North Texas LPGA Shootout Wednesday Notes and Interviews

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Suzann Petersen of Norway tees off the second hole during the third round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf at the Ko Olina Golf Club.

North Texas LPGA Shootout
Las Colinas Country Club
Irving, Texas
Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews
April 24, 2013

Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Lizette Salas, Rolex Rankings No. 22

The LPGA Tour returns to the Lone Star State this week for the inaugural North Texas Shootout in Irving, Texas. The tournament marks the first time in more than 20 years the LPGA will play in the region and will feature several unique aspects compared to the typical tournament week.

With a $1.3 million purse, the North Texas LPGA Shootout will feature a full-field of 144 players contending over four days of 72-hole stroke play competition. The “shootout” format of the tournament will consist of two cuts; the first will be made after the second round to the top-70 and ties, and the second cut will be made to the top-50 and ties after the third round on Saturday.

Race for No. 1: The battle for the top spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings has certainly started to heat up of late and this week will provide yet another opportunity for a change at the top. While Inbee Park has held the top ranking for the past two weeks, Stacy Lewis will also have an opportunity to regain the No. 1 ranking based on her play in North Texas this week.
Here is the simplified breakdown of who could be No. 1 when the Rolex Rankings come out next Monday, although there are many scenarios that could unfold:
STACY LEWIS
Stacy must finish fifth or better to have a shot at regaining Rolex No. 1 and if she wins this week, she will automatically regain that top spot. From there, things get a tad more complicated in the various scenarios for Lewis.

INBEE PARK
Regardless of her finish (even if she misses the cut), Inbee will hold the Rolex No. 1 spot provided that Stacy Lewis finishes sixth or worse. There are other scenarios where Park could retain the top spot but those are more complicated as well.

According to Lewis, all of the projections of what it will take to get back to No. 1 aren’t something that she keeps in the forefront of her mind.

“You know, for all those scenarios, I feel bad that you have to sit there and figure that out,” Lewis said jokingly during her press conference on Wednesday when told of the scenarios. “ But it's something that it's cool to be No. 1 and nice to get to that point, but it's not something I think about all the time.
“It's a result of good play, of winning tournaments.  That's what I want to do every week, is win the tournament.  If I have a chance to win going into Sunday, that's what I want.  That's my goal every week. I mean, rankings do matter, but it's not something you think about every hole or shot.”

Welcome Home…Homecomings are nothing new for Stacy Lewis on the LPGA Tour. The University of Arkansas alum is welcomed back with open arms when she returns to the state for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. The 28-year-old was born in Toledo, Ohio and is therefore treated like the hometown girl each year when the LPGA Tour stops there as well.

But just ask Lewis where she considers home and there is no question that it’s Texas. Lewis, who grew up in The Woodlands, Texas outside of Houston, isn’t exactly near her hometown this week but she’s certainly thrilled to be playing this week in the state that she loves.

“It's awesome to be back,” Lewis said. “We have so many great players from Texas.  It's kind of like, Why haven't we had a tournament here? Just to be back where you're familiar.  I mean, it's not exactly where I grew up, but it's close enough.  Every week they announce on the tee where we were from, and I always say The Woodlands, Texas.  It really is home to me.”

Lewis is hoping that Texas feeling will be just what she needs to get her game back into a groove like she had early in the season. While Lewis has two top-10 finishes in her last three events, including a T9 last week in Hawaii, she felt that there were parts of her game that needed tweaking.

“I haven't played as well as I would have liked the last few weeks,” Lewis said. “I've been struggling with my swing a little bit.  It's come around and turned the corner, so I feel good about my swing.  I feel good about my game.  I feel like it's moving in the right direction.”

Pettersen brimming with confidence in North Texas. Following her 11th career LPGA win last week at the LOTTE Championship, Suzann Pettersen arrived in Texas yesterday filled with confidence that victory brings. The Norwegian is currently No. 5 on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings with four wins worldwide since October.

“I feel like I have a game to win on pretty much every course that we have,” Pettersen said. “If I just can manage to stay on top of my game and prepare the way I feel like I should prepare and get enough rest, I feel like I should be in contention pretty much every time I tee it up.”

But while she feels capable of winning each week, Pettersen, 32, also realizes that the depth on the LPGA Tour is greater than ever before.

“You have to bring you’re A-game to the course every single day,” she said. “At Kraft (Nabisco Championship), I played three great rounds and one sloppy round. That's not going to get the job done.”

A three-time runner-up at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Pettersen fired three rounds in the 60’s at Mission Hills Country Club this year, but a second-round 75 knocked her out of contention to finish tied for third. She rebounded last week to win the LOTTE Championship in a one-hole, sudden death playoff with Lizette Salas.

American pride: Lizette Salas has watched her name quickly move up the U.S. Solheim Cup point standings this year, thanks to her strong play at the start of the 2013 season. The second-year LPGA Tour pro has already tallied four top-10 finishes this year including her runner-up finish at last week’s LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf in Hawaii and now sits in a tie for seventh in the U.S. Solheim Cup point standings with Jessica Korda. The top eight players in the point standings will earn a spot on this year’s U.S. team that will play in Parker, Colorado in August.

“Just the way I finished last year, my rookie year, you know, that was one of my goals, to make the Solheim Cup this year ‑‑ or it still is my goal,” Salas said. “I also know it's not going to be handed to me.  I know I'm going to have to work extremely hard, and at the same time stay patient.  The year is going to be so long.  I started the year sooner than last year, so I have to learn how to pace myself.”

Salas has the U.S. Solheim Cup team in her sights and based on the emotion in her voice when she talks about making the team, don’t be surprised to see her donning the red, white and blue in August.

“It would just mean the world to me if I made Solheim,” Salas said. “I wasn't picked for Junior Solheim.  I was not picked for, what is it, the Curtis Cup, even though I was really working hard to get picked for those teams. Just for me to work my way up the points and getting my name out there and just to represent the United States and wear that red, white, and blue, that would be the stamp of living the American dream for me and my family.

“My family is like, Okay, let's go to Colorado.  I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it happen for them.  This is the journey, and it's a family journey.  I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.  I'm just getting goosebumps.”

The Next Generation? Asked about the wave of young American and international stars on Tour now, Suzann Pettersen harkened back to the days when she arrived on Tour to play alongside many of the biggest names in LPGA history.

“I've been fortunate enough to be out here long enough to actually see and play with and against players like Annika, Meg Mallon, Beth Daniel, Rosie Jones, all the Swedish girls, you name it,” she said. “I'm very fortunate and happy that I got to play with them because I learned a lot.”

Following her playoff last week with rising American star Lizette Salas, and on the heels of impressive play from young future LPGA member Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn, Pettersen admitted that, for the next generation of LPGA stars, being naïve might actually be beneficial.

“They're fearless,” she said. “They haven't been out here enough to know the humps out here.”

Safe to say, 10 years from now, the next generation of LPGA stars will be talking about the impact Suzann Pettersen had on their careers.

Spring Wind: It’s no secret that the wind blows in Texas, but this morning players and pro-am participants were greeted by wind chills in the high 30’s at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving. Temperatures rose into the upper 60’s with winds from the North at 10-15 mph through the afternoon. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for rising temperatures near 70 degrees with winds from the East-Southeast at 6-12 mph.

“This course is definitely going to be a challenge this week,” Stacy Lewis said. “I think the greens are running a lot faster today than they were yesterday, so it's going to be a challenge this week.  This course is going to be hard. It's going to be windy probably.  It's just going to get firm and fast.  But I'm ready for the challenge.”

Quotable“I think [Lizette Salas] has to be on the Solheim Cup team.  I think you can pretty much say that.  She's gritty and a fighter.  I would love to pair up with her come August.  You look at Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson, I mean, they could potentially be the stars of the Solheim Cup team because of the way they're playing now. They're playing the best out of a lot of the players on the team. It's great for the Tour.  I like seeing when kids do well.” – Stacy Lewis on the young American talent for this year’s U.S. Solheim Cup team.

Five Things You Don’t Know About… Alison Walshe

  1. Walshe is a dual American and Irish citizen. She was born in Ireland to Irish parents and moved to the United States at the age of 3.
  2. She is very OCD and extremely superstitious: she must iron all her clothes and she always does the same workout routine and eats the same breakfast before her rounds.
  3. She attended three colleges: Boston College for her freshman year, Tulane University for her sophomore year before she was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, then University of Arizona for three years.
  4. Walshe is completely into music, especially live concerts, and she listens to all genres. When she returns to Florida, she will go to see Tim McGraw and Imagine Dragons in the same week
  5. She is newly obsessed with surfing and spent three weeks in Hawaii around the LOTTE Championship. Walshe surfed a short board on the North Shore.

Of Note…Karin Sjodin withdrew the field this week and was replaced by Meaghan Francella…The only player from the top 10 in the Rolex Rankings who is not in the field this week is Karrie Webb.

 

STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 2

MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Stacy Lewis Rolex Rankings No. 2 into the interview room.  More importantly this week, Woodland, Texas native.First off, just being back here, I know there is a lot of states that like to claim you, but for you, Texas is home.  What's it like to be back here in Texas and getting to play an LPGA event.
STACY LEWIS:  It's awesome to be back.  We have so many great players from Texas.  It's kind of like, Why haven't we had a tournament here?
           
Just to be back where you're familiar.  I mean, it's not exactly where I grew up, but it's close enough.  Every week they announce on the tee where we were from, and I always say The Woodlands, Texas.  It really is home to me.

MODERATOR:  It's been quite a ride for you over the past year or so, taking over the No. 1 spot back in March and now having relinquished it for two weeks.  The big story again this week is it's up for grabs again, and you in be the battle for it. We went through scenarios again, and it looks like if you finish fifth or better you'll have an opportunity to take that spot back. For you, how do you approach that whole situation?  Is it something you're more focused on golf and how you finish in the tournament than that No. 1 spot?
STACY LEWIS:  You know, for all those scenarios, I feel bad that you have to sit there and figure that out.  But it's something that it's cool to be No. 1 and nice to get to that point, but it's not something I think about all the time.
           
It's a result of good play, of winning tournaments.  That's what I want to do every week, is win the tournament.  If I have a chance to win going into Sunday, that's what I want.  That's my goal every week.
           
I mean, rankings do matter, but it's not something you think about every hole or shot.

MODERATOR:  When you think about how busy you've been recently, what is it like, whether No. 1 or No. 2, but being up there as the top American.  I know recently you've made appearances at CNN and the Masters to accept your Player of the Year award. What are the demands like being one of the top players and top‑ranked American to get so much attention?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, I guess it was in June last year I took over the spot as top American.  Ever since then the demands have just been going up.  There have been a lot of media requests, a lot of things that I've unfortunately had to say no to.
           
That's what I'm learning:  I can't do everything.  I try to do as much as I can, but I can't do it all.
           
We're doing some things getting more exposure, going national, going to CNN.  We want to do things like that and get our big network shows that will really bring golfers, people that aren't fan, into the sport.
           
We have or good fan base.  We just want to grow it.  So that's really what the tour and what I want to try to do.  But I've been very busy.  I've been flying all over the place.  I flew up to Arkansas on Monday and filmed Feherty, so that'll be coming out in about a month.
           
It's been a lot, but it's been fun to finally get that exposure and recognition.

MODERATOR:  There haven't been too many females featured on Feherty so far.  What was that day like, and what can we expect from that episode?
STACY LEWIS:  It was pretty entertaining.  David is ‑‑ what you see on the show, that's how he is all the time.  We had a lot of fun.  We spent all day.  He was goofing off will whole time.
           
He did his own version of a hog call, which was pretty interesting, to say the least.  So you have to watch the show to see that.  I think it's going to come out the end of May is when they're talking about it showing on TV.  I'm excited to see what it turned out like.

MODERATOR:  You've been playing well in recent weeks, but coming into this week how do you feel about the state of your game and what are you focused on?  Is there something specific you're working on?
STACY LEWIS:  You know, I haven't played as well as I would have liked the last few weeks.  I've been struggling with my swing a little bit.  It's come around and turned the corner, so I feel good about my swing.  I feel good about my game.  I feel like it's moving in the right direction.
           
Just excited to get play in.  This course is definitely going to be a challenge this week.  I think the greens are running a lot faster today than they were yesterday, so it's going to be a challenge this week.  This course is going to be hard.
           
It's going to be windy probably.  It's just going to get firm and fast.  But I'm ready for the challenge.
            .
Q. You  had mentioned how the tour has really grown, especially the depth of the tour.  In terms of interest, it seems that having an American on top has really helped a lot.  I mean, the international thing has been going on for 20 years.
STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, it's something that as one of the top Americans for the past few years I've been asked about a lot, is why all these players from Asia are playing so well and we aren't.
           
For me, I can't talk about anybody else.  For me, I just want to let my play speak for itself.  You can only sit up here so many times and, We have a lot of talented players.  You just got to go out there and make it happen.
           
I think now you're seeing some younger Americans getting experience being in final groups and really starting to play well.  That's what most exciting for me.  We've got some really young talent from names that aren't the typical names everybody knows.
           
I'm excited to play with them and watch them learn and grow, too.

MODERATOR:  When we talk about some of those young Americans, one is Lizette Salas, who we watched finish runner‑up in Hawaii last week.  I know you were sitting there watching her finish up with that great round of 62 and then in the playoff. Coming up on a Solheim year, what impressed you most about her game?  How excited are you to see players like her and Jessica Korda and other young Americans emerging and they could possibly be on Solheim Cup team.
STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I've been saying it for probably six, eight months now.  They always asked who is coming up next, and I've always said Lizette Salas.  So is just so solid.  She hits is straight and can putt it like crazy.  I was not surprised that she has been playing as well as she has.
           
She had a little bump there at the Kraft the final round.  I think you need an experience where you falter to really kind of can grow from that.
           
She shoots a final round of I think 79 at the Kraft and then comes back the very next week and plays and shoots a 62 in the final round.  Yeah, she lost in the playoff, but she's going to learn from that as well.
           
I think she has to be on the Solheim Cup team.  I think you can pretty much say that.  She's gritty and a fighter.  I would love to pair up with her come August.  You look at Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson, I mean, they could potentially be the stars of the Solheim Cup team because of the way they're playing now.
           
They're playing the best out of a lot of the players on the team.  I don't know.  It's great for the tour.  I like seeing when kids do well.

Q.  Over the course of the Rolex Rankings system, the No. 1 players always tend to be around top 5 in putts in greens in regulation.  You're second right now.  What is the secret putting‑wise for you?  Makes you successful in that regard?
STACY LEWIS:  Putting, you know, putting is a lot of confidence, but it's also for me speed.  I kind of figured out over the last few years that every putt is a speed putt.  When you're not speed putting and not giving yourself four‑ and five‑footer for par all the time, it frees you up to really kind of go for some putts maybe you wouldn't.  It's really a confidence thing.
           
I played Inbee Park so many times, and she might be the best putter on tour.  I don't know how she makes all the putts she does.  Putting wins golf tournaments.  That's what gets you to No. 1 in the world.  That's something I've been focused on really over the last few years.

Q.  I know this is a little out of the blue, but Pinnacle shortened the par‑3, 17.  What's your take on that?
STACY LEWIS:  For shortening the hole?

Q.  Yeah.
STACY LEWIS:  I've been asking them to do it for however many years we've been there.  We've been trying to get that 17th hole to be like 16 in Phoenix for the men.  Get it rowdy and get the crowd going.
           
On Sunday they put that back right pin, and you've got to hit probably a 210 shot into that pin.  Nobody makes birdies.
           
So to get the people rowdy, we need to see the birdies.  That's good to hear that they finally moved that.

Q.  You talked about the course.  It sounds like you think it's different.  Was that a matter of the wind?  Take me through how this course plays.
STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I mean, the wind definitely, it's going to be a factor.  I think the hardest part is gonna be hitting the fairways.
           
A lot of the fairways are sloped from left to right pretty hard that if it goes an extra four or five yards you're blocked out in the trees.  You have to be strategic.  I know the wind was mostly out of the north the first few days; it's going to switch out of the south and it's going to be completely opposite.
           
So you'll have to adjust and make some different moves off the tees depending on the conditions.

Q.  Your fight with scoliosis has been well documented.  How have those experiences molded you into the golfer you are today?
STACY LEWIS:  You know, I said all the time I wouldn't be up here if I didn't go through all my back stuff.  It's something I wouldn't wish on any kid.  It was hard wearing a back brace for 18 hours a day for six and a half years.  That's not something I think any parent would ever want their kid to go through.
           
It made me realize how lucky I am first of all just to be able to practice every day and be able to do this.  I just love what you get to do.  That's the biggest thing.  I'm just so grateful for the opportunity.
           
Whether you play bad or good, at the time you're not happy, but when you look at it big picture, it's really not that big of a deal.

Q.  A lot of tweets going out about how much the golfers are enjoying it here in Texas.  Thoughts on that.
STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I'm excited to be home.  I grew up playing in the wind and on tough courses like this, so I'm excited to be back.  It's strange that we haven't had a tournament here for so long; hopefully we can keep this thing going for a few more years.

Q.  [Commissioner Mike Whan comes in and asks what Stacy would do if she were Commissioner for a day]
STACY LEWIS:  How long do I have?

Q.  When did you fly back to Arkansas, and what was Feherty's version of calling the hogs?
STACY LEWIS:  Well, I actually flew here on Sunday from Hawaii.  Got in about noon; left 8 a.m. on Monday, flew to Arkansas, filmed the show, and then got back here at 9:00 on Monday night.  Quick trip.
           
He hunts hogs, like he shoots them, so he had a call that he does out in the wild when he's hunting.  So something along those lines.  (Laughter.)

Q.  The commissioner has mentioned how the players really stepped up in terms of helping to promote the tour.  You guys have really taken ownership of this tour, haven't you?  How much pride do you take in how much it's grown so far?
STACY LEWIS:  I think a lot of players have realized we've got the staff and the commissioner around us that we can give them feedback and they listen to us of they come to us and ask for our opinions.
           
I think if you go back to the founders that started our tour, they were the ones that sold the tour.  They were the players.  The players sold the tour.  They did clinics and went to sporting goods stores and got people out to watch the tournaments.
           
As players too we realize that this is our tour.  We need to take ownership of it and make it our own.  So we have to sell our tour.  That's why our Pro‑Ams are so successful.  That's what makes our tournaments go are those Pro‑Ams.  We got to work to make the tour the best it can be so the kids out there playing junior golf and have that dream of professional golf, that they have that opportunity.

Q.  Northwest Arkansas Media, and I'm working on a story in advance on the tournament and how it's really grown since its inception.  Talk about that tournament and its success and how you feel about that tournament personally.
STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, you know in Arkansas, it's another hometown event for me.  I lived there for what, seven years.  It's really cool how the area, they took ownership of me.  Just because I went to school there, they made me their own.  For me to come back there and play, it's really special.
           
No other player gets that treatment when we go any other place, so it's definitely one of my favorite events.  I love getting the hog calls coming up 17 and 18.  Wal‑Mart and P&G have really taken ownership of that tournament and want to make it as best it can be.  They're making changes every year.
           
The players talk about loving to come to that area and staying for the week.

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, Stacy.  Best of luck this week.  It would only befitting if you took impact No. 1 spot in Texas; is that right?
STACY LEWIS:  It would be pretty good.

SUZANN PETTERSEN, Rolex Rankings No. 5

MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome No. 5 now, Suzann Pettersen, into the interview room here at the North Texas LPGA Shootout; the most recent winner on the LPGA Tour last week on Saturday at the Lotte championship in Hawaii.
A little bit different weather here today than in Oahu.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, I'm glad I went home for a couple days.  I saw the weather forecast and it's going to be a little bit cooler for this week and next week.
           
It's windy here as well.  Might as well stay hitting those chip shots with the wind.
           
Happy to be here.  I only played one tournament in Texas before.  That was our Tour Championship, well, feels like years back.

MODERATOR:  2010.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  2010.  I'm happy to be back in Texas.  It's great golfing state.  I think it's good for the LPGA to be here.

MODERATOR:  You got your 11th career LPGA victory last week in Hawaii, your first of the season but your second worldwide this season.  You won in China as well.  What's working well for your game right now?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I don't know.  I get the ball in the hole in a few strokes.
           
I don't know.  I mean, I work hard.  The practice is paying off.  I feel good.  I don't really question my game too much.  I play what I have, try to make the most out of every round.
           
I really took good advantage last week on the first day in very good playing conditions, and managed to get a 7‑under par that helped me kick start the week.  Obviously played great during the following two days in the wind.
           
Putting good, too.  I mean, everything is just coming together.  It's nice I can keep it up even after Kraft.

MODERATOR:  You talked last week after you won about this is your 11th year on tour.  You figured out how to play a lot smarter.  You are aggressive when you need to be and layup when you need to.  Is that something you think about in a week like this where you know the wind might be blowing, you might be worried about playing too aggressively.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  No, but I think what I tried to say and what I still believe in, I can play defensive golf.  I can play away from the pin, but it's hard to live with that.  I would rather be aggressive and make mistakes that way.
           
If you know your short game and putting is good enough, you dare to take on more pins and you can be more aggressive.  But for me to play defense and try to protect something is just not me.  It's hard tore me to sleep at night if I feel I played that way.
           
I'm just now trying to stick more to what I know and what I trust.  If you pull the wrong club and try to be too aggressive, so what.  You just try to get up and down.
           
Just feeling really good.  The things I've been working on over the winter are kind of all falling together.  Just, yeah, I don't know.
           
I mean, golf is a weird sport.  Sometimes you feel on top of world and the next day you don't know how to hit the ball.  Just appreciate all the good days.

Q.  Two‑parter.  One is on your playoff record.  What is it about playoffs that you excel at?  You're 5‑2 in playoffs; almost half your wins have been that way.  And the other, back to back wins last year.  Can you do it again?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  First, if you go to playoffs stats, if you go to Europe I think it's the complete opposite.  I think I won two and lost five, so I don't know.
           
I mean playoff is ‑‑ you've just got to keep the engine going.  I think to start off when I came out on tour, and especially in Europe when I made it to a playoff, I was just happy enough to be there.  You know, win or lose, you were still top two.
           
I don't really think like that anymore.  Now it's when you get to the playoff you can be a bit more aggressive.  It's really similar to match play.  On Sunday, I mean, Lizette fired probably one of her best rounds ever, 10‑under, and it was hard for me to just stay ahead of her.  I tried to get up and down on 18.
           
I don't know.  I mean, if I put more pressure on her putting the balls in the greens first, I don't know.  In my mind it wouldn't have mattered if she had hit first and hit the green.
           
But I think I feel pretty comfortable.  I trust my game and I kind of trust that what I have, that it's good enough.  I think that's pretty much it.  That's pretty much how I play match play, and that's probably why I love to play the Solheims.  It's all or nothing.
           
What was your second question?

Q.  Back to back wins.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I don't know.  I feel like I've played fairly good since the Asia last your.  I tee'd it up in ten events and won four, so pretty happy with that stat.
           
I feel like I have a game to win on pretty much every course that we have.  If I just can manage to stay on top of my game and prepare the way I feel like I should prepare and get enough rest, I feel like I should be in contention pretty much every time I tee it up.

Q.  Is there a golf course that this one reminds you of?  Anything about this golf course that's different or consistent with the courses that you play in the normal schedule?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  No.  This is Las Colinas, and we only play one Las Colinas a year.  I've only seen the back side.  I'm going to see the front side in the afternoon.
           
The greens are big.  They're a lot speedier than last week, so that's a big adjustment to do.  No rough.
           
So, I mean, defending on what the weather gives us.  I guess the wind is the protection this course has from what I saw yesterday.  It's going to be nice tomorrow, so this cold spell will be over fairly soon.
           
I think it's a good track.  Like I said, I think it's good for the LPGA to be in Texas.

Q.  When you get to Arkansas in June, the course at Pinnacle you played last year.  They shortened the No. 17 hole, the par‑3.  Do you remember that hole at all?  It was very difficult par‑3 and they shortened it.  I was going to get your comments on playing a shorter distance on that course and how that will help the scoring, especially on the final round?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  First of all, I thought that was a brilliant par‑3.  I thought it was one of better ones we play all year.  Long‑ish and you still had to be very precise for that back right pin.  You could play short, safe, or you could be aggressive.  If you hit the right shot, you could really make your move making a birdie there.
           
I thought that was a brilliant hole.  In general, I think the LPGA should make the par‑3s and 4s tougher and ease up on the par 5s.  You look at Augusta coming down the stretch.  Why is it so exciting?  13, 15.  They guys are hitting irons into the greens.  It can really make a difference.  You can make a move with a three or you can really make a disaster out of it or make a six or seven.
           
I think that's the excitement that the fans want to see.  It's more fun for us as well.

Q.  You think that hole, how would that impact the tournament?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Not at all.  Don't make a difference.  It's not a hole where I think average score would be much under par anyway.
           
Then you have 18 that's reachable.  I think they should have kept it as it was.  It is kind of an exciting finish with a tough par‑3, and I can make up on the par 5 coming down.

Q.  On a completely different story, fitness, how important is fitness to your game and how much does the LPGA do to help you and help other golfers on the training table and lunches and things like that and healthier, I guess, meals available for you?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Well, I think in general I think golf has changed a lot over the last 16 years.  I think you look at most of the top golfers now as athletes, not just as golfers.
           
I think the entire attitude, commitment from every player has changed.  Look at all the young guns coming up on the men's and women's side.  It's a complete package.
           
Being a part of the Nike team you really feel like an athlete alongside all the other sports and great athletes.  Doesn't matter what sport.
           
So I think it's a change for the better.  I don't know.  I look at myself as an athlete.  I work hard; I train hard.
           
Fitness is just a part of what I do, but I also love to do it.  It's not just I do it because someone told me to do it.  I think when you're fit, first of all, you feel strong, you're mentally strong, and you recover faster ‑ especially traveling all the different time zones.
           
It's injury preventing most importantly probably, and also sets off a good technique.
           
There are so many benefits from being in good shape and being healthy that I don't know why you wouldn't go that route.

Q.  For the No. 1 spot, fans enjoy this kind of competition.  Do the players like that?  Do you look at that as a fun thing, that competition for No. 1?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Not really.  I just wish I was there and way ahead of everyone else.  (Laughter.)
           
No, I mean, obviously like I say week in and week out:  The depth in women's golf is very deep at the moment.  We have a lot of great players from around the world, and I think that's one of our strong sides, to represent pretty much the world out here.
           
It's nice to see different names up there week in and week out.  Not to take anything away from Annika and Webby and Se Ri when they were fighting it out, but there are a lot more names to it now who can win, which makes it more exciting when you do win.
           
You have to bring your A game to the course every single day.  At Kraft I played three great rounds and one sloppy round.  That's not going to get the job done.
           
So just trying to stay on top of everything.  There is only so much you can control.  What I'm trying to do is make my practice and training as hard as I can so I can ease up when I go and play and just enjoy it.
           
So the practice is the hardest thing, so when I tee it up I can just relax.

Q.  (No microphone.)
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah.  I was on tour in 2005.  I mean, I feel like I've been fortunate enough to be out here long enough to actually see and play with and against players like Annika, Meg Mallon, Beth Daniel, Rosie Jones, all the Swedish girls, you name it.  The generation that is above me.  I'm very fortunate and happy that I got to play with them because I learned a lot.
           
They were great role models for the younger ones the same way we are trying to be for the new girls coming out.
           
The tour has changed a lot.  There are so many more young girls out here.  There is definitely a new generation coming up.

Q.  In going with that question, you talk about the new girls coming in on the tour.  What do you see is the biggest difference between that generation and yours?  Is it fitness?  More the coaching aspect?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Well, I just think you look at golf, you look at tennis, you look at all these other sports, the kids coming out, they're younger and better at a younger age.  I don't know if it's the training regime or whatever they do growing up and how hard they practice, but if you look at all the young girls coming out, they're all pretty fit, tall, and hit it a mile.  They're fearless.  They haven't been out here enough to know the humps out here.
           
But it's fun to see.  There is a lot of great young American players coming up and great personalities as well.  I think we're in very good shape for the future to come.

MODERATOR:  Anyone else for Suzann? A very thoughtful interview.  We appreciate that.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  There you go.  That's what you get with age.


LIZETTE SALAS, Rolex Rankings No. 22

MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Lizette Salas into the interview room.  Lizette last week finished runner‑up in Hawaii and moved up to No. 22 in the Rolex Rankings.  Pretty competitive week for you. First off, I know it wasn't the finish you wanted, but looking back at that week and the 62 on Sunday, what can you take from last week?  Have you been able to put it all in perspective of what happened out there?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Yeah, I was just in the zone on Sunday.  I just felt so confident, so comfortable in this position that I was in.  Even though it was 5 shots back, I just stayed present.  I was very dialed in on what kind of shot I wanted to hit.
           
You know, my caddie, Greg, does a really great job.  We work great together.  It was just a great learning experience just to be in that position and be more comfortable and learn a lot about myself.
           
You know, even though it wasn't the finish I wanted, it was still a great learning experience.  To be contending for the championship with Suzann Pettersen, with the top players in the world, that's something that I'm not used to.
           
But I'm getting the hang of it and getting much more comfortable being out there in that position.

MODERATOR:  We had Stacy in here earlier and I was asking her about you and some of the other young, top Americans that are coming up.  This is a Solheim Cup year. But one of the things she said is that when people were asking her to watch out for before the year started she mentioned your name and said that she knew that you were in for a breakthrough year. Considering how well you played last year in your first year on tour, what did you take from that and how much of that really helped you in getting off to ‑‑ I mean, you've had a great start in your last four events:  Three Top 10s, including the runner‑up finish and the tie for fourth at Founders.
LIZETTE SALAS:  I finished on a good note last year and made a lot of changes right before the Asian swing.  I switched instructors, caddies, equipment, so it was a very big risk.
           
But at the end, I made a great decision.  Just I felt more like myself towards the end of the year last year.  Just tried to keep that momentum going to this year.  I didn't want to play with any expectations.  I just wanted to play my game.  I'm finally starting to see the results that I've been working on for six, seven months now.
           
I've established a great team around me that has allowed me to play golf.  I think it's because of them and establishing a good inner circle around me that's allowed me to play the golf I am now.

MODERATOR:  I don't know if everyone knows your story and what an amazing story it is.  When we talk about the American dream, you're kind of living it.  Your dad was a mechanic at a golf course.  Take us through, for people who aren't aware of your story, how you got involved in golf and the path you've taken to get here.
LIZETTE SALAS:  Yeah, my father is a head mechanic in a public golf course Azusa, California.  He's been working there for over 30 years.  I'm the youngest of three.  My parents are born and raised in Mexico.
           
I went to work with him one day.  I was seven years old.  The head pro wanted to teach me, but of course we didn't have that much money.
           
I didn't grow up with a parent who was a member at the a public golf course.  So my dad did favors in exchange for lessons.  We had no clue this would turn out to be the life that we have now.
           
Golf has changed our lives completely.  I just played locally as a kid, and it was very, very overwhelming at the beginning just because there is not a lot of Hispanic girls in my area that played golf.
           
It was something I was really good at and something that my family knew I had a talent for.  Even though it was off the goals of, you know, negativity, people having doubts about me, but that's what really kept me going.
           
My family is very supportive.  My dad has been a great part of it.  He used to be my caddie and we traveled on the road in his truck.  It was a little rough, but we look back at those times and that really has made us who we are.
           
We just make it happen regardless of the obstacle.

MODERATOR:  You grew up being a big fan of Nancy Lopez, and now she's a mentor to you.  What's it like to have someone of her stature, all that she's accomplished, be there to watch and support you ‑ and you now talk to her ‑ as someone you can always call and rely on?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Yeah, she just changed the game completely, not just for me, but for young golfers.  She reached out to me right before I started my career on the Symetra Tour.  It was a Georgia phone number and I was not going to answer it.  Turned out to be her.
           
I was very, very shocked, very star struck, just because of the status she had.  She's a Hall of Famers and someone I looked up to.  For her to reach out to an up‑and‑coming player, that just shows her character and how much she loves this game.
           
To have her watch me in Phoenix 18 holes, I really did not expect that.  After the round she gave me a putting tip on how to visualize better and how to look at the leaderboard and how to really bring out that fighter when it needs to come out.
           
We had dinner with her and she calls me every event, how I'm doing.  It's just an honor.  Now that I can say that Nancy Lopez is my friend and mentor, that means the world me.  

Q.  Were you able to play that course a lot at first when you were a young kid?  How soon were you looking at competitions?
MODERATOR:  When you started playing.
LIZETTE SALAS:  Oh, I had a lesson every week.  I started playing events probably when I was nine.  Ten years old I played it's called the FCPGA.  I only played like two years on the AJGA at the junior national level.  I was kind of a late bloomer because nobody in my area knew of the big national events.
           
But luckily I got a couple offers and I decided to do to USC.  And right off the bat we won the national championship in 2008 and I became the first four time all‑American there.
           
I think it's just because of the guidance I had there.  I was close to home.  I still had the support from my family, you know, the Latin community.  We're a very, very close, family unit.  The fact that I stayed close to home, we have that Trojan family.  Just my coach, Andrea Gaston, did such a great job of teaching me the ropes, and I had great teammates.
           
The fact that USC has the most players in the LPGA, that says a lot about the school, about our tradition.  So I'm just very fortunate to be a part of it.
           
But it was kind of rough at the beginning just knowing where to play and getting adapted to that new community that I was in.

Q.  What is your father's name, and has he been able to watch you or come out at times to watch you play?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Yeah, his name is Ramon, and last year he traveled with me.  I think he only missed two, three events.  He's here with me this week in Texas.
           
My mom was with me last week.  I think we've learned a routine.  It can definitely get lonely out here.  The fact that this is only my second year, yeah, I had a great first rookie, but I feel like I still need that family support with me.
           
I had a great outing, great fans came out at the Kraft Nabisco and the Kia Classic and in Phoenix.  If it wasn't for my parents following me and sacrificing everything, I wouldn't be here.

Q.  Was it hard to put a way the belly putter and switch to conventional?
LIZETTE SALAS:  No, it was not hard at all.  It was just spur of the moment.  I just happened to walk past the TaylorMade bag and I looked at it.  I said, Is that a putter?  Hmmm, that looks okay.
           
So I pulled it out and looked at it and said, Can I hang on to it?  He's like, Yeah, go ahead.  I started rolling and I was like, Wow, this feels good.
           
I was thinking about letting the belly putter go.  I felt it was time for a change, and I felt that the normal putter would help me visualize better.
           
We tried it and I said, Greg, what do you think about switching to the short one?  He's like, Let's work on it during the Pro‑Am.  Made a couple good putts in the Pro‑Am and I was like, All right, let's do it.  It was very confident about it.  My dad had no idea that I was switching.
           
When I called and told him I switched, he was very happy.  He said, I been wanting to switch you back for a while.  But I felt like I needed to figure that out on my own.  So it's been back and I feel good about it.

MODERATOR:  I know we talked earlier about Solheim.  You've been continually moving up that list in terms of points this year with how well you've been playing.  What would it mean for you to make your first Solheim Cup team this year?  Was that something that you put in is as goal this year?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Yeah, definitely.  Just the way I finished last year, my rookie year, you know, that was one of my goals, to make the Solheim Cup this year ‑‑ or it still is my goal.
           
I also know it's not going to be handed to me.  I know I'm going to have to work extremely hard, and at the same time stay patient.  The year is going to be so long.  I started the year sooner than last yeah, so I have to learn thousand pace myself.
           
It would just mean the world to me if I made Solheim.  I wasn't picked for Junior Solheim.  I was not picked for, what is it, the Curtis Cup, even though I was really working hard to get picked for those teams.
           
Just for me to work my way up the points and getting my name out there and just to represent the United States and wear that red, white, and blue, that would be the stamp of living the American dream for me and my family.
           
My family is like, Okay, let's go to Colorado.  I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it happen for them.  This is the journey, and it's a family journey.  I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.  I'm just getting goosebumps.
           
I've been getting a lot of positive feedback from current team members, so it's all been good.  I have to stay patient and I have to stay present and know that it's just one shot at a time.

Q.  With you being such a decorated college golfer, have the college players and the high school players, have they come up to you or have you heard they wanted to talk to you about going through the progressions of high school to college and college to the professional tours and that type of thing?
LIZETTE SALAS:  No, none of them have come up to me.  I mean, I will answer any questions that they want.  I stayed all four.  I went through ups and downs throughout those four years.  I went through injuries.  I went through trying to graduate on time, winning the national championship, losing by one my junior year.
           
I truly believe that a player can mature a lot more if they stay in college for four years.  I made several mistakes, and I definitely know that it was better to for me to make those mistakes in college than on the LPGA because there is more at stake here.
           
I will gladly sit down with somebody and share my college experience with them or answer any questions, just because college was a very, very important time in my life.  It's made me the player I am today.

Q.  Do you think that agree of developing and maturity level is the kind of thing that can only be reached if you stay all four years?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Yeah, definitely.  After my sophomore year I think I was the No. 1 player in college.  Someone asked me if I was going to leave?  I said, I am nowhere near ready game‑wise or mentally‑wise to be put out here and play week in and week out.
           
I was not ready.  Just learning how to balance studying and golf, that really helped me just mentality‑wise and just staying focused on certain things.
           
But I have no regrets on staying four years.  That was another thing with my coach at USC.  She really focused on graduating.  That was a big thing for her.
           
I think probably 80% of us that are now on tour, we graduated.  So that says a lot about our program.  I'm just a big believer in staying four years.

Q.  If you could, just take me through the course a little bit and tell me how it's playing and what you really need to look out for out there.
LIZETTE SALAS:  Jeez, none of us have ever seen this golf course before.  Obviously the wind is going to be a big factor.  Greens are big, so that's one positive side of this golf course, the greens are big.
           
We just have to miss it in the right place.  I think that's the key on this golf course.  The greens are rolling really pretty fast compared to Hawaii.
           
At the same time, we just have to really pick specific targets with this wind.  It just depends on the wind if the hole is going to play easier or difficult.  I think No. 9 yesterday was playing into the winds.  None of us reached it in two.
           
Hopefully the wind will change and make it a little bit easier on us.  Definitely the wind is going to be a factor here.

Q.  (No microphone.)
LIZETTE SALAS:  I don't know.  It just depends on how the weather holds you up.  I know it's going to get warmer as the week goes on.
           
It's going to be a putting contest, just like every other golf tournament.  I don't know if 20‑under will be the number.  We're going to try to make it as interesting as possible.
           
But someone will go low most likely; someone always does.  So we'll see.  I'm hoping and guessing there will be a double‑digit under par.

 

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Lewis, Stacy, Pettersen, Suzann, Salas, Lizette, North Texas LPGA Shootout [+]

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