Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship - Third-Round Notes and Interviews

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship
Sunrise Golf & Country Club
Yang Mei, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Third-Round Notes and Interviews
October 26, 2013

Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Azahara Munoz, Rolex Rankings No. 34

Despite a difficult start on Saturday, Suzann Pettersen remains in the lead at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship as she fought back to a fire 1-over-par 73.

Inching one-step closer to defending her title in Taiwan, Pettersen carded three birdies and four bogeys to take a four-stroke lead over South Korean Sun Young Yoo and Spaniards Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda heading into tomorrow’s final round.

Pettersen entered Saturday’s third-round five-strokes clear of her nearest competitor but the Norwegian saw her lead begin to dwindle after bogeys at Nos. 2, 4, and 5. 

“You know, I had a great warm-up, felt good,” said Pettersen. “On the second, I kind of made a little amateur mistake trying to get too cute on the tee ball and left myself with a very tough up-and-down. I just couldn't get it going and made a few errors. Today was a tough day for me.  It was all about hanging in there and trying to bring it back to where I started.” 

Following the string of bogeys, Pettersen’s fierce competitive nature took center stage as she regained control of her round with birdies at the par-5 eighth and par-5 13th before faltering with another bogey at the 17th.  Pettersen finished her round in style with a birdie at the 18th to post a three-day total of 6-under-par. 

While Pettersen saw her round quickly beginning to slip through her fingertips, she was able to withstand difficult scoring conditions at Sunrise Golf & Country Club and maintain a comfortable lead heading into Sunday.

 “I could easily have lost it out there today,” said Pettersen. “It was -- you know, some days are easy, some days are not that easy, some of the times you see everything you're going to do right in front of you.  Other times you fall in-between clubs and are not quite sure and then you start questioning if it's enough, if you had enough -- if it's going to be too spinning. It's one of those days where you can be very analytic, and it's all in the conditions to be analytic. One more day in these conditions.” 

As Pettersen aims to defend her title in Taiwan and continue to make a dent into Inbee Park’s lead in the Rolex Player of the Year race, LPGA Official Money List, and Rolex Rankings, she finds herself entering tomorrow’s final round in a better position than last year. During the 2012 Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, Pettersen was forced to overcome a two-stroke deficit to Park on her way to the winner’s circle.

If Pettersen wins tomorrow’s Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, it will be the first-time she has successfully defended a title on the LPGA Tour. 

Lucky dog… Suzann Pettersen has had a string of good luck in Taiwan as she is in position to defend her title at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. Following yesterday’s second-round, Pettersen attributed the good luck to a dog figurine she received from Taiwan’s own, Yani Tseng.

“You know what, when I played Swinging Skirts last year, I was out for dinner with Annika (Sorenstam) and Yani (Tseng) and Yani had bought both of us this present, and she gave this dog,” said Pettersen. “It's because my birthday is in April and she said, this is your good luck charm for the year. It's a Chinese, what do you call it, on the Chinese calendar I guess.  It's a dog year, whatever, and I've kept it very close to my heart ever since. So I guess that is my lucky charm.  It's not a real dog, like a little statue.” 

While Pettersen already has three wins under her belt this year, Tseng is still search of her first victory this season. Following an even-par 72 in the third round, the former Rolex Rankings No. 1 joked it was time to take the dog back.

“Wow, I didn’t know it really works, I should have asked her to give it back to me,” said Tseng with a laugh. “Seriously, we are good friends and live very close from each other. I am happy she is on a hot streak.” 

Despite Tseng’s struggles this season, Pettersen has stood-by her close friend’s side every step of the way.

“I will buy her a real dog,” joked Pettersen. “Yani and I have been good friends for a long time.  She's a great girl.  I've pretty much had a great friendship with her from the second she joined the Tour.  We've had a great friendship both on and off the golf course and I think we both have made each other better.  We practice together; we play together, and even though you're competitors, sometimes it's good to play golf with each other.  I think as much as you are the feisty competitors, you make each other better.” 

This summer, Tseng reached out to Pettersen for some much needed advice during a year that has included only three top-10 finishes. While Pettersen is in the midst of a swing of tournaments that has produced two wins and two top-3 finishes, she admitted to missing competitive rounds with her close friend.

“What she's achieved so far in her career, it's hard to repeat,” said Pettersen. “I told her that this summer.  She came up to me and asked me what I thought of her game. I said, ‘Yani, you can't put the bar where -- you can't expect to win 12 tournaments a year. If you do that, you're going to be pretty much disappointed every season from now on’”.           

“You know, golf, it's a funny game,” added Pettersen. “Sometimes you're on a roll, it feels like you can do whatever you feel like.  Other times, it could be very marginal and everything going against you.  But she's way too good to dig herself a big hole and disappear.  She's way too good of a golfer for that. I try to keep supporting her, trying to help her bring her “A Game” back, because I miss our feisty rounds together.”

Back on track… It has been a long, frustrating year for Azahara Munoz but if Saturday’s third round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship is any indication, it looks as if the Spaniard is back on track. 

In the midst of a season that has included only one top-10 finish at the Kia Classic, the struggles began to ensue for Munoz after a move to the United States forced her to go a long length of time without seeing her swing coach.

“Yeah, it's been a long year,” said Munoz. “I didn't see my coach for a very long time because I moved to the States.  I was trying to make swing changes to my own and it was just a little mess, so now I'm finally back to normal.” 

After seeing her swing in September before The Evian Championship, things have been back to normal for Munoz indeed as she recently picked-up a win in France on the Ladies European Tour.

Munoz’s solid play has continued this week as rounds of 73-72-69 has her five-strokes behind Suzann Pettersen heading into tomorrow’s final round. 

Currently ranked No. 34 in the Rolex Rankings, Munoz has a good history in Taiwan as she finished tied for second in 2011 and tied for eighth last year.

“I don't know what it is,” said Munoz of why she has good history in Taiwan. “I think I don't mind playing in the wind I would say, and maybe everybody else does.  So, I don't know, I just tried to play my game. My ball doesn't move much in the wind. That's one of my strengths and I can kind of go right at it kind of.” 


Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2

THE MODERATOR:  I'd like to welcome Suzann Pettersson into the interview room.  Suzann you had a difficult start to the day but you brought it back.  What happened in those first few holes?

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  You know, I had a great warm-up, felt good.  On the second, I kind of made a little amateur mistake trying to get too cute on the tee ball and left myself with a very tough up-and-down.  Just couldn't get it going and made a few errors. Today was a tough day for me.  It was all about hanging in there and trying to bring it back to where I started.  Disappointing to 3-putt 17.  But glad to make the birdie on the last.        

THE MODERATOR:  You're really known on Tour for your fierce, competitive nature and your never-give-up attitude.  Do you think that really helped you out there?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, but at the same time, I've got to make sure it doesn't get in my way.  I could easily have lost it out there today.  It was -- you know, some days are easy, some days are not that easy, some of the times you see everything you're going to do right in front of you.  Other times you fall in-between clubs and are not quite sure and then you start questioning if it's enough, if you had enough -- if it's going to be too spinning. It's one of those days where you can be very analytic, and it's all in the conditions to be analytic.  One more day in these conditions.          

THE MODERATOR:  You touched a little bit yesterday about the dog that Yani gave you, and she said today that she wants it back from you (laughter).  Can you talk a little about yours and Yani's friendship, because she did say how excited she was for you.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I will buy her a real dog.  (Laughter).

Yani and I have been good friends for a long time.  She's a great girl.  I've pretty much had a great friendship with her from the second she joined the Tour.  We've had a great friendship both on and off the golf course and I think we both have made each other better.  We practice together; we play together, and even though you're competitors, sometimes it's good to play golf  with each other.  I think as much as you are the feisty competitors, you make each other better.

What she's achieved so far in her career, it's hard to repeat.  I told her that this summer.  She came up to me and asked me what I thought of her game.  I said, Yani, you can't put the bar where -- you can't expect to win 12 tournaments a year.  If you do that, you're going to be pretty much disappointed every season from now on.

You know, golf, it's a funny game.  Sometimes you're on a roll, it feels like you can do whatever you feel like.  Other times, it could be very marginal and everything going against you.  But she's way too good to dig herself a big hole and disappear.  She's way too good of a golfer for that.

I try to keep supporting her, trying to help her bring her A Game back, because I miss our feisty rounds together.

Q.  How satisfied do you feel on the last birdie?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  It feels better than 3-putting.  I mean, starting on 17 tee, I tried to finish with two birdies, and end up 3-putting.  I thought the pin position on 17 was a joke.   The pin was on the downslope and I thought that's the worst pin placement I've seen all year.  So great credit to the rules official there.  And obviously nice to finish on a good note.  This is far from over, and I have a number in my head, so I'm one closer.

 

Azahara Munoz, Rolex Rankings No. 34

Q.  Good playing today, what was the difference from the past two days?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  I've been playing just as good.  I've been hitting really good shots, but I wasn't making many putts.  Actually I've been missing a few short ones and today I didn't.  That was the difference.

Q.  You've played well in Taiwan the past two years.  I know you finished tied for second the first year.  What is it about this place that you like so much?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  I don't know what it is.  I think I don't mind playing in the wind I would say, and maybe everybody else does.  So, I don't know, I just tried to play my game.  My ball doesn't move much in the wind.  That's one of my strengths and I can kind of go right at it kind of.

Q.  Suzann has come back a little bit today to the rest of the field and kind of putting everybody in the mix now; what's your mind-set going into tomorrow?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  I'm just going to go like today and the past two days.  It's been a long year, so it's fun finally being in contention and being in one of either the leading group or second leading groups.  I'm just going to go out there and keep playing like I am.

Q.  Has it been frustrating this year?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah, it's been a long year.  I didn't see my coach for a very long time because I moved to the States.  I was trying to make swing changes to my own and it was just a little mess, so now I'm finally back to normal.

Q.  What's been kind of the key?  Did you see your coach?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Yeah, I saw my coach before Evian and after Evian, and I've just been playing really good.  The last few weeks -- well, I won in France on The European Tour and the last few weeks I've been playing really good, but my putting has been letting me down.  Hopefully I make a few more putts tomorrow.

Q.  Who is your coach?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:  Marcelo.  He's from Spain.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Munoz, Azahara, Pettersen, Suzann, LPGA Taiwan Championship

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