Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex
Guadalajara Country Club
Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews
November 13, 2013
The penultimate event of the 2013 season kicks off this week at the sixth annual Lorena Ochoa Invitational presented by Banamex in Mexico at the Guadalajara Country Club where 16-time LPGA Tour champion Cristie Kerr is back to defend her title. The Miami, Fla. native won last year’s event when she overcame a two stroke deficit to defeat current World No. 1 Inbee Park.
Kerr enters the week already a champion in the 2013 season, having captured the Kingsmill Championship in May. As the season begins to come to a close with just two tournaments remaining on the schedule, Kerr says the relaxing environment at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational is the perfect ending to the season.
“It is so cool,” said Kerr of being the defending champion. “I had come close a couple of times in the past before winning last year. It was always a golf course that I have absolutely loved, the weather is always perfect. It’s just a really kind of easy relaxing week with 36 people.
“It’s always a relaxing atmosphere. Everybody always hangs out in the club house after their round and has great Mexican food and margaritas. It’s just a lot of fun. Lacoste is a big sponsor of that event and it’s really special for me, so going in defending will be a lot of fun.”
This year’s event highlights a star-studded field of 36 players vying for a $150,000 first-place prize from its $1 million purse. Six of the top-10 in the Rolex Rankings are slated to be in the field including No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, No. 3 Stacy Lewis and the 2011 Lorena Ochoa Invitational champ No. 10 Catriona Matthew.
Lewis is coming off her 17th top-10 finish of the season at the Mizuno Classic where she tied for eighth in search of a successful title defense, while Pettersen and Park took the week off from Tour. The trio will be combating through the final two events of the year to secure the Rolex Player of the Yea honor, Official Money List winner and the Vare Trophy award, given to the player with the lowest scoring average.
Feeling abnormal… Inbee Park has had a season to remember this year as she has recorded six LPGA Tour victories, but the current Rolex Rankings No. 1 admitted to feeling a bit abnormal since capturing her third major title of the year at the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I don’t think I was actually normal after the U.S. Open,” said Park. “Every tournament has not been easy for me, I’ve been under a lot of pressure. I’m trying to play good in this and I think to be able to play good in this kind of situation, I think that that really tells you that you can play really well in any kind of situation so that’s why I don’t try to become or play under pressure.”
While Park has felt abnormal since June, she has been able to keep her lead in the Rolex Rankings Player of the Year race. Despite Suzann Pettersen making a significant dent into her lead, Park could secure at least a share of Rolex Player of the Year honors with a runner-up finish at this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex.
“I think I have probably thought about Rolex Player of the Year since my win at the U.S. Women’s Open,” said Park. “I don’t think it has stopped after that week and no matter how much effort I put into trying not to think about it, I think about it. I have thought about it every week and watched the stats, looked at the numbers, I’ve been watching for Stacy (Lewis) and Suzann (Pettersen) but it’s good. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to achieve so I think that’s why I’m so concerned about it. I didn’t know how I had to finish to win, I thought I just maybe needed to get one more win to get Player of the Year for sure. It will be nice if I can finish it off this week.”
If Park is able to etch her name alongside the elite list of Rolex Player of the Year winners, she will become the first South Korean to take home the prestigious honor.
“It is almost weird to think that I would be the first one to achieve the Rolex Player of the Year as a Korean, because there have been so many good Korean players,” said Park. “I can’t believe nobody has won the Rolex Player of the Year yet so, that would be such a huge honor especially for myself and for my country also. For the game of golf in Korea, it would mean so much, I think that’s why I have to really try to push myself and especially have a year like this, this year and not winning anything not winning any awards after this kind of year would be a little bit disappointing, a lot disappointing. I think I want to give it a best try and I’d be glad after this year so that’s what I am trying to do whether I achieve it or not I am just going to try my best and give it more best effort so I don’t regret.”
Inbee Park currently holds a 38-point lead over Suzann Pettersen but several different scenarios listed below will determine who will take home this year’s prestigious Rolex Player of the Year crown.
- If Suzann Pettersen finishes in a tie for third or higher at this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex and Inbee Park earns no points, Pettersen will still be in the race for Rolex Player of the Year
- If Suzann Pettersen wins the final two events of the season (Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex and CME Group Titleholders, Inbee Park will need to earn a combined 12 points to win Rolex Player of the Year.
- If Inbee Park finishes runner-up at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational she will finish in no worse than a tie for first in the Rolex Player of the Year race.
A nice distraction… Tenth-year LPGA Tour member Suzann Pettersen is having the time of her life during this season’s LPGA Tour as she has been able to find balance in her life both on and off the golf course.
Pettersen recently hosted the second annual Suzann Pro Challenge which is designed to raise money for Right to Play. While most people would find it impossible to juggle the amount of things on Pettersen’s plate, it has provided this year’s Evian Championship winner with an escape away from the golf course.
“You know, I feel like the older you get, I think, well, talking for myself, it’s nice to have something else to think about, it takes your mind off golf, you can kind of balance what you do on the golf course,” said Pettersen. “It kind of gives you the perspective that there’s other things out there that are fun to do. I never went to college so, for me it’s like everything is a learning process, I mean, to learn different things outside of golf, for me it makes me more relaxed about everything that I do.”
“I think also having to spend more time outside of golf, I’m more efficient on the golf course,” added Pettersen. “I tried to practice a better quality and I feel pretty good about it. I’m also thinking about years to come. Trying to build my future, I mean, I’m probably not playing golf for the next 20 years so I just want to figure out what I want to do after I’m done playing golf. So that’s the part of what’s happening outside of golf.”
With only two events remaining on this year’s LPGA Tour schedule, the balance has proved to pay off this season as Pettersen already has four victories under her belt, including one major title. While Pettersen is looking to cap off an already successful year, she has an opportunity to move to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings with a solid finish at this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex.
“I mean, first of all, I would love to just finish off what’s already been a good year,” said Pettersen. “I want to try to finish on a good note so I can take some time off and kind of reflect. It’s easy to remember the latest thing you do, not think about what happened back in March. I’m trying to just finish nice and strong and I think every player out here makes each other better, it pushes the boundaries. I think it makes it very competitive and like I said, I try to be the best I can be when I practice so I can be the best I can be when I’m on the course competing.”
Rolex Rankings Scenarios
- It is project if Suzann Pettersen wins this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex, she will take over as Rolex Rankings No. 1
- It is projected if Suzann Pettersen finishes solo second and Inbee Park finishes 13th or better, Inbee Park will remain Rolex Rankings No. 1
First-time for everything… Cristie Kerr has one of the most decorated resumes on the LPGA Tour with 16 victories already under her belt, but many would find it hard to believe that the Floridian has yet to successfully defend a win since joining the Tour in 1997. All that could change this week however as Kerr returns to Guadalajara, Mexico where she will attempt to hoist the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex trophy for the second consecutive year.
“It would definitely be another one of my goals to accomplish,” said Kerr. “Yea, I’ve won 16 times but haven’t defended a tournament. I feel like I’m ready this week to contend.”
If Kerr is able to notch her 17th career LPGA Tour victory this week, she will become the first repeat winner of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex. While Kerr already has a victory under her belt this season, she comes into this week with increased confidence.
“I feel like there’s a first time for everything and I feel like my game is very good right now and mentally I’m in a better place than I have been all year,” said Kerr. “I’ve been working on my mental game again and again, there’s a first time for everything. I think it’s bound to happen.”
Collins Living Her Big Break… After a season on the Symetra Tour that produced a season-best tie for 29th at the Island Resort Championship, Taylor Collins heads south of the border this week as she prepares to tee-it-up in her first-ever LPGA Tour event.
Known as “Mighty Mouse” for her fiery competitive nature, Collins emerged victorious on Golf Channel’s Big Break Mexico to earn one of 36 coveted spots into this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex.
On Tuesday, the Floridian could be seen playing a practice round at Guadalajara Country Club and according to Collins, playing alongside some of the best female golfers in the world will be an experience to remember.
“It’s been fantastic so far,” said Collins, “the course is in really condition and it’s been cool to see all the top players.”
An exemption into this week’s limited field event wasn’t the only thing Collins earned from her victory on Big Break Mexico as she received an array of extravagant prizes including $50,000 in cash, an Adams Golf Endorsement contract, and $5,000 in cash from Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“It’s been giving me a lot of opportunities,” said Collins. “I get to play in a bunch of cool pro-ams, I get to play Pebble Beach next week and then obviously this is the greatest prize of them all to play in my first LPGA event.”
While Collins remains focused on this week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational, she will turn her attention to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament immediately after returning home from Guadalajara in an attempt to earn status for next year’s LPGA Tour.
“I have final stage of Q-School in a couple weeks so hopefully I get my card there and play LPGA,” said Collins. “If not then it’s back to the Symetra Tour and I’ll play in a bunch of Monday Qualifiers.”
Find out what Collins told Golf Channel’s Morning Drive about earning an exemption here: http://www.lpga.com/media-library/videos/2013/tournaments/lorena-ochoa-invitational/bs13-collinst-loi-bb-morning-drive.aspx
THE MODERATOR: How does it feel to be back in Mexico? What are your expectations?
INBEE PARK: It is always nice to come here to Mexico. Everybody is just really friendly. I love the food here. Specially I finished second here last year and I really had a good chance that winning on the final round but you they didn’t play as good on the final round last year, but I had you know good re rounds and they gave me a lot of confidence this week. Specially in the last year I made probably 3 double bogeys and even if I made a mistake I was able to make a lot of birdies out here so I am just going to go out there and hopefully pop drops
THE MODERATOR: IF YOU FINISH RUNNER UP HERE IT IS GUARANTEED THAT YOU WILL ALTLEAST GET A SHARE OF THE ROLEX PLAYER OF THE YEAR? DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT ALL COMING IN TO THIS WEEK, OR DO YOU JUST TRY TO PUT IT IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND?
INBEE PARK: I think I have probably thought about Rolex Player of the Year since my win at the U.S. Women’s Open. I don’t think it has stopped after that week and no matter how much effort I put into trying not to think about it, I think about it. I have thought about it every week and watched the stats, looked at the numbers, I’ve been watching for Stacy (Lewis) and Suzann (Pettersen) but it’s good. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to achieve so I think that’s why I’m so concerned about it. I didn’t know how I had to finish to win, I thought I just maybe needed to get one more win to get Player of the Year for sure. It will be nice if I can finish it off this week.
Q. IF YOU WIN IT YOU WOULD BECOME THE FIRST SOUTH KOREAN TO WIN THE AWARD, I KNOW IT WILL ALREADY BE SPECIAL FOR YOU TO WIN IT, BUT HOW MUCH MORE SPECIAL WOULD THAT MAKE IT FOR YOU?
INBEE PARK: It is almost weird to think that I would be the first one to achieve the Rolex Player of the Year as a Korean, because there has been so many good Korean players. I can’t believe nobody has won the Rolex Player of the Tear yet so, that would be such a huge honor especially for myself and for my country also. For the game of golf in Korea, it would mean so much, I think that’s why I have to really try to push myself and especially have a year like this, this year and not winning anything not winning any awards after this kind of year would be a little bit disappointing, a lot disappointing. I think I want to give it a best try and I’d be glad after this year so that’s what I am trying to do whether I achieve it or not I am just going to try my best and give it more best effort so I don’t regret.
Q. HAVING WON THE FIRST 3 TOURNAMENTS OF THE YEAR, HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOUR MENTAL STRATEGY?
INBEE PARK: I think going through the things that I have never experienced before, I have gone through a lot of things this year that I have never really experienced mentally so, I think I am just get more experience, and that way I get more stronger mentally and physically, those are the things that you need to experience to become the world number 1. I am glad to take those experiences that I need to take on and just try to take you know some kind of any kind of lesson out of any experiences that I am having.
Q. What is so complicated about tournament?
INBEE PARK: For me, It has been a good course for me. I like the look of the course, I like the layout and I made a lot of birdies, you know there are those holes that you really need to be careful of or you could make big numbers I mean which I did a couple of times last year so, hopefully I will don’t do it this year again, but I am sure it’s a if the weather its good, I think it’s a very scoring golf course like last year and you just need to watch out for a couple holes and you need to think of a couple of other holes but except for that I think that this week has been a very great for me, 36 best players always feels very good and everything is so easy this week, I love this week.
Q. Do you feel anxious knowing about what this tournament means
INBEE PARK: I don’t think I was actually normal after the U.S. Open. Every tournament has not been easy for me, I’ve been under a lot of pressure. I’m trying to play good in this and I think to be able to play good in this kind of situation, I think that that really tells you that you can play really well in any kind of situation so that’s why I don’t try to become or play under pressure.
THE MODERATOR: First off, how does it feel to be back in Mexico?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Guadalajara is a good town and Mexico has been a good support for the ladies golf for quite a few years now. I think this is my, I don’t know how many years it’s been, but I’ve been here every year and it’s definitely one of my favorite stops on our schedule.
THE MODERATOR: Suzann, you’ve had quite the year, you’ve had four wins under your belt already. Not only that, but you run several businesses that I don’t think anyone is aware of. How difficult is that, juggling golf and those businesses? Or do you think that helps you at all on the golf course?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: You know, I feel like the older you get, I think, well, talking for myself, it’s nice to have something else to think about, it takes your mind off golf, you can kind of balance what you do on the golf course. It kind of gives you the perspective that there’s other things out there that are fun to do. I never went to college so, for me it’s like everything is a learning process, I mean, to learn different things outside of golf, for me it makes me more relaxed about everything that I do. I think also having to spend more time outside of golf, I’m more efficient on the golf course. I tried to practice a better quality. I feel pretty good about it. I’m also thinking about years to come. Trying to build my future, I mean, I’m probably not playing golf for the next 20 years so I just want to figure out what I want to do after I’m done playing golf. So that’s the part of what’s happening outside of golf.
THE MODERATOR: Suzann a lot of people only get to see your competitive side on the golf course, which is really intimidating to a lot of people, but I was sitting with you at the airport the other day when we were coming here and you received a letter from a little girl who had met you at Kingsmill having dinner. How nice is it to see that support from fans and actually be able to impact people’s lives?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: You know what it was over the course of the year I receive so many great fan mails, letters, pictures people want signed, you know, it’s fantastic to see the response we have you have out there. In thinking about myself, I don’t think of myself as a role model, but receiving letters and kind of seeing what a difference you can make in other people’s life, it’s a neat thing. And it’s, like I said, it makes you really want to try harder. In a way, with young kids watching, sometimes that’s tough, but this letter I got on Monday, it’s kind of hard to believe you can make an impact from a five minute conversation and just showing interest and just kind of encouraging people to join the game.
Q. Suzann, the last time you won more than twice in the LPGA was in 2007 when you were in five majors. This season seems kind of the same, you have four wins, one major what happened between 2007 and 2013? And we haven’t seen you as strong as you usually are.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: What happened? I got a few more wrinkles, I got quite a bit older. No, I think overall what I love about this game is that age is on your side. You get smarter, you get wiser, you learn more. I wish I knew then what I know now. But that’s a good thing. Because it’s a learning process. For me, the toughest moments have probably been the best learning curve. I’ve learned from mistakes. And I believe in that you have to lose to win and what doesn’t kill you kind of makes you stronger. And that’s kind of how I live and how I play. Since 2007 I’ve had very consistent years and for the most part I’ve won a couple of times a year, several a year. I feel like I’ve been up there. I think Rolex rankings show that my consistency pretty much since 2007. So, it’s all coming together now. I’m more balanced, I’m much more laid back, I know I’m good enough to win tournaments and I know I’m good enough to be number 1 one day. For me, it’s a matter of time before it will happen.
Q. Suzann speaking of Rolex rankings and player of the year race, you’re right up there with a win this week, it is projected you will take over number one in the Rolex Rankings. Is that kind of in the forefront of your mind with only two events remaining or do you kind of just block it out?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I mean, first of all, I would love to just finish off what’s already been a good year. Try to finish on a good note so I can take some time off and kind of reflect. It’s easy to remember the latest thing you do, not think about what happened back in March. I’m trying to just finish nice and strong and I think every player out here makes each other better, it pushes the boundaries. I think it makes it very competitive and like I said, I try to be the best I can be when I practice so I can be the best I can be when I’m on the course competing.
Q. This is the last year that the tournament is here in Guadalajara, you’ve been treated here like rock stars. So next year, when it’s probably going to be somewhere else, what do you expect from the tournament?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: You know what, it’s always been, I really enjoy to come to places where other players have grown up and learned to play golf. For me to get to know the people here in Guadalajara and get to kow all the members around this club, play and meet new friends every year has been a very nice treat. It’s sad that it’s the last year here, but you know, sometimes change can also be good. Overall, this has been a very, very good stop on the LPGA and I’ll definitely miss this place.
Q. The main purpose of the tournament, makes you feel a little more relaxed and maybe not give 100%? He says the tournament is a little bit more relaxed.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I think this is a great tournament, it’s toward the end of the season, you have the top 35 players, the best players who have competed over the entire season and as much, this is as important to me as any other tournament. Obviously we have a few margaritas. Over the years, we have great hospitality, Jack Daniels all around the course today. I mean, of course it’s going to give you a laid back atmosphere. But once Thursday comes, it’s game time and I think we’ll all be ready to compete.
Q. Suzann as the buddy over there said, this is the last it’s going to happen here in Guadalajara. How special is it for you to win it, I mean you’ve been close in past years, but how special would it be for you to win Lorena’s tournament being that you have a great relationship with her, but also that it’s the last year here?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Yeah, this is definitely a trophy you want to put your name on. To go out and win Lorena’s tournament would be quite special for me. I’ve established a great friendship with Lorena over the years. It’s great to see her happy doing something different in golf and you know what it would be great, this would definitely be my last chance on her home course. So, I’ll try to give it all.
THE MODERATOR: I’d like to welcome defending champion Cristie Kerr. Cristie, it’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since you’ve raised the trophy sitting next to us. How does it feel to be back in Mexico?
CRISTIE KERR: It feels great. You know I love this place. Of course it’s fantastic. I love the kind of grass it is on the golf course as well. I just really enjoy being here.
THE MODERATOR: It’s kind of hard to believe you haven’t successfully defended a title on the LPGA tour. What would it mean to you to bring home that trophy?
CRISTIE KERR: It would definitely be another one of my goals to accomplish. Yea, I’ve won 16 times but haven’t defended a tournament. I feel like I’m ready this week to contend.
Q: The conditions are quite different. Is there anything that is going to be a focused thing or something you really need to focus on because it normally is sunny, but today, it’s windy and chilly?
CRISTIE KERR: I think honestly it feels pretty good to me. I spend some time in New York City from time to time so this is still pretty warm for me. Yea, it’s a little bit windy, you know, but we’re professional golfers and we’re used to playing in all kinds of conditions. Normally it’s very hot out here, so it’s actually kind of refreshing that it’s not so hot.
Q: How do you feel about the tournament being the last one here in Guadalajara?
CRISTIE KERR: I think for me that’s kind of sad because I always love coming here every year. But if it’s better for the tournament and to get more sponsors, and even some of the best tournaments in the world move around to different places. So I’m sure it will be back in Guadalajara again. But, you know, it might be nice to move it around.
Q: How do you feel about Asia being the leaders in the LPGA and you being the only American player that’s in the top rankings right now of the LPGA tour?
CRISTIE KERR: Well I’m not the only one. Certainly we have Stacy Lewis and a couple other strong Americans as well. But we have a large number of Asian players in our court, and we play ten events in Asia, so they’re always going to be very strong contenders. You know, we’re not just a U.S.-based tour anymore, we’re a world tour, so the Americans are trying to play as good as they can. And we definitely have a couple of strong players.
Q: How do you feel about defending the tournament since no one has ever won twice?
CRISTIE KERR: I feel like there’s a first time for everything and I feel like my game is very good right now and mentally in a better place than I have been all year. I’ve been working on my mental game again and again, there’s a first time for everything. I think it’s bound to happen.
Q: I would like to welcome Lizette Salas to the interview room. Lizette thanks for coming in. Lizette this is your first time playing in the Lorena Ochoa Invitantional. How special is it to be here?
Lizette Salas: I feel very excited being here in Guadalajara. I played in this course when I was 15 in the Juniors Americas Cup. Therefore, coming back to this course, where my idol Lorena grew up, is very special. 2 years ago, or last year I wanted to come as a guest and I don’t know why but it didn’t happen. So this year one of my goals was to play well and earn a place in this tournament. It feels very special, my father grew up here when he was 15 so this is a very special place for me.
Q: Lizette you grew up in Mexico and you have a pretty remarkable story with how you got started playing golf. Can you just explain it to everyone a little bit?
Lizette Salas: I think my story doesn’t begin in California where I was born. It starts in Zacatecas where my parents were born and grew up. They arrived to the United States in the 70’s and my dad got a job as a mechanic in a golf course in Azusa California. Since then he wanted one of his children to play golf and I am the little one. So when I turned 7 he took me to his work and I haven’t dropped the clubs since. I fell in love with the sport and I knew I wanted to become a professional golf player.
Q: It has been a very good year for you; you played in the Solheim Cup. How have you felt this transition of getting to the LPGA and having very good performances throughout the past seasons, especially this year? How have you felt?
Lizette Salas: I’ve been feeling very confident, very comfortable in the position in which I’ve been. I made some changes at the end of last year. Coach, caddie, equipment, so this year I have shown who is Lizette Salas and what I can do on the field. And even though I haven’t won a tournament yet I feel it’s there and I am hungry for victory and getting at world number one like every other player. Another one of my goals this year was the Solheim Cup. Being on Tour for 2 years and obtaining so much success makes me feel blessed. And doing it with my parents support is something very special.
Q: Hi lizette, welcome. You’re 23 right? (A: 24 I wish i was 23). A few years ago Lorena retired. What did she represent for you as a Mexican celebrity, Mexican latina, Was it a lot? A little? How did you see her when you were a junior? Was she an influence in some parts of your career?
Lizette Salas: She meant a lot, not just for me but for all the Latina kids and others over the world. She showed something that might never be done again. She is still a hero for the world of golf, for Mexico and the way she did it (with a smile and grace) was very special. I went to see her when I was a kid when she came to the Kraft Nabisco Championship and she gave me an autograph. We framed it and put it in my room. She’s still my idol and she taught me that we must give back to our community. So I started my junior program in Azusa California. She has been something truly great for the game of golf.
Q: Family wise, I would imagine that every time you go to a tournament you speak with your parents or look for that special support. What do they tell you when you come to play here in this tournament?
Lizette Salas: The usual thing: to give everything I have, to enjoy it, to smile and thank all the people that are walking with you. That’s the most important thing. Never say no to the kids. Yesterday I played with them in the Pro-Am and seeing them smile just because they’re playing with you is something you can describe with words. And to do it here in Mexico, where my parent’s story started is something very special.
Q: Tell us about the difficulty of this course for you, what’s the most complicated thing, what is demanding for you technically speaking?
Lizette Salas: For all of us the greens are going to be tough. They’re small and quick. Today we say that the wind was blowing so it’s going to be a little bit harder. But overall the field is in perfect conditions. It is marvelous and it’s going to be a “birdie test”. The best will win and the one with the most birdies will triumph on Sunday.
Q: If you could choose between the Solheim Cup and everything that it represents being the most important competition by teams, or this tournament for all the history and culture that you’ve inherited from Mexico, which one would you pick?
Lizette Salas: They’re two very different events. Solheim is an event by teams; it’s a competition you try to qualify to by working for two years. I don’t know, they both have something very special for me. But being Mexican-American and this being the home of Lorena Ochoa… I can´t decide, it’s too hard, it’s a tie. Really, I can’t pick one.