Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G
Pinnacle Country Club
First-Round Notes and Interviews
June 21, 2013
Mika Miyazato -6, Rolex Rankings No. 15
So Yeon Ryu -5, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Angela Stanford -5, Rolex Rankings No. 20
Stacy Lewis -4, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Sarah Kemp -4, Rolex Rankings 235
Japan native Mika Miyazato shot a bogey-free 6-under 65 to take the first-round lead at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. The 23-year-old returns to the Pinnacle Country Club as a Rolex First-Time Winner at last year’s Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola, but her previous career-best finish had been a tie for second in Northwest Arkansas.
Miyazato was tied for the lead along with Spain’s Azahara Munoz on the final day at last year’s event, but fellow Japan native Ai Miyazato staved off a playoff when she sunk a birdie putt on the final hole to take the win.
Miyazato says her short-game and work around the greens was her key to scoring low today.
“I'm not long hitter, but I'm hitting pretty good the second shot,” said Miyazato. “So I can do that pretty close to the pin.
“But like yesterday, I working hard on short putt, like 3 feet, 6 feet, 9 feet because I change the putter like Bahamas week. So I use like mallet type and I use now ping type. So real difference, so I need more confidence. So I practice a lot so far yesterday. So much confidence today.”
Miyazato finds herself in a good position to rally on her runner-up finish but Angela Stanford and So Yeon Ryu are within striking distance as they only sit one-stroke off Miyazato’s pace. Ryu and Stanford posted similar rounds on Friday with six birdies and one bogey on their scorecard. They both finished their rounds of 5-under 66 with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole.
Stanford says the Pinnacle Country Club was in perfect conditions for low scoring today.
“It seems like the fairways are firm and fast, which is usually good for me, but the greens are still kind of receptive and I thought the pin placements were pretty, what's the word I'm looking for, accessible today,” said Stanford. “I imagine tomorrow they're going to be tougher.”
A group of 10 currently sit in third-place at 4-under including Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis, No. 3 Suzann Pettersen and No. 21 Azahara Munoz. The University of Arkansas alum got off to a steady start, sitting at even-par before making the turn, but lit up the greens on the back-nine with birdies on 14, 16 and 18.
“You really have to stay patient on the golf course, that's the key,” said Lewis. “You can shoot a 1‑ or 2‑under and still win the tournament. So you've just got to stay patient, make a few more putts than I did today, but I'm moving in the right direction.”
A familiar place. Mika Miyazato was staring down a playoff and her first-career victory at last year’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship until fellow Japan native Ai Miyazato claimed the victory with a birdie putt on the final hole. Although disappointed from the runner-up finish, Mika says she comes to Arkansas this week as a different player than before and more than ready to tackle the Pinnacle Country Club again.
“A little bit I think,” said Mika of thinking about last year’s event before arriving in Arkansas. “But last year is last year, this year is this year. Maybe different this year is my golf game. So I more focus on that.”
The 25-year-old didn’t have to wait long for her first-career victory, as she claimed the 2012 Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola title just four tournaments later. Mika had a rough start to the 2013 season, but has placed in the top-25 in the last three events following a season-best tie for fourth at the Tour’s stop in the Bahamas. As she returns to Northwest Arkansas, Mika looks to rally on her success last year and come out with her second-career victory.
“I think second win is more difficult than the first win,” said Mika. “So I don't know what is I need, but I know the experience I won the last year the Safeway Classic. So I tried to more focus on my golf game, one stroke at a time.”
Woo, Pig Sooie! As expected, the 17th green was roaring as University of Arkansas alum Stacy Lewis made her way up the fairway. Lewis said The Calling of the Pigs was impressive and playing partner Angela Standford seemed puzzled by the crowds chant.
“They did a pretty good one today,” said Lewis of the University of Arkansa chant. “They were a little off, you know, the right and the left side were a little off, but I'm sure it will get better by the weekend. I don't know, I love it. Angela was asking me ‘why do they do it three times’ and things like that. It's just such a cool week for me.”
Stanford, who referred to the chant as “that pig call,” says she’s eager to see the crowds on the 17th green during the weekend rounds.
“I think it's probably going to get louder,” said Stanford. “I think it could get louder. It wasn't as loud as it's going to be.”
A renewed mind. Reigning Rolex Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu admits she hasn’t quite had the season she was hoping for. After her first missed cut of the year at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, the 23-year-old said she needed to recharge the batteries and get her mind off golf for a while. With a week break before heading to Northwest Arkansas, the South Korean headed to New York for some site-seeing in the Big Apple.
“I think it's really good refresh time for me,” said Ryu. “Sometimes people really need to rest. Last week was really fantastic rest to me. Also it's a really, really great time. So I just want to keep my mind really positive.”
Needless to say, the old Ryu was back in action at the Pinnacle Country Club, carding six birdies and one bogey to sit at a tie for second heading into Saturday’s second round. She said her vacation helped change her mind set for this week’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G, where she looks to notch her fifth top-10 finish of the year.
“Before I thought about so many things, what's my position, I can make a birdie next hole, or why I didn't hit well at the tee shot, kind of like that,” said Ryu. “But today I just really focused on each shot. That's really, really good ones, and so I just want to keep focused on one shot and each hole.”
Quotable: “No, just whatever that pig call is.” – Angela Stanford said when asked if anything exciting happened on the 17th hole
Of Note… Cristie Kerr withdrew after eight holes… Defending champion Ai Miyazato opened the week with a two-over 73 and sits at a T97 heading into Saturday’s second round.
Mika Miyazato, Rolex Rankings No. 15
THE MODERATOR: All right, I'd like to welcome our current leader, Mika Miyazato, into the interview room. Mika, great job today. You're 6‑under, 65. Not the first time you've scored that at this course.
MIKA MIYAZATO: Yes.
THE MODERATOR: Take me through your day and what was working well for you and how you were able to score so well today.
MIKA MIYAZATO: I had so much pretty good shot a lot today and the whole tournament. Like yesterday, I working hard on short putt, like 3 feet, 6 feet, 9 feet because I change the putter like Bahamas week. So I use like mallet type and I use now ping type. So real difference, so I need more confidence. So I practice a lot so far yesterday. So much confidence today.
THE MODERATOR: You always seem to play really well here. Last year you tied for second.
MIKA MIYAZATO: Yes.
THE MODERATOR: In 2010 you placed third.
MIKA MIYAZATO: Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: What is it about this course that you like so much?
MIKA MIYAZATO: Well, I don't know, I like this golf course. And I can hit the greens many this golf course.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about some of your memories from last year. Before Ai sunk a birdie putt on the 18th hole you were looking at a playoff. Just talk about how that has maybe given you more confidence this week.
MIKA MIYAZATO: Well, I was disappointed that last year, but I was very good friend with Ai, like old sister Ai. It was a good experience last year, and Ai won, I'm second, and I don't know.
THE MODERATOR: Did it give you motivation to do well this week?
MIKA MIYAZATO: Yeah, definitely, yes.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Mika.
Q Mika, when you were here last year and trying to get that first win, obviously it was a hard day, but how much easier is it now that you do have a win under your belt that you can come back and maybe chase a second one?
MIKA MIYAZATO: I think second win is more difficult than the first win. So I don't know what is I need, but I know the experience I won the last year the Safeway Classic. So I tried to more focus on my golf game, one stroke at a time. So tough to say.
Q You were even after six.
MIKA MIYAZATO: Yes.
Q What's the difference, the putter today? How did you get 6‑under? What did you feel like was the strong point?
MIKA MIYAZATO: Strong point? Well, it's pretty focus today. Like short putt. And the second shot also, but it's a bogey‑free, more confidence today's round.
Q You've done really well on this course. What is it about this course that kind of fits your game so well?
MIKA MIYAZATO: Here is very wide in this golf course and not so much ‑‑ I'm not long hitter, but I can do very well in short game. I'm not long hitter, but I'm hitting pretty good the second shot. So I can do that pretty close to the pin.
Q What iron did you hit on the par 3 on No. 15?
MIKA MIYAZATO: No. 15, I hit the 8‑iron, so my yardage like 125 I shot. A fair shot I hit. So it's pretty confidence I hit, yes.
Q Before this tournament, before you came here this week, did you think about last year and how close you were?
MIKA MIYAZATO: A little bit I think. But last year is last year, this year is this year. Maybe different this year is my golf game. So I more focus on that.
Angela Stanford, Rolex Rankings No. 20
Q. Nice finish. Take me through your round. What was working well for you?
ANGELA STANFORD: Today seemed to be fairly consistent ball striking wise. Then putting was pretty good, too. I mean, I just seemed to have a lot of opportunities, so those are good days.
Q. What were the course conditions like and how do you think you were able to score so low today?
ANGELA STANFORD: It seems like the fairways are firm and fast, which is usually good for me, but the greens are still kind of receptive and I thought the pin placements were pretty, what's the word I'm looking for, accessible today. I imagine tomorrow they're going to be tougher.
Q. What did you do on your week after from Wegmans? Anything fun to just refresh your mind and refocus?
ANGELA STANFORD: Yeah, went out to Colorado, spent a few days in Boston, played Brookline, or the Country Club at Brookline. Went to Colorado for the Solheim deal.
Q. How was that?
ANGELA STANFORD: It was fun. It's going to be a great Solheim.
Q. Stacy was talking about it yesterday, I guess the team seems to be getting put together pretty well. What are your thoughts about it?
ANGELA STANFORD: Yeah, I think it's going to be a great mix of some younger players, new players and they're going to bring a lot of energy. With Meg as a captain, she's going to make sure you have fun, so I hope the fans really embrace it out there and come out because it's going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Q. Talk about the 17th hole. Was it as loud as they were expecting it to be?
ANGELA STANFORD: I think it's probably going to get louder. I think it could get louder. It wasn't as loud as it's going to be.
Q. Anything special happen out there while you guys were on the 17th green?
ANGELA STANFORD: No, just whatever that pig call is. You can tell I said the pig call, whatever that is.
So Yeon Ryu, Rolex Rankings No. 5
THE MODERATOR: Nice birdie on 18. You’re 5-under for the day, one shot off the lead. Take me through your round.
SO YEON RYU: Yeah, well, first of all, the course conditions are really, really great. Also the green conditions really great so I really can trust what I read at the lines. That's a really big thing for me. Also hole 12 I hit a really, really big push. I thought it was going out of bounds, but it was luckily just inside that I made a birdie at that hole. Then I got a lot of confidence from there. Also, today iron shot and putting was really great. I was a little disappointed with my tee shot today, but all the thing is really great. So it's kind of couple things I made a really great up and down, so I'm really positive now.
THE MODERATOR: Take me through your birdies.
SO YEON RYU: Well, which one was my first one? I made first birdie at the 5th hole. I hit it a 3‑wood, then 90‑yard shot, then I made a 3‑yard birdie putt. Then hole 7 was par 5, I made a two‑on, which is great, I mean, easy birdie. Then 10, 11, 12, I made a birdie three in a row, and last hole also I made a birdie. So I just made one bogey, kind of ‑‑ well, bogey‑free round would be a bit better than that one, but the one bogey is still fine.
THE MODERATOR: What's your mindset heading into tomorrow?
SO YEON RYU: Well, I think actually before I thought about so many thing, what's my position, I can make a birdie next hole, or why I didn't hit well at the tee shot, kind of like that. But today I just really focused on each shot. That's really, really good ones, and so I just want to keep focused on one shot and each hole.
THE MODERATOR: I know earlier we were talking and you mentioned you were a little disappointed with your finish at Wegmans. You had a week off. Do you feel like that kind of helped you refresh?
SO YEON RYU: Yeah, I think it's really good refresh time for me. Sometimes people really need to rest. Last week was really fantastic rest to me. Also it's a really, really great time. So I just want to keep my mind really positive.
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Q. Stacy, just talk about the round today. Finishing strong is probably what you wanted to do today.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, for sure. I got off to a little bit of a slow start, just wasn't really making any putts on the front and then kind of relaxed there on the back, made a few putts. I don't know, I played solid, I was feeling good. Even when I was even par I was feeling good about my game and just glad to get a few there, so go out tomorrow morning and make a few more.
Q. Did the Woo Pig Sooie at 17 kind of help you get that momentum to finish 18 with a birdie?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think coming up 14, 15, I knew it was coming and I wanted to be playing well going into that hole. They did a pretty good one today. They were a little off, you know, the right and the left side were a little off, but I'm sure it will get better by the weekend. I don't know, I love it. Angela was asking me why do they do it three times and things like that. It's just such a cool week for me.
Q. You know where you stand right now on the leaderboard. What's your goal going into the next two days?
STACY LEWIS: You really have to stay patient on the golf course, that's the key. You can shoot a 1‑ or 2‑under and still win the tournament. So you've just got to stay patient, make a few more putts than I did today, but I'm moving in the right direction.
Q. You talked the other day about you can't have a bad round with a three‑round tournament.
STACY LEWIS: Yep.
Q. How do you feel where you stand today?
STACY LEWIS: I felt like I had a good one today. I think I'm two shots off the lead, which the lead was shot this morning, too, so I think it plays a little bit easier in the morning and that's what I'm looking forward to, but I think I'm not out of it at all.
Q. What was it you gave away on the 17th hole?
STACY LEWIS: Hats, and then I gave some key chains to some of the kids, too. It was all Razorback gear. I have some more things planned for the weekend, but I can't give away secrets.
Sarah Kemp, Rolex Rankings 235
THE MODERATOR: Great round today. 4‑under, you're the leader in the clubhouse. Just take us through your round.
SARAH KEMP: I was just nice and steady, kind of hit the fairways. I probably only missed a couple of greens and I didn't have any bogeys so that always is really nice to have a bogey‑free round. But, yeah, it was nothing too special, just had a couple of pops and it was nice.
THE MODERATOR: Some players were saying that this is a real good course that will challenge your game. It's a target golf course. Just talk about how this golf course suits your game and how you were able to score so low today.
SARAH KEMP: I don't think I've played well here in the past. I've always loved coming here. I like the course, I kind of like the big houses around the place, and I just feel good around here. And, yeah, it's a nice golf course. It kind of suits my game. I've been hitting it fairly straight and that's important out here. And the greens are fantastic, so if you hit a good stroke and hit on the line you want to, it's definitely going to go in, which did I that today. I just really enjoy the place. I think that that helps.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about this past year, I guess maybe even longer, what you've been going through with your game. I know you had foot surgery last year, right?
SARAH KEMP: Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about your struggles in your game and what you’ve been dealing with trying to get your game back.
SARAH KEMP: I've been a pro for five years, so this is my sixth year in the LPGA and I've really done nothing fantastic, nothing special, you know. I've had a couple Top 10s, but it's been pretty mediocre. And I guess at the beginning of ‑‑ the end of last year I started seeing a new coach and I started to change a few things. At the beginning of the year I played well. Well, solid. And then the last few weeks I've been really tired. Before last week I played my eighth tournament in a row, which is kind of dumb. I would never do that again. It was nice to have a week off last week, so I kind of feel a little bit refreshed and I was eager to get back into it. So that was really nice, but, yeah, I guess I haven't really done anything fantastic to report to you unfortunately. But hopefully it's coming soon.
Q You birdied the first hole. How big is that in the first round of the tournament?
SARAH KEMP: Yeah, it's nice. I got lucky. I had a pretty long putt, probably a 30‑footer. So it's always really nice to get off to a start like that. So it was good.
Q What about the par 3s on 15 and 17, birdies there? The island green ‑‑
SARAH KEMP: Yeah, that was good. I hit a good little 8‑iron into there, about 15 foot, kind of top left of the hole. And I holed that, which was nice and I got lucky on ‑‑ I didn't hit a great shot on 16, but it took a good bend. On 17 it took a good bend, so that was really nice.
Q Where does this round rank with some of your other past rounds, 4‑under in the first round?
SARAH KEMP: First round, it's great, it's really good. I've had obviously a few good rounds on the first day before. I hit 8‑under in Toledo a few years back, so that was really nice. But no, it definitely feels good to start that way so I'm going to take it for sure.