Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship
Sunrise Golf & Country Club
Yang Mei, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews
October 22, 2013
The LPGA Tour makes its way to Taiwan for the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship this week where Suzann Pettersen will try for a second straight week to mount a title defense during the Asia swing. The Norwegian won last year’s event in Taiwan by five strokes over Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park and six strokes over 2011 defending champion and then-No. 1 Yani Tseng. The win came just one week after she claimed the LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship. Last week Pettersen fell just shy of a title defense in Korea, as she finished tied for third.
Pettersen has enjoyed a stellar 2013 season so far with 13 top-10 finishes including three victories. The 32-year-old has strung together nine top-10 finishes in the past 10 events, which also includes back-to-back victories at the Safeway Classic and the Evian Championship. Over the past month, she has narrowed the gap in the Rolex Player of the Year race, and is now only 68 points behind No. 1 Inbee Park.
While Park hasn’t broken into the winner’s circle since her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open in June, her impressive 2013 campaign includes six tournament wins with three of them coming in major championships.
Taiwanese star and No. 25 Yani Tseng will be welcomed by the excited hometown crowd at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club. Tseng was the inaugural winner at the event during the 2011 season in which she produced seven victories and earned Rolex Player of the Year honors. With a third place finish last year, Tseng said she always enjoys playing for a championship title in her home country.
“I feel pretty excited,” said Tseng. “It’s been a year and I love to see all the fans out there supporting me and the LPGA. It’s such a great event and I know the course pretty well. It’s pretty fun having the players come to Taiwan and show them where my home town is. I’m very happy to go back there to play in front of my country.”
The 78-player field will compete over four days for a $2 million purse and a $300,000 first-place prize. Tournament coverage will air in the U.S. on Golf Channel from noon to 3:00 p.m. EST each day.
Crowd support… When you walk onsite at this week’s Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, you will be able to spot the galleries lining every inch of the fairways and hear the sound of them cheering loudly for their favorite LPGA Tour players. While most of them will be supporting their hometown hero, Yani Tseng, the Taiwanese golf fans thrive on the simple thought of seeing a good golf shot.
LPGA Tour veteran Suzann Pettersen has played in seven Solheim Cups and not even the patriotic fans at the biennial event can rival the amount of fans that turn out each year in Taiwan.
“I remember my first year here, I was a couple groups behind Yani and when she was on the first tee, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like the crowds there,” said Pettersen. “You play the Solheim Cup and it’s 24 players, two teams, but here it’s literally one player that draws that big of a crowd. It’s quite amazing and they are good crowds, they appreciate good golf.”
Pettersen had the opportunity to play alongside Tseng during last year’s final round. While the Norwegian emerged victorious over Tseng, the fans in Taiwan still gave her an overwhelming ovation as if she was one of their own.
“I was fortunate enough to be in the last group last year with Yani and I must say, I felt as welcome as Yani playing a round,” said Pettersen. “Yani being a good friend, it’s great to see her position here in Taiwan. It’s always nice to come here and support ladies golf so I’m happy to be back and hopefully we will have massive crowds again because it’s a lot of fun to play.”
Welcome back, Yani… This week, Yani Tseng returns home to Taiwan for the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship but this year this is something different than previous years as the No. 25 player in the Rolex Rankings is still in search of her first LPGA Tour victory this season.
It has been 41 events since Tseng last made her way to the winner’s circle and this season, she has only captured four top-10 finishes. Despite the up-and-down year, Tseng returns home to Taiwan this week where fans will be by her side every step of the way.
“I’m always very happy to be back here,” said Tseng. “It’s always very exciting to be back home because this year has been a little up-and-down but every time I come back home, everything is forgotten. I feel a lot of positive thoughts and positive energy here. I feel good about the course, I have been practicing here for years and I’m very excited to see all the fans out here and I’ll do my best.”
While Tseng is in the midst of a rollercoaster season, you would be hard-pressed to find a time where she is not sporting her signature smile.
“Yeah, I just feel like I know I have been through a lot of tough times,” said Tseng. “I learned a lot, I learned from my mistakes and I’ve tried to move on and do my best. I know a lot of people talk about it and give me a lot of pressure but I try to turn the pressure into motivation and try to do my best. That’s all I can do and I still have many years to come. I just try not to keep thinking too much and work hard.”
Make a wish! Suzann Pettersen, Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie, and Yani Tseng participated in a Taiwanese tradition on Tuesday as the released sky lanterns on the 10th tee of Sunrise Golf & Country Club.
Sky lanterns are used to celebrate the Lantern Festival in Pingxi town, Taipei Country as villagers put their wishes in the lantern and set them on fire to float in the sky.
Pettersen, Thompson, Wie, and Tseng all wished for a week of good golf and good weather before their red sky lanterns were set free in the sky over Taiwan.
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Lexi Thompson, Rolex Rankings No. 14
Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 25
Michelle Wie, Rolex Rankings No. 64
Q. How does it feel to be back in Taiwan?
Yani Tseng: I’m always very happy to be back here. It’s always very exciting to be back home because this year has been a little up-and-down but every time I come back home, everything is forgotten. I feel a lot of positive thoughts and positive energy here. I feel good about the course, I have been practicing here for years and I’m very excited to see all the fans out here and I’ll do my best.
Q. You’re always very happy and it seems like even when you aren’t playing well, you’re happy. Is that true?
Yani Tseng: Yeah, I just feel like I know I have been through a lot of tough times. I learned a lot, I learned from my mistakes and I’ve tried to move on and do my best. I know a lot of people talk about it and give me a lot of pressure but I try to turn the pressure into motivation and try to do my best. That’s all I can do and I still have many years to come. I just try not to keep thinking too much and work hard.
Q. Have you matured more recently?
Michelle Wie: Yeah, I’m getting older, I just turned 24, but I’m just enjoying the game. Golf is hard, it’s not easy and I’m just going out there, working hard and enjoying the game playing with friends out here. I’ve just been working hard and there’s nothing more you can really do.
Q. You are within taking over number one, do you think about that a lot?
Suzann Pettersen: I’ve been playing very good for the past 12 months. Obviously there are a lot of great players playing each week and I think the Tour is bigger than it’s ever been. I’m just trying to be consistent, play good, and try to be in contention every week. I have had two decent weeks prior to coming here so I’m looking forward to one more tournament here in Asia before going back to the U.S. and obviously I know I’m within striking range of possibly getting to No. 1 before the end of the year. It’s nothing I kind of tell myself every day but I know there’s a chance so all I can do is just go out, play golf and try to win tournaments.
Q. Yani, you eagled the last hole at the HanaBank Championship. Is it a good sign for her?
Yani Tseng: Yes, it’s a very good sign for me. In three weeks, I played a lot of time and a lot of attention to the course so when I get back to Sunrise, I think I will do my best this week. This course is very familiar for me so I will try to do the better than I did last year.
Q. You all participated in last year’s tournament in Taiwan. How do you feel coming back to Taiwan this year and what are your expectations?
Lexi Thompson: I was really looking forward to coming back to Taiwan. This is such a great event and the course was in amazing shape for us last year. Today was the first day I played and it was in amazing shape once again. It’s always an honor to play in a limited field event so you try to do your best because you’re in a field with some of the top players in the world. It’s an honor to come to Taiwan and play in front of all the fans.
Michelle Wie: It’s definitely one of my favorite stops of the year. I really enjoyed playing here last year, the fans were incredible. Watching them root for Yani, I was waiting for Suzann on the green last year when she won so I have a lot of great memories over here. I’m excited for the fans this week and I’m really excited that this week is the land of bubble tea. I will be drinking it every night.
Q. Lexi, congratulations on the win a couple weeks ago. What has that done for your confidence?
Lexi Thompson: It did a lot for my confidence. I worked extremely hard this past year, especially on my short game and I was pretty close, I got a couple thirds this year and a couple top-15’s so I knew it was coming and it was going to happen. I just tried to keep improving my game so to get that win, it just shows that my hard work paid off. It shows there’s always room for improvement with this game so I’m just going to continue to work hard and try my hardest in every event and go for a win.
Q. After your practice round, are course conditions different from last year?
Suzann Pettersen: They changed some of the greens out there. They put a new tee box on 12 and the left green. They moved the eighth green to the right and that’s about it. They moved the 13th tee back so you will probably see less people going for it with the wind predominantly coming from the left. There are a few changes but I think pretty much overall it’s the same.
Lexi Thompson: Yeah, those are about the changes I’ve noticed. I noticed a few green changes and the one tee box change but overall the course is in great shape like it was last year. It’s pretty windy here so you just have to hit controlled shots and see where it goes.
Michelle Wie: Those are the course changes I’ve also noticed as well. The course is in really great shape. It was windy today and we are expecting high winds for the weekend as well. I think it’s a little softer this year than last year but nothing too drastic.
Q. Suzann, when we first came here a couple years ago, the year that Yani won, we were all blown away by the crowds. Outside of major championships and maybe the Solheim Cup, do you play in front of crowds like this?
Suzann Pettersen: I remember my first year here, I was a couple groups behind Yani and when she was on the first tee, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like the crowds there. You play the Solheim Cup and it’s 24 players, two teams, but here it’s literally one player that draws that big of a crowd. It’s quite amazing and they are good crowds, they appreciate good golf. I was fortunate enough to be in the last group last year with Yani and I must say, I felt as welcome as Yani playing a round. Yani being a good friend, it’s great to see her position here in Taiwan. It’s always nice to come here and support ladies golf so I’m happy to be back and hopefully we will have massive crowds again because it’s a lot of fun to play.
Q. Yani, many people say your performance is not like it used to be. Does that mean there is more room for improvement?
Yani Tseng: I know people will come to the course and cheer for me this week. I know everyone has ups-and-downs but I just want to try my best because in 2011 I won and last year, I got third. I want to get better and better and maybe my dream will come true this year.