite the day out there in difficult conditions.  What was working?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Well, it was quite a day.  It took pretty much three hours and 20 minutes to play the front nine.  That's more than it took to play the Pro-Am yesterday.

I think the wind direction was a little bit different today, which made a few holes tougher, which made a couple of hold-ups on the front nine.  So it was hard to find the rhythm.  But once I made the turn, it kind of got better and it's easy to find your rhythm and you can kind of get on a constant pace out there.

THE MODERATOR:  You won here last year.  Is there something about the golf course here that you particularly like or is it just kind of you're comfortable?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I don't know, I don't really feel comfortable around this place because the wind is all over, but I feel pretty good with my game.  I feel my ball-striking is pretty much where I want it to be.  I've got to just be very clear on what I'm trying to do and step up and do it.  I hit some great approaches on the back and I hit some good ones on the front.

Like I said, if you give yourself some good looks from the fairway, you can hit some --  you can hit it close.  I feel like I have the shots needed to get around this place, so today was a good day, 4-under is a decent day.  I can find shots out there that I kind of left out there but at the same time, I'm pretty happy with four.           

THE MODERATOR:  Your last four tournaments, you've had two wins and two top three finishes.  Since you've played on the Tour, do you think this is the best you've played in your career?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I don't know, I mean, I work really hard on my game.  I've said for a long time, I feel like my best game is ahead of me so I think I'm just about to kind of touch on where I feel like I should be and when I put down the work that I feel is needed and kind of trust what I do, I feel this is where I should be.

So for me, it not really a big surprise.  I feel more and more comfortable with what I do and obviously the older you get, the more you know.  Yeah, I've played good for 12 months, but I'm not really surprised, either.

Q.  What a great start, when you played at maybe eight, does that help a little bit?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  It was a tough day out there.  Conditions were not great.  I've played this course in nicer conditions.  Once the rain stopped, the wind picked up, so I mean, it's your pick, if you want rain or you want wind.

Q.  So which one do you choose?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Neither.  (Laughter).

Q.  You've had a very good start today, do you think you have a very good chance to win the tournament?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Well, I'm always going to do my part to try to make that happen.  It's a long way to go, four tough days, so you've got to counter kind of tough conditions and really try to stay out of big troubles.  So I felt like today is one step closer.  I felt like I put myself in a good position.  I felt like I tested my game good enough to kind of know where it's at.

So I feel pretty good.  I'm well rested and should be ready for another three days here.

 

Irene Cho, Rolex Rankings No. 101
Caroline Hedwall, Rolex Rankings No. 23

Q.  So only eight players are under par right now, I don't know if you all know that, you both are two of them.  What were conditions like out there today?
CAROLINE HEDWALL:  Rainy.

IRENE CHO:  Rainy.

CAROLINE HEDWALL:  Yeah.

IRENE CHO:  It was like we didn't even get a chance to talk to each other.  We were so busy doing stuff.  We just chatted, like, all right, one hole down.

CAROLINE HEDWALL:  That's basically what we did.  And now the wind picked up a little.  I think it was an advantage to start early today.  It feels nice to be done now.

IRENE CHO:  Yeah, I don't know -- it feels nice to be done.  I think it slowed down a lot on the back nine.  At least on the front, we were like -- had to set the pace.  So it was a lot quicker and we could just do our thing.

But on the back it slowed down a lot.  So more stay in your routine I guess atmosphere.

Q.  So what was working well for both of you out there under the tough conditions?
IRENE CHO:  Judging, just your yardages I guess and your iron shots and just hitting drivers, like in the center and being in the fairway and then just judging the rain and the non-rolling.

CAROLINE HEDWALL:  Well, I think we hit it close a couple of times.

IRENE CHO:  Yeah, we did.

CAROLINE HEDWALL:  And made a good amount of birdies for being in these conditions.

IRENE CHO:  It was nice to have like fresh greens I think on the front.

CAROLINE HEDWALL:  Yeah, yeah.

IRENE CHO:  I think the greens definitely slowed down on the back just because of all the traffic they were getting.

Q.  So you all didn't talk at all today?
CAROLINE HEDWALL:  A little bit but not much.  Everyone was just focused.

IRENE CHO:  Good shot, good shot.  Like that was pretty much most of our day.  I think I asked her like one question when we were on the back nine, but just kind of staying in like your little.

CAROLINE HEDWALL:  Just with the umbrella --

IRENE CHO:  Under the umbrella, it's hard.  You can't like walk next to each other.  This is a good week to test if you really like your caddie because you're spending a lot of time with him.

Q.  Does it make it even more difficult the fact that you've been out in Asia now for four, possibly three weeks in a row?
IRENE CHO:  You're just used to it now.  You know, you hit and go, hit and go.

CAROLINE HEDWALL:  Basically.

Q.  Caroline, for you, International Crown coming up next year, your leading the standings I think in your country.
CAROLINE HEDWALL:  Oh, we are?  Yeah, yeah.

Q.  How excited are you?
CAROLINE HEDWALL:  Well, I just love playing team events.  I'm very excited about it, so it would be fun.

Q.  You have a good record at Solheim Cup.  Is that just kind of your --
CAROLINE HEDWALL:  Anna and I, we played really well at the Solheim, too.  So it would be a lot of fun playing with her.  Because it's foursomes and stuff, too, right?  Yeah, I think I'm just looking forward to it.  I think it's fun to have another team event on the schedule.

 

Alison Walshe, Rolex Rankings No. 95

Q.  Tough scoring day out there today?
ALISON WALSHE:  Yeah, especially the front nine, just because it was kind of annoying with the weather.  But yeah, it was pretty tough to get close and make some birdies.

Q.  You hung in there, though, you're one of six players under par right now.  What was clicking?
ALISON WALSHE:  I think just being patient.  I got a birdie -- you know, I was 1-under on the front nine, which I thought was real good, because the weather was bad on my front nine. 

So it was just kind of maintaining patience because I knew it was going to get windy and stuff.  I didn't hit anything great but I didn't hit anything bad.

Q.  How nice is it to keep the good playing going?  You're been playing phenomenal lately.
ALISON WALSHE:  No, it's good.  I think it's just a mind-set.  You start playing well and you're just confident and stuff.  So it's been kind of nice to just keep it going and hopefully I can continue.

Q.  What's your plan the rest of the year?
ALISON WALSHE:  I am going to head home after this and take a good three weeks before CME.  I'm taking off Japan and México, and I'm just going to get ready for CME and enjoy the off-season.

Q.  Are you going to see your Red Sox play?
ALISON WALSHE:  I hope.  I'm itching to get inside and see what the score is.  Do you have any clue?  Did they win?

Q.  I think they did, yeah.
ALISON WALSHE:  Yeah, I'm hopefully going to try to score a game.

Q.  Have you been able to watch it at all since you've been over here?
ALISON WALSHE:  It's actually been nice, because like in the morning sometimes, down in Korea, I got to watch it in the morning kind of pre-tournament and then they replay it every afternoon, so it's kind of nice, yeah.

 

Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 25

THE MODERATOR:  I'd like to welcome Yani Tseng to the interview room.  Yani, thanks for coming in.  First off, let's just start out talking about how it is to be at home and how your first round was back.

YANI TSENG:  I felt good about coming back home, and I'm surprised that so many people turned out today on the golf course even though the weather is not that good.

In the beginning I was a little bit distracted by the cameras taking pictures, so I got a little bit distracted and I didn't play very well with the short shots.  I struggled with a little bit from a hundred yards in, and then I had four 3-putts -- well, I'm not really happy with the score, but I will keep trying.       

THE MODERATOR:  On the LPGA's Facebook yesterday, we posted a story about you, and I can't even tell you the amount of Taiwanese fans that commented on it.  It seems like no matter how you play, they always still stand behind you.  What does that mean to you.

YANI TSENG:  I felt very warm and I have my own Facebook and many fans will come on and encourage me and cheer for me, I'm very appreciative of fans caring for me and encouraging me. Today I'm really grateful for that fans are following me throughout 18 holes even though I'm not playing very well today.

Q.  What is the reason you cannot hit it close to the pin today?
YANI TSENG:  I didn't do very well on distance-control-wise.  The winds came up-and-down and sometimes it was big and sometimes not as strong.  I need to believe in myself and trust my clubs.

Q.  Do you have problems reading the greens with the green speed?
YANI TSENG:  Yeah, I putted short today on the first hole, and on the following 17 holes, my putts all went very long.  I didn't do very well with my iron shots.  I struggled a little bit on the greens today.

Q.  What part of the game are you most happy about today?
YANI TSENG:  Of course, the fans. Even though today's weather is not that good and it's a little bit chilly,  I'm very impressed with the fans' enthusiasm and passion, and makes me feel very warm and the fans always keep me very motivated.  I will try to keep a smile on my face and try to do better for the fans.

Q.  Will you make any adjustment after today?
YANI TSENG:  I need to be more confident and I need to believe in myself a little bit more.  Even in practice it went well, but I went out and it didn't go as well as planned.  The wind wasn't very strong today and this is a course I'm very familiar with, so I'm not very happy with my score today.

Q.  How do you feel about your birdie on 12?
YANI TSENG:  After nine holes into the back nine, I need to, I was out of sync with my yardage control, so I need to commit to my shots a little bit more, and the final four holes, I missed some iron shots within a hundred yards.

 

Topics: News and Notes, Coe, Irene, Hedwall, Caroline, Pettersen, Suzann, Tseng, Yani, Walshe, Alison, LPGA Taiwan Championship [+]

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