ISPS Handa Australian Women's Open First-Round Notes & Interviews

ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
Royal Canberra Golf Club
Yarralumla, Australia
First-round Notes and Interviews
February 14, 2012


Lydia Ko, -10, Rolex Rankings No. 30
Mariajo Uribe, -9, Rolex Rankings No. 125
Mi Hyang Lee, -7, Rolex Rankings No. 399
Yani Tseng, -5, Rolex Rankings No. 1

Featured teen
Back in the swing of things
Happy anniversary
Pumping iron
Quote of the Day
Of Note…
Tweet of the Day

Fifteen-year old amateur Lydia Ko (@lko424) continued to amaze golf fans after her first-round 10-under 63 at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open (@auswomensopen).
Ko, who is currently ranked No. 30 in the Rolex Rankings, carded 11 birdies, three bogeys and an eagle on No. 15 to take a one-shot lead over Colombia native and fourth-year LPGA Tour member Mariajo Uribe (@MariaJoUribe).

Ko’s 10-under par 63 is the best round in relation to par 73 on the LPGA Tour since 2010 when Ai Miyazato posted the same score in the first round of the Tres Marias Championship.

Uribe turned in a bogey-free card on Thursday and had seven birdies and an eagle on the par 5 6th to open her 2013 season. Rolex Rankings No. 8 Jiyai Shin (@sjy1470) posted a nine-birdie, one bogey round and trails Ko by two and 8-under par. LPGA Tour rookie Ayako Uehara of Japan, second-year member and South Korean Mi Hyang Lee and Canadian Rebecca Lee-Bentham are tied for fourth and sit three shots off the lead at 7-under.

Featured teen: Lydia Ko said she felt some nerves as soon as she saw she would be included in one of the opening-round featured groups this week. And after a bogey on her first hole on the par 4 10th, some might have assumed those nerves would get to the New Zealander throughout the day.

But the teen who seems to have ice in her veins wasn’t fazed and rattled off four-consecutive birdies and an eagle on her next five holes to help her finish atop the leaderboard at 10-under par after 18 holes of play.

“I was in a really good group to start with, I was pretty nervous when I saw the draw that I was playing with two of the big names,” said Ko. “But I mean the weather was beautiful, I think we all enjoyed our time out there.”

Ko had the opportunity to play with world No. 1 Yani Tseng and two-time LPGA Tour winner Michelle Wie, the player she looked up to the most when she picked up the game at a young age. Although Ko outplayed Tseng in the first round, she said she was lucky to have a chance to see her brilliant on-course management.

“Yeah it was pretty inspiring, she was in the fairway bunker, or the trees and gets it out, I said to my caddie Stephen, 'that is why she is number one' (laughs),” said Ko. “Very inspiring stuff.”

Ko, who has expressed her interest in attending college in the United States at some point, has said she’s dreamed of studying at Stanford University. She said she was able to talk to Wie about colleges, someone who could easily give a bias opinion about the Stanford experience.

“Yeah I mean she has always been my favorite player and I've always just said hello and that's about it,” said Ko. “But being able to play with her was very exciting and, and you don't get that many chances to play with the person you look up too.”

Wie was the first person to high-five Ko after she carded her eagle on No. 15.

Ko’s impressive play in professional events at such a young age has made even the younger players on Tour feel a bit dated. Tseng said she shared a laugh with Wie about Ko’s age.

“Michelle told me that Lydia told her that she watched Michelle play when she grew up, and Michelle is like ‘I'm not that old!’ (laughs). So it is kind of very funny,” said Tseng.

Ko may be the hottest women’s player in the world at the moment and is playing for her fourth-career professional win and second in as many weeks. She won the New Zealand Women’s Open last week in her home country.

Back in the swing of things: Mariajo Uribe entered her fourth year on the LPGA Tour with a carefree attitude and hunger to compete on the Golf’s Global Tour. It proved to be a worthy approach after she took an entire month off of playing in the off-season.

“I went out with no expectations I just wanted to get back in the competition because we haven't played for so long,” said Uribe. “But things started going well since the beginning I did two birdies on the first three holes, and I just stayed patient and things happened.”

Uribe looked anything but rusty in her first round of the season, even after fitting in an eight-day vacation to Cancun, Mexico with her boyfriend and his family.

“I have been there before, but this is the first time now I'm older, since I was nine or ten,” said Uribe. “It was awesome, we just swam with dolphins and scuba-dived. I love scuba diving. Just 8-days. I was going to bring my clubs but decided no golf, just holiday.”

Uribe, a former U.S. Amateur Champion, played in the Aussie Open two years ago in 2011 before it was an official LPGA event, and finished T12 alongside first-round leader Lydia Ko. Uribe missed out on playing last season after failing to earn a spot at qualifying. The 22-year old is playing for her first official win, having won the unofficial HSBC Brasil Cup in 2011.

“My ball-striking is not 100% right now,” said Uribe. “I wasn't really aggressive today, I was just putting really well. So I will just keep working on getting consistency on my irons and keep doing well.”

Happy anniversary! While Valentine’s Day stands as a day for many anniversaries, Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng gets to celebrate an impressive milestone in her career on the holiday. February 14th marks the two-year stint Tseng has been the top-ranked player in the world. The Taiwan native passed Jiyai Shin for the top spot on a Monday in 2011 and later that week went on to win the season-opening Honda LPGA Thailand.

During the 105-week span, Tseng made 42 out of 46 cuts, had 25 top-10 finishes, recorded nine victories and earned $4,351,872.

Pumping iron: Second-year LPGA Tour member Mi Hyang Lee stands a modest 5’2” and doesn’t fit the bill physically of long driver off the tee. But the South Korean knew coming into the 2013 season that she would need to gain some yards in her drives to compete on Tour this year. Lee said some off season strength training paid off and helped her to a strong start, a 7-under 66 in Thursday’s first round.

“I have a trainer for the first time lifting weights,” said Lee. Asked if she enjoys the new regime she said she likes the results, but the process is a challenging one. “It's hard, and tiring, but very good.”

Lee has been working with South Carolina-based trainer Ken Taylor since December and said the hardest comes when Taylor loads on the weight for short reps.

Lee earned Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year honors last season on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental tour, and averaged 248.5 yards last year. That would have ranked her 74th in average driving distance on the LPGA in 2012. She’s looking forward to the extra distance this year as well as achieving some of the goals she’s set out for her second year on Tour.

“I want the top 50 (on the money list),” said Lee. “So I want to play in the Korean event (KEB HanaBank Championship). I want to also play the Kraft Nabisco Championship.”

Quote of the Day: Yani Tseng on playing with fifteen-year old amateur and first-round leader Lydia Ko.

“You can tell that she is very relaxed, I don't think she even knew that after 13 holes she has only made one par. Me and Michelle were going “She has only made one par! And she could shot 59 today, we are going to see history today!” but she made bogie on number 8 but was still a good day for her.”

Of Note…Defending champion Jessica Korda (@JessicaKorda) chipped in from the fringe to eagle her final hole on the par 5 18th to finish with a 3-under 70…Rolex Rankings No. 19 Angela Stanford (@Angela_Stanford) had the best first-round out of the American contingent, carding a 5-under 68 and currently sits T7…Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis (@Stacy_Lewis) had an up-and-down day but is within striking distance with three rounds to play. Lewis carded five birdies, three bogeys and an eagle to finish with a 4-under 69 and is currently T13

Tweet of the Day: 2013 LPGA Tour rookie Austin Ernst giving her opinion on where Lydia Ko should think about going to school. Ernst shot 4-under 69 in the first round.

“Hey @Lko424 I think if you go to school then you should choose #ballsoharduniversity with rounds like today you could get a masters!!” --@AustinErnst92

LYDIA KO, Rolex Rankings No. 30

Q What a day, every part of your golf game was on?
LYDIA KO: I was in a really good group to start with, I was pretty nervous when I saw the draw that I was playing with two of the big names, but I mean the weather was beautiful, I think we all enjoyed our time out there.

Q Can you believe the round you were having, it was quite incredible was it at one stage you must've felt like nothing could go wrong?
LYDIA KO: Yeah I mean, I didn't feel that, but at the tenth I thought what is today going to be like, and after a few birdies, I kind of settled in and yeah I felt pretty comfortable.

Q Did you dare to dream a little bit, maybe a 59 at all?
LYDIA KO: Not really because I've played good before and then gone triple par, bogie no, triple, double bogie in the last three rounds before, so I didn't really think of what I was going to shoot, I just took it one shot at a time.

Q What is your career low round?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I shot an 8 under at the NSW Open, but this is my best score since then.

Q You're a really crafty person, but Yani is long hit out there, when you both hit driver, what kind of distance did you make?
LYDIA KO: I was nowhere near where she went, Yani and Michelle are both really long hitters, so today I was trying to think where it was going. I mean it's a tree lined golf course, so I tried to hit it as accurate as I could.

Q Was it fun out there or hard work?
LYDIA KO: Yeah it was fun out there, I mean when you hit a good round it makes it better, but Yani and Michelle, we had a few good conversations so I think that made it more enjoyable.

Q Playing with Yani, did that lift you, knowing you are playing with world number one?
LYDIA KO: Yeah it was pretty inspiring, she was in the fairway bunker, or the trees and gets it out, I said to my caddie Stephen, 'that is why she is number one' (laughs). Very inspiring stuff.

Q Did you learn anything from her today?
LYDIA KO: Well I just looked at my game. And today was a really good round for me, but I know there are many things that I still need to improve and she was pretty much faultless in my eyes.

Q Yani was saying you mentioned that you grew up watching Michelle Wie, was it a bit surreal playing with her?
LYDIA KO: Yeah I mean she has always been my favorite player and I've always just said hello and that's about it, but being able to play with her was very exciting and, and you don't get that many chances to play with the person you look up too.

Q Lydia can you please tell me a little bit about how you first started playing golf, how old you were?
LYDIA KO: I started when I was about five-and-a-half. Neither of my parents play golf, but my aunt she use to be quite a golf-a-holic so she gave me a couple of clubs and it started there.

Q Could you give us an indication on your clubs today?
LYDIA KO: My irons really only go up to my 6-iron so i've got three hybrids and two woods and then a driver. So it's not a short course out there, it makes it easier because it is getting drier and there is more roll. That is why I'm having a couple more hybrids, and because I'm playing an LPGA event.

Q On the 9th your last hole, what did you hit there?
LYDIA KO: I hit a 6-iron from 150m. I couldn't see it on the green. I was going to hit a hybrid, because I hit it over the green on the 8th so I thought I'd hit a 6-iron and see where it goes. I didn't see it til the crowd went 'ohhhh' (laughs) you know when it's really close.

Q What do you think you could learn from Michelle Wie, about moving forward?
LYDIA KO: I think she is a great player, you know, her career, doing college and playing on tour, is something I am thinking of as well. There is lots of options and seeing her career path has been pretty amazing.

Q Are you still considering a college and career?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, there are so many options. I mean I could enroll and do it later after a year of going pro, or doing it the same time, but you know, I definitely will be wanting to go to college.

Q How many offers have you gotten from American Colleges at the moment?
LYDIA KO: I'm not allowed to talk to college coaches at the moment. I can talk to them next year.

Q Has this set you up for the next round do you think?
LYDIA KO: It could go two ways, I could not have a great round tomorrow, or I could just follow up with a good round, so I mean it's quite hard to beat my round today, so hopefully I can stay consistent.

Q Could you please tell us a bit more about the eagle hole?
LYDIA KO: I hit my driver a little to the right more then I expected to but still on the fairway, then I hit a hybrid to a lay-up position and then I hit my pitching wedge.

Q Over the last 12 months you've had the advantage of having a trust fund set up to support your endeavors around the world, how much has that assisted you and what you've been able to do?
LYDIA KO: I guess, with the rules of amateur status and there are pretty strict rules and huge boundaries so I mean, we are trying to do it as easy as possible, but keeping in line and why NZ Golf has been really helpful, there has been a couple of people helping out – Sarah - I mean it gets me to places, hopefully this year I will have a few more opportunities to get over to the states, it's pretty expensive. From New Zealand, apart from Australia it takes over ten hours to get anywhere.

Q When was the last time you opened a school book?
LYDIA KO: Ah, last year (laughs) I haven't been to school yet.

Q What year are you heading into now?
LYDIA KO: I'm heading into year 12, but we go to year 13.

Q When will you head back to open a book?
LYDIA KO: Well I've got the Thailand Open next week and then the New Zealand LPGA Championship after that I will start opening books.

Q You're off in the afternoon tomorrow, how will you spend the rest of the day?
LYDIA KO: I'll be doing some practice after this, and then hopefully some cool time and relax time. I played a tournament last week it is easier to get tired at the end of the week so relaxing and having some chill time is pretty important.

Q When you go to the practice area, is there something you're going to work on now or just general stuff?
LYDIA KO: I'm just going to do pretty much a little bit of everything. I mean even if it was good today, you never know what is going to happen tomorrow because it's a new day.

Q – Did you notice the course dry out much from today and the day before?
LYDIA KO: Yeah I think so, I can see the greens are getting much faster as well.

MARIJO URIBE, Rolex Rankings No. 125

Q: Take me through the day, awesome round.
MARIOJO URIBE: I went out with no expectations I just wanted to get back in the competition because we haven't played for so long. But things started going well since the beginning I did two birdies on the first three holes, and I just stayed patient and things happened.

Q You had an eagle?
MARIOJO URIBE: Yes, on the 6th. I hit a good hybrid and I make a good putt. It was just one of those days that everything happened and you get good breaks.

Q. How long was the putt for eagle?
MARIOJO URIBE: around fifteen feet. A long one.

Q. How was your hybrid in?
MARIOJO URIBE:I think I had 220 to the pin, but I hit a 19 degrees and I hit it just on the front.

Q. How was your off-season, what was your plan coming into this year anything different?
MARIOJO URIBE: I took a month off, went to Cancun and stayed home and just enjoyed the time, and then I started practicing again around Christmas. And then I worked a lot with my physical trainer coach, this year’s 30 tournaments, you have to be and stay very fit in your game, and so I just worked on that.

Q. Who did you go to Cancun with?
MARIOJO URIBE: My boyfriend and his family. I have been there before, but this is the first time now I'm older, since I was nine or ten. It was awesome, we just swam with dolphins and scuba-dived, just 8-days. No golf just holiday.

Q. Was it hard to come back to golf from that?
MARIOJO URIBE: No, it was fine. When you take a month you feel like you take too much.

Q. Had to shake some dust off?
MARIOJO URIBE: It was motivating, because you haven't played in so long, so you want to practice all the time.

Q. Did you play here last year?
MARIOJO URIBE: No I played the qualifier, and didn't make it. I was in Australia to hang out, but not play.

Q. How does it feel to have your Australian Debut?
MARIOJO URIBE: I played here two years ago before it was an LPGA event, I made a top ten. I love Australia.

Q. What are you planning for the rest of the weekend, anything you want to change or improve?
MARIOJO URIBE: No, but my ball-striking I am not 100% right now. I wasn't really aggressive today, I was just putting really well. So I will just keep working on getting consistency on my irons and keep doing well.

Q. When was the last time you were in this position after the first round?
MARIOJO URIBE: Um a long-time ago. I'm not prone to best and great first rounds. But I like it, it's great.


MI HYANG LEE, Rolex Rankings No. 399

Q: So a lot of birdies?
MI HYANG LEE: Yes, nine birdies.

Q Where do you think you played the best today?
MI HYANG LEE: Today my drive distance is long and I had a birdie on the 4th hole, par 5, so the second shot hit the green, it was too easy.

Q. Did you work on that in the off season, your driving distance?
MI HYANG LEE: Ah, Yes. I have a trainer for the first time lifting weights.

Q. Do you like it?
MI HYANG LEE: It's hard, and tiring, but very good.

Q. When did you get the trainer?
MI HYANG LEE: This past December, not too long.

Q. What is his name?
MI HYANG LEE: Ken Taylor. Based out of South Carolina where I am living now.

Q. What is the worst thing he makes you do?
MI HYANG LEE: Roof-top (bench-press) that is too heavy.

Q. Do you feel strong?
MI HYANG LEE: Yes, very.

Q. What are looking forward to coming into the season this being your first LPGA event?
MI HYANG LEE: I want the top 50. So I want to play the Korean tournaments. I want to also play the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Q. Any other goals for this year?
MI HYANG LEE: Just top 50.

Q. What do you want to change for tomorrow?
MI HYANG LEE: Keep the same, it's good conditions. The course is really good, and good conditions for the greens.


YANI TSENG, Rolex Rankings No. 1

MODERATOR: A really great round out there today, do you feel your game is in good shape?
YANI TSENG: I mean I feel I played very solid, I didn't putt as good, but I'm pretty happy I shot 5 under for first round of the year. It's a good start. But I'm a little disappointed on my 18th which was hole 9 I made a bogie for the last hole which was a little disappointing. But 5 under is still a good day, a very solid round, but to Lydia 5 under is nothing (laughs) I mean it was very fun to watch her play golf today.
I mean she still looks fifteen, I don't know how she hit the ball that well, I didn't know, I wasn't even that close to her when I was fifteen.

It is very interesting to see her play, and I really enjoyed playing with her today too. I think she pushed me up a little bit too, at first she made birdie and I mean, I don't want to lose, I want to make birdie too, trying to keep to her, but at 9 she was on fire and I dropped back, she was on fire. But it was fun today, it pushed me to get harder and to play better and better.

Q. Is this the first time you have set eyes on her on the course?
YANI TSENG: I've seen her on T.V. Not really in person, today was my first time with her, and she hits the ball really well and her putting was incredible because I mean this green was really that easy to read.

But for her, I mean she is taking care of this green, it is kind of easy for her to read this green every putt, even when she missed she almost made it. Every putt. So for me I was struggling a little bit to read it and then the pace.

Q- Can you tell us what you said to her when you walked off?
YANI TSENG: I said great job today, it was fun to watch you play golf. We were talking out on the golf course, where she wants to go to college, what she thinks to play as an amateur in a professional tournament and is it very different and she was like “mmm pretty similar” (laughs) and I said “Ok, that's very different from me” (laughs).

You can tell that she is very relaxed, I don't think she even knows that after 13 holes she has only made one par. Me and Michelle were going “She has only made one par! And she could shot 59 today, we are going to see history today!” but she made bogie on number 8 but was still a good day for her.

Q- Forgive the Question, but did you feel like the amateur out there and her the professional?
YANI TSENG: Ah No, I don't feel anything, I mean she is still a child, she still look fifteen but the way she playing golf, she looks like a pro, so I mean I treat her like a pro, but I treat her like a child too. I feel I'm getting old. Me and Michelle, because Michelle tell me that Lydia told her that she watched Michelle play when she grow up, and Michelle is “I'm not that old!” (laughs) so it is kind of very funny.

Q – In Taiwan, how is golf, is it getting bigger?
YANI TSENG: It is getting so much better now, golf is very strong the past ten years and fifteen years, we kind of had a little gap, but now the last five years it is starting to get stronger and stronger with players on the tour, hopefully in the future we can bring more Taiwanese players on the tour on the European Tour, the LPGA Tour and to play at a bigger stage.

Q – What would you say are the top four countries for women's golf?
YANI TSENG: Korea, Japan, US and Australia I think is very strong too. I always came here to play, when I was amateur I played at the Royal Pines it was great it gave me, they gave a lot of amateur opportunity to play as a professional tournament that means a lot to me as an amateur.

Q – What were you doing golf wise when you were 15?
YANI TSENG: I remember when I was fifteen I beat Michelle Wie (laughs) but that is all I remember I know I wasn't playing this well as her. I probably wasn't even close to a 10 under, she could've shot a 12 or 13 under today. So I mean it's incredible to see so many younger generation come up to play and lots of younger player form Asia, they only fifteen, sixteen seventeen, it’s incredible.

Topics: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, Ko, Lydia, Uribe, Mariajo, Tseng, Yani, Lee, Mi Hyang, Notes and Interviews [+]

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