HSBC Women's Champions 2013
Sentosa Golf Club, The Serapong Course
Second-round notes and interviews
March 1, 2013
Stacy Lewis -11, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Na Yeon Choi -9, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Paula Creamer -9, Rolex Rankings No. 13
Azahara Munoz -9, Rolex Rankings No. 16
Chella Choi -9, Rolex Rankings No. 35
Ariya Jutanugarn -9, Rolex Rankings No. 57
2012 Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis (@Stacy_Lewis) is off to a hot start for the second week in a row as she carries a two-shot lead after two rounds of the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. Lewis shot a 6-under 66 in Friday's second round to move to 11-under-par. Trailing two shots behind Lewis is a group of six players at 9-under including first-round leader Azahara Munoz (@AzaharaGOLF), Rolex Rankings No. 2 Na Yeon Choi (@nychoi87) and American Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer).
Lewis tallied six birdies and no bogeys en route to taking the second-round lead for the second straight week. The 28-year-old put together a great demonstration of why she has been one of the most consistent players on Tour over the past two years and why she's currently someone who's looked at as a player to beat each week. For Lewis, it wasn't really a round that she considered to be a standout but she still managed to put together a solid number.
"I didn't really do anything great all day," Lewis said. "I kind of just plodded my way around, made birdie on the first hole, made a good 25-footer, and that definitely got things started on the right foot. But I hit some bad shots, I hit some good shots, and just kind of made a few putts in between, and you know, definitely left some out there. But I'm not going to complain about 66."
Still learning: Stacy Lewis (@Stacy_Lewis) is no stranger to being in contention, having won five LPGA events over the past two years. But the No. 4 player in the Rolex Rankings acknowledges that she's still learning when it comes to how best to handle those situations when she's in the lead.
Such was the case last week in Thailand when Lewis lead by three shots after two rounds but saw her putter go cold in the final two rounds. She still managed to finish tied for third, two shots behind winner Inbee Park, but there were some lessons she took from the situation.
"I did it last week, too, was just trying too hard and trying to make putts and trying to hit good shots," Lewis said. "You know you kind of grip the club a little tighter, you hold the putter a little tighter and things just don't go your way. You just need to not try so hard and just have fun out there and relax."
It's a lesson that Lewis said that will definitely use this week on a golf course that requires a player to be precise with their decisions.
"This golf course, if you try -- if you go at a pin you probably shouldn't, you're going to pay for it, you really just have to play smart," Lewis said. "You make par on a hole, you make par and you move on."
Feeling more comfortable…Na Yeon Choi (@nychoi87) can't seem to wipe the smile off her face when she's on the golf course recently. Smiling is not something that the 25-year-old South Korean has been trying to do more lately but it just seems to be that she's enjoying golf more than ever right now. And others have taken notice.
"I heard from other people, like when they look at me, I seems very happy to play golf," Choi said. " I think that's kind of like big change for me. I don't know what reason but I feel very happy to play golf right now, and I feel like I don't really have the pressure."
The approach seems to be working great for Choi, who finished seventh last week in Thailand and who put together another great round on Friday. She shot a 6-under 66 with seven birdies and one bogey and is now currently tied for second at 9-under-par.
"I hit a lot of fairways and I made a lot of putts," Choi said of her round. "This course, I think the main thing is keep it in the fairway. The rough is not difficult but I think the grass is in really good -- in shape.
"So even from the fairway, even we have to hit like 3- or 4-rescue, but still, you know, I feel really comfortable with that. I'm always comfortable with the long shot, so I think that this course is very suited for my game."
Impressive composure: It was just five days ago that golf audiences felt a collective heartbreak for 17-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn as they watched her make triple bogey on the 18th hole at the Honda LPGA Thailand to lose by one shot to Inbee Park. Jutanugarn was attempting to become the first player from Thailand to win on the LPGA Tour and to have the letdown happen in her home country was certainly disappointing.
But Jutanugarn hasn't shown any signs of letting that moment fluster her. Instead, the rookie on the Ladies European Tour, who is a sponsor invite here in Singapore, is right back up near the top of the leaderboard this week on the LPGA Tour after shooting a 6-under 66 on Friday to put her in a tie for second at 9-under-par.
Na Yeon Choi (@nychoi87) was paired with Jutanugarn on Friday and said that she was impressed with the play of the young Thai golfer.
"I think she's a really good player," Choi said. "She's only like 17 years old right now but she's a good putter and she hit it's far, and also straight. And then I think she seems like she's a positive person, too, so I think definitely she's going to be really good player."
Pushing through: Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer) still isn't feeling exactly like herself after being involved in a five-car accident on Sunday night in Thailand, but the No. 13 player in the Rolex Rankings is still finding a way to keep herself in contention.
Creamer fired a 5-under 67 on Friday to move into a tie for second at 9-under-par. She recorded six birdies and one bogey in what was just her second full round out on the golf course this week.
"It takes me a little while to get me used to my arm out there," Creamer said. "It's really my shoulder that's kind of bugging me, and just trying not to force things early on and it gets loosened up as the day goes on. However, it does get more fatigued by the end of the round. But I take the birdies when they come, and so far I've played the back nine pretty well."
Creamer has also given a lot of the credit for her success so far this week to her caddie, Colin Cann, who has helped her to navigate the difficult Serapong Course without having had much time to practice on it.
"Colin has done such a great job," Creamer said. "I'm lucky to have him. Obviously I have not been able to play the golf course, so all of these numbers are new to him and he's going out there and working really hard. He's making it a little bit easier for me."
Quotable: "Kind of the middle of last year one of my goals was to track down Yani; it still is. Each week you kind of have to build off of it. I didn't play well last weekend but I still finished third and that helps me in that move to No. 1. So just keep chipping away at it and giving myself chances to win; I've been doing a good job of that, and just keep knocking on the door." – Stacy Lewis on wanting to be No. 1
Of Note...First-round leader Azahara Munoz shot a 2-under 70 and is tied for second at 9-under-par. "I'm hitting really good shots but just not making as many putts as I did yesterday. I made a bogey on 3, just went too far on the fairway. But other than that I played really well, so I'm really excited for the weekend," she said…Defending champion Angela Stanford shot her second straight round of 76 and is tied for 59th…Natalie Gulbis withdrew before the second round due to illness…Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng is tied for 21st at 3-under-par after shooting a 1-over 73 on Friday.
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 4
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our current leader, Stacy Lewis, into the interview room. Congratulations, a great 6-under par round for you out there. Take me through that day and what really kind of were the keys to your round that really got you going.
STACY LEWIS: You know, I didn't really do anything great all day. I kind of just plodded my way around, made birdie on the first hole, made a good 25-footer, and that definitely got things started on the right foot. But I hit some bad shots, I hit some good shots, and just kind of made a few putts in between, and you know, definitely left some out there. But I'm not going to complain about 66.
MODERATOR: We watched you last week get off to such a hot start over the first two days, and then as you said, your putter went cold. What's the key for you to kind of making sure as you go into this weekend that you can kind of continue this momentum that you've been building?
STACY LEWIS: I think I kind of realised, especially on this golf course, I did it last week, too, was just trying too hard and trying to make putts and trying to hit good shots. You know you kind of grip the club a little tighter, you hold the putter a little tighter and things just don't go your way. You just need to not try so hard and just have fun out there and relax.
This golf course, if you try -- if you go at a pin you probably shouldn't, you're going to pay for it, you really just have to play smart. You make par on a hole, you make par and you move on.
MODERATOR: You've the driver out of play the majority of the time this week, have you gotten to the point where you're more comfortable with placement on these holes and getting your plan set for how you want to play this golf course.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, the game plan didn't change much today. I think they moved the tee up on 9, but other than, that all the tee shots were the same. You know, you just have to say, I'm going to hit hybrid off this tee and still have 5-iron into the green and that's just the way it is. I'm good with my long irons and I'm comfortable hitting 4- and 5-irons into greens, so I have no problem with it.
Q. This course is hard but we still found there's a lot of good scores over there. After two rounds, how do you think this course?
STACY LEWIS: I think the course is hard. Even though I've scored well, I think the course is very hard. You really have to hit good golf shots. I mean, there's nothing else -- just you have to hit good shots.
The greens are perfect, so you can make some longer putts, and you can get a putt started on line, it's going to go in. I think the greens being so good, I think that helps the scores be a little bit lower. But I like that it's hard. That's when I usually play better.
Q. You also had the second round lead last weekend. When it's the third round and didn't play as well, what do you learn from that experience that you'll carry into tomorrow?
STACY LEWIS: You know, I've had leads and things like that. Each one is a little bit different. Last week, my putter just went sideways. I don't know what happened.
But I feel a lot more comfortable with my putter this week, which I'm happy about. Like I said earlier, just can't try too hard and that's going to be the biggest thing for me is being very patient. You have to just -- you get a good look at birdie, you have to take advantage.
But you can't force things and I think last week, I definitely was trying to force some putts and hit them too hard and through breaks, so it's really for me just staying patient tomorrow.
Q. Have you changed your putter at all or do you just stay with the same one all the time?
STACY LEWIS: It's the same putter. I kind of talk to my coach back in the States and just told him my left hand was kind of feeling uncomfortable.
So we kind of talked about the way I was holding the putter, and he just suggested actually that I hold it a little bit more in the palm of my hand versus it was getting out into my fingers. So that just allowed kind of my hands to just feel a lot more comfortable over it and I'm hitting more putts on line now.
Q. Do you switch on and off, focus-wise, when you're playing, or are you so focused that you don't notice the ships at sea and everything else happening out there.
STACY LEWIS: Oh, we were -- what hole was that, 5 or 6, we were walking down the fairway talking about the ships out there. I was asking my caddie how it all worked. He's all into that stuff so I was asking him how everything worked.
This golf course, there's some long walks in between shots, so I definitely switch it off and we kind of talk about what's around us or what's going on or flights home or kind of planning things for the next few weeks. It's definitely on and off for me.
Q. You mentioned about trying maybe too hard last week, is it a function of the fact that it's the beginning of the season and you haven't gotten into the groove of things, and maybe later on in the season, you're a bit more comfortable in this position? Does that affect it?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, for sure. I think any time you come into the season, there's unknowns of how your game is going to come out and how you're going to play.
For me the first time out, under pressure in the lead, you just never know how your body is going to react even though you've been there before.
All you can do is learn from it and know that that's kind of what I do. I know under pressure, I get fast and I start swinging fast and I start moving fast. And so it's just taking little things every week and learning from it and moving on.
Q. Is it possible that you will change your tee shot strategy; that maybe they move the tee a little bit in front of the tee box?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I definitely think they will move some tees around this weekend. You know, 9 yesterday, I hit 3-wood off the tee, kind of back short of the bunkers and had 5-iron in or 6-iron, and then today I hit -- they moved the tee up 50 yards, hit driver over the bunkers and had a wedge in.
So you just have to know. I mean, I said at the beginning of the week, I said whoever has the best caddie is going to win, so I think my caddie is pretty good, so I think we are in good shape.
Q. A fair bit of contention about who could be the new world No. 1 after this tournament; where do you see yourself joining that race? Is that a target of yours?
STACY LEWIS: Absolutely, kind of middle of last year that was one of my goals was to track down Yani; it still is. Each week you kind of have to build off of it. I didn't play well last weekend but I still finished third and that helps me in that move to No. 1.
So just keep chipping away at it and giving myself chances to win; I've been doing a good job of that, and just keep knocking on the door.
Q. Looking at last year, Yani after being No. 1 for quite a time, suddenly wasn't actually enjoying being there. She was finding it all a strain. Did you look at that and think, well, if I get there, I'll do this, that and the next thing, or not?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think it's hard. I know No. 1 is a hard place to be. But for me I've always -- I mean, I feel like I'm the same person that was my rookie year number hundred and something in the world.
I don't feel like a different person. I don't feel like I'm doing a lot of stuff different, and I mean, right now, I don't think No. 1 for me is going to be any different.
You know, right now, I'm No. 4 and there's a lot of demands, there's a lot of questions, everybody always wants to talk to you, but that's not going to change. I'm comfortable being there and I want to get there.
Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Q. Take me through the day, pretty decent, pretty happy with how you played today?
NA YEON CHOI: Yeah, I think I had a great day today. I think I had a really good warm up this morning, and I felt great even in warm up. I started with a birdie on the first hole and then when I turned the ninth hole, I got three birdie in a row. I got good momentum from there.
I mean, I got one bogey on 15, but I think, you know, it was okay. I finished strong on 18. So I'm really happy and actually tomorrow is like actual moving day, so I want to play well tomorrow, too.
Q. Overall, we talked about this course early in the week and how it would play. How is your strategy worked out so far?
NA YEON CHOI: Like today, I think I hit a lot of fairways and I made a lot of putts. This course, I think the main thing is keep it in the fairway. The rough is not difficult but I think the grass is in really good -- in shape.
So even from the fairway, even we have to hit like 3- or 4-rescue, but still, you know, I feel really comfortable with that. I'm always comfortable with the long shot, so I think that this course is very suited for my game.
Q. You were talking about, last week was the first event of the year for you, feeling good about your game and you were excited about playing this week. What have you seen so far over the past couple rounds that has really kind of made you excited about what you can do this year?
NA YEON CHOI: I don't know, I heard from other people, like when they look at me, seems very happy to play golf. I think that's kind of like big change for me. I don't know what reason but I feel very happy to play golf right now, and I feel like I don't really have the pressure.
Just like beginning of the season, I can just go out there, play, have fun, and I talk a lot with the players, even today with Ariya and even caddie. I just talk about house, how I spend time in wintertime, just like that kind. Not any pressure right now.
Q. You got to play with Ariya today, what has impressed you about her game? We saw how well she played last week in Thailand and now again today another solid round from her?
NA YEON CHOI: Well, I think she's a really good player. She's only like 17 years old right now but she's a good putter and she hit it far, and also straight. And then I think she seems like she's a positive person, too, so I think definitely she's going to be really good player.
I mean, I think she's a good player already, but I talk to her today and she really want to come to LPGA Tour, too. You know, hopefully I see her next year on Tour. I mean, I had a great time with her today.
Q. And are you impressed by the way she's been able to play these first couple rounds? We've all seen everybody go through struggles in terms of having a rough time and everybody saw her on 18 last we can with the triple-bogey, but for her to be able to put that in the back of her mind and shoot how she's doing this week, shows some maturity.
NA YEON CHOI: I think she's kind of like -- she's mature. She's not like a child I think. I mean, I watched her on 18 last week on Sunday, but I mean, maybe she's kind of like -- she can make, like in trouble (ph) but she's kind of like through all the adversity. She seems fun and very positive person, yeah.
Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 13
Q. A fantastic round of 67, how do you feel?
PAULA CREAMER: You know, I'm feeling all right. It comes and goes. Near the end of the day, it gets a little sore. That's to be expected.
But like I said yesterday, I'm just glad to be out here and playing golf, and I have no expectations whatsoever. It's funny how when you play a little bit better that happens.
Q. Playing better, you're playing brilliant, a round of 67 and you really came alive on the back nine.
PAULA CREAMER: I don't know, it takes me a little while to get me used to my arm out there. It's really my shoulder that's kind of bugging me, and just trying not to force things early on and it gets loosened up as the day goes on.
However, it does get more fatigued by the end of the round. But I take the birdies when they come, and so far I've played the back nine pretty well.
Q. 4-under par, now the front nine seems particularly tricky, imagine just to get around in level par, maybe 1-under, you have to feel happy.
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, it's a great golf course. There's really no easy stretch out there. You can take advantage a little bit on the par 5s, obviously No. 4 is a tricky hole just off the tee, there's just so many choices that you can do. And I like that; I like having a golf course where you can be a little more strategic out there and make the caddie work a little harder.
Q. Are you going to make your caddie work hard this afternoon and have a chance to relax?
PAULA CREAMER: Colin has done such a great job. I'm lucky to have him. Obviously I have not been able to play the golf course, so all of these numbers are new to him and going out there and working really hard. He's making it a little bit easier for me.
Azahara Munoz, Rolex Rankings No. 16
Q. After two rounds, to score 9-under par, but it's got to be very difficult after shooting such a tremendous 65 in the opening round, comparing that score to today?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: No, I didn't, because I knew it was really hard -- I'm hitting really good shots but just not making as many putts as I did yesterday. I made a bogey on 3, just went too far on the fairway. But other than that I played really well, so I'm really excited for the weekend.
Q. You talked about the putts today, it seems so important to be on the right segment of the greens to give yourself a good chance?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: It is. I had a lot of downhillers today. I kept thinking that they were faster than they were. I kept missing them short.
Q. After a really demanding tee shot --
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Yeah, I wasn't sure if the 8 could make it but I thought it did. Thankfully I hit a really good third shot and I just made a bogey. But at least I only made a bogey.
Q. Well, you recovered well after that and a round of 70, so two shots behind Stacy going into the final round. Do you go out and hit balls after this? It's about 130 degrees out here.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I think I'm going to go hit a few putts and maybe five or ten balls, but no more than that.
Q. You're used to this weather coming from Spain.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I'm not, this is too hot for me.
Q. This is a terrific week on the LPGA schedule.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Yeah, we all love coming here. Singapore is one of our favourite cities, and HSBC does a tremendous job, so we are all really thankful to be here.
Q. There's so many great Spaniards on Tour at the moment, where does this all come from?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: You seem surprised. There are quite a few of us and I think a lot of us coming on this year and there will be even more next year. So it's a good season for us.
Chella Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 35
Q. Great round, just take me through your day.
CHELLA CHOI: Thank you. I played really good today. My position is really good, my shot was good. But, some of my tee shot missed, but always my second shot or third shot, my shot was good. So confidence is better than before. Hopefully do my best tomorrow.
Q. Really with this golf course, placement is so key. How much is that giving you confidence, like you said, your second or third shots?
CHELLA CHOI: I just focus my, how do I say, my spot, so I just try just focus just my spot and it's the right side. I trust my shot, so shot was good.
Q. Was there a particular point in the round today that you knew that you were playing well and that perhaps you could put up a really good score to keep yourself up in contention?
CHELLA CHOI: I don't know why, I practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday's Pro-Am today, I can't understand, because two low score, I think like second day is 5-under, 6-under winning, but a lot of players, pretty great, they have very good shot and very good swing. Yeah, amazing.
Q. And how did you feel about your game entering this week? Have you been feeling confident early in the year?
CHELLA CHOI: I'm really, really tired Monday, so I rest Tuesday. I played Pro-Am Wednesday, but I played with president here of golf course and captain, so they know spot, so pretty good for me. And confidence, my swing and my condition is much better, so, yeah.
Ariya Jutanugarn, Rolex Rankings No. 57
Q. What a great round today, you started off, no bogeys, and you started on the back nine?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: First eight, no birdies --
Q. And then you went on and powered through the back nine. The back nine was a little bit harder?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: For me, I like the back nine better, so I feel like the front nine is harder.
Q. And you didn't do any bogeys today. How pleased are you with that?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: Yeah, no bogeys.
Q. Very pleased?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: Yeah, it was very nice, you know, because like have fans there and played nice today.
Q. And what did you do well today?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: You know, today my irons help me a lot, and I still miss some short putts, but my irons, I hit so close to the pin today.
Q. Especially on 18.
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: Yeah.
Q. Any other holes you would like to remember?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: 18. Sometimes not close but I hit like long iron, 6-iron to ten feet, pretty good.
Q. And did you putt well today?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: My putt is very good, but sometimes still I really the wrong line. Like sometimes left but it's right and I miss it two times.
Q. And your sister did well today, as well, which is nice.
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: Yes.
Q. It's nice when you both do do well, nice for dinner.
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: Yeah.
Q. You look forward to spending some time together after the round?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN: Yes.