HSBC Women's Champions 2013 Pre-tournament notes and interviews

Photo Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Michele Wie of the USA in action during the Pro Am event prior to the start of the HSBC Women's Champions at the Sentosa Golf Club on February 27, 2013 in Singapore, Singapore.

HSBC Women's Champions 2013
Sentosa Golf Club, The Serapong Course
Singapore
Pre-tournament notes and interviews
February 25 & 27, 2013

Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Shanshan Feng, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Michelle Wie, Rolex Rankings No. 73
Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 7
Ai Miyazato, Rolex Rankings No. 9
Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 13
Angela Stanford, Rolex Rankings No. 19 and defending champion

 

The LPGA Tour makes its way to Singapore this week for the sixth-annual HSBC Women's Champions, where 63 of the world's elite female golfers will compete for a $1.4 million purse, a $210,000 first-place check and the "Champion of Champions" title. Defending champion, Rolex Rankings No. 19 Angela Stanford, faces the challenging task of defending her title against 17 of the world's top 20 players on the Official Rolex Rankings. The 13-year veteran on Tour won the 2012 HSBC Women's Champions in a four-player playoff at the Tanah Merah Country Club, taking victory over Jenny Shin, Na Yeon Choi and Shanshan Feng. Her fifth-career LPGA victory came after a three-year winless drought following her victory at the 2009 SBS Open at Turtle Bay. Stanford comes into this week after placing in the top-30 in the first two tournaments of the 2013 season.

Get low? Michelle Wie's new putting stance has gotten a lot of attention early on this season, and the 23-year-old joked during her press conference on Wednesday that there is a very good reason behind her decision to go to a nearly 90-degreee bent-over stance to putt.

"I was looking at like Jiyai Shin and Ai Miyazato and they all putt really well, and the common factor there is they are all 5-feet tall," Wie said with a laugh. "So I'm like, maybe I'll just try and act like I'm five feet tall, get a little lower to the ground (giggling).  It's been working fine for them. It's something I've been working on and it's been feeling comfortable and we'll see."

Wie did acknowledge that her swing coach, David Leadbetter, was concerned about the impact that the new stance might have on her back. But Wie said that it actually makes her take a rest in between putts because she doesn't want to stand over the ball for a long time in that stance. It also has some advantages as Wie feels that she's seeing the line of her putts better.

As for her play overall through two events – she missed the cut in Australia and finished 46th in Thailand – Wie said that there is plenty of room for improvement.

"Not exactly where I want it to be," Wie said of her game. "It's been a little rusty so far.  But at the same time, just working in a couple things.  I worked on a lot of things in the off-season so getting back into the playing mode takes time but hopefully this week will be the week where I really get things together."

New test: Wednesday's pro-am provided many players the chance to get another good look at the new course they'll be playing this week, The Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club. Since it's the first time that any of the players have competed on this course, it's taken some time to get adjusted to the narrowness of the course and the different shots it will require the players to make this week.

"It's just tricky," said Stacy Lewis. "It makes you think a lot.  It's going to pull out the best ball-strikers and the best caddies.  I think the caddies are going to get a workout this week trying to figure out the right numbers to hit off the tee.  You don't hit driver a lot.  You really just have to kind of think your way around and be really patient."

The players agree that it will be a stiff test of golf this week on the course which hosted the men professional golfers for the Barclays Singapore Open. It's a long golf course but that doesn't necessarily favor the long hitters. With many doglegs and the narrowness of the fairways, the driver has been taken out of the hands of some of the longer hitters on Tour. Michelle Wie said that she hit only one driver during her round while Yani Tseng hit one or two in Wednesday's pro-am.

Out of Action: Rolex Rankings No. 9 Ai Miyazato has withdrawn from this week's HSBC Women's Champions. Miyazato has been battling whiplash and some stiffness in her neck, back and shoulders after being involved in a five-car accident on Sunday night in Thailand on the way to the airport. Miyazato did not play in the pro-am on Wednesday and informed Tour officials this afternoon that she would be unable to play this week.

"I am very disappointed to withdraw from the HSBC Women's Champions as I really love this tournament," Miyazato said in a statement. "I still have some stiffness in my neck, shoulder, and back area but it is also a precautionary measure so as not to risk further injury this early in the season. I now plan to return to Japan to see my trainer for a few days. I wish HSBC the very best of luck with the tournament and look forward to returning next year."

Se Ri Pak also withdrew from the event on Wednesday due to an illness. Pak started feeling sick at the end of last week in Thailand and she said that she's been feeling progressively worse each day, resulting in her being unable to play this week in Singapore.

Smart Investment: When Na Yeon Choi decided to become a member at Isleworth Country Club in Windemere, Fla., just outside Orlando, this offseason, she did so with a specific purpose in mind – improve her short game.

The No. 2 player in the Rolex Rankings was coming off a stellar season in 2012 where she won her first major at the U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run and captured the second biggest first-place prize check at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. But for as good as she played last year, Choi believes that she still has room to grow as a golfer and one of the keys she felt was to work on her short game.

So she changed practice facilities and bought a new home closer to Isleworth, "it's kind of all investment in myself," Choi said. Following a seventh place finish in her first event of the season last week in Thailand, Choi feels that her investment is already paying off.

"After last week when I played the first tournament of the season, and then I talked to my caddie [Jason Hamilton] and then he told me, like seems my short game has improved from last year," Choi said. "I think I worked very hard, and it brings a good result."

Chinese influence: This week's event has often been referred to as "Asia's Major" but there is no question that the LPGA's presence in Asia continues to grow, especially with a new event in Beijing, China this fall. A big reason that the LPGA will be playing in China in 2013 is the success of Shanshan Feng, who became the first player from China to win on the LPGA Tour when she captured the Wegmans LPGA Championship last June.

Feng said that while it's taken some time for golf to become popular in her home country, it could be on the verge of a real breakthrough – particularly with golf returning to the Olympics in 2016.

"In China now, I would say more people are recognizing me, but it's still limited," Feng said. "But you know, last year, we have like an end of the year sports festival every year, and I was voted to be the best non-Olympic sports athlete.  So I was the first golfer to be nominated for the event.

"So I think the government is paying more attention and people are paying more attention, and if somebody can do well, then maybe in 2016 Olympics, I'm sure golf will be one of the biggest sports in China."

Taking in the sights: The Sentosa Resort, where the LPGA is playing this week has provided not only a beautiful golf course but also some world class attractions for the golfers to take part in while in Singapore. A few of the players took advantage of what's called "Asia's Favourite Playground" in the early days of the tournament week including Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, and Natalie Gulbis

"I think nine of us went and we went ziplining and rode the Luge," said Lewis. "It was fun to just get away and go be kids for a couple hours."

Tweet of the Day: "Couldn't play the pro am today but hopefully I can tee it up tomorrow. We have a pro am party tonight and then early wake up for 8:47 time" -- @ThePCreamer, who was also involved in the car accident on Sunday night in Thailand.

Quotable: "I'm going to stay there.  I don't plan on that changing any time soon.  As of right now, I think I'm the only me and Suzann Petteren who are the only non-Asians in the Top-10, and that's just the way the game is right now.  And you look, it's from various countries.  It's not just one country:  It's Japan, it's Taiwan and it's Korea, and that's just the way our Tour is.  We are worldwide and we play worldwide, and that's the result of it. – Stacy Lewis when asked if there might come a time when the top-10 in the world women's golf rankings is made up entirely Asian golfers.

Five Things You Didn't Know About…Karin Sjodin

  1. Karin loves to bake and bakes all of her own bread at home.

  2. One of her favorite hobbies is photography. She has what she calls a "beginner's version of a fancy camera" with lenses that she brings with her while traveling and she only uses manual settings to take the photos.

  3. Besides being a professional golfer, Karin has held only one other job. She worked at the halfway house at her home golf course in Sweden for only one day as a fill-in. "My tip was bigger than my salary and we don't tip in Sweden," Karin joked.

  4. Karin went to Oklahoma State University for three years where her major was International Business and she was pursuing minors in Physics and French

  5. Her home in the U.S. is Stillwater, Okla. where she went to college. Her roommate is fellow Oklahoma State alum and Sweden native Caroline Hedwall.

The next "Champion of Champions" will be crowned on Sunday at the sixth-annual HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. Each of the previous five winners of the $1.4 million tournament has come from the upper echelon of the women's professional game.

At the inaugural event in 2008, then-Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lorena Ochoa won the event by a whopping 11 strokes over Annika Sorenstam and set the tournament record with a 7-under-par 65 in the second round. In 2009, South Korea's Jiyai Shin won the tournament by two strokes and went on to top the LPGA Official Money List and win the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award at season's end. Shin would go on to hold the Rolex Rankings No. 1 spot in 2010 following Ochoa's retirement. A year later, Ai Miyazato became the first player since 1966 to win consecutive season-opening events with her win at the HSBC Women's Champions and went on to hold the Rolex Rankings No. 1 spot for 11 weeks later in the season. In 2011, LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb became the fourth high-profile winner in Singapore with her 37th career LPGA victory at the HSBC Women's Champions. Webb went on to earn her 38th victory at the season's next event. And last year, Angela Stanford became the first American in more than 14 years to win an event in Asia when she captured her fifth career victory at the HSBC Women's Champions.

Safe but sore: Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer) has a strained muscle in her neck and is battling the after effects of whiplash, but she's thankful that her injuries aren't worse following a five-vehicle car crash on Sunday night in Thailand. The crash, which also involved fellow LPGA players Ai Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen, occurred as the three were riding in cars to the airport in Bangkok to catch their flights to Singapore.

"I've felt better, that's for sure," Creamer said during Tuesday morning's press conference. "Those things happen all the time and you can't control something like that.

"We will see what happens.  I feel worse today than I did yesterday.  I had pretty bad whiplash from hitting the headrest but I took it easy and I hope that I can tee it up on Thursday…It's pretty amazing, like I said, how we walked away but things happen."

Like Creamer, Miyazato is still dealing with some whiplash from the accident. She hit about 20 golf balls on the range on Tuesday but her neck was hurting so she decided not to push herself beyond that. Miyazato is still considered "day-to-day" and hasn't made a decision yet on whether she'll be able to play when the tournament tees off on Thursday.

"Even though my neck hurts I still want to play so bad," said Miyazato, who won here in Singapore in 2010. "That means a lot especially with the new golf course and everyone says it's a really nice golf course out there. I haven't seen it. I just want to play this tournament so bad. The people are so nice over here and I'm just enjoying staying in Singapore and it's just a really sad feeling right now. Hopefully, really hopefully I can play this weekend."

Pettersen escaped the worst of the crash as her vehicle was at the end of the convoy and avoided crashing into the other vehicles. But she too was still shaken by the experience of being involved in such an accident.

"We're just lucky enough that we all got away with no major injury." Pettersen said.

Walking on Water: A few of the world's top women golfers were all "business" on Tuesday morning as they took to the water for the launch of the sixth edition of the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore

Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer), Angela Stanford (@Angela_Stanford), Yani Tseng (@YaniTseng) and Suzann Pettersen (@Suzann Pettersen) were armed with both golf and business paraphernalia as they took part in a photo shoot at Marina Bay with the Singapore Business District skyline in the background.

The photos of the players "walking on water" in business attire was an illustration of HSBC's support for successful women around the world - in golf and in business.

 

New venue, same great feeling: Angela Stanford (@Angela_Stanford) may not be defending her title at the same course where she won last year, but that hasn't diminished the feeling of coming back to Singapore as the defending champion.

"I say it every year I'm here, I love Singapore and you know, it's awesome to have a sponsor like HSBC," Stanford said. "Everything feels great here and they treat us great and it's great to be back. It will be a different course and it's a different venue -- I just walked around the back, and it is different.  You know what, I think that's great.  I think it's a new challenge, and it just -- I think it's going to be a great week.  So just add to everything that has been built here."

After five years at the Tanah Merah Country Club, the HSBC Women's Champions moves this year to the The Serapong Course at The Sentosa Golf Club. Along with the new venue this year, the tournament also announced a three-year extension last fall.

Slow start, hot finish: Suzann Pettersen (@SuzannPettersen) is no stranger to success in Asia. After all Pettersen, who is ranked No. 7 in the Rolex Rankings, won back-to-back events on the Fall Asia swing last year with victories in Korea and Taiwan. But it's been a tendency in her career to finish seasons with a flourish while the 10-time LPGA winner often starts off the year slow. Is there a reason for that?

"I think my entire career I've been that way except for one exception when I got off to a hot start," said Pettersen, who finished T21 in Thailand last week which was her first event of the year. "But for me it's about trying to post a round.  It's different when I play a round of golf at home, it takes 2 1/2 hours to spin around on a cart.  It's just different to play competitive golf compared to practice, as much as you try to kind of pretend it's a tournament, it's not really the same."

Pettersen said that she's not trying to put too much pressure on herself to reverse that trend either because that can often lead to worse results.

"Over the years, I've learned to be patient.  I know if you work hard, it's going to pay off sooner or sometimes later," Pettersen said. "That was the case after.  Looking back at last year, I felt like I played good but I just couldn't fire all five cylinders at the same time.  If I can win all of a sudden, the bubble burst at the end there.  I'm very happy.  Just really trying to enjoy. "

Quotable: "For last year I would say it's very, very important but after the last year, I've been learning so much.  I mean, world No. 1 is not as important like before now.  I've already reached, and I've been there before, I'm still here, but I just want to enjoy more.  Because I know if I'm not looking at result, I just want to play the golf and enjoy every swing and enjoy every tournament." - Tseng on how she views being No. 1 in the world

Five Things You Didn't Know About….Lizette Salas

  1. Lizette's family plays a big role in her life. Her father, who is a mechanic at Azusa Golf Course, helped get her involved in golf. Now her practice partners when she's at home are her niece and nephews - Joseph, 13; Natalie, 12; and Derek, 10.

  2. One of her favorite hobbies is Zumba, and she takes part in the dance class 2-3 times per week. It's actually helped her golf game because it's improved her flexibility.

  3. She's a big Lakers fan and a diehard fan of her alma mater, the University of Southern California. Her whole room at home is decked out in red and gold.

  4. Lizette describes herself as a kid at heart. She said that if she had one day to do anything, she'd spend it at Disneyland with her family.

  5. Lizette's only non-golf related job was filing papers at the MRI center where her sister works. She lasted only one day and her sister still makes fun of her for it.

Of Note...With her victory last week, Inbee Park jumped to No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings with Stacy Lewis (@Stacy_Lewis) moving down one into the No. 4 spot…Singaporean golfer Christabel Goh earned a spot in this week's field through a local qualifier…Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) and 17-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn are in this week's field as sponsor invites. Jutanugarn, a rookie on the Ladies European Tour, nearly won her first LPGA title last week before her title hopes were derailed with a triple bogey on the final hole…So Yeon Ryu is not in the field this week as the South Korean native is attending her graduation at Yonsei University.

Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 2
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Rolex Rankings No. 2 Na Yeon Choi to the interview room. Thanks so much for joining us today. It's always wonderful to be here in Singapore. How excited are you to be back at this event?
NA YEON CHOI:  First day I came here, you know, I was very happy when I see the hotel and room.  And then I went to the garden by the bay, just next to the hotel, I went to there by myself and I spent like almost three hours.  I really like in Singapore, and even the course is really pretty.
           
It's not like just golf, I have to see a lot of things on the course, like water, like a lot of things, like roller coaster there.  I feel really like I came here for vacation, not just for golf tournament.

MODERATOR:  First off, this golf course is different than what you played in previous years and you were out there playing this morning, and I was asking the other players, what do you think are going to be the keys this week to playing well on this golf course?
NA YEON CHOI:  I mean, I think the golf course is long and the fairways are kind of narrow, and the greens are so big.
           
So the key to play well, we have to hit the fairway first and then you have to hit very precise for the second shot, because the greens so big, and sometimes we have to hit like for 30, 40 yards from the green.  I have to trust when my caddie give me the yardage, and just trust myself.

MODERATOR:  That's what Stacy said, it's going to be quite a work out for the caddies this week.  Definitely a lot of precise distances, and not many drivers.  How many drivers do you think you will hit.
NA YEON CHOI:  Like today, I hit three or four times, hit 3-wood for tee shot, yeah.

MODERATOR:  And I know you've had a lot going on in your life outside of the golf course in terms of you bought a new home in Orlando this year, and you changed where you've been practising at Isleworth.  How do you think that this change in where you're practising now is going to help your golf game going forward.
NA YEON CHOI:  I think it's kind of invest in myself.  I choose the golf course first, because me and my swing coaches, we thought I needed to practise in better facility, so I choose Isleworth.
           
Then I got a new house, too, around the golf course, so it's kind of all investment in myself.  Then after last week, I played the first tournament of the season, and then I talked to caddie and then he told me, like seems my short game has improved from last year.  I think I worked very hard, and it brings a good result.

Q.  Compared to the Garden Course, where you've had very good experiences, how do you care the two, and maybe which course would suit your eye a little better?
NA YEON CHOI:  You mean the back nine or the front nine?

MODERATOR:  Last year's golf course to this one.
NA YEON CHOI:  I think this year, the course is more difficult than last year, and a lot narrow fairway than last year.  Like yesterday and today, I played 18 both days, but I haven't practiced much, so like after this time, I'd like to go hit, practise for driver shot and try to hit straight.
           
It doesn't matter distance.  I know the course is pretty long but I think that the main thing is we have to keep the fairway first.

MODERATOR:  You're not so bad on tight courses.  You've played in some difficult courses, like where you won at Blackwolf Run at the U.S. Open last year.  Do courses like these tend to suit your game?  Do you like golf courses where you really have to think your way around?
NA YEON CHOI:  I like to play golf with smart, you know.  I like to play very precise.  Like I would like to think a lot of golf on the course, so I think that I like difficult course and I like to challenge.
           
I mean, it doesn't matter result.  Like every time if I play golf with like some difficult course, I think I learn many things from that.  So I like to play like difficult lie, difficult shot, difficult course.

Q.  This course is set up for the men, The Barclays Singapore Open particularly, and I spoke to the course designer, and he says, I'm a bit worried because I don't think too many girls are going to shoot low.  I said, well, they are pretty good.  A lot of the shots are from 160, 170 in here.  First of all, what club would you take for that shot, and would you want to have a word with him and tell him that you will shoot low?
NA YEON CHOI:  Well, actually I got a lot of birdies today.  I think that's why I've got a lot of confidence with the golf course.
           
I know the course is very difficult, but today I had five birdies out there.  I mean, eventually I had one double-bogey, but the main thing is I got five birdies.  And I used a lot of rescue club on the course, but my favourite club is 5-rescue, so I think I'm happy with that.

Q.  You're getting closer to Yani at the top; is that a target for you this year, to take No. 1?
NA YEON CHOI:  My goal is being No. 1, but it's not a -- like my future goal, and also my dream, is like -- like my goal is just play golf, like do my best every time.  My job is just go out there, hit the ball.  Not just think about result or try to catch Yani now, not like that.
           
So I just want to like stick with my daily goal and just do my best and have fun.

Q.  Speaking to Michelle Wie and Stacy Lewis, they were saying that maybe one advantage the Asian players they have is they are better at the short game and putting, and you have eight of the Top-10-ranked players in the world from Asia; is that a trend you see continuing, and that an advantage that you have, putting, over the Europeans and the Americans?
NA YEON CHOI:  Well, actually, like when we grew up, we practise on indoor driving range, so we didn't have much experience with the short game on the grass.
           
So I always thinking, American player or European players, better short game than Asian players, always.  That's why last winter time, actually after the 2012 season, I talked to my swing coach, we need to improve short game.  That's why, you know, I move to the new golf course and then I spent a lot of time on short game.

MODERATOR:  Practising indoors probably helped mentally -- I don't know, I grew up in the cold weather in the States when I played golf and had to practise indoors and I think helped me focus a little bit more.  Do you think that kind of helps players, too?  Do you think it's helped you with your mental game overall, having to practise like that early on?
NA YEON CHOI:  Well, actually, when I was young, like ten or 15, I practiced like ten hours a day.  But it's hard to focus I think ten hours, so like after when I realise we need to practise a little less, and you know, spend time with the like short game or workout.
           
So when I practise just five hours, I could focus more than ten-hour practise.  So it's kind of like, kind of strategy, like just me and my father we thought.

Q.  The season is just barely less than a month, how would you describe your form in this early season?
NA YEON CHOI:  I just played one tournament last week.  Well, actually, first two rounds, I didn't shoot low score.  But you know, after 27th hole, I had four-over par, but I finished very strong.  I felt I could shoot like low and I got a lot of confidence from last week.
           
So I mean, actually like in Singapore, I had a great result last year.  That's why it's kind of like motivate me to play well this week.  So I hopefully have good results again.

MODERATOR:  That round you're talking about, you went 40-31.  Have you done that much in your career?  What kind of changed on that back nine that got you going?
NA YEON CHOI:  I think that was kind of a record myself; nine strokes difference, the front nine and back nine.  After the ninth hole, I got birdie on 10; that's the first birdie on second round, and I felt kind of like spark there and good momentum from there.
           
So I don't know, just like even I shoot 4-over, I was feeling like kind of still happy.  And I told my caddie at the moment that I like to work with you -- I don't know why, what reason, but I was happy to play golf.

Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 4

MODERATOR:   We'd like to welcome Stacy Lewis into the interview room.  Thank you so much for joining us today.  Just came off the golf course, playing in the Pro-Am, new golf course here this year.  What are the initial thoughts on it, and what do you think are the keys this week to playing well on this golf course?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, initially this golf course, it's just tricky.  It makes you think a lot.  It's going to pull out the best ball-strikers and the best caddies.  I think the caddies are going to get a workout this week trying to figure out the right numbers to hit off the tee.  You don't hit driver a lot.  You really just have to kind of think your way around and be really patient.

MODERATOR:  Last year was really a breakthrough year for you, four victories, first American in 14 years to win Player of the Year.  What was that year like for you, and how difficult is it to sometimes put everything that you were able to do last year in the back of your mind and start fresh in the new year?
STACY LEWIS:  You know, I don't think it really hit me until the end of the year until I really realised what I had done and how long it had been on the American side.  It's a great thing for the Tour, where we need American players to step up and play better.  I got tired of answering that question, so I just figured my play should just go and take care of it.  That was kind of my motivation.
           
And then coming into this year, for me it really wasn't an ending point and another beginning.  I feel like everything just kind of rolled into one.  You know, you just kind of go back out there and kind of just do the same things and give yourself chances to win and keep working hard, because winning is never easy, and it doesn't get easier now.

MODERATOR:  Especially when you have all of these demands on your time.  It's amazing when you get up to the top of the rankings and you start playing well, how many things there are to do.  How do you keep yourself balanced between knowing how much to practise, dealing with all of these extra demands, but yet still having some fun, too, and making sure you're not putting too much pressure on yourself.
STACY LEWIS:  I think that you have to make the time to have fun and that has to be a part of it.  You have to say no to some things.  You physically can't just do everything that's required.  For me golf is always going to be first, my practise time is first.  And then the media and then the fun stuff, you have to kind of split that time.
           
Yesterday I think nine of us went and we went ziplining and rode the Luge.  It was fun to just get away and go be kids for a couple hours.

MODERATOR:  What was the zipline like?  I bet you guys were pretty excited to try that one out.
STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I had been before in Hawai'i and it was pretty cool.  It was one long zipline.  Some of the girls were afraid but I was ready to go.  It was a lot of fun.

Q.  I just want to get an idea of the course, I've been asking a few of the girls these questions, obviously you can't land too many drives there because the landing area is like 230 to 250 -- I'm sure you've been asked this question before, the short hitters, who probably put more priority on their short irons?  How is it going to work, do you think?
STACY LEWIS:  I really still think length is going to be an advantage.  But you have to hit it straight.  I think that's -- I think the straight ball hitters will play well, because you know, you hit it 240, 250 off the tee and the long hitters are going to have 5- and 6-irons and the shorter hitters are going to have hybrids.
           
The long hitters still have an advantage I think because you're going to have shorter irons in.  It's really going to be a straight-hitter's golf course, and who can think their way around the best.  You know, hit to the middle of the green, 2-putt and move on.

Q.  So bad putting --
STACY LEWIS:  I think any week, the best putter wins, and with these greens so big, it's whoever could minimise the 3-putts and not leaving yourself those 50-, 60-footers is going to be key.

Q.  Defending and coming back here on a totally different course, is that annoying perhaps?
STACY LEWIS:  It is, it's always a little tough, but I never seemed to really play that well on the other golf course, so I was actually excited to get to a new venue.

Q.  You mentioned the other Americans stepping up their game; are you worried that the Top-10 players might all come from Asia?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, I'm going to stay there.  I don't plan on that changing any time soon.  As of right now, I think I'm the only -- me and Suzann and are the only non-Asians in the Top-10, and that's just the way the game is right now.  And you look, it's from various countries.  It's not just one country:  It's Japan, it's Taiwan and it's Korea, and that's just the way our tour is.  We are worldwide and we play worldwide, and that's the result of it.
           
So for sure, I don't think we are going -- I think there's always going to be an American player up there.  I think we could always use more.  But I don't plan on leaving any time soon.

Q.  Why do you think the Korean players, why are they surging ahead maybe more than the Americans or the Europeans in your opinion?
STACY LEWIS:  I don't know, I think they work really hard but I don't think they work any harder.  I don't know, they are just great players.  A lot of it is I think at the end, it comes down to putting.  I think the Asians, I don't know what it is, but I think they are all really good putters.  So it's winning golf tournaments and making putts, and that's the difference.

Q.  Michelle said it was something to do with being five-foot and being closer to the ground makes it a lot easier.
STACY LEWIS:  Maybe, I don't know.  (Laughing).

MODERATOR:   She was saying to getting a little lower, that was the key to being a good putter. Earlier this year we announced the International Crown where will take place for the first time in 2014 where it will be countries competing against countries.  Everybody talks about the Americans stepping up.  And you guys have an international competition already in Solheim, but what will it mean to kind of compete and see if you -- the Americans can be crowned as the best women's golfing country in the world?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, that's what everybody wants to know.  I mean that's what we are asked about every week is South Korea versus the U.S. and the U.S. versus Japan.  We are asked that all the time.
           
I think it's great for the Tour.  I think we needed it.  And I think the best part will be -- in a team competition, I think you see the personalities of the players come out a lot more; and I think maybe seeing how the South Koreans come together as a team and seeing their personalities come out when they are partnered together, I think that will help the Tour and maybe the fans in the U.S. get to know those players a little bit more.

Q.  We are seeing more and more tournaments on the LPGA played outside of the U.S., is this something as an American that you like to see, and also when you do play outside of the U.S., do you play tournaments any different from the ones you play state side?
STACY LEWIS:  I think the LPGA, it's been a U.S.-based tour and I think the majority of our events need to stay in the U.S.  Just, I mean, I don't know, just being an American, I want it to stay at home but I think it's good that we play worldwide.  We have players from other countries come to the U.S. and play, so why can't we go to their country and play, as well.  I think it's good but there needs to be a limit on it, just because of the travel.  It's hard to hop from one country to the next and still play good golf.
           
What's the second part?  I forgot the second part.

Q.  (Inaudible.)
STACY LEWIS:  That's the way we are going.  I think in the States, you compare it to the PGA TOUR and those guys just hop one hour, drive down the road between events. So I guess The European Tour is the same way, but the guys also have some private jets involved in there, too.

Shanshan Feng, Rolex Rankings No. 5

MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Shanshan Feng into the interview room, thank you so much for joining us today.
SHANSHAN FENG:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  You were out there on the golf course this morning, we all know different golf course this year than what you guys have played in the past.  Initial thoughts on the golf course, and what do you think are going to be the keys for players to play well this week on this golf course?
SHANSHAN FENG:  Actually I think that this golf course is quite different from the one we used to play, and I think it's more tricky because there are a lot of dog-leg holes and I would think the fairways are really tight, so I would think driving is really important this week.

MODERATOR:  Some of the other players, Stacy and Michelle, they were joking about how much the caddies were going to get a workout this week in terms of figuring out distances and everything.  Is that going to be one of those things where even long hitters are going to have to hit 3-woods at times and you're going to have to really think your way around this golf course.
SHANSHAN FENG:  Oh, yes, because of those dog-leg holes, they are designed for like, you have to play lay up.  You can't really go forward. So like for example, No. 3, I wouldn't hit like a driver off the tee, because I would be either on like a steep slope or in the woods. So I was hitting 3-hybrid actually, and second shot I was hitting 4-hybrid to like a front pin, which, you know, doesn't really make sense to me.  But I mean, if we are playing the same situation, it's fine for me.

MODERATOR:  It's been quite a year for you over the past year, becoming a Major Champion, being the first player from China to win on the LPGA Tour.  Take me through this past year.  What has it been like for you, and how different is it to come into a season this time around having captured a victory on the LPGA Tour; do you have a little bit more confidence coming into this year?
SHANSHAN FENG:  I would say I had a really good beginning last year, because I was fifth in Thailand, and I was in a playoff here, but of course I lost.  I won in China the week after, so after that great beginning, and then I think I gained a lot of confidence, and that was why I kept winning tournaments last year.  I think totally, I won six including a major, which was my first win on the LPGA in five years, so it got me into a lot of stuff.  I was really happy I got my first win on the Tour.
           
This year, I thought about this year, I think my goal will be win two tournaments on the LPGA.

MODERATOR:  We are actually going to China this year on the LPGA Tour.  A lot of that has to do with your success and there's growing interest in the game of golf in China.  What have you noticed since your victory in terms of the reception of golfers there and the interest, especially with the Olympics coming around the corner, has the interest in golf really started to grow in China?
SHANSHAN FENG:  I would say, of course, I did win a major last year, but golf right now in China, nothing can compare to maybe tennis.  Like when Li Na won the major, she became like so famous in China, everybody would know her if they see her picture.
           
But still in China now, I would say more people are recognizing me, but it's very limited.  But you know, last year, we have like an end of the year sports festival every year, and I was voted to be the best non-Olympic sports athlete.  So I was the first golfer to be nominated for the event.
           
So I think the government is paying more attention and people are paying more attention, and if somebody can do well, then maybe in 2016 Olympics, I'm sure golf will be one of the biggest sports in China.

Q.  What have you done in the off-season to improve and try to reach a target for winning two LPGA?
SHANSHAN FENG:  You know, last year, I played 32 tournaments overall, and I was really tired after the season.  So my options was only less than two months.  So I took like a month off, I stayed in China, and didn't really practise.  But you know, I needed time to let both my mind and my body be relaxed.
           
Then I went back to Orlando to my coach's academy.  I trained with him for three weeks and mainly it was more like warming up for the season and I think I practiced mostly my putting and my chipping, which are kind of my big parts.  I think this year I'm in good shape.
           
Last week was my first tournament and I had a Top-10 finish, so I have very good confidence about this year.

Q.  Speaking about putting, so many Asian players are in the Top-10 in the world; and the Americans said maybe it's the short game or putting that sets you apart -- they were joking just now maybe because we are smaller stature, it helps you, because you are closer to the ground, you can see the line better.
MODERATOR:  Michelle was joking that's why she changed her putting stance was to get a little lower -- (laughter).
SHANSHAN FENG:  I don't think that's really one of the reasons.  I'm quite big.  I'm bigger than, you know, Morgan, and I'm bigger than a lot of the American girls.  I wouldn't say size would be the most important thing.
           
I would think Asians like us, we have really tough mental, and we really work hard.  I think maybe that's what makes a lot of difference.  I would say in the past ten or 20 years, we have had so many different heros, like Ai from Japan and Se Ri Pak from Korea, and Yani from Taiwan, which these heros, like they make us see the hope.  We see the bright of the future.
           
So then that's why a lot of us, we start to play, and you know, make our dream to be a pro golfer.

Michelle Wie, Rolex Rankings No. 73

MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Michelle Wie into the interview room.  Thank you so much for joining us today.  First of all, always great I'm sure to be back here in Singapore.  Just what are your thoughts being back here this week and what do you love about coming to this event each year.
MICHELLE WIE:  Coming to this event is definitely one of my favourite stops of the year.  I absolutely love Singapore, and especially this year playing at Sentosa where the men play and staying at Marina Bay, it's just amazing.  I love the city.  I love the golf course.  I've been having a blast.

MODERATOR:  What are your initial thoughts?  What are going to be some of the keys this week for players to be successful on this golf course?
MICHELLE WIE:  It's a tight golf course, and big greens.  You really have to keep it in the fairway and hit in the right part of the greens.  It's a difficult golf course.  I think it's going to be a very big challenge this week.
           
Over the last two days, I think I've hit one drive and probably won't do it again.  It's position golf and you have to be in the right places and making some putts.

MODERATOR:  I heard you might be doing something fun, the players have gotten out a little bit in Singapore this week.  Are you going to do something fun this afternoon, get to see the sights a little bit today?
MICHELLE WIE:  Well, it's Jessica Korda's birthday today, turning 20.  She wants to go ziplining, but I'm deathly scared of heights, so I probably won't do that, but I probably might go check out some marine life.

Q.  You mentioned you only used driver once; which hole?
MICHELLE WIE:  There's a couple holes I might have option, but maybe on 18, depending on what day it is, what situation I'm in.  But you never know, the wind conditions could completely change, but probably won't use driver a lot this week.

Q.  Do you not like having the driver in your hand?
MICHELLE WIE:  You know, it's a good golf course -- it's not good or bad.  Obviously I would like to hit more drivers but that's just the way the course is.  It's a very good golf course and very challenging golf course.  I think it makes it more challenging for players -- it's a lot more course management.  I think it makes it very interesting.
           
Every other golf course you hit driver, and it's fun once in awhile to really think about it and hit these kind of knock-down shots irons off the tee or a couple two woods here and there.  You don't really get to do that at a lot of other courses, so it makes it very interesting.

Q.  There's a lot of talk at the moment about Lydia Ko.  How do you compare where she is and where you were at her age?
MICHELLE WIE:  I don't think it's fair to compare at all.  I think she's an amaaaazing golfer.  I got to play with her a couple weeks ago in Australia and I got to talk to her a little bit and get to know her.  She's a very nice young lady, very, very nice, very amazing player.  I think she had like three pars in the round, lots of birdies.  It was pretty impressive.

Q.  Did you talk to her at all about her decision turning pro and when to do it?
MICHELLE WIE:  No, we didn't really talk about turning pro a lot.  She was very keen on being pro and going to Stanford just like I did, so it was very interesting.
           
But you know, I'm scared to give her any advice.  It seems like she's doing really well right now.  As I've said before in other interviews, it's a very personal choice, turning pro or not turning pro.  It's not a matter of me telling her what to do or giving my input.  It just really has to be her gut feeling of what she wants to do in life, because in the end it's her life.  But I think she's made the right decision, whatever decision she's going to make, and I'm very excited for her.

Q.  How would you describe your early season form?
MICHELLE WIE:  Not exactly where I want it to be.  It's been a little rusty so far.  But at the same time, just working in a couple things.  I worked on a lot of things in the off-season so getting back into the playing mode takes time but hopefully this week will be the week where I really get things together.

Q.  I was wonder, the Top-10 players in the world are here in Asia -- is this what we are seeing in the future in women's golf, is this a trend, or do you think America will get top position again?
MICHELLE WIE:  I'm sure we'll fight back (laughing).  I think that the sport is becoming very global and that's becoming very evident and I think it's awesome.  We come to more tournaments in Asia.  We are a very global tour and that's a fact now.  A lot of great players are coming from the U.S. and a lot of great players from Europe and a lot of great players from Asia.
           
Everything comes and goes in waves; and the trend, it's becoming more global and I hope it stays that way.  It's becoming very interesting on Tour and you get to meet a lot of different people from a lot of different places; I like it.

Q.  As a fellow golfer, how do you feel about the triple-bogey on 18 in Thailand -- I don't know, I wasn't there, I didn't see it, but how do you feel about it?
MICHELLE WIE:  I didn't see it either.  But I think instead of focusing on the negative -- I think she made a hole-in-one that day, that's pretty amazing.  She had one mistake and unfortunately cost her the tournament, but she still finished second, and how old is she; hats off to her.
           
She played awesome, and in her hometown in Thailand.  It was really cool to see everyone kind of cheering her on and making that hole-in-one and everything.  But I'm sure that she'll be fine.  It's just golf.

Q.  About your putting, I think in Hawai'i, you decided to bend in a little bit more.  How about right now compared with the older -- are you getting better?
MICHELLE WIE:  I mean, I was looking at like Jiyai Shin and Ai and they all putt really well, and the common factor there is they are all five feet tall.  So I'm like, maybe I'll just try and act like I'm five feet tall, get a little lower to the ground (giggling).  It's been working fine for them and something I've been working on and it's been feeling comfortable and we'll see.

Q.  Is it making you read the greens more clearly or something?
MICHELLE WIE:  You know, definitely am seeing the line a little better being a little close to the ground, so maybe I was going a little bit too tall.

Q.  Does practicing hurt your back?  Do you notice when you're in position --
MICHELLE WIE:  Actually I talked to David about a lot because he was worried about my back, as well.  Actually it makes me kind of rest a little bit in between putts now and kind of take a little bit of a break here and there and definitely make sure I won't stand over the ball for a long time.

Q.  Might never get up.
MICHELLE WIE:  Exactly.

Q.  The other thing I was going to ask you:  It's now seven months since you graduated from Stanford; are you missing it?
MICHELLE WIE:  I do miss it.  I miss my friends and everything.  But I'm so happy that I did it, and it's kind of -- it's a new phase in my life.  And I think I struggled for a little bit because it takes time to adjust to a new phase in your life.  I'm excited now for the next stage and what's to come.

Q.  And are you doing anything, was it calligraphy or something, there's all sorts of interesting things you might do;  have you done any of them or are you doing any of them?
MICHELLE WIE:  It's really funny, I thought I would have a lot more time, a lot more free time on my hands once I was done with college, but that's not true (laughing).  I feel like I'm still running out of hours with practise and working out and everything.
           
But I am thinking a lot, I've been baking a lot.  It's been a lot of fun.  I want to do a couple of hobbies here and there, but like I said, there isn't that much free time.  I thought I was going to have a lot more once I was done with school, but there's not enough hours in the day.

MODERATOR:   Speaking of your baking, what have been your favourite things to try to bake?

MICHELLE WIE:  Well, I have a lot of allergies, which basically makes it impossible to eat anything.  So I bake a lot of cookies and brownies and I make them all vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, fat-free.

Q.  This could be a make or break year for you; is there much pressure on you, or are the emergence of people like Lydia putting you more in the spotlight?
MICHELLE WIE:  Well, Lydia is making me really old, but I'm only 23.  It's only the start of my career.  I'm really having fun.  I'm not really focusing on that.  Once I focus on that, it's not going to be very fun.
           
So just focusing on each shot and really enjoy myself.  And you know, I still am only 23.  Golf is a very long career, so I'm just having fun and planning for the longevity of it.

Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 7
Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 13
Angela Stanford, Rolex Rankings No. 19 and defending champion
Robbie Henchman, Senior VP and Global Co-Managing Director of IMG Golf
Mike Whan, Commissioner of the LPGA Tour
Alex Hungate, Group General Manager and CEO of HSBC Singapore
Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship and Events for HSBC

THE MODERATOR:  Good morning, and welcome to the HSBC Women's official press conference here at sunny Sentosa.  We embark on a new era, and it gives me great delight that once again the best women's golfers are here in Singapore to compete in what is arguably the most prestigious tournament in women's golf in Asia.
           
Please allow me to introduce our top table all at once.  We are very thrilled to have Robbie Henchman, the Senior Vice President and Global Co-Managing Director of IMG Golf.  To his left, world No. 13, Paula Creamer, former U.S. Open Champion, affectionately known as the pink panther and one of the stars from the LPGA Tour, wonderful to have you here.  Mike Whan, the Commissioner of the LPGA, and then the world's No. 1 golfer, and she has been at the top of her game and the top of the rankings now for 107 weeks, the great Yani Tseng, terrific to have Yani here.

           
We have Alex Hungate, the Group General Manager and CEO of HSBC Singapore.  To his left is the world No. 7, a ten-time winner on the LPGA who particularly likes playing in Asia, especially after her form in the latter half of last year with two wins; and to her left is Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship and Events for HSBC, super Giles that you are, joining us once green here this week.  And our defending champion, the world No. 19, Angela Stanford, who earned her fifth LPGA victory with that sensational playoff last year.

           
So ladies and gentlemen, our top table.  We will begin straightaway.  Alex, would you please like to start proceedings?


ALEX HUNGATE:  On behalf of HSBC, welcome to the 2013 HSBC Women's Champions.  This is our sixth year we have sponsored this tournament, and since teeing off in 2008, the event has earned the reputation as one of the top golf tournaments in Asia, and it is affectionately known by many as Asia's major.
           
We are delighted with the profile and the prestige that the event has gathered since it started, and as a result of that, we recently announced a three-year extension of the contract, and we also announced that we would move the event here to Sentosa Golf Club after five successful years at Tanah Merah Country Club.
           
The contract renewal and the move to Sentosa both created a lot of he excitement around this year's events and we are looking forward to it very much.
           
In addition to our sponsorship of HSBC Women's Champions, we have enthusiastically supported a wide range of programmes that bring learning opportunities to young people around the world because we believe that sport plays an important role in the development of life skills, and values in society.
           
That's why here in Singapore we have renewed our sponsorship of the HSBC youth golf challenge, a programme we have been supporting since 2008 in our partnership with the Singapore Golf Association.  The tournament reaches out to students between the ages of 12 and 17 and represents our commitment to golf out reach at the grass roots level.
           
Now it's great that so many of the top women golfers are, in fact, from Asia and HSBC recognises the importance of nurturing local talent and here in Singapore, we have had a qualifier tournament, as usual, and for the second year out of three, Cristabel Goh has qualified as the Singapore winner and she will be taking part in the tournament alongside the world's best women's golfers to experience for the second time what it's like to compete against the world's best.
           
One of my personal wishes is that during this week, many other young Singaporean girls will get inspired to take part in golf and potentially also one day also qualify for this tournament.
           
So HSBC Women's Champions, as a sponsor, provides us with a great opportunity to profile Singapore as a dynamic hub within one of the world's fastest growing regions, Asia.  So this year the bank is pleased to host three business forums alongside this tournament, and the first one is a women's forum, the second is women in finance, specifically; and the third one is our international exchange programme which brings people from around the world, companies from around the world, into Singapore, to look at setting up their companies here in Singapore, learning from HSBC what it's like to do business on the ground.
           
There's a lot of business activity this week around the event as well as some world-class golf.  On behalf of everybody at HSBC, welcome to the tournament; I hope it's a fantastic and excitement experience for everybody involved.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, indeed, Alex.  We are all looking forward to the action when it kicks off on Thursday morning.

           
It's a new golf course.  The players have been out the last couple of days and have had a chance to have a look and we'll be hearing from them shortly.

           
Giles, if you would say a few words?


GILES MORGAN:  Welcome to all of the media who have supported us over the last six years for me event.  2013 marks our 10th anniversary as a major international sponsor of golf, and in that time, we have been involved with over 30 golf tournaments around the world, and hosting over a thousand golf days and helped thousands of children as well in five major regions to get involved with the sport.  It is a truly global portfolio spanning five continents and we are really proud to be associated with the game.
           
One of our greatest achievements in that time is spearheading at rival of world-class golf here in Asia, both here in Singapore with the HSBC Women's Champions and with the WGC - HSBC Champions, which is our flagship men's event in China.
           
When we came to Singapore in 2008, we wanted to create a tournament which would showcase the very best in women's golf, and as we prepare for our sixth renewal of the event, it feels like we have achieved that ambition.  By signing this three-year extension to the sponsorship, it is reaffirming our commitment to the tournament and to golf in Singapore.
           
All in all, our global portfolio is in fantastic shape.  Last month we enjoyed great crowds and great golf at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, and this summer marks the third year of our partnership with The Royal & Ancient as the world's oldest golf tournament, The Open Championship, returning to its spiritual home in Scotland.
           
And of course two years from now golf returns to the Olympics games in Rio; and we are investing in golf in Brazil, as well, as we have done with the Middle East and Asia.  In the future these countries and markets are going to play an increasingly significant role in international trade and international golf, and Singapore is a really important component of that.
           
HSBC Women's Champions is a glittering showcase for some of the world's best women's golfers on the planet.  We have got 38 of the world's top 40 on the LPGA Money List with us here in Singapore, a wonderful achievement.
           
And we are proud of the fact that the qualification criteria is tough.  Those qualified for the event by winning an event on the LPGA Tour or finishing the year in the Top-20 of the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.
           
This means that the event has a star-studded role call of previous winners including México's Lorena Ochoa; Karrie Webb from Australia; Ai Miyazato from Japan, and American reigning champion, Angela Stanford, who is sitting to my left.
           
And I know for Angela and Yani and Suzann and Paula, all are looking forward to coming to Singapore because they are always welcomed here with open arms.  This is one of the features that makes the HSBC Women's Champions such a special event.  Thank you for all your support, and we look forward to three more years in Singapore.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you Giles.  HSBC, truly a global supporter of golf worldwide.

           
This is the third event on the LPGA this season.  We've been to Australia and Thailand with a very dramatic finish on Sunday, and Mike Whan, of course, was there.  Now it's time to hear from the LPGA, Commissioner Mike Whan.


MIKE WHAN:  Thank you and thank to both of you for hosting us once again.
           
True story:  On Sunday night I was talking to my wife, which I think was on a Sunday morning her time and she said, you sounds excited.  I said, I get excited every time we start to head to Singapore, and had the same conversation with Angela this morning in the hotel.
           
This tournament is a lot like Singapore; it's unique.  There's not another one like this on our and I don't think I've ever been to another city like Singapore.  It's welcoming and it shows a level of class and respect to the LPGA that I don't know if you ever say thank you enough for.
           
But there's a bigness about this event that makes the entire thing exciting for all of us.  We are looking forward to not only a new golf course, a new host hotel experience, but I think IMG and HSBC blow us away every year and I would not be surprised if the same isn't true this year.
           
Just listening to Giles talk about former winners tells you about this tournament.  One of the two players that is not here is graduating from college this week, and I know where she will be, because I saw her Sunday, and she said, I'm going to miss Singapore; and I said, you're doing the right thing and we'll see you next year.
           
On behalf of the best players on the world, not just the ones sitting here but the ones that aren't, I want to say thank you for welcoming us back year after year; not only welcoming us but treating these top players like top players; and most importantly for letting 170 other countries experience this week what we are going to experience firsthand.
           
So couldn't be happier to be back, thanks.

THE MODERATOR:  And it is indeed terrific to have the world's best women's golfers here at Sentosa.  Before we open the floor to question, we have a video to show you which encapsulates the highlights of previous HSBC Women's Champions and what we can look forward to over the next few days.

           
(Video played).
THE MODERATOR:  That was terrific inspirational video and I'm sure the players will be eager to get out on the golf course, I'm sure most of you, it's the first time.  But before we do that, the floor is open to questions you might have for our distinguished guests here.

Q.  First off, Paula how are you feeling?.
PAULA CREAMER:  I've felt better, that's for sure.  Those things happen all the time and you can't control something like that.
           
I will say, we will see what happens.  I feel worse today than I did yesterday.  I had pretty bad whiplash from hitting the headrest but I took it easy and I hope that I can tee it up on Thursday.  Thankfully, Suzann was there and I've never seen -- I'm lucky to have a good friend and someone there me to pull me out of that car so fast.  I didn't even know where we were and all of a sudden we were -- at the airport.  It's pretty amazing, like I said, how we walked away but things happen.

SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I'm the one that managed to miss most of it, I was in the last car -- inaudible -- it just happened so fast, you can't see it coming to be honest.  I think you go back to Thailand, they have the highest rankings of car accident pretty much here in Asia; and to be honest it was just a matter of time before something happened, and just lucky enough that we all got away with no major injury.

Q.  With the Asian players at the top of the rankings and despite the increase in the number of events, to not have a major in Asia --
MIKE WHAN:  Listen, I've said this before many times:  There's nothing stopping Asia from having a major other than us just having the right time slot and opportunity to build one.
           
I've said it before:  If we were sitting here today and it was a major, I would say that there would be 57 of the Top 60 players on the LPGA Money List; there is.  If we were playing this as a major, I would say, there would be 170 countries watching us, because that's where we cap out; there is.  If this was a major, I would be telling you that we would be getting the top players in the world to come to the press conference, because it means that much to them.  I've been here for four years and I've been sitting next to the same two players for four years.
           
I've made this comment many times that I don't think people in the region realise how good it is, already.  I did make a fifth major; I said many times, if you asked me before I became Commissioner, if I liked the idea of a fifth major, I would have said no.
           
But at the same time I believe that the No. 1 thing I need to do as Commissioner of the LPGA is give the best players on the planet the most exposure possible to showcase their skills to the world.  I thought their fifth major offered us that opportunity.
           
But I've never ruled out an Asian major, I have nothing against an Asian major.  I just think even when it does happen, I'll be able to say I told you so, and everybody in the room -- see, you already created what you thought you needed.

GILES MORGAN:  I think from our perspective the sport of golf, and indeed any sport we are a sponsor of, it's not core to our business.
           
What we are trying to create in all of our sponsorships around the world is supporting international flagship events that attract the best customers from the best cities where we do business and the reason we have renewed the HSBC Women's Champions is this is a showcase event in Asia for the best talented women golfers in the world and we are absolutely delighted to be back.  If the sport made different offers to us, well, we can look at it at that time, but we are just delighted to be back for three more years.

Q. Angela, does having the course venue change make it different to come back as defending champion?
ANGELA STANFORD:  You know I'm excited to be back.  I say it every year I'm here, I love Singapore and you know, it's awesome to have a sponsor like HSBC.  Everything feels great here and treat us great and it's great to be back.
           
It will be a different course and it's a different venue -- I just walked around the back, and it is different.  You know what, I think that's great.  I think it's a new challenge, and it just -- I think it's going to be a great week.  So just add to everything that has been built here.

Q.  We heard this week from Tim Finchem that the PGA TOUR are opposing the ban on anchored putters.  Where do you stand on that, and what do you think is more important, the putter or slow play?
MIKE WHAN:  I guess I'll go first and I'll let them talk about slow play.
           
On the issue of the USGA and R&A, I've said this many times, there's nobody better placed to establish the right rules of the game than the R&A and the USGA.  They don't have a stake in it in any other way; in equipment or players, etc., and we have been playing by their rules for a long time.  I certainly expect the LPGA will be playing by their rules for a long time from now on.
           
I respect the way they have gone about this which is they have given us the opportunity to provide feedback.  As most of you know that follow the LPGA, and most of you do, we don't have a large number of anchored or belly putter players.  I've asked Heather Daly-Donofrio, our tour head from an operations perspective, to reach out to every player that we know that does and get their feedback; so their feedback will be involved as well.
           
But on a personal level, this is just Mike Whan speaking, I believe in the R&A and the USGA and their role in the game to do what is right without any stake one way or the other.  I don't believe personally that it's going to have a major impact on the growth of the game or enjoyment of the game or anything else.  I think it's a real change that if they make it and when they make it, we will all adjust and move on.
           
But I also think a long-term grandfather clause is the right way to go.  We won't give them our specific feedback as a tour until I get back next week and have a chance to get all the player feedback.  I think there's a lot of discussion right now.  I, for one, would be amazed if in the long term we are not all playing by the USGA and R&A rules on every tour.  I could be wrong, but it would floor me if it turned out the other way around.

PAULA CREAMER:  We need to play faster.  I pretty much -- golf is not meant to being played the way it has been the last couple of years, and we all -- I have my moments and we all have our moments out there, and it's something that we all need to work collectively together on.
           
There's no reason why you should not be able to watch us finish on the 18th hole because it took too long out there.  And that's something that I think that we are all perfectly aware of.  It's brought up pretty much every time we have a press conference.  We are trying; our rules officials, there's only so many of them out there.
           
We, as players, have to take a bigger stance and say something to each other, and that's what it comes down to in using our voices as players.

MIKE WHAN:  I think it would surprise people in the room that as Commissioner in 2010, 2011, 2012 in our player meetings when we have an open forum, the No. 1 complaint from the players is make us play faster.  I would say that slow play was a topic among the LPGA before it was a public topic; before the media or writers were asking us questions about it.  And we have gotten faster each of the last few years; as Paula said, we should still get faster.  But we are trying and we have had made it a top priority, because quite frankly it's been a top priority of the players well before everybody wrote about it.

Q.  Is there a specific discussion --
MIKE WHAN:  As they are every year.  Every year we talk about a slow play policy and the objective is to make it a policy that's not subjective; here is the policy and go enforce it.  And that's not always easy whether you're player or an official, but I think we have proven we are able to do that in tough situations.

Q.  Your thoughts on returning here?
YANI TSENG:  Always very happy to be back here and this is always one of my favourite stops on the Tour.  HSBC always has a great hospitality for us.  I played nine holes yesterday and I think the course is much tougher.  Played pretty long and have to be very patient on this golf course.  It's a very good challenge, and I remember looking forward and I'm playing well now and I have a good confidence and I just want to go out there and have fun and beat everybody.  (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR:  She's in very good form, she equalled the course record in Thailand on Sunday at 63, so she's playing great.

Q.  Last year was considered a down year for you, Yani, what do you think caused that?
YANI TSENG:  I think I put too much expectation on myself.  I think even people, too, the fans and the media, they give lots of pressure.  You know, if I don't finish top 10, like I'm in trouble; like what's wrong with Yani if you don't finish in the Top-10.
           
When I look back, I mean, I still have three wins and 12, 13 Top 10s.  I'm very happy.  When I was in there, it was tough but when you look back, I feel last year was a great year for me and I think my game is improved and I get mature and I know things, what I want, and I do lots more maturity because it's going to make me happier.  I think I just learned so much from last year, and compared to lots of people, I'm very lucky already, so I think really appreciate it a lot.

Q.  How important is it for you to be No. 1 -- 
YANI TSENG:  For last year I would say it's very, very important but after the last year, I've been learning so much.  I mean, world No. 1 is not as important like before now.  I've already reached, and I've been there before, I'm still here, but I just want to enjoy more.  Because I know if I'm not looking at result, I just want to play the golf and enjoy every swing and enjoy every tournament.
           
And I think, like I said, I feel very appreciate, and I just don't want to think about it that much.  But I mean, that's always been my goal, and I just want to keep playing and keep smiles and do the best I can.
THE MODERATOR:  You've been No. 1 for 107 weeks now so a real strangle hold at the top of the rankings.

Q.  We just saw video of your victory here last year Angela. Did that playoff take years off your life?
ANGELA STANFORD:  I don't have that many to spare anymore.  So I have a flight to catch this year, so we have to wrap it up.
           
I guess you just don't realise it when you're in the moment.  And when I tell people at home, I'm like, I can't even remember how many playoff holes we played.  So it all kind of becomes a blur, and you know, in looking back at the end of the year.
           
In looking back at the end of the year, Shen Shen won the LPGA, Na Yeon Choi won the U.S. Open, and I wonder if any of those girls -- it was just interesting, I felt honoured to come out on top with those ladies.  So it was great experience and I'm looking forward to this year.

Q.  Suzann, we've seen how strongly you seem to finish seasons but you've typically been a slow starter. What is the reason for that?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I think my entire career I've been that way except for one exception when I got off to a hot start --  but for me it's about trying to post a round.  It's different when I play a round of golf at home, it takes 2 1/2 hours to spin around on a cart.  It's just different to play competitive golf compared to practice, as much as you try to kind of pretend it's a tournament, it's not really the same.
           
Over the years, I've learned to be patient.  I know if you work hard, it's going to pay off sooner or sometimes later.  That was the case after.  Looking back at last year, I felt like I played good but I just couldn't fire all five cylinders at the same time.  If I can win all of a sudden, the bubble burst at the end there.  I'm very happy.  Just really trying to enjoy.

Q. Paula, how was it to touch the water in the marina this morning?
PAULA CREAMER:  It felt really nice, it was a little hot outside.  I don't really know how to -- it was wet.  (Laughter) it was fun.  Last year it was a beautiful shot with the diamonds.  This year you come out and get to see the skyline.  This is part of golf that we enjoy doing.  I know I did.  Angela didn't like me touching her arm but other than that, we are doing pretty well.  It's fun.  It's neat.  I'm glad that -- it wasn't my idea, but we went with it, all of us.
THE MODERATOR:  Sensational photo.

Q. Change is like a vacation sometimes in that it can rejuvenate things. Do you think changing venues will be a good thing here?
ROBBIE HENCHMAN:  That phrase itself ironically was one we used throughout the deliberation period in terms of where we were going to take the tournament.
           
We talked about the nature of this event being Asia's major, if you look at the majors, whether it's the men's game or the women's game, other than perhaps Augusta and perhaps the KNC, most of the majors do tend to move from time to time.  We had five wonderful years at Tanah Merah on an absolutely world-class course.
           
But ultimately, every tournament that we are involved in globally, every tournament that has achieved great heights in terms of attracting the best players in the world, attracting global crowds and television coverage, ends up needing some sort of change at some point in time.  And we felt that after five great years at Tanah Merah, a move to Sentosa, and here we are today at a phenomenal facility, phenomenal golf course with fantastic management was probably the right thing to do for the event.

THE MODERATOR:  I think those of us from Singapore know that it really will be a stern test of golf for the players come Thursday.

Q.  (Regarding bringing additional tournaments to Asia.)
MIKE WHAN:  We try to keep our Asian swings early in the year and later in the year.  We have opportunities to put one or two, maybe max, more.  But as Robbie knows, Robbie was really the driving force behind Beijing.  We have not said, well, we have to get this market or we have to get this location.  It all starts with the business partner that has the opportunity.
           
I think when Shanshan's putt went in at the Wegman's LPGA Championship, I know Robbie and I sent a text message back that forth that a couple of billion people probably saw that, and I don't think it's a surprise that a year later we are going to start playing in Beijing.
           
I think it's another great opportunity for the women's game to showcase the best players in the world.  I remember last week sitting in Thailand thinking, I remember when there was really no young Thai women at the level of the LPGA, and I think at last year's Q-School, we had five. 
So it's fun to see.  We think we have an impact on the market; whether we do or not, we believe that travelling around the world not only is exciting and good for us, but it's good for the game worldwide.
           
So I don't know where the end is, but I think from a logistics perspective, we can really only do it a couple of times a year without the risk of really burning out players with travel, especially at the peak of their career.

Q.  Will there be a discussion regarding Lydia Ko turning professional --
MIKE WHAN:  No, I have not had a conversation with Lydia or her family, either last year or this year.  I met Lydia very briefly but I wouldn't read into that in any way, shape or form.  I don't think I had had a conversation with a lot of players before the petition.
           
I don't know, I've said many times, personally, I hoped Lydia does what she said she was going to do last year after the Canadian Women's Open, which was go to school and continue to play amateur golf, because I think it would be great for young women around the world to see a role model do that, as well.  We have seen both types.
           
But she'll make that decision and when she does I'm sure I'll be part of that decision if that's a direction she wants to go.  But I think for now it's great the attention it brings to the game.
           
Last week, what happened in Thailand, it brought a lot of attention, not just to Thailand but all over the world.  Great golf is coming from literally all over the world and literally every age.  Again, if you had said it 15 years ago, you would not have believed it, but today it's out there on a weekly basis.

THE MODERATOR:  Yani, you got to play with Lydia a few weeks ago in Australia, you felt like a baby-sitter, didn't you?

YANI TSENG:  I felt old on Tour -- it's hard to see the younger generation coming out.  She is still 15, but she doesn't play like 15.  It's amazing to see and I'm very impressed and hopefully in the future we can play some competition on the Tour. 

MIKE WHAN:  I remember saying that about a lot of the players up here when they were 16, Yani, Paula it's not as abnormal, but it is coming from literally all over the world now.

Q.  The age limit for players on the Tour --
MIKE WHAN:  The way the LPGA works we have a Constitutional rule of 18 and anyone under that age is really a petition with the commissioner's sole discretion, and the key phrase in there is sole discretion.  It's really not right of me to broadly discuss that, either to media, or even among players or staff members.
           
So I've shared a couple of times some of the guidelines I use as it relates to under age, but it's not something that is broadly discussed; I look at every individual petition if and when I do get them.  I only discussion the conversations with the petitioner, just because I think that's a private situation between us and them.  Whether it's a petition I have approved or a petition I haven't, I really haven't talked about the process out loud because I think that's something pretty personal with the family and the player.

Q.  Fair enough, but with an increasing number of young people --
MIKE WHAN:  I got more petitions in my third year than my first year, but I don't get 50 petitions; I get six.  In my first year, I probably got two.  And in all of the petitions I've ever received, I think I've approved one.
           
I think, I've said this many times, I think being a great LPGA professional has a lot to do with what goes on inside the ropes, and as you're seeing today and this morning at the photo shoot, it has a lot to do with what's going on outside the ropes.  It's literally all over the world as today shows.
           
I have to think about that, for both the player and the Tour.  It's an awful lot to ask of somebody that is not about hitting balls onto a green and making two putts for par.  It's just talking about finding the right balance for people, especially when you talk about people a long way from home.

Q.  (Inaudible.).
ALEX HUNGATE:  I think Singapore as a financial hub has gone from strength to strength; even during the financial crisis you see a lot of the wealth management initiatives that the government has taken here have been very successful.  So as a wealth management hub and with the trade hub, with the so-called South-South trade; in other words, between emerging target and emerging market, you see Singapore taking on a very important role, as well.
           
Since HSBC is fundamentally a trade bank and was founded as a trade bank, we started as a trade bank with approximately nine percent market share globally; and that means Singapore has become increasingly important over these last few years.
           
In addition, you see a lot of investor interest in the Asian region.  So while we are strong in China.  In particular with our strong position in Hong Kong; Singapore and Asia has become increasingly important over this period, as well.
           
So from a business perspective, Singapore as a financial hub has become more important.  From a host perspective, I think Singapore has really been a great host for us.
           
The government, the Minister of Trade, the Singapore Tourist Board have all been very supportive of this tournament over the last five years, and have reinforced that support in terms of our renewal over the next three years, as well.
           
So we could not say anything lacking either from a business perspective or support from the host city.

THE MODERATOR:  A perfect answer on which to finish.  Thank you very much indeed to our ladies and gentlemen on the top table and thank you all very much indeed for joining us this morning.

Ai Miyazato, Rolex Rankings No. 9

Q. First off, how are you feeling? We all heard about the accident the other night.
AI MIYAZATO: It's much much better. But I'm still hurting in my neck. It comes to my shoulder too. I hit a few golf balls out there today but it still hurts. I don't know yet if I can play.

Q. Taking it day by day?
AI MIYAZATO: Yeah, definitely. Yesterday was pretty good and this morning was OK. But right now it's hurting again. It's still up and down. I think I still need to take a rest and see what happens. But I really want to play this tournament so it's really a shame.

Q. How many golf balls did you hit out there?
AI MIYAZATO: Maybe 20 balls. I just wanted to see how I feel and see how my neck is going with the swing. But it just didn't go well so I think it's just better to take rest.

Q. We know you love this golf tournament, having won here in Singapore back in 2010. What would it mean for you to miss this event if it ends up you can't play?
AI MIYAZATO: Well even though my neck hurts I still want to play so bad. That means a lot especially with the new golf course and everyone says it's a really nice golf course out there. I haven't seen it. I just want to play this tournament so bad. The people are so nice over here and I'm just enjoying staying in Singapore and it's just a really sad feeling right now. Hopefully, really hopefully I can play this weekend.

Q. Coming off last week's event, how were you feeling about your game coming into this week?
AI MIYAZATO: I felt good with my game. It just didn't all come together everything. But my short game, my driver and my iron shots and my putting was all really good. So I had a good feeling getting to this week but oh well.

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, HSBC Women's Champions, Tseng, Yani, Pettersen, Suzann, Miyazato, Ai, Creamer, Paula, Stanford, Angela, Choi, Na Yeon, Lewis, Stacy, Feng, Shanshan, Wie, Michelle [+]

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