Mizuno Classic Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews Thursday

Mizuno Classic

Mizuno Classic
Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club
Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan
Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews
November 7, 2013

Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Karrie Webb, Rolex Rankings No. 8
Jiyai Shin, Rolex Rankings No. 13
Austin Ernst, Rolex Rankings No. 190



Nostalgia set in for Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis when she arrived at the Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club, the site of her fourth and final victory of the 2012 season. Overwhelmed with memories from a win that capped off her most successful season as an LPGA Tour pro, Lewis says it feels good to be back at the Mizuno Classic this week.

“This is a tournament that kind of my made year for me last year,” said Lewis, the 2012 Player of the Year. “To come back and see the highlight video and kind of remembering shots and remembering holes, it definitely brings back good memories. Over the years, it’s a course I’ve done well on. So it’s nice coming into that.”

Lewis has carried that momentum into the 2013 season, claiming three victories including her second major championship win and having held the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings for four weeks. Lewis admits she sometimes can’t fathom all that she has done over the past two years.

“You know, I definitely didn’t expect these last two years,” said Lewis. “I kind of knew it was coming but I mean the number of top-10s I’ve had and to be in contention and getting wins, I mean that’s ultimately what I want to do. And that’s what I’ve been able to do. I think that this year has almost been better than last year. I mean, that’s kind of crazy that I could have even topped it. But that’s the goal. Just trying to keep getting better and better.”

Lewis encountered tough competition this season from South Korea’s Inbee Park, who captured six tournament wins including the first three majors, and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, who captured her fourth victory of the year at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. The Texan says she has embraced the competition and enjoys being a part of the most dominating trio on Tour.

“This year has been quite a roller coaster,” said Lewis. “I definitely didn’t expect to get to No. 1 as quickly as I did. And then Inbee kind of went on her roll and then I got a win in there. Then Suzann has kind of been taking over. But it’s been fun. The three of us, we’ve made each other better. We’ve made each other work hard.

“You know, I think the three of us combined, we’ve won over half the tournaments on the Tour. The three of us have definitely made each other better, I can tell you that. I’m sure it will continue into next year as well. What Inbee did in the middle of the year was just unbelievable. I think really opened mine and Suzann’s eyes that, wow this is really possible.”


A lot left to learn…
Jiyai Shin is a five-year veteran on the LPGA Tour who has amassed 11 career victories, 55 top-10 finishes and more than $6 million in career earnings. While Shin may seem like she has Tour life figured out, she admits she’s far from learning everything about the player she wants to be.

“I’m young but there are more young rookie players come up,” said Shin. “When I look at them, they hit it so far and they have good confidence too. Like when I played with Lydia, first I thought she don’t have any experience in big tournaments. But I look at them they don’t need that, they focus just on each hole at a time and each tournament. I’m very impressed with the young people and that’s why I want to learn from them.”

While she wants to take on the mindset of a rookie, Shin says she wants to learn the skills of some of the LPGA’s most seasoned veterans.

“Well, it depends about which I’m learning,” said Shin, when asked. “Definitely when I play with the older players, they have a good skill. It’s different. Sometimes when I play on the course, I always wonder how they make shots from there and there. It looks like they know the courses everywhere. I learn how I’m looking at golf courses from them.”


Watching the game grow…
Seventeen-year veteran Karrie Webb was a part of the LPGA Tour before there were many international events on the tournament schedule. But over the years, she’s seen it grow into Golf’s Global Tour with tournaments played in 13 different countries. She says the Asia swing is something she looks forward to every season.

“It’s cool to see the way golf grows in different countries,” said Webb, the 2006 champion of the Mizuno Classic. “I think 17 years ago if you said we would be traveling as much as we are right now, I’m not sure I would have looked forward to that. But once you make those long trips over to Asia, I do enjoy the time there.

“Golf is growing rapidly in those countries and they really enjoy coming to see us play. They only get to watch us on TV most of the time so they get excited when we are there in person. The events are big and play for big money. It all adds up to a good experience.”


When in Japan… The Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club is nestled just off shore of the one of Japan’s most scenic landmarks, the Ago Bay. Known for its pearl cultivation, players had the opportunity to take a boat trip and witness one of Japan’s most historic occasions.

During the excursion, two elderly Japanese women, who can hold their breath for close to five minutes, dive to the bottom of the bay to fetch a handful of oysters filled with genuine pearls. A pearl was given to each passenger.

LPGA Tour rookie Austin Ernst says the pearl diving experience and other sightseeing she was able to do in each of the three stops she made during the five-week Asia swing, is one of the highlights of her first year on Tour. 

“Just really cool to go see the different places because you know you’re not in Asia every day,” said Ernst. “Might as well go out and experience the cool sites and embrace the different cultures. Last year, I had never been outside the country, so this Tour has taken me to a lot of really cool places. It’s exciting.”


Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3

Q. I’m joined by Rolex Rankings No. 3 and defending champion Stacy Lewis. Stacy, welcome back to the home of your fourth and final win of the 2012 season. Obviously you’ve had great success, a lot of memories. How are you feeling being back here in Japan?

STACY LEWIS: It’s awesome. This is a tournament that kind of my made year for me last year. To come back and see the highlight video and kind of remembering shots and remembering holes, it definitely brings back good memories. Over the years, it’s a course I’ve done well on. So it’s nice coming into that and it’s an easy week for us and it’s really relaxing.

Q. Last year’s win at the Mizuno Classic really kind of capped off a great season for you and your really carried that momentum in to this year as well. Just talk about these past two years in your career. Did you ever imagine you would accomplish so much?
STACY LEWIS: You know I definitely didn’t expect these last two years. I kind of knew it was coming but I mean the number of top-10s I’ve had and to be in contention and getting wins, I mean that’s ultimately what I want to do. And that’s what I’ve been able to do. I think that this year has almost been better than last year. I mean, that’s kind of crazy that I could have even topped it. But that’s the goal. Just trying to keep getting better and better. At the end of the day, if you keep winning tournaments, you’re doing good things.

Q. Talk about your consistency. That’s an aspect of your game you’ve really taken ownership of for the past two years. You’re leading the Tour again in top-10 finishes with 16. You’ve got to be pretty happy about that.
STACY LEWIS: I mean it’s something that I really pride myself on. I think I’d rather have a couple top-10s than win and miss a cut. I like the consistency, I like seeing my name on the leaderboard all the time. I think that kind of shows a little bit more at times. It shows that you can play poorly and still finish in the top-10. I take more out of that sometimes than a win.

Q. Talk about what this season has been like for you. Do you feel like you set high expectations for yourself coming off a Player of the Year honor? You were met with some high competition from Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen. All three of you really tough competitors. Just talk about the differences between the competition this year and last.
STACY LEWIS: Yea, this year has been quite a roller coaster. I definitely didn’t expect to get to No. 1 as quickly as I did. And then Inbee kind of went on her roll and then I got a win in there. Then Suzann has kind of been taking over. But it’s been fun. The three of us, we’ve made each other better. We’ve made each other work hard. You know, I think the three of us combined we’ve won over half the tournaments on the Tour. The three of us have definitely made each other better, I can tell you that. I’m sure it will continue into next year as well. What Inbee did in the middle of the year was just unbelievable. I think really opened mine and Suzann’s eyes that, wow this is really possible.

Q. You have three more events to go this season. I know you’re coming off a three week break. Do you feel like you needed that break to kind of recharge yourself for the final stretch of the year?
STACY LEWIS: I definitely needed the break. The middle of the season got so busy, so I was looking forward to some time off. More than anything, I like the courses we’re playing here at the end of the year. So, I wanted to be fresh, I wanted to have 100% of my energy instead of just playing a tournament just to play in it. I’m glad I took three weeks off and I’m excited about this week.

Q. Did you do anything exciting?
STACY LEWIS: Well my sister got married, so I had a lot of family time. Just really relaxing at home and do some stuff around my house. It was kind of nice being a normal person and not have to run to the course every day.


Karrie Webb, Rolex Rankings No. 8

Q. You’re the 2006 winner of this event, obviously you know what it takes to win on this course. What is it like coming back year after year and being at this tournament.

KARRIE WEBB: I always enjoy coming to Japan. The Japanese fans have always been really great to me. I’ve had a lot of associations with Japanese companies. I feel very comfortable coming back here and obviously winning in ’06 makes me more comfortable around this golf course. So hopefully that all adds up to me playing well this week, I really enjoy playing over here.

Q. As a 17-year veteran you’ve obviously played golf all over the world. You were a part of the LPGA before it went international and know it’s Golf’s Global Tour. I know a few weeks ago you were saying how much you enjoy the Asia swing.
KARRIE WEBB: I just like playing in different countries and different cultures and eating different food. It’s cool to see the way golf grows in different countries. I think 17 years ago if you said we would be traveling as much as we are right now, I’m not sure I would have looked forward to that. But once you make those long trips over to Asia, I do enjoy the time there.

Golf is growing rapidly in those countries and they really enjoy coming to see us play. They only get to watch us on TV most of the time so they get excited when we are there in person. The events are big and play for big money. It all adds up to a good experience.

Q. You played in the first two events of the Asia swing, had a solid finish in China. Then you took the past few weeks off. Do you feel like you were at a point in the year where you kind of needed that break to get that momentum going for the last few events of the season?
KARRIE WEBB: It was just a nice way to get home to Australia. It’s not too far away from Kuala Lumpur. I only set myself a certain amount of events each year so I know that I can commit 110% to about 22 to 23 events a year. I don’t throw events in there just to be out on the road. I think I get a little bit weary with playing. I’m a lot sharper and I know my body holds up when I play about that many events. I have to pick and choose because you know the Tour is growing back to a full schedule, so I know I will miss an event here or there. You know, it was just a matter of how I wanted to finish the year. I had never been to China before so I knew I wanted to play in that event and I’ve played well in Malaysia before, so I knew I wanted to play those two. I have a lot of Japanese commitments that I have before this event and I just love playing in Japan.

Q. We talked earlier in this season, clearly you’ve lost that competitive drive and you very much so have the desire to keep winning. And you proved that this year with your 39th win this season. Talk about the state of your game and how you continue to manage to keep that confidence in your game.
KARRIE WEBB: I’m really happy with my year so far. I didn’t win anywhere in the world for the first time in my career last year. It was definitely a goal of mine to win this year, which I did on the LPGA and then I also won two other times around the world as well. So to win three times feels great. I think the problem with golf, you can always say things could have been better or improve. I guess that’s what keeps you going with golf. I sort of laugh at myself because I say I would have taken this year over last year in a heartbeat. But this year I’m like, well I could have played better here or take more of an opportunity to have a better result there. I hope to learn from this year and have an even better season next year.


Jiyai Shin, Rolex Rankings No. 13


Q. I think it’s no secret how much you love this tournament. Last year, you were saying you have a lot of fans here and you were really involved with the welcome ceremony that Friday. Just talk about being back in Japan and how much you enjoy this event.
JIYAI SHIN: You know, I’m using Mizuno clubs and they support a lot to me. That’s how I knew how to prepare for this tournament because this is the only LPGA event in Japan. The sponsor, they try to make LPGA players enjoy this tournament.

I’m Korean but when I saw all the players eat Japanese food and get involved with all the parties, I feel very confortable. I always happy to be back here.

Q. You are the 2008 and 2010 champion here, you obviously know what it takes to win the Mizuno Classic. You’ve played the course earlier this week. Do you have a different strategy this time around?
JIYAI SHIN: Pretty much the same. Green is much firmer than it was last year, so maybe hit a higher shot from the fairway. I think that’s the key for this week for this tournament.

I’m good confidence in my hybrid and my fairway woods. I think that will make my confidence because this tournament there’s a few holes uphill so you need a high shot. Some holes you can’t see the hole, just the top of the flag. That’s why I have good clubs in my bag.

Q. It’s been a good year for you. Started your year off with a win in Australia, tallied four more top-10 finishes. You’re coming off a tie for 8th finish in Korea. How do you keep that momentum going through the final stretch of the season?
JIYAI SHIN: I can’t believe the season almost over, just a couple tournaments left. The year is going so fast. When I look back on this year, I really enjoy much more than other years with great opening start. But I think I’m still learning from the Tour and all the other players. I had a good start to the beginning of the season, so now I try to have a good ending.

Q. What do you mean by you’re still learning from the Tour? You’ve been on Tour since 2009, you have 11 tournament wins and more than $6 million in earning. How do you figure you’re still learning?
JIYAI SHIN: Well, so many good players out there. I’m young but there are more young rookie players come up. When I look at them, they hit it so far and they have good confidence too. Like when I played with Lydia, first I thought she don’t have any experience in big tournaments. But I look at them they don’t need that, they focus just on each hole at a time and each tournament. I’m very impressed with the young people and that’s why I want to learn from them.

Q. So you feel like you learn more from the rookies and younger players than you do from the veterans?
JIYAI SHIN: Well, it depends about which I’m learning. Definitely when I play with the older players, they have a good skill. It’s different. Sometimes when I play on the course, I always wonder how they make shots from there and there. It looks like they know the courses everywhere. I learn how I’m looking at golf courses from them.

Q. I know you were the Rookie of the Year in 2009. This year’s race is pretty much neck and neck. I know you won by a landslide, but talk about the emotions that you felt this time of the year coming down to the stretch of the season.
JIYAI SHIN: Rookie of the Year, you only have one chance to get that award. So that’s really, really big honor for life. When I played my rookie year I was on the race with Michelle Wie. So for the first half of the year, sometimes she played better than me and then it was back and forth, up and down the rest of the year. A little bit of stress, but more motivate. I think the race make for playing much more better.

Austin Ernst, Rolex Rankings No. 190

Q. Kind of a fun way to break up the week, getting on a boat and seeing one of the most beautiful landmarks in Japan. Talk about this experience.

AUSTIN ERNST: We got to go cruise the Ago Bay and see the girls that get to dive for pearls and octopus and lobsters and all kinds of stuff. It was really pretty out there. A good experience.

Q. Austin, this is your third Asian event in your rookie year, how exciting is it seeing different cultures and visiting different parts of the world?
AUSTIN ERNST: You know it’s really cool. In China we got to see the Great Wall. Just really cool to go see the different places because you know you’re not in Asia every day. Might as well go out and experience the cool sites and embrace the different cultures. Last year, I had never been outside the country, so this Tour has taken me to a lot of really cool places. It’s exciting.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Mizuno Classic

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