CME Group Titleholders
Tiburón Golf Club
Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews
November 20, 2013
The 2013 LPGA Tour season comes to an end this week at the CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla. The Tiburón Golf Club located at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort will be the backdrop of this season’s event where the top-three finishers from each of the 28 events on the tournament schedule come together to make up a star-studded field for the season-ending tournament. Each player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings top 20 will be in action.
The unique season-long qualifying format allows for the world’s best female golfers a chance to compete for the largest winner’s check on Tour at $700,000. Headlining the field this week is a trio whose stunning performances this year have earned them the top positions on the LPGA Tour: No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen and No. 3 Stacy Lewis. No. 6 Na Yeon Choi is set to defend her title and is playing for her first win of the 2013 season.
Stress-free… While Inbee Park etched her name in the record books this season by becoming the first South Korean to earn Rolex Player of the Year honors, she admits this week’s CME Group Titleholders marks the first-time she has been able to be stress free all season.
Despite a season that has included six LPGA Tour victories, Park had to ward off a late season charge by Suzann Pettersen to earn the season-ending honor. Park was able to get a weight off her shoulders as she clinched Rolex Player of the Year at last week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex thanks to a fourth place finish and.
“I was very stressed about the Player of the Year award after the U.S. Open since it was getting closer and closer, because at first I had the huge lead and I thought it was mine,” said Park. “After that it was just getting closer and closer, I became more anxious. I think I was just so stressed about it I just didn't want to think about it anymore this week. That was the main reason I really wanted to finish it off last week. Looks like everybody on the Tour is having so much fun at the end-of-the-year events because there's no cut and we travel all around the world and there's greatest events of the year. Yeah, it felt like I couldn't really enjoy the time because there were a lot of titles, there's something I really wanted to achieve, but yeah, this week I can really enjoy myself and enjoy the end-of-year schedule.”
While Park admitted the amount of media obligations following the event in Mexico made it feel as if she just took home her eighth trophy of the season, it is becoming an everyday way of life for the No. 1 player in the Rolex Rankings. Known on Tour for her calm demeanor, Park still seems to be adjusting to her life in the spotlight.
“I think I am still learning,” said Park of becoming comfortable with her newfound stardom. “There is always not enough time to learn, I think. I really don't think I'll get used to living -- I don't think I'll ever get used to living a superstar life. It's really hard. There's a lot of tough parts about it. You can't go outside without makeup or you can't just -- especially in Korea a lot of people recognize me like even going to dinners. It's just tough to stand and think that everybody's watching you. It just feels so weird still. I'm still not used to it. I'm trying to get there and trying to play well under the pressures and under the circumstances, but yeah, I still need more time to prepare for it. I think I'm slowly getting there.”
Park might not be comfortable with her newfound stardom but that doesn’t stop people from approaching the always generous South Korean. Park’s notoriety in public even goes as far as to chefs approaching her in restaurants seeking food reviews and putting tips for their next trip to the links.
“I think probably like everything has been, you know, strange for me because I didn't really expect any of that,” said Park. “Whenever I go to restaurants, like the main chef come out and cooking for me and he's asking me how the food is. I get like VIP service wherever I go, so it's weird.”
High standards: Stacy Lewis knew it would be tough to follow up her Player of the Year campaign from 2012, but the top-ranked American said her season in 2013 felt in some ways even better performance-wise. Because of the top-notch competition from Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen, Lewis’ solid play went under the radar.
“I feel like I've played pretty similar to last year,” said Lewis. “It's just Inbee and Suzann are also playing really good, too. But it's been fun this year kind of having the three of us going back and forth. I don't know, I almost feel like this year's been better than last year. I ended up 3rd I think in the Player of the Year standings, so it just shows how good they've played.”
Lewis said her goal every week is to play herself into contention at each event. The Texan was the best on Tour this year in top-10’s, recording 18 in 25 starts (78 percent). She said after nothching three runner-ups and a third-place finish this year, she needed to keep things in perspective to control some frustration.
“I always want to win, that's my goal,” said Lewis. “I was sitting in the airport, I was flying here after Mexico and I knew I had a bunch of Top 10s in a row. So I was looking on my phone with my caddie and it had been nine straight Top 10s, and the last one I think I hadn't made a Top 10 was the U.S. Open, so that kind of put it in perspective for me that finishing 2nd isn't so bad. To go that long playing as good as I am and just some weeks maybe not playing well but still getting the ball in the hole, that's kind of something that I pride myself on.”
Thinking about a legacy: Sixteen-year old Lydia Ko will be making her much anticipated professional debut this week in Naples and while she hasn’t even played in an event as an LPGA Tour member yet, the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history has a big vision for the legacy she would like to leave once her career is over.
“Being out there, I want to be remembered like Annika or Lorena, they did so much for the LPGA, for the women's game,” said Ko. “They were such great players, that's just going out there and kind of being ambitious.”
Ko said she doesn’t even have a proposed travel schedule for the 2014 season or have concrete performance goals, but does know how she wants to carry herself off the course as one of the newest and brightest stars of the LPGA.
“One of the big things is I want to be known quite well to the spectators for being very nice and very friendly,” said Ko. “I obviously want to be the world best golfer in the future, but just I think personality wise is actually quite important to me.”
“A dream vacation at my own house would be to wake up in my own bed,” said Lewis, “have breakfast at my house, maybe go to the beach for the day and then have my dinner at my house, not go out anywhere.”
Thanks to the extended period away from home, Lewis admitted she is quite the homebody whenever the opportunity arises. Earlier this year, Lewis had an extended stretch of weeks which did not have her home from February until two weeks around the Evian Championship in September.
No normal teen: Lydia Ko has been questioned time and time again about losing the normalcy of a teenage life once she turned professional last month. She admitted to missing out on typical teenager activities from traveling the world playing golf in professional events but said she’ll try best to do all the normal
“I missed out on a lot of stuff from a couple years ago, so nothing's really changed,” said Ko. “I don't think I've had a big birthday party in ages or gone to one. You know, those Friday movie nights or normal teenager things, I kind of missed that many years ago. But when I'm on Tour actually I get more time to go to the movies and watch the movies I wanted to watch back at home.”
Ko said she’s used to be being around adults so much and has naturally matured beyond her years socializing and working with people much older than her.
“When I'm with people that are my age, they're probably at school because even at my golf club they're most of the time way older than me or slightly younger, so it's not really the same age criteria,” said Ko. “I haven't done a certain thing to like be more mature, but I think just being around people older than me, it kind of happens automatically without me trying to do it. But yeah, I can't act like a 16-year-old when I'm here with 20, 30-year-olds because that doesn't make sense. I've just got to learn to be more mature.”
Quotables: “I was just super excited to hear the words "yes." I was really excited and I didn't know really what to think. I had kind of a mental breakdown but in a good way.” –Lydia Ko on her reaction to LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan granting her LPGA Tour membership for the 2014 season
“I think we need more young Americans playing well and Lexi's one of those people that she draws fans in, people want to come watch her hit a golf ball. I mean, I like to watch her hit a golf ball, I get why people want to watch. She's somebody that can kind of help take this Tour to the next level. So I love it, I love to see -- you know, she's coming into her own, she's growing up and kind of figuring things out and it's good to see.” –Stacy Lewis on fellow American Lexi Thompson
Tweet of Day: “I love GC’s hiring of @JuliInkster, @Paige_Mackenzie & @KStupples. Three very smart women who will add a ton to the coverage” -@AlanShipnuck on LPGA players Juli Inkster, Paige Mackenzie and Karen Stupples being announced as new on-air talent for Golf Channel in 2014
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We would like to welcome Rolex Rankings No. 1, Inbee Park, into the interview room. Thank you so much for joining us today. We've made it to the season finale of the 2013 season and it's been quite an impressive year for you. Last week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational you clinched Rolex Player of the Year honors, becoming the first ever South Korean player to do that. What has this year overall been like for you and what was it like last week to finally see that goal I know that you had of winning that award come true?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, this year has been my dream come true pretty much because it has been the best season I had so far. There's too many things that I achieved this year, three major wins, a total of six wins this year and Player of the Year award. Yeah, it's been just the best season I've had so far, especially, you know, the Player of the Year award has been my main goal this year and that has been my main goal for my career. I have finally done that. As the first Korean, that just feels so great. It's tough to believe that nobody's ever done that before as a Korean and it's always feeling very lucky and it's feeling great to become the first one on anything. I've done a lot of first things, I've done a lot of firsts this year, so it definitely feels very good and this season's going to be so memorable. There's a lot to look at my Christmastime with family and looking forward to the time off.
MODERATOR: I was looking on Twitter right after you clinched Player of the Year and I saw a lot of congratulatory messages. How many text messages and emails did you get from people after you clinched that honor, and was there one that really stuck out for you?
INBEE PARK: I mean, every one of them is very important, every one of them has been very sweet for me. I didn't win last week, I finished fourth, but it felt like I won last week because I was so busy with all the Korean interviews. After I finished playing even in the room, just phone interviews nonstop. I feel very good, but at the same time it felt a little bit weird because I didn't win the tournament but it felt like it was the seventh win. It is very important. It's one of my favorite moments of this year actually. My third straight major win at the U.S. Open and last week when I finished off the Player of the Year award has probably been the two greatest moments that I had this year, so it's a special memory.
I was very stressed about the Player of the Year award after the U.S. Open since it was getting closer and closer, because at first I had the huge lead and I thought it was mine. After that it was just getting closer and closer, I became more anxious. I think I was just so stressed about it I just didn't want to think about it anymore this week. That was the main reason I really wanted to finish it off last week. Looks like everybody on the Tour is having so much fun at this end-of-year events because there's no cut and we travel all around the world and there's greatest events of the year. Yeah, it felt like I couldn't really enjoy the time because there were a lot of titles, there's something I really wanted to achieve, but yeah, this week I can really enjoy myself and enjoy the end-of-year schedule.
MODERATOR: One of those celebrations we have going on this week is our Rolex Awards celebration on Friday night where you'll get to accept that award. Have you started thinking about the speech already and what that's going to be like?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, it would have been great if I had more time to prepare for it. I thought I would have about a month actually, but Suzann really pushed hard and she played great in the last few events. Yeah, she didn't give me much time to prepare for it and English is my second language, so I need to work probably twice harder than all the girls whose English is first language. Yeah, I'm trying to have some time to prepare for it and I'm trying to do my best.
Q. With all this stress, why do you think you were able to play so well last week?
INBEE PARK: I think last week I really tried to free myself and it was almost coming to the end, I only had two tournaments left. Suzann still had to play so good to beat me. I tried to tell myself that I can do it. Over last two, three months I think I was just thinking about how Suzann was playing. I was thinking so much about what ifs. I tried not to do that last week and just tried to enjoy a little bit more. I just kept telling myself that it's going to be over after this week, it's going to be over after this week, you're going to be free next week. I just kept trying to think positive.
I think that my swing, my ball striking skills really improved over the last two weeks where I took some time off in Korea and I worked a little bit on my swing. I felt a lot more confident on my swing and I was hitting the ball so good last week, so I was able to score well.
Q. Inbee, I know you can't win every week, but after the Women's British Open, after the buildup and the stress of trying to go for the Grand Slam was over with, you didn't play as well. Was there an emotional letdown or what was going on?
INBEE PARK: I think that's, yeah, the main reason was I think I was just getting more anxious. I win six tournaments already. The Grand Slam wasn't in my goal of what I want to achieve this year, but that just became my goal. I don't know why it became my goal. I think a lot of people just made it become my goal. My goal was just to be happier than last year, that's all I really asked for. I think I was just getting more anxious and wanting more and more since I achieved more. I think that's been the main reason that I couldn't play as well, and trying to put too much pressure on me.
Q. In that two-month stretch where you won the three majors, can you describe what that was like as far as were you in the zone, were you anxious as you went from event to event? What were just some of your emotions as you were going through those two months?
INBEE PARK: Back then I didn't really think about how many wins I want to have or what I want to achieve. I pretty much had no goal back then. I think that is why I was able to play good because I just wanted to play week by week, not by the stats, not by the numbers. I just wanted to be happier. I think that's really the main reason I played well, I think, really.
Q. You played on instinct basically?
INBEE PARK: My game was gradually getting better since last year and everything really came together and I was just putting so good earlier in the year. But at the end of the year I'm not putting as good as earlier in the year, I think that's been why my score has been a bit higher. Because maybe I made so many putts earlier in the year, maybe they're averaging it out this last half of the season.
Q. Inbee, I'm just wondering how this year, all the attention you've gotten, all that you've experienced, how it's changed you as a person? What have you learned about yourself?
INBEE PARK: I think I am still learning. There is always not enough time to learn, I think. I really don't think I'll get used to living -- I don't think I'll ever get used to living a superstar life. It's really hard. There's a lot of tough parts about it. You can't go outside without makeup or you can't just -- especially in Korea a lot of people recognize me like even going to dinners. It's just tough to stand and think that everybody's watching you. It just feels so weird still. I'm still not used to it. I'm trying to get there and trying to play well under the pressures and under the circumstances, but yeah, I still need more time to prepare for it. I think I'm slowly getting there.
Q. What was the strangest thing that happened to you in Korea in terms of a fan coming up to you?
INBEE PARK: I think probably like everything has been, you know, strange for me because I didn't really expect any of that. Whenever I go to restaurants, like the main chef come out and cooking for me and he's asking me how the food is. I get like VIP service wherever I go, so it's weird.
Q. Did he ask for any tips on putting?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, sometimes they ask for a lesson, that's for sure.
Q. Inbee, golf sort of benefits sometimes from rivalries and Suzann had this great push at the end of the year. I know probably personally you guys are friends, but do you see the two of you even next year sort of in a rivalry for the No. 1 spot and does that motivate you?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean, of course I think it's always nice to have a competitor behind or in front of you to have a goal or trying to play better than somebody. I think it's always nice to have a rival. Especially this year Stacy and Suzann have been very good competitors for me and they really pushed me to play better. I think if it wasn't for them, I don't think I'll be able to achieve what I achieved so far because they made me realize how much I really wanted to stand here. So yeah, that's definitely.
But honestly, I don't really want to think about Suzann or Stacy next year anymore because I've been thinking about them so much this year. But it has been happening like that same because last year I thought about Stacy, I mean, like I watched Stacy playing so much and I thought maybe this year I'm not going to think about her as much as last year, but this year has been the same. Hopefully next year I can play good golf and I can be myself.
Q. Lydia Ko described you as a cruisy player. One, would you agree with that, and two, how would you describe her as a player?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of nicknames, I got a lot of nicknames this year, even I'm emotionless silent assassin, all these different names. I think they mean all the same, that you get your job done without making unnecessary mess and being quiet on the course and you do your work. I really like my nicknames. I think if you try to think in a positive way, I think you can always make it positive.
I think Lydia Ko is a great player. She proved herself that she can play out here, that's for sure. She's No. 5 in the world and as an amateur, that's in history. If she feels good about the game, why not turn pro. I really like her decision. She's proven that she can do it on the golf course. She just needs to probably handle herself just outside the golf course a little bit better, a little bit -- she probably going to learn a little bit more once she come out here. Yeah, I think it's going to be a fun road for her.
Q. Yesterday Na Yeon Choi, she was mentioning how the two of you grew up and talked a lot together. Do you remember those conversations and do you remember the goals or dreams that the two of you talked about at all?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I think I always wanted to -- because we played together as elementary school kids and I think I always wanted to hit the ball like her and she probably wanted to putt like me. We always watched each other and trying to take the good side of each other and trying to learn from each other starting elementary school.
It's actually very nice to see all the players that I played in elementary school are here together on the LPGA Tour. We were just little kids from the same area, like close area just outside Seoul and we played in local tournaments together but we're here on LPGA Tour together, like I.K. Kim, Na Yeon Choi, Song-Hee Kim, So Yeon Ryu. There's so many of them that played junior golf together and we are here together. We grew up together, we played golf together and we teached each other together. We pretty much, yeah, everything we did together, probably same road.
MODERATOR: That group, your age group, the group of girls that you say are on Tour together were Se Ri's kids really and you guys watched what Se Ri did out there on the golf course and what an impact she had on you.
Now seeing the stardom that you've reached in Korea, have you talked to Se Ri at all, what that was like for her when she kind of became that icon in South Korea and what it was like to deal with all that pressure that gets put upon you when you accomplish so many great things and the whole country's watching?
INBEE PARK: I didn't get to have a deep talk with her, but yeah, she did give me some advice about what I should do. I think she just told me I need to separate things that I need to do and that I don't need to do. There was a lot more things that she taught me but I really don't remember all of it at the moment.
It's definitely there was golf boom and a lot of the people watched Se Ri and grew up and got here. I really think that we now need more golf boom in Korea. I mean, it is already big, but after Se Ri there hasn't been one superstar and I think it's really time to give all the young Korean golfers something to look at, like a role model to look at.
You know, like for example, like the Player of the Year, they probably didn't know the Player of the Year and how important that was until now, but now I probably made them realize what it was and it is like the best award that -- best female golfer in one year achieved this award. All those things that I think our shoulders get heavier and heavier, all the Se Ri kids because we need to show them what Se Ri did. So yeah, we're trying to get there.
Q. You had success as a teenager and then you had that period where you struggled a little bit. We see Lydia now at 16, she's already won twice, but now she's going to be a pro. What do you think is the hardest thing when you're a teenager to adjust to as a professional golfer?
INBEE PARK: I actually was, I think when I came on the Tour as a teenager, I came when I was 18. So as a teenager I thought probably I am the best player in the world and you come out here and everybody's as good as you or even better. It just took a while for me to realize that there is much more great golfers than me and I still need to learn a lot more.
I think that's what Lydia's going to probably experience. She's going to have her good times and she's going to have her bad times. She has a long, long career in front of her. She's going to have good years and she's going to have struggling years. I think it's just not the fact -- the most important thing if she doesn't give up, she's going to play well, I think. If she goes through the tough times well, I think she'll have a good career.
Q. Following up on that point, she hasn't missed a cut yet in her career. Do you remember your experience the first time you missed a cut and how you dealt with adversity?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I missed many cuts on my rookie year actually. I played in LPGA tournaments as an amateur like 15, 16 year old and I finished Top 10 probably a few times and I thought yeah, this feels easy and I can probably finish Top 10 every week once I get on there. That's what I really thought.
Once I went there and I started missing probably like one-third of the cuts and looking at the players that are playing so much better than me, in golf there's times where you play so well and there's times where you can't figure out what's wrong. It was tough for me to make me realize how many players are in front of me. There is a long, long mountain, like high mountain that I need to climb. That just took some time for me to get used to the Tour and get used to the thought that there is a lot more to learn.
Q. I remember you said after the British Open that it was something you would always remember what those two weeks leading up were like. In retrospect, was it more pressure? I mean, when you look back on what those two weeks were like where really all the attention of the golf world and maybe people who had never even paid much attention to the LPGA actually were paying attention, what does that mean to you now in retrospect and what do you think it will mean to you when you look back on your career?
INBEE PARK: Well, I mean, that experience will be definitely something I won't be able to forget. I might not get that kind of -- I might not get the opportunity I had this year, probably maybe might not get it forever in my golfing career. So this moment will be memorized in my head forever, that's for sure.
I think there was -- I try to take the fun out of it and I try to think that it was such a nice experience, not everybody get to do that. It was tough times that I went through this year. This year has been like a roller coaster for me. It has been like going up and like going down and it's slightly coming up again. It's always fun to ride the roller coaster. I'm trying to enjoy the ride.
Q. Just kind of following up on that, they talk a lot about how couches and athletes, when they reach a high level of success there's a term that they use, they're competing against themselves. Did you find after you won those three majors that that was kind of the situation you were in?
INBEE PARK: No, I don't think that was the situation for me because I thought -- I mean, golf is definitely fighting with yourself, but I still think I have a lot of things to learn and techniques or in putting strokes. In golf in general I just need -- I still need a lot of lessons, I still need a lot of work done, I guess.
MODERATOR: I would like to welcome in Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis into the interview room here at CME Group Titleholders.
Stacy, thanks for joining us. Let's talk about, we're at the season finale here for the 2013 season. Let's take a look back at your season. In essence a successful season for you by Stacy Lewis standards?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I don't know, I have pretty high standards. I mean, the year's been really good. I think you look back, it's got a lot of highs, definitely has a lot of frustrating moments, too. I mean, to get to No. 1 in the world, win a major at St. Andrews, I have I think it's 18 Top 10s now, I played some really good golf, but it's also been frustrating at times.
MODERATOR: Just a year ago right here, you have to have a little bit of nostalgia, you accepted the Player of the Year award right here at Tiburon. Talk about the biggest difference I guess just from this season in comparison to last season.
STACY LEWIS: I mean, I feel like I've played pretty similar to last year. It's just Inbee and Suzann are also playing really good, too. But it's been fun this year kind of having the three of us going back and forth. I don't know, I almost feel like this year's been better than last year. I ended up 3rd I think in the Player of the Year standings, so it just shows how good they've played.
MODERATOR: Talk about the consistency for you. Every week it seems like whenever we talk, your goal every week is just to be in contention, to have a shot at winning every week. You have 18 Top 10s, leading the Tour, very impressive. Talk about how proud you are of that statistic or just achieving that goal of being in contention every week.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, my goal every week teeing it up Sunday is to have a chance to win and I've done that 18 times this year basically. I mean, I've back doored a couple Top 10s, but for the most part I've been right there having a bunch of chances to win. You know, you knock on the door enough times, eventually you'll get there. A few 2nds in the last couple months has been a little frustrating, but again, I'm doing a lot of good things so it's hard to be too upset.
MODERATOR: Is that something you really concentrate on, whether it be closing out events? Like you said, you're right there in -- you have three runner-ups and one 3rd place this year. Being very close, like you said, it's very frustrating. How do you deal with that knowing that you were so close to four more wins?
STACY LEWIS: I mean, it's hard, but you know it's not anything major, it's one putt here or there. It's not you need to overhaul your swing or you need to change anything really. It's just making one extra putt a round. It's doing the little things right, getting up and down on easy shots and not missing greens with wedges and that's kind of what I'm focusing on.
MODERATOR: Now, no Player of the Year for you this year, Inbee clinched it, but you're leading the Vare Trophy, which is another amazing honor. Talk about the end-of-the-year awards. Are those things that really, really motivate you? I know you said Player of the Year did last year. Has Vare been something that's really on your mind?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think especially the last few months. I think the Vare and Player of the Year, you can't really look at it too much until you finish all the majors and then you can kind of pay attention to it. So I've definitely been watching it I guess the last couple weeks and kind of watching what's going on. I mean, Suzann's forcing me to play some really good golf, so I have to go out there these next few days and just kind of take care of myself and try not to pay attention to what she's doing.
Q. What area of your game going forward the next year do you think needs the most immediate attention?
STACY LEWIS: Well, I've driven the ball better this year than last year. I mean, I would probably say putting is still just a little bit inconsistent. Certain weeks it's really good and then other weeks it's kind of -- it's off. I don't know. I don't think it's anything major, it's just working on the little things. Like I said, I'm hitting 75, 76 percent of my greens, hitting a bunch of fairways. There's not really a whole lot to overhaul, but it's just working on just little shots, saving one or two shots a round.
Q. Two questions. The first one, we're at a new venue this year, kind of your thoughts on this course compared to last year's course?
STACY LEWIS: I like this course much better than last year. It's better for play, it's better for spectators, better to get around. It's kind of nice -- that golf course last year was just really goofy and really tricky, and the last tournament of the year everybody's kind of tired and that's not really what you want at the end of the year. This one's a little bit more straightforward, but it's in great shape, good golf course. I think it's going to be a second shot course where you've got to kind of position yourself on the right spots of the greens to have the best putt at it. I think at the end of the day, whoever hits the most greens and makes the most putts is usually who's the winner.
Q. I have to ask if you are planning to actually tweet something. I see your account is back. Are you going to come back and talk on Twitter?
STACY LEWIS: The account's active but I needed a break from it, I needed to get some of my privacy back and just take care of my golf right now. I don't know. I mean, we'll look at it this offseason, but I don't know.
Q. Can we tweet that?
STACY LEWIS: Sure.
Q. What did you learn from that experience?
STACY LEWIS: I mean, that was definitely one of the frustrating moments, you know. I mean, a lot of people weren't there, so people didn't know what happened, they don't understand it, so you can't really post those kind of things when people don't know and it's taken out of context. I don't know. I mean, that's one of the reasons I don't like Twitter is in 140 characters you can't say all you need to say and that's the one thing I don't like about it.
MODERATOR: I want to ask you about last week with Lexi, going head to head with her. She's had two wins in the last couple starts for her. Talk about her future and kind of how dangerous she is coming down the stretch, she's gotten her putting together. Everybody says once she gets her putting down, she's going to be on fire. Solheim Cup teammate as well. Talk about her development as a pro and where you see her going.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I said that at Solheim Cup. After playing with her a couple practice rounds and a match together, I said as soon as she figures out her putting, she's going to be unbelievable because she's the best -- hands down the best ball striker on Tour. And for her length, it's unbelievable how straight she hits it for her length. I knew I was going to be in trouble on that golf course with her that final round because the par 5s there, it was wet, she could just -- she carried me by 40 yards and I had no chance. So I knew I needed to have a couple shots on her getting to 18, and unfortunately she made some great putts at the end and I didn't.
MODERATOR: You've always been one to say, you know, carry the American flag for women's golf and she kind of hopefully will be taking a little bit of ease off of you. Is that something that you really look forward to, having her move up the rankings? I think she's 2nd behind you in International Crown points. What are your thoughts on that?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think we need more young Americans playing well and Lexi's one of those people that she draws fans in, people want to come watch her hit a golf ball. I mean, I like to watch her hit a golf ball, I get why people want to watch. She's somebody that can kind of help take this Tour to the next level. So I love it, I love to see -- you know, she's coming into her own, she's growing up and kind of figuring things out and it's good to see.
Q. How do you think Lydia's going to do as a professional, particularly with the schedule and traveling and that kind of thing?
STACY LEWIS: You know, I think she's in for a little bit of a shock because it's a little different playing -- you know, I played on some sponsor exemptions and Michelle did it, and it's different playing every single week than just getting ready for one week of three or four. I'll be interested to see how she manages her game. I don't think she'll play a full schedule, but I hope she kind keeps her schedule back and is still allowed to be a kid a little bit. I think she's going to have a few probably growing pains just learning how to manage your game from week to week, how to learn every golf course. You have to learn all the golf courses. Your first year when you're actually a full-time member is tough.
Q. Do you remember, Stacy, when you first played the Kraft as an amateur when you got out there, how much time you're allowed to give yourself to get out there to see the course, or did you still have some time to spend in the library at Arkansas?
STACY LEWIS: I was still in school. I think when I played the Kraft that year I think I was playing in Georgia's tournament the week before I went to Kraft, so I just got out there I think Sunday night or Monday before, the Monday of the week.
Q. Stacy, you talked a little bit about the frustration of being runner-up, but as competitive as you are, are you able to also look at this whole year with all your Top 10s and say almost every week you were able to put yourself in position to win and maybe that overrides the frustration of not winning?
STACY LEWIS: I mean, I always want to win, that's my goal. But yeah, I think we were -- I was sitting in the airport, I was flying here after Mexico and I knew I had a bunch of Top 10s in a row. So I was looking on my phone with my caddie and it had been nine straight Top 10s, and the last one I think I hadn't made a Top 10 was the U.S. Open, so that kind of put it in perspective for me that finishing 2nd isn't so bad. To go that long playing as good as I am and just some weeks maybe not playing well but still getting the ball in the hole, that's kind of something that I pride myself on.
Q. What was it like to watch Inbee have that, you know, the majors and bring that kind of attention and just -- and the British Open itself, to have that kind of attention and coverage?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think Inbee winning three majors, I think it's the story of the year and I don't think she definitely has not gotten the time and the press that she deserves for it. On the men's side if that happens, I think that's all anybody's talking about all year long and I think it's kind of been overlooked a little bit. From a player's side, you're kind of in awe, like how does somebody do that. Once you win one, then there's more pressure on the next one, and to do it again, it's just unbelievable. I think she won Player of the Year in July or whenever at the -- as soon as she won the U.S. Open I think she was Player of the Year no matter what anybody else did the rest of the year.
Q. I know it's sort of happenstance that it happened like this, but the Tour talks a lot about its global nature and if you look at the three top players this year, it's an American, a European and a Korean player. What does that say in terms of just how global it is to have that much success but spread out among three people that are from completely different parts of the world?
STACY LEWIS: I think that's the biggest indication right there is we've got this International Crown coming up and you've got three areas of the world represented in the top three players in the world. I think you look at the Top 10 in the rankings, we've got pretty much everywhere covered. We've said it for a long time that's why we go and play all over Asia, that's we go to Canada, we go to Australia. That's why we go there, it's because our players are from there. You know, that's what our talent shows and that's where we go.
Q. We got a sense listening to Inbee that she didn't feel like Player of the Year over the last month or so.
STACY LEWIS: The last few months, yeah.
Q. A lot of stress, etc. And we have you with your 50 Top 10s in a row and your British Open title at St. Andrews, etc., and the word "frustration." Do you almost need the end of the year for, I don't know if the word is reset but just for the time to take stock and realize, hey, this wasn't a bad year, it was a pretty good year?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think Inbee's probably ready for the end of the year just to kind of -- I think when she looks back on the year, she's going to say wow, look what I did in just a few months. It's nice to see that she was human though at least and kind of -- I know she was busy, she was running around everywhere. Maybe she needed -- at the end of the year she took some time for herself and her game suffered, but to me it doesn't matter. I'm ready for the offseason. I think you need the time to kind of look back and say look at the good things you did because sometimes the frustrating things seem to override all those good things you do.
MODERATOR: Any big offseason plans? Anything special on the books?
STACY LEWIS: No, just putting the golf clubs away for a few weeks.
MODERATOR: I was going to say is it usually two to three weeks, no clubs?
STACY LEWIS: Well, I'm going to play in Dubai in a couple weeks and that will be my last one this year and then the clubs won't be touched until at least after Christmas.
MODERATOR: Nice, well deserved.
Q. What do you call a dream vacation?
STACY LEWIS: A dream vacation? Being at my house, being at my own house.
Q. At your own house, what would you call a dream vacation?
STACY LEWIS: A dream vacation at my own house would be to wake up in my own bed, have breakfast at my house, maybe go to the beach for the day and then have my dinner at my house, not go out anywhere.
Q. Are you cooking or --
STACY LEWIS: I'm not a big cook, but when you're home for four days at a time it's hard to justify going to the store and buying food.
MODERATOR: A lot of Lean Cuisines?
STACY LEWIS: Maybe, yeah.
Q. What's the most time you're on the road?
STACY LEWIS: I was home for two weeks around Evian and that was the first time I had been home for two weeks since before Australia. The schedule in the middle of the year's really tough just because I want to support the events in the United States so that's kind of something we have to do. But I took two weeks, I didn't play Korea or Taiwan so I had a three-week break there and it was definitely needed because I've come to these last few events with a lot more energy.
Q. What did you cook?
STACY LEWIS: I didn't really cook that much. I need to learn how to cook.
MODERATOR: Good morning everybody, thank you so much for being here at the CME Group Titleholders. My name's Kraig Kann. It is a pleasure to welcome for the first time in this field and also the first time as a professional, Lydia Ko. Let's start with that, good morning.
LYDIA KO: Good morning.
KRAIG KANN: Nice to have you here, but as a professional no less. How did you come to that decision back in October?
LYDIA KO: Well, this year I played pretty much all professional events apart from one, so that was kind of a start to that decision making. Yeah, I was pretty proud with the way I played the last couple of months, so yeah, we just talked over it with my mom and my dad and we came up with that decision.
KRAIG KANN: Was there a specific thing that told you yes, this is the right time, perhaps the runner-up finish at Evian or anything else?
LYDIA KO: No, not really, no. Some people around me said, oh, you should just turn pro after your win at the Canadian Open, but at that moment I thought it was just another surprise week and I kind of wanted some more proof. Second place at Evian definitely helped me with making the decision.
KRAIG KANN: Now, there aren't that many young players or players maybe a little bit older than you, Lydia, that would announce turning professional via YouTube. Share with us a little bit of that story and the rugby tie-in from New Zealand.
LYDIA KO: Originally Izzy and I became ambassadors for the Love Golf Campaign, the New Zealand golf membership. We were going to do a little clip like what we did to I guess show the world about New Zealand and golf in New Zealand. When I said I wanted to turn pro to the people back at New Zealand Golf, they thought it would be a good idea to kind of link those two together. I was really happy to do it with Izzy, he's a super nice guy and obviously very talented at what he does. It was really good, and I saw that there were over a hundred thousand viewers and I really didn't expect that.
KRAIG KANN: A hundred thousand viewers. Production value was pretty high. This wasn't just shot on your iPhone, this was well put together.
LYDIA KO: Yeah, with some of the most expensive cameras I saw what they were using and I was planning to buy that soon.
KRAIG KANN: Let me segue into 2014. If you have questions, please raise your hand and we'll get a microphone to you. In 2014 not only will you play as a professional but you have membership status on the LPGA. Mike Whan has accepted your petition for membership. And I know you can't comment on the specifics of the conversation you might have had with Mike, but share with us the reaction. Were you surprised, and how much are you looking to joining this Tour full time next year?
LYDIA KO: I think I just finished my physio session and I was going home and I was pretty relaxed and I got my phone call. Yeah, I was just super excited to hear the words "yes." I was really excited and I didn't know really what to think. I had kind of a mental breakdown but in a good way.
KRAIG KANN: A mental breakdown. Let's take some questions. Randall Mel over here on the left. We'll get a microphone to Randall.
Q. Lydia, can you tell us what the differences are between being an amateur and a pro so far, especially arriving at a tournament?
LYDIA KO: I think the biggest thing was when you go through customs and they check your passport and they ask why you're here, I said I'm going to play golf over here, and the guy said, oh, are you a professional? I was like, yeah, I am, just turned professional. So that was the biggest thing. I never said that before. I think playing the pro-am yesterday kind of started my week saying I'm officially professional now.
Q. Lydia, I'm curious if you know what the first place prize is this week, and if so, what kind of impact that might have on you as things heat up this week?
LYDIA KO: I wasn't that interested, and then my mom I think looked it up and she said it was like $500,000 last year and then it's gone higher this year and I said, oh, so people who don't come first will get less money then. I was thinking about the other way than thinking about first place.
KRAIG KANN: $700,000 to the winner here this week. You're playing with Jessica Korda and Michelle Wie in round number one. That's probably a pretty comfortable pairing for you.
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I don't think I've played with Jess before in tournament, but I've played with Michelle a couple times this year. When I don't get paired with her, I'm quite surprised because I get paired with her quite often. They're very nice players but they're also long hitters, too, so I guess I've got to pace myself and just hit to my distance.
Q. Lydia, I know you've played so many professional events, but after turning pro can you talk a little bit about the learning curve that you think you're going to be on as a professional?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, as my rookie year next year I think that will be the year where I learn the most. Being a professional and being an amateur is totally different and next year I'll have to learn a lot. And this year I think I only played one or two tournaments back to back, so that's a whole different thing where I need to play three or four weeks in a row and only a one-week break. Next year, well, obviously I need to perform well, but it's more about learning and getting more experience.
KRAIG KANN: Speaking of learning, you've been spending some time working on schoolwork over the last couple weeks. Can you share what's been going on and how perhaps that's been a help for you with everything else going on turning pro playing in this event getting ready for '14.
LYDIA KO: I had a couple exams, I don't know if they went well or not. I saw the other guys' photography assignment and theirs looked way much better than mine, and I heard that the best result grade you can get is A, so I'm pretty worried about mine. I want to take that next year, too, and you need to be a certain grade to do it next year. It's helped me to kind of get my mind off golf and get my mind off the whole pro thing. That's been a huge help. I couldn't practice as much as I wanted to because of the studies, so I guess it's a balance.
Q. You mentioned Michelle and she went through this whole process a few years ago as a high profile teenager coming through. How has she helped you in this process of coming out?
LYDIA KO: When I put the YouTube up and Twitter and everything, a lot of the players were very supportive. Yeah, she's still very young and she started young. In a couple years' time I'll be in a position like her. Yeah, I really look up to her. I haven't had that much chance to talk in depth with players.
Q. Lydia, strictly from golf terms, not just adjusting to being a pro but as a golfer, what do you feel like is the strongest part of your game right now and what in the next year are things you're most wanting to concentrate on becoming stronger?
LYDIA KO: I think my strongest part is drive off the tee. I don't think I miss that many fairways, which is good because I'm in a better position to have a better opportunity to make birdie or similar score. Sometimes people say, oh, what's wrong with your putting and so on. Actually I was putting at home and this little boy said, oh, you're not putting good these days. And I thought oh, that's sad. But yeah, I think putting, it may not be my best part of my game but I think it's the part where I've had the most improvement the last couple months.
MODERATOR: Little boy, what constitutes a little boy for you, how old?
LYDIA KO: He's only like eight.
Q. Lydia, go back to school for a minute. This photography exam thing that you turned in, what was your project and how did you pick it?
LYDIA KO: It was five times three, three times five, our exams. So 15 hours total and we got the exam paper before so we did three boards outside and three boards inside, and we also do an analysis and stuff. Yeah, but I took photography and English exam, but they're both subjects where I can't really study for it so I guess I just prepared myself.
Q. I don't understand the boards outside and inside.
LYDIA KO: Like inside the exams are like a controlled test, we do three boards, and outside we just do an in class or at home.
Q. The commissioner told me had a chance to look at the schedule. I don't know if you've had a chance to look at the schedule, but have you thought about how many events you want to take part in next season?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I did get to look at the draft of the schedule. We haven't really planned the whole thing out, but we're kind of trying to take it step by step from the start of the year. I think the first one is Bahamas and I'm playing in the New Zealand Open as well and that's the week after. We're trying to get that planned first and then do the rest of the year because there's tournaments like Thailand and Singapore, I think you need to be specially invited or exempt to play.
KRAIG KANN: With regard to your schedule, what did you feel like you learned in 2013 and what would be the most important thing for you in 2014? You made a lot of cuts. Is it major championships, is it numbers of victories, is it just getting your feet wet, getting to know more players, what types of things are on your mind?
LYDIA KO: Apart from Evian, all the other Majors this year, I felt like I could have done much better. I kind of came off the Majors slightly feeling disappointed and feeling like I could have done a little better than what I did, so hopefully Majors -- when I saw my statistics, I had more doubles and triples than any other player, so that's not good. Making a bogey is average, but making double or triple is definitely not helping the score card. When I saw the big difference in Evian is when I didn't make doubles I was way up in the position, so that was a big key. Because a lot of the tournaments here are in warm, hot conditions, I've just got to not overdo practice, especially on the week and kind of pace myself.
Q. Just curious, turning pro at such a young age, is there any part of being a normal teenager that you're kind of bummed you might miss out on in this new life?
LYDIA KO: I don't think so. I missed out on a lot of stuff from a couple years ago, so nothing's really changed. I don't think I've had a big birthday party in ages or gone to one. Yeah, you know, those Friday movie nights or normal teenager things, I kind of missed that many years ago. But when I'm on Tour actually I get more time to go to the movies and watch the movies I wanted to watch back at home.
Q. Lydia, following up on that, you sort of live in a world of adults a lot of the time now, people who are a lot older than you. How have you sort of adjusted to that, whether it be playing a pro-am with adults or playing with a lot of adults, and then how much time do you get to spend with kids your age?
LYDIA KO: I pretty much, you know, when I'm with people that are my age, they're probably at school because even at my golf club they're most of the time way older than me or slightly younger, so it's not really the same age criteria. Yeah, I haven't done a certain thing to like be more mature, but I think just being around people older than me, it kind of happens automatically without me trying to do it. But yeah, I can't act like a 16-year-old when I'm here with 20, 30-year-olds because that doesn't make sense. I've just got to learn to be more mature.
Q. Hi, Lydia. I see last week I think you were named Time Magazine as one of the world's most powerful teenagers. That must have had everyone at home very excited. Did you see the magazine and did your mom maybe pick up a copy and put it up on the wall or something?
LYDIA KO: I didn't see the magazine itself, but I got a lot of tweets from people saying I was one of the most influential teenagers. And they said girls are more influential than boys as well. And I saw that number one was Lorde, and she's another New Zealander, so I'm sure pretty sure the people back at home are very excited. Some people say you got picked off by Lorde, but she's done great. She got billboard number one for Royals, that was a great song. I don't even know why I'm there to be honest. I don't know what I've really done. I've just done the things I love to do.
KRAIG KANN: Well, we can hand you a sheet about what you've accomplished when we get done with the press conference. You've done quite a few things. You mentioned that you've kind of felt really comfortable out there with some players and kind of growing into this role. I think you're blessed by the fact that the players have really embraced you. Who have you sought out on the Tour to maybe ask some questions about what it's like out here?
LYDIA KO: I don't think it's one certain player, it's just about where I want to live in the future or what I want to do, decision making. I've been asking different players, even some of the LPGA staff, rules officials. So I don't think there's one certain player, but I guess when I get to know the players much better, then I can talk to them more comfortably. I respect them so much so I don't want to kind of put them off.
KRAIG KANN: Is there any one player that's made a big impact on you in your short time?
LYDIA KO: Well, I hang around a lot with Danielle Kang because I wasn't a member last year and I'm still not right now, but when I'm just most of the time, some of the time in tournaments the only amateur or the only person there, I sometimes felt lonely but having her it kind of made life easier and playing on the Tour more fun because I knew I had a friend there where I can kind of lean against her. Yeah, it was quite cool to have someone that I can talk to.
Q. Lydia, you tweeted out about meeting Phil Mickelson at Callaway. Can you tell us, where are you on equipment deals? Are you shopping for equipment deals? What's going on there? And I have a follow-up after that.
LYDIA KO: Sponsorship and management wise we're in a good progress in making the final decision, but yeah, we haven't signed anything at the moment. And especially equipment wise, I'm just pretty much testing all these different types of clubs. I've had a couple changes in my bag at the moment, but I guess right now it's where I get to test and see which clubs do suit me. And if I have to change, something that is quite close to what I have right now.
Q. That was my follow-up. How the progress was in searching for a manager and just endorsement deals in general, what your approach is to that.
LYDIA KO: A lot of that stuff my mom and my dad does, so they tell me not to concentrate about money, management, sponsors and everything. I've been trying to concentrate on my game itself and my mom would be able to answer that question much better than me.
Q. Lydia, have you guys figured out where you're going to be based from in the United States and what led to that decision?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, like when we looked at the schedule, we thought we might need a base here in the States because it's always way too far to go back home, especially for a week off. We're looking Florida and Texas and a couple other places there's no income tax, I'll try to go there. Phil mentioned that one of the biggest mistakes was staying after college where the taxes are quite high. So I'm trying to stay in a low place. I don't have any money yet. Yeah, well, I talked to Brittany Lang yesterday about Texas, Dallas and that area because she's originally from there and I talked to Janet, one of the head officials. Yeah, we're just making decisions, but I think it's too early to make a final decision on that as well.
KRAIG KANN: Make sure that management company has a good tax accountant so you'll be straight with that.
Q. What else did Phil stay about taxes? (Laughter) How old do you feel? Do you still feel young, and how many more years until you think you'll feel old?
LYDIA KO: Well, like Michelle yesterday, she tweeted saying excited to play with me, and I said excited to play with her, and she wrote the hash tag I feel old and I said you're not old really. I don't know what age I feel like. I don't think there needs to be like a number age thing. I am 16, but there's no certain age where I feel like when I'm home I feel younger than what I'm out on the course.
Q. Two questions here. First of all, do you have your driver's license yet?
LYDIA KO: No. I'm a crazy driver.
Q. Off the course or on the course?
LYDIA KO: Off the course. On the course I'm okay. That's my strength.
Q. The other thing I was wondering is how you think you're going to balance being a teenager, being a professional golfer, and establishing your independence.
LYDIA KO: To me golf is the number one priority. I played it for the last 11 years and I'll do that for many more years to come. Yeah, I am going to miss some stuff, but when you don't do stuff at the end of the day you'll get something in the end, which is a good thing. Not only me, but the support team back in New Zealand and my family, they've been working hard, so I don't want to let them down. I'm just trying my best now to be more grown up and be a good professional.
Q. Just curious, what's the best course you've ever played and what's the one course you would love to play?
LYDIA KO: Well, there are some really great courses back at home in Queenstown, The Hills, Jack's Point, they're amazing and when I played them I didn't feel like I was in New Zealand anymore, it felt like I was in a golf wonderland. In the States I was really impressed about Cypress Point, it's one of the most amazing golf courses I've ever seen with all the seals and the water. That was amazing. I don't know what course I would want to play, but I guess Augusta, it's one of the greatest golf courses there. One back at home, Kraig Heatley, he's I think one of the --
Q. We know him.
LYDIA KO: -- media, you guys obviously know him, he said he would love me to come there once and I said of course, just call me and I'll be there.
Q. What golfer out here are you most looking forward to playing with that you haven't played with yet?
LYDIA KO: Pretty much all -- everybody's ticked off apart from I think Inbee Park, she's world number one at the moment and I haven't had a chance to play with her in a practice round or an official round, so hopefully I'll be able to play with her sometime, but I think I'll be really nervous to play with her. She's the kind of player who's really cruisy and really relaxed, so I think it will be pretty exciting when I get an opportunity to play with her.
KRAIG KANN: Did you say cruisy?
LYDIA KO: Cruisy, very relaxed. Some people, you know, some people say she's too relaxed, she doesn't seem in it, but I think that's kind of a positive for her. She's confident in what she does. That's something I want to be. I want to be cruisy.
KRAIG KANN: Seeing as how I see no further questions, we do have one right up here in the front. This will be our final question then we'll wrap it up.
Q. Are you bilingual? Do you speak and understand Korean well, and if so, do you help communicate with the Korean players in their native language? Obviously you grew up in New Zealand but do you speak Korean as well?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I speak full Korean. When I see a Korean person, I say hello, yeah, because obviously my background is Korean and my dad actually doesn't speak English, so I speak the most Korean with him. When I actually see a Korean player like So Yeon or anyone, I say So Yeon-unni, without saying just So Yeon, it kind of feels weird not saying the unni part which kind of means sister, but not being related that's what you say to somebody a couple years older. Yeah, I feel comfortable speaking both languages, sometimes the hard words in Korean I don't understand.
KRAIG KANN: Now you're a professional, soon to be a member of the LPGA in 2014. This is kind of your hello world moment, if you will. We've heard that statement once or twice. What do you want to be remembered for way down in the future, what do you want to be remembered for, what impact do you hope to make for the LPGA and women's golf?
LYDIA KO: Being out there, I want to be remembered like Annika or Lorena, they did so much for the LPGA, for the women's game. They were such great players, that's just going out there and kind of being ambitious. One of the big things is I want to be known quite well to the spectators for being very nice and very friendly. I obviously want to be the world best golfer in the future, but just I think personality wise is actually quite important to me.
KRAIG KANN: Well, you started this year as the sensation and a sensational year for you. Congratulations on all you've accomplished. Top 5 in the Rolex women's world rankings right now, best of luck this week and best of luck in 2014.
LYDIA KO: Thank you.