Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G
Pinnacle Country Club
Final-Round Notes and Interviews
June 23, 2013
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park captured her fifth victory of the 2013 by defeating best friend So Yeon Ryu in a one-hole, sudden-death playoff at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. Park overcame a four-stroke deficit on Sunday and held the outright lead for one hole before second round co-leader So Yeon Ryu sank a 10-foot biride putt on the final hole to force a playoff.
The victory at Pinnacle Country Club is Park’s second consecutive win following a major championship triumph at the Wegmans LPGA Championship two weeks ago. She enters next week’s U.S. Women’s Open having won the first two majors of the season and looks to enter the history books as only the second player in Tour history to win the first three majors of the season.
“I was able to putt really well on this golf course and play very solid last three days and, yeah, I mean holed a lot of putts,” said Park, who was fourth this week in putts per GIR. “I've won a lot of times this year, but I still feel the pressure coming into the final round every time and definitely feel a lot of pressure in the playoff.
Park was on the outside-looking-in as Sunday proceedings began, sitting two shots behind a group of four players tied for the lead including local favorite Stacy Lewis. The Rolex Rankings No. 1 carded three consecutive birdies on holes six, seven and eight to put herself in the mix, while compatriot and best friend So Yeon Ryu sprinted to the outright lead at 12-under-par with two birdies on the front nine.
A double bogey by Ryu at the par-4 13th brought a group of players into contention including Lewis, Mika Miyazato and amateur Lydia Ko. Miyazato ultimately shot a final-round 67 to finish in solo third. Ko shot 68 and had a look at birdie on 18 that could have given her the clubhouse lead, but she was unable to convert.
Park shot a final-round 67 and took the clubhouse lead at 12-under-par with a birdie on 18, before Ryu matched her effort by rolling in a 10-footer for birdie at the closing hole. The pair returned to the 18th tee, where Park found the fairway and Ryu found the left rough, forcing her to layup. Park’s approach on the first playoff hole fell just short of the green and she pitched to four feet, while Ryu’s second shot went over the green.
Ryu narrowly missed her birdie chip and Park calmly rolled in her putt to win the seventh-annual Northwest Arkansas tournament.
“Inbee and I practice together a lot so when we are standing at the 18th hole, it feels like just practice round,” Ryu said. “I wasn't really nervous. Two players cannot be champion, so (Inbee deserved it).”
Lewis finished the week in a tie for fourth after a disappointing final-round 71, but she applauded the crowds for their tremendous support.
“The fans were so great out here today and I really wanted to do it for them,” Lewis said.
Sixteen-year-old amateur Lydia Ko made her best effort to claim a second LPGA win today, but fell short in a tie for fourth. She marches on to her second U.S. Women’s Open appearance next week having logged a third top-10 finish on the LPGA Tour in 2013.
“I do feel a little disappointed,” Ko said on failing to win. “I left a couple putts short that were on line, but I guess after every tournament, I kind of come off wanting to do a little better.”
Ko has four victories in professional events across three tours since 2012, including the CN Canadian Women’s Open where she defeated today’s winner and current Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park by three strokes. She also won the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
The youngster has made six starts on the 2013 LPGA Tour with a season-best finish solo third place at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, where she was tied for the lead entering the final round. She also tied for 17th at the Wegmans LPGA Championship two weeks ago.
Woo Pig Souie: “Local Favorite” Stacy Lewis put on a good show for her faithful fans in Arkansas, but a final round 71 dashed her hopes of winning a tournament she holds so near and dear. The University of Arkansas graduate entered the final round tied for the lead with four others, but a double bogey at the par-5 seventh essentially knocked her out of the running for a third LPGA win in 2013.
“It’s just disappointing,” Lewis said. “The fans were so great out here today and I really wanted to do it for them.”
From the first tee to the closing hole, the Arkansas faithful were behind Lewis on every shot, including No. 17 where her caddie, Travis Wilson, sported a Razorback “hog hat” after losing a bet to his player.
“Beatriz (Recari) said on 18 green, she's like, that was pretty cool,” Lewis said. “I don't get anything like it, no player gets anything like what I just did those last two holes.”
Chants of “Woo Pig Souie” will be echoing at Pinnacle Country Club until the tournament returns in 2014.
U.S.A, All the Way. Brittany Lang regained the eighth spot on the 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup Team points race with a tie for 13th at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. Lang’s finish bumped Lizette Salas out of the top-eight, but she is projected to retain the ninth spot on the team via the Rolex Rankings to be released on Monday.
The top American finisher was Stacy Lewis who added 27 points to her dominant lead with a tie for fourth. Paula Creamer (T7 – 22.5 points), Juli Inkster (T13 –13.5 points), Brooke Pancake (T13 – 13.5 points) and Mina Harigae (T17 – 7.5 points also tallied points this week.
The top eight spots will automatically qualify for the team. Spots nine and 10 on the 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup Team will be determined by the Rolex Rankings which will be updated on Monday morning. Additionally, U.S. Team Captain Meg Mallon will have two picks to round out the squad.
Golden ticket winners: Juli Inkster, Brittany Lang and Brooke Pancake punched their "Ticket to CME Group Titleholders" at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G, each earning a spot in the season-ending CME Group Titleholders event, which will be held Nov. 21-24, 2012 in Naples, Fla. The third-annual CME Group Titleholders is a season finale with a field made up of three qualifiers from every LPGA Tour tournament.
Quotable: “It gives me goosebumps even thinking about it. You can't ask for more.” – Stacy Lewis on the crowd support
Tweet of the Day: The Olympics, an athlete's dream. In three years golfers can compete. #OlympicGolf - @ANNIKA59, June 23 is Olympic Day and golfers across the globe celebrated golf return to the Olympics in 2016.
Of note… 2013 rookie Ayako Uehara carded her career-first hole-in-one on the par-3 17th hole with a 6-iron for 157 yards out… Defending champion Ai Miyazato finished the week in a tie for 11th…
Quick quotes following playoff
Q. So here we are again, another win. How's it feel?
INBEE PARK: It feels great. I mean, I played a good three rounds of golf. Just before the U.S. Open, I think it just gives me a lot of confidence. It was tough playing with a good friend in the playoff. I think it's actually better to just get it over and done with the first hole than, you know, trying to play every hole with her. I was just glad that I birdied the first hole. I just love the way I played this week.
Q. Just talk about how nice it is to win knowing you're flying to the U.S. Open where you're going for your third major this year.
INBEE PARK: Yeah, it's very good to have this kind of momentum going forward next week, that's for sure. I just had a great two weeks and hopefully one more is left out there.
MODERATOR: It's my pleasure to welcome for the fifth time this year as champion, the 2013 Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G Winner, Inbee Park. Inbee,congratulations.
INBEE PARK: Thank you, Mike.
MODERATOR: It's your eighth career win, your fifth win of the season. You retain the No. 1 spot on the Rolex Rankings for your 11th week. You pretty much have done everything this year. Just talk about your day and how it feels to be the champion in Northwest Arkansas.
INBEE PARK: It feels great. This is one of my favorite stops. People are just so nice here, and the course was in great condition this year. The greens were rolling very pure. So I was able to putt really well on this golf course and play very solid last three days and, yeah, I mean holed a lot of putts and it was just a little tough day. I had to play playoff with best friend, but, yeah, that's got to happen sometime.
MODERATOR: You mentioned putting and I think everybody likes to talk about your putting. You rolled in a nice one on 18. Just talk about the greens this week and how you felt with the putter in your hand because I think everybody likes to watch you putt.
INBEE PARK: I mean, I struggled with my putting like a couple weeks ago at the ShopRite and in Bahamas, but I think I made a little bit of a change and after starting Wegmans I started to putt really well and started to roll where I wanted to roll and, yeah, I mean that's just been the key. Whenever I won, it was the putting that was working. So I mean that's the most important thing.
MODERATOR: Can you take us through the playoff hole and how far the putt was?
INBEE PARK: Putt was about four feet, three to four feet, and I hit a 5‑wood onto the green just short, about 30‑yard chip.
MODERATOR: Questions for Inbee? And I will note that they are holding the charter to the U.S. Open for you, so we're going to try to keep it quick, but we'll get plenty of questions, starting in the front.
Q How comfortable do you feel right now on the golf course and does winning ever get old, just become kind of second nature to you right now?
INBEE PARK: I mean, I've won a lot of times this year, but I still feel the pressure coming into the final round every time and definitely feel a lot of pressure in the playoff. I think that's just got to happen no matter how many times I win. But it gets more exciting and more exciting, that's for sure.
Q Inbee, you talked about the pressure coming into the final round. You were in the fourth group back coming in. Nobody was out there. It was more or less the course to yourself. Does that make it easier?
INBEE PARK: What was the question?
Q Was it easier not to be in the lead group, not the favorite for the day?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean there was a lot of leaders at ‑10 and coming from behind that takes a lot of pressure off of me. That takes pressure off of everybody when they finish before everybody and, you know, just try to post a number before everybody and just waiting and see what happens. I think, yeah, I prefer to play a couple groups in front, yeah. I mean, I have a lot of tournaments that I won that I came from behind. So I think this was one of them.
Q Inbee, you know, obviously you're on a very good run right now. Have you spoken to whether it's Yani who was on a run like this or even some of the older players about what is it like to be on such a run like this where you're winning consistently like that?
INBEE PARK: I don't know, I haven't really talked to anybody for playing well. I mean, I don't know. I think they probably would have felt same way as I did now. They were probably very happy like me, yeah.
Q Let's talk about next week quickly. You won the first two majors of the season. You're only the seventh player in the 64‑year history of the LPGA to win the first two majors of the year. You can become only the second player in tour history after Babe Zaharias to win the first three majors of the season next year. You probably don't want to even think about that yet, but you've got a flight tonight to Long Island, tomorrow you'll be there and you've got a major ahead of you. Have you given any thought to it yet?
INBEE PARK: I really actually took this week as kind of a preparation before I go into the Women's Open, but I think the main key for me in Women's Open is to get over with this overwhelming feeling, because I mean I won last two weeks and that's just a lot of emotions, and I'm just going to try to calm down myself a lot and try to play the course. I mean, I'm sure the course is going to make me concentrate. So I'm really looking forward to playing there and not to think about so much of the history or to break somebody's record. I don't think about too many things like that. I'm just playing golf because I like to play golf and every week is just really fun for me.
Q Inbee, you were coming off a win in a playoff. Did that help you? How much did that help you in another playoff having that experience?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean, like I said to So Yeon when I was playing the playoff, it just feels like a practice round because I always play with her on the practice round. Especially having played in the playoff a week before, I mean that really felt like normal to me that I have to go into playoff. Didn't feel much nervous. I really felt actually nervous on the final day, final hole. But on the playoff I felt really comfortable out there.
Q Last week you obviously relaxed, some took some time to relax. What will you do this week? I know you're just going to jump right into playing. I mean, are you ready to go?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean I think I've just got to get this feeling going for next week too. It's tough to get relaxed and get refreshed for such a big week next week. So I'm just going to try to think like it's ‑‑ yeah, keep playing like this week. And it's a totally new tournament next week, and the course is just going to be toughest golf course we play all year. Just always, you know, I always love the challenge so I'm looking forward to that.
MODERATOR: Well, Inbee, you're on an incredible run. Congratulations on another win. Best of luck next week. You've got some autographs to sign and a plane to catch, so thank you very much.
MODERATOR: I know it wasn't quite the finish you wanted. Just talk about today and your round and what your thoughts were going into the playoff.
SO YEON RYU: By the way, I tried my best so it will be fun and actually today the round wasn't really great to me because like distance control was really bad as a shot or putting. So I think I was a bit failed about the distance control today, but I feel really great to finish really strong. Finish 17, 18, I got a birdie, so it feels really great to be back. Then also I really wanted to chase her down, but I couldn't, but still fine. I'm so glad Inbee won the tournament grad. Also, I think my biggest miss is I missed a driver shot at the left, so it's really hard to make a two on. Also Inbee's third shot was really hard shot but she made a two‑foot birdie putt. I really kind of awed that World No. 1 can do that. So it was exciting that I could have won the tournament, but I'm pretty sure I'm still in contention about the next week.
MODERATOR: We know how badly you wanted to win this one. Coming after a missed cut, how are you feeling go into the Women's Open next week?
SO YEON RYU: Well, you know, I'm 2011 champion, so I always feel so glad to play at the U.S. Women's Open. You know, the major tournaments always playing really tight, but it's really good fun golf. So I was bit struggle with my game last couple weeks. Then this week I'm nicely coming back, so I'm pretty sure I can play well next week.
MODERATOR: Questions for So Yeon?
Q If you could just talk about going into ‑‑ what was your mindset going into the playoff after you made that key birdie putt on 18 to get yourself there?
SO YEON RYU: Well, just I was really confident, but the thing is Inbee and I practice together a lot so when we are standing at the 18th hole, it feels like just practice round, wasn't really nervous. So I thought better than to be like freaking out, so I thought I feel really comfortable. So I think it's nothing really special. I just tried to be my just regular playing, don't think about, oh, this is playoff, it's special, I have to do this, this, I didn't do that.
Q You missed a short putt yesterday, four‑putted 13 today. What was your mindset? Did you still think you had a chance there?
SO YEON RYU: Well, you know, if you miss a really short putt, it's really hard to trust yourself, especially if you going to have to putt same length as what I missed. It's really, really tough, but I didn't look back. I just focus on that. Then also I just focused on 17 birdie putt and 18 birdie putt. That's why I could made it. So I think the golf is 18 holes and we shot like almost over 60 shots. So we really don't have to think previous shot.
Q You know, after Inbee makes that birdie putt on 18 and you go up there, even though it wasn't the longest putt were there a lot of nerves? What was your mindset going into that birdie putt?
SO YEON RYU: Actually you mean my last hole before the playoff, right? Yeah. Actually that's really similar situation as 2011 U.S. Women's Open. So I just talked to me, this putt is way bigger than 2011 U.S. Women's Open putt. So that made me really relieved, oh, maybe it's really easy putt that I not get in. It really depends on mindset. So ‑‑
Q The way Inbee has played the last year, what is it like when you're on the course and you see ‑‑ I don't know if you see the leaderboard when she was doing really well on the front nine, but what is it like? You know, are you always aware of where she's at on the leaderboard with how she's playing right now?
SO YEON RYU: She's number so I think everybody scared of Inbee because she's playing super well last 12 months, even more, like 14 months. Also I practice with her a lot and her putting is always really great. So if her name is top on the leaderboard, she make everybody really nervous. Also I was really nervous, but I didn't think about anybody, Inbee or Stacy or Mika. I just really think about my ball. So during the tournament it wasn't really bothering me, but I'm pretty sure she is really scary player.
MODERATOR: You and Inbee are pretty good friends off the course.
SO YEON RYU: Yeah.
MODERATOR: Is there kind of a weird feeling going into a playoff with your friend?
SO YEON RYU: Absolutely. Especially after a playoff, Inbee's parents in here, I'm hugging with Inbee's mom and dad, and Inbee's mom was almost really crying. She feels really, really sorry to me. I could really feel it. But, you know, golf is golf. This is sports. We have to decide who is the champion. Anybody ‑‑ I mean, two players cannot be champion, so it's right deserved to Inbee. Just I still needed to be more practice and be more like just love my life, then maybe I'm pretty sure I can play well like Inbee.
Q Playing here at Arkansas, did you enjoy your time here?
SO YEON RYU: Sure, sure. Also, you know, the last year was my first year in this tournament and last year Pro‑Am partner and this year Pro‑Am partner would like to invite me next year as a host. So it's how friendly, I love it. And I played a Pro‑Am that every family is coming out, especially this week I play with one of the guys and he has four boys and wife and then he's out there. So it was a really fun time. So I love to come back here. Also, actually honestly weather, it's a little super hot but still fine. It's really nice place.
MODERATOR: You're still top 5 in the world. You've got four players above you who have been out here for quite a few more years than you. This is your second year. I know you say you hate your game every now and then but you've got to love yourself after a great finish like that?
SO YEON RYU: Yeah, I'm just super more in the LPGA, top 5 player in the world, I'm really proud of myself, but my last goal is No. 1 player in the world so Inbee have to watch out. Just everything is really great, but just I can't feel really time to go win. So that's all. I just look forward my next win.
MODERATOR: I know it's not the finish you want. Talk about your round. You came from pretty far behind.
MIKA MIYAZATO: Yeah, three stroke behind.
MODERATOR: So just talk about your round and how you got back up there.
MIKA MIYAZATO: I had really good today long. I know behind today, but I'm so much frustration yesterday because but I made four birdie front nine, but I make three bogey the back nine. So it's tough day yesterday, so just more focus in the (indiscernible) goal. So I did, so I'm so happy.
MODERATOR: I mean, third place at Northwest Arkansas, second place last year. Just talk about, you know, what it is that you love about this course and how much you like it.
MIKA MIYAZATO: Yeah, here is a golf course, very nice people, everybody, so I enjoyed it always. But I don't know why not so play good last two years.
MODERATOR: How does this feel going into next week for the U.S. Women's Open?
MIKA MIYAZATO: I feel more confidence right now and very excited next week.
MODERATOR: What wer your thoughts as you saw the leaderboard on the 18th hole? You saw you were pretty up there, maybe a playoff? What were you thinking when you saw the leaderboard on the 18th?
MIKA MIYAZATO: Just think just more focus in the right now is more important right now. So just more focus in this part. So don't thinking the playoff like that.
STACY LEWIS: I'm pretty disappointed. You know, I had one bad swing on 7, but really other than that I played pretty solid and I hit so many good shots and so many good putts today. You know, I don't really know, going back, what I would do much different.
Q. What was the thought process like when you were making birdies, making bogeys, when you knew that the leader was out there three or four strokes most of the time?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I knew I wasn't that far away. You can make birdies on this golf course. I had some good opportunities on 11 and 12 that really not making those kind of hurt me. I don't know, it's just disappointing. The fans were so great out here today and I really wanted to do it for them. It's all a learning experience and it was a nice little finish there.
Q. Looking back, did you expect it to be this insane out here?
STACY LEWIS: No, not at all. 17 was so cool. I had been waiting for it to get loud like that the last few years and it was awesome today. 18 was pretty cool, too. It gives me goosebumps even thinking about it. You can't ask for more. I finished Top 5 and still played pretty decent today.
Q. How disappointed are you today? Going to bed last night, you were thinking about holding up a trophy and now you finished 5th.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, you know, I knew that it was going to be tough because there was obviously four people tied for the lead, so it was going to be a shootout, probably was going to end in a playoff, which it did, and I knew it was going to be close. You know, I slept okay. I really felt good about the way I was playing. Early I hit some great putts that really would have, I think, got the momentum going the right way and I just never quite did.
Q. Can you feel the love out there? That's a pretty cool experience, I'm sure, all throughout the day and all throughout the weekend.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah. Beatriz said on 18 green, she's like, that was pretty cool. I don't get anything like it, no player gets anything like what I just did those last two holes. I just have to say thank you to the fans for making it special for me this week and we'll make it bigger and better for next year, too.
Q. Looking back, you had the lip‑out on 3 that could change some things. 5, you almost (inaudible) on 5, some other holes. What do you take away from maybe how you played today going into next week?
STACY LEWIS: I mean, I take away that I'm hitting the ball great. I gave myself a lot of opportunities. Some days you hit good putts and they just don't go in and unfortunately that was today. But I really like where my game is going and hopefully peeking at the right time.
Q. For the most part you came back after 7 and played well except for a couple hiccups.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I did. It was just one bad swing on 7 put me in a really bad position up by the green. To come back and birdie 8 right away was huge. Then, I mean, I birdied 10, hit a great shot on 11, another close shot on 12, so I had so many opportunities to get the momentum going, I just never did.
Q. Kind of a big tournament next week, I hear. Do you feel confident going into next week's U.S. Open?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, I'm very excited. It's been kind of starred on my calendar all year that I wanted to be playing well going into it. That's what I'm most excited about, my swing's there, it's just holing a few more putts here and there.
Q. How difficult is that U.S. Open for those of us that don't really know?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think as you saw with the guys' Open a couple weeks ago, it's tough. The USGA likes even par winning, they like that number, so I expect it to be hard. This course, it's a little bit more creativity is involved with it, which I like, but I'm excited to get up there and check it out and I'm just happy with the way my game's going.
Q. Talk about your day and just how pleased you are with how you finished?
LYDIA KO: I had a bogey‑free round again, which was pretty good. I made two bogeys overall in this tournament and that's I think the least amount of bogeys I've had so far. No, I do feel a little disappointed. I left a couple putts short that were on line, but I guess after every tournament I kind of come off a little wanting to do a little better. But winning score I think at the moment's 11‑under and I'm only one shot off, so it kind of boosts up my confidence for next week.
Q. Talk about that. I know playing a tournament before the U.S. Women's Open, what's that like and how does that prepare you for next week?
LYDIA KO: I was actually like thinking if I should play or shouldn't play because it's the week before and I don't want to tire myself out, and I heard that it was the hottest week out here last year. So fortunately I came out and I played some good golf out here. It's good. Kind of coming off from another tournament kind of puts the rhythm through for next week, so that's good as well.
Q. This is going to be your first U.S. Women's Open, right?
LYDIA KO: Second.
Q. How did you finish last year?
LYDIA KO: Last year, I think I came in 37th or something, but 30 something. I was playing well until the 15th on the last day and that kind of put me on the leaderboard, but I had a really bad last three holes to finish. Hopefully I'll be able to finish strong. The last couple of tournaments I've been doing that, so I've just got to think of it as just another tournament, not another major.
Q. Yeah, you were saying that yesterday about how you feel you have nothing on the line. How cool is it that you get to play stress‑free golf and finish well along with all these LPGA Tour members? What's that like?
LYDIA KO: I guess it's not all stress fee, but I don't get to play with as much pressure as like the pros and placing really doesn't matter at the moment. I guess it will be good for my background but not really at the moment. I think it's just more confidence buildup and also the experience.