ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer
Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club
Second-Round Notes and Interviews
June 1, 2013
Shanshan Feng -6, Rolex Rankings No. 8
Moriya Jutanugarn -3, Rolex Rankings No. 119
Amanda Blumenherst, -1, Rolex Rankings No. 265
Michelle Wie -1, Rolex Rankings No. 100
Paula Creamer +6, Rolex Rankings No. 11
Saturday’s Second-round Recap
Reigning Wegmans LPGA Championship winner Shanshan Feng looks to be in good form to defend her title next week as she fired a 4-under 67 to take the second-round lead at the ShopRite LPGA Classic Presented by Acer. Feng carded six birdies and two bogeys on Saturday to move her to 6-under-par for the week and holds a three-shot lead over Haeji Kang and Moriya Jutanugarn.
Feng got off to a hot start on her front nine and carded four consecutive birdies on Nos. 14-17. She would bogey the par 5 18th to make the turn at 5-under and said the breezy weather really started to pick up on the back nine.
“I think because I started early today, it wasn't as windy in the morning,” said Feng. “So that's why I made four birdies in a row. And then I think the back nine, the wind started to pick up a little bit, which it was harder to get the balls close to the pins.”
She picked up two more birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 to reach 7-under but dropped a shot on the 7th to finish at 6-under-par.
Haeji Kang of South Korea also teed off in the morning group and took advantage of the more favorable scoring conditions, shooting a 2-under 69 to put her three shots off the lead at 3-under par.
High winds with gusts up to 25 mph provided tough scoring conditions in the afternoon with only one player, I.K. Kim (70), posting a score under par in the second wave of the day. Co-leaders Moriya Jutanugarn (73) and Amanda Blumenherst (75) struggled to keep consistency throughout their rounds with such unpredictable conditions.
“Yesterday, everything like kind of perfect time and good timing,” said Jutanugarn. “I hit a lot of fairways, so today I get in trouble in the long rough a little bit.”
Jutanugarn will play in the final group on Sunday for the first time in her young career and the rookie says she will try to keep the ball in the fairway tomorrow. She’s playing for her first-career win and to add onto her lead in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race.
“If I can play my game, I'm pretty sure it's going to be a good day,” said Jutanugarn. “So, yeah, first win is going to be great, but anywhere, try to do my best. I try to keep the driver, the tee shot in the fairway. Then it's just more easier for these conditions and this course.”
Defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis started the round one shot off the lead but following an opening-hole birdie, found herself in nothing but trouble. Lewis tallied four double bogeys, two bogeys and one birdie en route to carding a 9-over 80. She’s currently in a T49 at 5-over par. The score tied the highest round of her career-- she posted an 80 in the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open at Black Wolf Run, which played to a par 72.
Changing it up…Shanshan Feng hasn’t been totally pleased with her performance so far in 2013, despite tallying three top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour this year. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Feng decided to switch things up this week by trying a new set of golf clubs.
Earlier this year, Feng changed her club sponsor to Honma, a Japanese club company. She stuck with one set of clubs early in the year but decided a couple weeks ago to get fitted for a new set. Those clubs certainly seemed to work in Saturday’s second round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Feng fired a 4-under 67 to vault to the top spot on the leaderboard. She leads Haeji Kang and Moriya Jutanugarn by three shots heading into Sunday’s final round.
So it’s no surprise that so far Feng seems happy with the change.
“This is the first week with the new clubs, and right now I'm feeling really, really good,” Feng said.
It seems like a great time for Feng’s game to be coming together, as she gets ready to defend her title at the Wegmans LPGA Championship next week outside Rochester, N.Y. Last year, Feng became the first player from China to win on the LPGA Tour and she did it in spectacular style by capturing her first career victory at a major championship.
“I just can't believe it's been a year already,” Feng said. “I think time just flies while we are on Tour. I think after that win last year, it really gave me a lot more confidence. And then after that one, I think I won two more tournaments worlwie maybe last year. Then actually this year, I haven't been playing real well. I've made three Top 10s on the LPGA but like seventh, eighth, ninth, nothing like really up top.
“I think right now I'm in good position this week, and if I can have some good results this week, it's definitely going to give me more confidence for next week.”
Blown Away…The Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Golf Club showed its teeth during Saturday’s second round. For the second straight day, the winds picked up in the afternoon and it caused scores to soar for the majority of the field.
A total of 19 players shot under par in Friday’s first round but at the end of Saturday, only 10 players remained under par. Eighteen players recorded scores of 70 or better in the second round, with only one of those rounds coming in the afternoon wave, I.K. Kim’s 71. Michelle Wie felt the gusty effects in the late afternoon and managed to finish with a 2-over par 73, but still stands in contention in tie for sixth.
“The wind was quite strong today,” said Wie. “You know, a couple of them, it was pretty hard. Like 8, even if I didn't hit it into the right hazard, it's impossible to stop that green. So a couple of them, you know, it was just the wind was very tricky today. It's a heavy wind, as well, but I think that's the beauty of this golf course. I think it's nice when it plays this hard and I think it's a great golf course.”
First-round co-leader Amanda Blumenherst caught some of the worst winds, finishing in one of the final groups of the day. She headed into her final hole on the par 5 ninth in a tie for second at 3-under but lost her ball in a fescue. She finished with a double bogey and dropped to 1-under.
“The wind is crazy,” said Blumenherst. “It even made putting difficult. Definitely changed some targets for sure out there and made several holes much shorter and several holes much longer. So, it was; it was a challenging day, and just had to really stay patient.”
Chinese influence: After Shanshan Feng became the first player from mainland China to win on the LPGA Tour at last year’s Wegmans LPGA Championship, many thought the victory would be an immediate impact on the growth of golf in China. But Feng said it’ll take some Olympic influence to put golf on the map in her native country. When Chinese tennis players Li Ting and Sun Tiantian won Olympic gold in women’s doubles in 2004, it opened doors to the sport’s popularity,
“Well, I mean, actually it wasn't like a big deal in China,” said Feng. “It was not because it wasn't good enough; it was because people didn't know a lot about golf. So they didn't know a major, what does it mean, you know, winning a major. But I think it was a little different for tennis, because Chinese won Gold Medals at the Olympics in 2004, and back then, people actually started to watch tennis.”
Fellow countrywoman Li Na reached superstar status when she won the 2011 French Open and Feng says if she plays well in the 2016 Olympics when golf returns to the Games, she will have an even better chance to be a trailblazer for the sport.
“That's why when Li Na won tennis there were a lot of people that knew about tennis and knew how big it was,” said Feng. “It's a little different for me because they still really don't know what it means. But I think golf is in the 2016 Olympics and if somebody from China can do well, I'm sure it's going to change everybody.”
She says it’s moving in the right direction and has help on the men’s side from 14-year old sensations Guan Tianlang. The two are from the same hometown, Guangzhou, and she says the future is looking bright.
“I think it is improving,” said Feng. “Like end of last year, I was named best non‑Olympic athlete, so because last year golf was not in the Olympics, and that was the first time a golfer has been nominated for the award.”
“And then, like we all know Guan Tianlang right now who is only 14, and we are from the same hometown,” said Feng. “I watch him growing up and how he started playing golf and now he's actually made the cut in the Masters. I think there are a few more really good juniors that are coming up, so I think it is improving.”
See you on Sunday: A total of 74 players made the cut which fell at 6-over-par 148. It marks the highest cut in relation to par 71 on the LPGA Tour this season. The previous high cut came at the North Texas LPGA Shootout where it was 4-over 146.
Red Bull Boardwalk Drive: Lexi Thompson, Brooke Pancake, Kathleen Ekey and Natalie Gulbis took part in a unique golf challenge on Friday night in Atlantic City when Red Bull hosted the Boardwalk Drive at new Revel Casino. From a custom-built tee box in front of the casino’s famous SkyGarden, the four players hit shots to targets on the Jersey Shore beach ranging from 75 to 250 yards. Ekey, a second-year Tour member took away winning honors after finishing with 750 points. The remaining three finished as follows: Thompson- 700, Pancake- 550, Gulbis-400.
Tweet of the Day: Goes to Paige MacKenzie who got her baseball fix in on Saturday, following Amanda Blumenherst’s husband, Nate, who had an RBI triple in the A’s game against the Chicago White Sox.
“@Blumenherst-- Your hubby is doing good too! ‘@Athletics: Big Nate Freiman with a big RBI triple. #Athletics 3, #WhiteSox 1’ #LPGA” --@Paige_MacKenzie
Of Note…Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park shot 1-over 71 on Saturday and is in at T36 at +4…Two-time ShopRite LPGA Classic winner Juli Inkster made the cut on the number at +6 after consecutive rounds of 74-74.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome our current leader, Shanshan Feng into the interview room, congratulations, a great 4‑under par round today and a challenging golf course. Just take me through the round and how you were able to get things going for yourself out there.
SHANSHAN FENG: I think I started the round with confidence, because even though I didn't have a good start yesterday, but I did have a really good finish.
So I think after a few pars, and then I made like four birdies in a row. But then after four birdies, I was like, oh, maybe I'm doing well right now, and then started to have a little thinking. And then I started to make a couple of bogeys.
But I think 4‑under round was still pretty good, a pretty good score.
MODERATOR: A very good day. You were telling me earlier, you started off 3‑over early on in your round yesterday, and then made it 5‑under the rest of the way. What did you find in your game at that point that you were able to really get yourself going?
SHANSHAN FENG: The reason why ‑‑ the second hole, I didn't know the greens were that firm. I didn't expect that, so I hit it over the green and chipped it on and 2‑putted.
Then the third hole was a very easy par 5, and I actually hooked my drive, so it went in the long stuff where, you know, I had to take a drop.
Then I think my driving hasn't been very well this week, but I think my iron shots and putting has been real good, so I think that's it, yeah.
MODERATOR: When you look overall at the past year, I know we are going into next week where you are going to be defending champion at the Wegman's LPGA Championship, you became the first player from China to win on the LPGA Tour in that event, your first victory on the LPGA Tour and a Major Championship, quite a lot of attention brought to you. What has the past year been like for you and how has it changed being a winner now on the LPGA?
SHANSHAN FENG: I just can't believe it's been a year already. I think time just flies while we are on Tour.
I think after that win last year, it really gave me a lot more confidence. And then after that one, I think I won two more tournaments maybe last year. Then actually this year, I haven't been playing real well. I've made three Top 10s on the LPGA but like seventh, eighth, ninth, nothing like really up top.
I think right now I'm in good position this week, and if I can have some good results this week, it's definitely going to give me more confidence for next week.
MODERATOR: And I know, speaking of playing well this week, you made a big change for your game, changing clubs this week. Kind of what was the decision behind that, and kind of give us an explanation as to what clubs you're playing now.
SHANSHAN FENG: I changed my club sponsor this year to HONMA. It's a Japanese club company. Actually, before, I was using the old clubs. I was using HONMA. So it didn't took me long to use the new clubs.
This is the first week with the new clubs, and right now I'm feeling really, really good. Nothing's really different, but I think just more effort, so I like them.
Q. You said you've had three Top 10s; what's been the reason that you haven't been able to contend or maybe finish higher or even win?
SHANSHAN FENG: Well, actually, I had a little issue with the club sponsor, because they wanted me to try like last year, like beginning of last year, I was supposed to change like a new set the same as what I was having, and then they wanted me to try the new clubs.
So I said no, can I use the same thing, and they just keep sending me the new clubs. So I kept using the old clubs, so the clubs were really old and the clubfaces were worn down.
So I wasn't having enough spin on shots, so I couldn't stop the balls on the green. And I think after changing the club this is week, it's been pretty good this week.
Q. Can you talk about, you took two weeks off before this event. Was that to just learn with the new clubs?
SHANSHAN FENG: Not necessarily. I played the tournament in Japan after Kingsmill, and then so I was going to take Mobile off, but I was planning to go to the Bahamas, but I couldn't because my Visa; as a Chinese, my American Visa is only single‑entry for five years; of course, if I keep staying in here.
And then I was going to actually get my Visa the week after Japan, and then the American embassy there kind of received like a strange package of powder, some kind of powder, and they were kind of scared and then it shut down for like three days. So I couldn't get my Visa on time. And if I would go to Bahamas and this week, I would actually need to go back to China and get my Visa and then fly back for Wegman's, which really doesn't make sense to me, because I want to make sure I have good condition going to Wegman's. So I had to give up last week.
Q. You have a lot going on. How do you concentrate on golf? Is it hard with all that to focus on golf? And when did you get the new clubs and break them in, so to speak? Was it this week or when did you first get them?
SHANSHAN FENG: I did the club testing Monday right after Japan, which was the week of Mobile, Monday.
So I think I'm always a positive person, like what he just said; instead of playing in Bahamas, because I had time off in China. So I was thinking, okay, this is a good time to try the new clubs out. So I did try for like ten days maybe. They felt pretty good.
Q. What was the reaction back home to your victory? Everybody remember's Se Ri had a major breakthrough and now you see all of the players from Korea that have followed her. What was the reaction back home, and do you hope that ten years from now that there are a lot of people from your country out here playing on the Tour?
SHANSHAN FENG: Well, I mean, actually it wasn't like a big deal in China. It was not because it wasn't good enough; it was because people didn't know a lot about golf. So they didn't know a major, what does it mean, you know, winning a major.
But I think it was a little different for tennis, because Chinese won Gold Medals at the Olympics in 2004, and back then, people actually started to watch tennis. That's why when Li Na won tennis there were a lot of people that knew about tennis and knew how big it was. It's a little different for me because they still really don't know what it means.
But I think golf is in the 2016 Olympics and if somebody from China can do well, I'm sure it's going to change everybody.
Q. Going out there today, three or four shots off the lead, were you just thinking to get in contention or you have to go low or what?
SHANSHAN FENG: I have a habit. I have a habit that I don't look at score boards during the rounds. Not even after like any rounds. I do look at scoreboard only after the tournament.
I think that really helped me a lot, because like last year, I won six tournaments. I would say if during the final rounds I'm checking the scores, I would lose three or four.
So I didn't know how I was doing until you said I was leading. Well, if I'm leading, then yeah, I'm leading, whatever. I'm just checking it out from my mind. I'm just focusing on every shot, and tomorrow is just a normal day.
Q. How did you find the course conditions and the weather today?
SHANSHAN FENG: I think because I started early today, it wasn't as windy in the morning. So that's why I made four birdies in a row. And then I think the back nine, the wind started to pick up a little bit, which it was harder to get the balls close to the pins.
Q. Mr. Guan, the young man who has been playing in this country for a while now, we read about how he's creating more interest in golf in Japan, and obviously with your LPGA win, is it getting there, or is it far behind as far as trying to get people interested and knowledgeable about golf and playing?
SHANSHAN FENG: I think it is improving. Like end of last year, I was named best non‑Olympic athlete, so because last year golf was not in the Olympics, and that was the first time a golfer has been nominated for the award.
And then, like we all know Guan Tianlang right now who is only 14, and we are from the same hometown. I watch him growing up and how he started playing golf and now he's actually made the cut in the Masters. I think there are a few more really good juniors that are coming up, so I think it is improving.
Q. Have you ever seen a course like this?
PAULA CREAMER: Oh, no. Nobody has ever seen this place like this before. It’s not only that it’s just windy, we’ve played in that before. The conditions aren’t quite the best I’m sure they were hoping. The greens need some water, that’s for sure. It’s just getting so firm out there. But it is what it is and you just have to go about it, and commit to your shot and whatever happens happens after the ball leaves the clubface.
Q. Talk about the inconsistency on the greens
PAULA CREAMER: The wind obviously is going all over out there. There are certain nines where you keep fighting it sideways and this and that. There were just pins that were really hard with the wind and trying to figure out how to get it close was the hardest thing out there because some of them were receptive and some of them weren’t. When you can’t stop a 70-yard wedge shot and you’re allowing for 15 yards of release, that’s a whole another ballgame.
We were all struggling, Jeez Louise. I had a triple yesterday and between the three of us we had three or four doubles. You don’t see that. I can’t even tell you the last time I had a double, let alone a triple. But it happens on this golf course. I think everybody is taking it seriously but it’s hard. It’s a different monster out there this year.
Q. Do you think the greens are due to the spring weather?
PAULA CREAMER: Probably. I don’t know. I obviously see the weather on the news and stuff. It’s hard and I understand the superintendent with the greens, especially with the rain and storms and everything they’ve all had up here, it’s tough. But at the same time, it is what it is.
Q. You’ve been laughing a bit with Suzann?
PAULA CREAMER: We’ve been laughing since the second hole yesterday. You have to be somewhat laughing at things. If you can’t laugh at yourself and you’re hitting the shots that you hit, that’s just part of the battle. Having a positive attitude and just keep grinding through it, it might not show in your score but it’ll help in the future, too.
Q. How were conditions today?
MICHELLE WIE: It was a little more difficult than yesterday. This golf course, it can get you on a hole. I had two double‑bogeys today which were ‑‑ you know, it's very frustrating, but at the same time, this course can do this to you. So you just have to keep your head on straight and just keep going.
Q. How mentally tough is it, you have the four birdies in a row and the double‑bogeys, how tough to stay in those fluctuations?
MICHELLE WIE: It was a very up‑and‑down day, but at the same time I'm very proud of myself forgetting those four birdies in a row.
It was tough out there. It was really tough out there today. And I just got a little bit unlucky on the last hole. I know I played well today, so just got to go out there and just do the same thing tomorrow and hopefully not get into the fescue.
Q. Was the wind the problem today, or the greens ‑‑ what was biggest issue?
MICHELLE WIE: The wind was quite strong today. You know, a couple of them, it was pretty hard. Like 8, even if I didn't hit it into the right hazard, it's impossible to stop that green.
So a couple of them, you know, it was just the wind was very tricky today. It's a heavy wind, as well, but I think that's the beauty of this golf course. I think it's nice when it plays this hard and I think it's a great golf course.
Q. Just to be able to get yourself on that kind of streak, in our birdies in a row, how nice was that to get the confidence rolling and feel that kind of streak that has not always been there?
MICHELLE WIE: It felt good, it felt really good. It was a stretch of really tough holes. I hit some really good shots and made some really good putts. That's the way I need to play all day tomorrow.
Q We are joined by Moriya Jutanugarn, who just shot a great round, I know to keep yourself in contention, tough conditions out there. But just take me through the day and what really was working well for you out there today.
MORIYA JUTANUGARN: You know, I mean, yesterday, everything like kind of perfect time and good timing. I hit a lot of fairways, so today I get in trouble in the long rough a little bit.
So yeah, it's a tough day today, because we had an afternoon tee time, so it's a lot of footprints on the green, it's very bumpy. I try to make birdie anyway.
Q. Everybody talked about the wind, it really picked up this afternoon, while yesterday players in the afternoon had to deal with the wind, it wasn't quite as bad as it seemed to be this afternoon.
MORIYA JUTANUGARN: I guess we had an afternoon tee time and the wind picked up stronger. Trying to play one shot at a time, and keep calm and try to play, whatever.
Q. When you look at this round, I know it's over par and not what you wanted, but you put yourself in contention tomorrow to possibly pick up your first LPGA victory. Was that kind of the goal this afternoon, just keep yourself up there and put yourself in contention for tomorrow?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN: I try to play my game today. If I can play my game, I'm pretty sure it's going to be a good day.
So, yeah, first win is going to be great, but anywhere, try to do my best.
Q. What do you think the key will be? Sounds like it's probably still going to be windy tomorrow. What will be the biggest key for you in your game?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN: I try to keep the driver, the tee shot in the fairway. Then it's just more easier for these conditions and this course.
Q. I know you said you got your ball marker from your sister this week; I know you're close and you share things?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN: I took it. I don't tell her; I just took it. Maybe I'm trying to play more, you know, like kind of close to her, make some birdies (laughing).
Q. Tough conditions out there today with the wind and everything, but how much tougher was the course playing today than yesterday?
AMANDA BLUMENHERST: The wind is crazy. It even made putting difficult. Definitely changed some targets for sure out there and made several holes much shorter and several holes much longer.
So, it was; it was a challenging day, and just had to really stay patient.
Q. I know not the finish that you would have wanted but how pleased overall that you were able to keep yourself still in the hunt and manage with such tough conditions today?
AMANDA BLUMENHERST: Really, what's frustrating about the last hole, is I hit every shot perfect. That's just the nature of the game. Sometimes good bounces and bad bounces.
But I really did, stayed very patient out there, and just tried to play solid golf.