Honda LPGA Thailand Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews

Untitled Document

Honda LPGA Thailand 2013
Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course
Chonburi, Thailand
Pre-tournament notes and interviews
February 20, 2013

 

Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1 and defending champion
Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Pornanong Phatlum, Rolex Rankings No. 71 and Thailand native

The LPGA Tour travels to Chonburi, Thailand this week for the second event of the season at the Honda LPGA Thailand 2013. Yani Tseng (@YaniTseng) returns to Siam Country Club’s Old Course looking for a three-peat as the 2011 and 2012 champion. Last year, she successfully defended her title at the Honda LPGA Thailand by nearly holing out from a 104-yard approach shot on the par-5 18th and sank the tap-in birdie putt to capture a one-shot victory over the 2010 champion of this event, Ai Miyazato. Tseng went on to win two more titles in the next four events, and enters this week after finishing runner-up at the season-opener in Australia last week.

Tseng will face a tough task in repeating as the top 30 players from 2011 LPGA Official Money List are slated to be in the field this year, including Ai Miyazato, Jiyai Shin (@sjy1470) and Stacy Lewis (@Stacy_Lewis) who all finished in the top 10 in Thailand last year. Webb went on to record her 37th and 38th LPGA career victories in the two weeks following the 2011 Honda LPGA Thailand with back-to-back wins at the HSBC Women’s Championship and RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup

Three-peat?? Yani Tseng has the opportunity to join an elite group this week if she can capture her third straight victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand. Only nine players in LPGA history have won a tournament in at least consecutive seasons. So this week, Tseng will try to see if she can add her name to that list.

“Hopefully I can be the 10th,” Tseng said with a laugh. “I will try my best because I love this course. It’s pretty good for a long hitter on this golf course. You can go for the par 5s and on some of the shallow greens you can stop the ball on the green. I kind of like this golf course. But this year it’s playing much tougher than the last few years because the rough was much longer.”

Tseng’s win in Thailand last year kicked off a hot stretch for the No. 1 player in the Rolex Rankings in which she won three of four events on the LPGA schedule. She would then hit a rough patch in the middle of the 2012 season, but Tseng is optimistic about how this year will go for her. She already got off to a good start with a runner-up finish at the season-opening ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open last week.

“I think last week I’m very happy about,” Tseng said. “I finished strong, shooting 7-under on Sunday. I play pretty consistently for four days and I just need the putts to drop more. I feel good on my swing because I’ve been working so hard on my swing with my coach Gary Gilrit in Orlando. So I’m very happy to see my swing be more consistently.”

But while she’s feeling pretty good about her game, Tseng isn’t focusing too much on trying to pick up here third straight win here in Thailand. Even if it means joining a prestigious group of players such as Annika Sorenstam, Laura Davies, Lorena Ochoa and Karrie Webb, who have won an LPGA event in an least three consecutive seasons

“I don’t want to think about it that much,” Tseng said. “I want to play one shot at a time and stay cool and smile on the golf course. I want to make fans who come to support us enjoy it so it doesn’t matter how I play, I just want to enjoy it.”

 

Thai tradition: Getting into the Thai spirit yesterday at the Dusit Thani Hotel Pattaya were some of the world’s leading golfers who are competing in this week’s Honda LPGA Thailand 2013 tournament.

 

Dressed for the occasion in traditional Thai costumes were Sandra Gal (@TheSandraGal), Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer) and Michelle Wie (@themichellewie). The four players were joined by Rolex Rankings No. 1 and defending champion Yani Tseng, who came fresh from the golf course for the shoot.


 

American pride: Stacy Lewis (@Stacy_Lewis) has held the position as the top-ranked American in women’s golf since last June but the reigning Rolex Player of the Year winner admits that it still takes her back at times when she’s reminded of that fact.

 

“I come to events like this and I realize that I am the top ranked American and it’s a good spot to be in,” Lewis said. “But I would definitely like more American players playing well with me.”

“I think you ask any player up here and they’ll tell you that we need American players to play well being a U.S. based Tour,” she added. “It’s a Solheim Cup year and I think everybody is going to start getting on their games to kind of carry that flag. Right now it’s me but hopefully at the end of this year there are a couple more people up here.”

Back at it! While Tseng and Lewis both kicked off their 2013 seasons last week in Australia, the Honda LPGA Thailand marks the season debuts for both Rolex Rankings No. 2 Na Yeon Choi (@nychoi87) and No. 4 Inbee Park.

 

Choi won the final event of the 2012 LPGA season at the CME Group Titleholders in Naples, Fla. which included a $500,000 winner’s paycheck. She took home the two largest first-place prize checks during the year, having also won her first major title at the U.S. Women’s Open. Choi put that money to good use over the offseason, purchasing a new home in Orlando, Fla. and transitioning to a new home golf course at Isleworth. Choi also hired a new trainer to work with her on fitness after feeling worn down at the end of last season.

“One of my goals this year is that I want to play less than last year,” Choi said. “I thought I played too many tournaments last year. That’s why the last tournament I played [Swinging Skirts in Taiwan] I got pretty tired.  I think 25-27 tournaments a year is the maximum that I can play. And also this last year during winter time, I hired a new trainer. We are trying to work out hard the last two months and I feel much stronger. Even my caddie realized that I am hitting it a little further now.”

Park is coming off a breakout year in which she won the Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average) and the 2012 LPGA Official Money List title. She used the offseason to regroup as well.

“The offseason is always short and it was short this one also,” Park said. “I spent some time with family back in Korea for about a month and did some training. Then came back to America to work on my short game and golf skills. It was a little chilly back in California. At least more than usual. But I had a lot of fun this offseason and glad to be back out here.”

Friendly rivalry? Last year when Yani Tseng headed to Thailand for her second event of the 2012 LPGA season, she held a nearly seven point advantage over Rolex Rankings No. 2 Suzann Pettersen (@suzannpettersen). Since then, Tseng’s lead in that top spot has shrunk dramatically. Entering this week’s Honda LPGA Thailand, Tseng leads by just an average of 1.29 points over current No. 2 Na Yeon Choi. So with all four of the world’s top players on stage for Wednesday’s Honda LPGA Thailand press conference, Tseng was asked about seeing the rest of the Tour inching ever so much closer to her.

“They push me very hard,” Tseng said. “I work very hard too so for me, I kind of go through some bad and a little tough spots last year. Last year was very challenging and a very growing up year for me. When I look back now, I feel really happy that I’m still No. 1. Now I feel world No. 1 doesn’t mean as much to me as when I was chasing world No. 1. I think now the most important thing for me is to enjoy the golf more.”

Tseng bolstered her lead slightly with her runner-up finish in Australia last week, where Choi was not in the field as she’ll make her 2013 LPGA season debut this week. Tseng has held the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings for 106 consecutive weeks and the rest of the Tour has worked to catch up with her.

“I think you look at the year that Yani had in 2011 and how good she played and how she made the rest of us work hard,” Lewis said. “She said she didn’t play that well last year and she won three times. But I think Yani made everybody work harder. I think that’s good for the Tour and it’s good for the rest of the Tour that the race is a little closer. I know that Yani would like a bigger lead but I think it’s great for the Tour that we have some good competition and it’s players from all over the world. It’s fun to be in that race and it’s fun to be one of the players to be chasing her. We are all working hard and I know she’s working doubly hard so it’s going to be tough to catch her.”

Quotable: “My elbow is getting better but my shoulder is still a little bit tight from hitting the tree at CME. But I took six weeks off in the offseason and that helps a lot. I do a lot of working out and some movement to make sure my body is doing good. I feel pretty good right now, as long as this weather is perfect. If it gets cold then my shoulder probably will get worse. I think this is pretty nice for me so I feel good about this week.” – Tseng on how she’s feeling after battling a few injuries last year.

Funny moment of the day: When talking about her offseason during Wednesday’s press conference, Na Yeon Choi said that she worked to improve her game by playing a few matches against her good friend, Yani Tseng. However, it didn’t exactly go Choi’s way.

“She got my money,” Choi said. “We played a couple matches and she won. So I would like to play again…laug.”

Five Things You Didn’t Know About….Jodi Ewart Shadoff

    1. Jodi is a newlywed. She married husband Adam Shadoff on January 19, 2013. Shadoff is a sports anchor at SNN6-TV in Sarasota, Fla.
    2. She spent her honeymoon in South Africa where she and her husband did a number of adventurous things including going shark diving in a cage to view Great White Sharks in the area of South Africa known as “Shark Alley.”
    3. Before heading to the University of New Mexico, the native of North Yorkshire, England was close-minded when it came to new food. Now she counts New Mexican food as some of her favorite.
    4. Her first job was waitressing at her home golf club in England.
    5. She and her husband have two dogs, a miniature daschund and a Chihuahua.



Of Note...Tseng crossed the $9 million mark in career earnings on Sunday, but it wasn’t quite enough to etch her name into the records books again. The 24-year-old came one event shy of tying Lorena Ochoa’s record for fastest player to reach $9 million in career earnings on Sunday with a runner-up finish at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open…Pornanong Phatlum returns to Thailand this week coming off a strong season on the LPGA Tour last year when she finished 55th on the money list and won the unofficial HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup. “Last year I won a tournament in Brazil. So far it was a biggest win of my career. I felt very happy that I make Thai people proud.”…Phatlum isn’t the only Thai native in the field this week. Among the others is LPGA Tour rookie Moriya Jutanugarn, who along with her sister Ariya, is playing as a sponsor’s exemption this week.

 

Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Pornanong Phatlum, Rolex Rankings No. 71 and Thailand native

 

MODERATOR: Welcome everyone to the 2013 Honda LPGA Thailand. We are so excited to have a great group of LPGA players joining us here this afternoon. Let me introduce them all to you. Beginning to my immediate right we have Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng, No. 3 Stacy Lewis, No. 2 Na Yeon Choi, No. 4 Inbee Park and someone who is at home here this week, Pornanong Phatlum. Thanks so much for being here today ladies and first up, I’d like some of you to give me some thoughts on being back here in Thailand this week.

STACY LEWIS: I’m excited to be back. This is my fourth year here so I’m used to the hot weather here. I grew up in Texas in the States so this is like coming home for me. I like this golf course and it’s in great shape this year. I think the greens are even faster than they’ve been in years past. It’s going to be a good challenge.

NA YEON CHOI: This is my fifth or sixth time being in Thailand. I like Thai food and I know this course very well. A lot of players have had the foot massages this week. I think it’s a great spot to come here.

INBEE PARK: I’m really excited to come to Thailand also. Especially being my first tournament  of the year. Coming ot Asia and playing the tournaments is always fun for me and always special to me. So I‘m looking forward to this week.

PORNANONG PHATLUM: I’m very excited and very happy to be back playing at home this week in Thailand. I love to come back and play here.

MODERATOR: Thanks, ladies. I’m now going to ask you each a couple questions before I open it up to the group. First off, Inbee and Na Yeon this week marks the first event of the season for both of you as you didn’t play in Australia last week. What were you up to this offseason? And how excited are you to kick off your 2013 seasons this week?

NA YEON CHOI: I moved into a new house in Orlando and my family came there and to help move all the stuff. I practiced every day at Isleworth. They have a great facility. I tried to focus on the short game at Isleworth. I tried to invest in myself. A better golf course and I realized my old home was too far away so that’s why I moved closer. I played with Yani. She got my money. We played a couple matches and she won. So next time I would like to play again.

INBEE PARK: The offseason is always short and it was short this one also. I spent some time with family back in Korea for about a month and did some training. Then came back to America to work on my short game and golf skills. It was a little chilly back in California. I had a lot of fun and glad to be back out here.

MODERATOR: Now you two, Stacy and Yani, have already had a little tune up as you got your seasons underway in Australia last week. What did you notice about your games last week with both of you finishing in the top 20 – Yani finishing runner-up and Stacy finishing T15?

STACY LEWIS: I would say for me that I didn’t realize at the time but I made a lot of birdies last week. Which is always good because you never really know how your short game is going to come back. This is something that’s been going both directions, something I’ve been working on the last couple days, but I was just happy to be making putts and making birdies because that’s usually the hardest part. I feel pretty good. It was nice to have to make some putts and have to make some 3-5 footers. Just kind of get back into your routine again.

YANI TSENG: I think last week I’m very happy about. I finished strong, shooting 7-under on Sunday. I always play pretty consistently for four days and I just need the putts to drop more. I feel good on my swing because I’ve been working so hard on my swing with my coach Gary Gilrit in Orlando. So I’m very happy to see my swing be more consistently.

MODERATOR: Yani, you have an interesting challenge here this week as you are trying to become a three-peat winner at this event. Not many players in LPGA history can say that they’ve won an event in at least three consecutive years. There are only nine players that have ever done that. What would it mean to you to join that group?

YANI TSENG: Hopefully I can be the 10th! I will try my best because I love this course. It’s pretty good for a long hitter on this golf course. You can go for the par 5s on some of the shallow greens you can stop the ball on the green. I kind of like this golf course. But this year it’s playing much tougher than the last few years because the rough was much longer. I don’t’ want to think that much. I want to play one shot at a time and stay cool and smile on the golf course. I want to make fans who come to support us enjoy it so it doesn’t matter how I play, I just want to enjoy it.

MODERATOR: Pornanong, you were talking about what it means for you to come home and play in front of your fellow countrymen. Last year was a special year for you as you won the LPGA’s unofficial event down in Brazil. What has that victory done for you?

PORNANONG PHATLUM: :  Last year I won a tournament in Brazil. So far it was a biggest win of my career. I felt very happy that I make Thai people proud.

MODERATOR: We have the top four ranked players in the world sitting on this stage right now. Yani, your lead in the top spot was pretty significant when we came here last year. It’s shrunk a little bit over that time and you have these three ladies chasing right behind you. You are good friends with all of them so what is it like to have that competition for No. 1?

YANI TSENG: They push me very hard. I work very hard too so for me, I kind of go through some bad and a little tough spots last year. Last year was very challenging and a very growing up year for me. When I look back now, I feel really happy that I’m still No. 1. Now I feel world No. 1 doesn’t mean as much to me as when I was chasing world No. 1. I think now the most important thing for me is to enjoy the golf more. Try not to think about results all the time because last year, I told myself I don’t’ want to lose instead of I want something. So this year I just want to forget about that. I want to do the best I can do and really forget about world No. 1 and just smile on the course. You always learn from other players and they really are pushing me to be a better player.

MODERATOR: And for you ladies, what does it mean to you that you’ve been able to shrink that gap between yourselves and Yani?

STACY LEWIS: I think you look at the year that Yani had in 2011 and how good she played and how she made the rest of us work hard. She said she didn’t play that well last year and she won three times. But I think Yani made everybody work harder. I think that’s good for the Tour and it’s good for the rest of the Tour that the race is a little closer. I know that Yani would like a bigger lead but I think it’s great for the Tour that we have some good competition and it’s players from all over the world. It’s fun to be in that race and it’s fun to be one of the players to be chasing her. We are all working hard and I know she’s working doubly hard so it’s going to be tough to catch her.

NA YEON CHOI: One of my goals is to be No. 1 in the world, not chasing Yani. We are good friends and good rivals. We motivate each other. When she won so much, I got something and I practiced hard and tried to win the next year. We are good friends and rivals but first of all we are friends off the golf course. And I think good rivals make you work hard and practice hard to make results.

INBEE PARK: I definitely agree with Na Yeon and Stacy that Yani gave us a lot of good inspiration. She really made us work hard and it made it interesting for the Tour and for everybody out there watching the Tour.

Q. Yani, how is the body? You had so many issues last year. How are your injuries feeling now?

YANI TSENG: My elbow is getting better but my shoulder is still a little bit tight from hitting the tree at CME. But I took six weeks off in the offseason and that helps a lot. I do a lot of working out and some movement to make sure my body is doing good. I feel pretty good right now, as long as this weather is perfect. If it gets cold then my shoulder probably will get worse. I think this is pretty nice for me so I feel good about this week.

Q. Does winning here before give you and other players who’ve won here like Ai Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen a little advantage over the rest of the field knowing what it takes to win?

YANI TSENG: Every year you come back you always feel a little bit different. Like last year when I came back, I don’t’ think I’m going to win. I just think I’m going to play at a good golf course and challenge yourself and then after three days you’re leading. And you wasn’t thinking about whether you want to win or you want to play one shot at a time. After 18 holes, you don’t’ think about how many birdies you made. But I think I just want to keep that movement – play the one shot at a time and really don’t think about it. Last year I shot 1-over the first day and I think I was trying too hard. That 1-over actually made me release a little bit and so after the three rounds I played perfect. I think this week I feel good but I think all of the players feel good at the beginning of the year. It’s very exciting.  I think last week helped me out too giving me more confidence on the course and not thinking about the results.

Q. Stacy, last year you fought really hard at the end of year to win Player of the Year. Looking at the International flow of the LPGA Tour, which is a U.S. based Tour, how important is it to you to represent the U.S. in that top 10? How important is it for you to be the U.S. player at the top as far as the Tour is concerned?

STACY LEWIS: I mean it’s huge. I think you ask any player up here and they’ll tell you that we need American players to play well being a U.S. based Tour. I come to events like this and I realize that I am the top ranked American and it’s a good spot to be in. But I would definitely like more American players playing well with me. It’s a Solheim Cup year and I think everybody is going to start getting on their games to kind of carry that flag. Right now it’s me but hopefully at the end of this year there are a couple more people up here.

Q. Na Yeon, we saw you win the unofficial event at the end of last year and you looked exhausted at the end of it. You talked about buying a house this offseason. Was it more important to refresh your mind or your body in the offseason?

NA YEON CHOI: It’s both. I was pretty exhausted last year. One of my goals this year is that I want to play less than last year. I thought I played too many tournaments last year. That’s why the last tournament I got pretty tired.  I think 25-27 tournaments a year is the maximum that I can play. And also this last year during winter time, I hired a new trainer. We are trying to work out hard the last two months and I feel much stronger. Even my caddie realized that I am hitting it a little further now.

 

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Honda LPGA Thailand

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