Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola First Round Notes and Interviews

Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola
Columbia Edgewater Country Club
Portland, Oregon
First-Round Notes and Interviews
August 29, 2013


Stacy Lewis -5, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Lexi Thompson -7, Rolex Rankings No. 26
Sandra Gal -6, Rolex Rankings No. 55
Pornanong Phatlum -8, Rolex Rankings No. 56
Michelle Wie -5, Rolex Rankings No. 87
Sydnee Michaels -5, Rolex Rankings No. 126
Austin Ernst -5, Rolex Rankings No. 187



Twenty-three-year old Thailand native Pornanong Phatlum fired an 8-under 64 in the first round of the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola and takes a one-shot lead over American teenager Lexi Thompson.
The fifth-year LPGA Tour member carded 10 birdies and two bogeys at Columbia Edgewater Country Club and holds the first-round lead for the first time in her career. The round of 64 also marks the lowest first round of her career and second-lowest round overall. She shot 63 in the final round of the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic earlier this season.

Phatlum said she has had recent struggles with her putter and came to Portland this week with a new model in the bag. Her new Odyssey No. 7 seemed to be the exact change she needed and drained just about every putt she lined up on Thursday and had a 22-putt total.

“Putting was so good,” said Phatlum. “This week I changed putter for this week and feeling very good. And I made many birdies today, like ten birdies today.

Phatlum won the unofficial HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup in 2012 and is playing for her first LPGA Tour victory. When asked if she’s ready to notch her first official win, Phatlum said she’s feels comfortable on the track at Columbia Edgewater

“I just try my best and I'm feeling very good with the course, the golf course,” said Phatlum. “I like the course, very nice.”

Lexi Thompson sits in solo second place after 18 holes of play and carded five birdies and an eagle on the par 5 7th hole in her bogey-free round. The Coral Springs, Florida native has made 40 starts since she won her first LPGA Tour title two years ago at the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic.

“I would say just my iron shots into the green,” said Thompson. “I hit a lot of good ones and I played the par 5s 4 under, so I took advantage of those. Overall I've just been working on the consistency of my game and working on tightening my shots up.”

Thompson’s round of 65 ties her low first-round score this season, tying her opening round at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic where she tied for 10th. That week in Alabama was also the only time this season she has lead after the first round. She said she’ll try to take advantage of her strong start this season.

“Every round is a learning experience,” said Thompson. “Obviously being close to the lead after the first round, you try to take that momentum into every other round after that. But it's golf so you have to take one shot at a time and not get ahead of yourself. That's all I'm going to do and try to take this into tomorrow.”

Americans Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas and Germany’s Sandra Gal are in a tie for third and two shots back after each shooting 6-under 66 on Thursday. A group of 14 players are three shots off the lead at 5-under-par including Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis, 2010 Safeway Classic champion Ai Miyazato, former world No. 1 Yani Tseng and two-time LPGA Tour winner Michelle Wie.


Taking up the opportunity: Second-year LPGA Tour member Min Seo Kwak wasn’t even in the field for the Safeway Classic early this morning but got bumped in when nine-time LPGA Tour winner Paula Creamer withdrew before the first round due to personal reasons. Kwak shot a 3-under 69 on Thursday and sits in a tie for 35th. This week marks the fifth start for the South Korean in 2013 and she’s looking to make her first cut this year.


Ace machine: Natalie Gulbis picked up her fourteenth hole-in-one of her golfing career and seventh in competition during Thursday’s first round but didn’t complain she didn’t get a car.

“I know, no cars yet!” said Gulbis. “But I’ll always take a hole-in-one”

Gulbis had an up-and-down day with four birdies and two bogeys in addition to her ace and finished with a 4-under 68 and sits four strokes off the lead in a tie for 20th.


In her comfort zone… It seems unfathomable to think an 18-year-old is in her second-year on the LPGA Tour but that is exactly the case for Rolex Rankings No. 26 Lexi Thompson. The teen phenom made it hard for people to ignore her after capturing the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic at the young age of 16.

Thompson received several sponsor exemptions prior to her rookie year in 2012 but as she gears-up for the final stretch of tournaments in her sophomore season, she has finally found her comfort zone.

“I would say last year and this year I have been a lot more comfortable,” said Thompson. “You know, playing on sponsored exemptions when I first came out here, I had a lot to learn and just trying to make my way around here. I am getting used to the travel life and how to get around by myself.”

Thompson recently earned a spot on the 2013 U.S. Solheim Cup Team and despite the disappointing defeat, the Coral Springs, Fla. native finished the week with a 1-2-0 record. While the U.S. Team failed to regain the Cup, Thompson admitted it was a week to remember as she walked away with several new friends.

“Well, it was the most amazing experience I have ever had on a golf course,” said Thompson. “I love team events. I've played a lot of junior and amateur team events and there's just nothing like that. You make so many new friends there. Just being at Solheim Cup and having hundreds of people around to cheer you on, there was nothing like this. I mean, what I learned, you know, I learned a lot about myself and I made a lot of new friends, like I said.”

Thompson will have another opportunity to compete for her country at next year’s International Crown. Currently in the midst of a season that has included eight top-20 finishes, Thompson stands sixth on the United States standings and will have to move inside the top-4 if she wants to make the team which will be announced at the CME Group Titleholders.

“Yeah, it definitely does,” said Thompson of the extra motivation she receives from striving make the International Crown. “I love events like that. Team stuff, there's nothing like it. I mean, we are so used to being an individual sport that we love playing as a team. I will definitely try my hardest at each event I have left this year.”


Extra boost: Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis did not take her withdraw from last week’s CN Canadian Women’s Open lightly and it’s clear the extra bit of rest made all the difference for the 28-year old Texan. Lewis opened up her week in Portland with a first-round 5-under 67 and said she’s completely recharged after a whirlwind of events following her second major championship win at the RICOH Women’s British Open and a historic loss at the Solheim Cup two weeks ago.

“I felt great,” said Lewis. “I felt like a different person out there from last week. Just being focused and I knew what my game plan was. I felt great out there. Doing what I did last week, other than maybe not starting the tournament and just not even playing at all, but passed that I think I did the right thing.”

Lewis had five birdies in her bogey-free round and said the soft conditions from overnight and early morning rain let her play her typical aggressive style of play.

“Today with it wet out there, I think it was especially important to hit the fairways to we were playing the ball up in the fairways,” said Lewis. “So if you got in the fairways, you could at least give yourself a good lie. You didn't have to worry about that. The key today was really hitting the fairways. The greens are so soft, you are just playing target golf. I love it. Wherever that ball lands, that is how far it's playing. That's my kind of golf.”

Lewis also had an extra boost in Thursday’s first round from her own personal gallery titled “Team Stacy” made up of KPMG employees. A group of about 20 people from the company’s Portland branch came out early to cheer on Lewis and it’s just one of the many ways the company supports her as a sponsor. The organization, which provides audit, advisory and tax services, has its logo on Lewis’ hat as well.

“It's been about a year and a half since I have been working with them,” said Lewis. “They are at the forefront of everything. I do events for them and it's first class. They do everything right. It's just so cool to have those people could be working and making money today and instead they are out here supporting and cheering me on. It's just really cool to have a team like that. They do it for Phil (Mickelson) as well. They did it at the Barclays for him. It's something they've really gotten into. The employees, they love it; they feel a part of what's going on out there.

“At the U.S. Open, Suzann asked if I had a football team with me,” said Lewis. “It's just fun having people following you around, people cheering for you, especially early in the morning. It can be kind of quiet out there.”


The end of a drought? It has been 65 starts since Michelle Wie’s last victory at the 2010 CN Canadian Women’s Open, but after a first-round 5-under 67, she is in position to end her winless drought. The Stanford University graduate carded a bogey free opening round to head into Friday 3-strokes off the lead.

“Just iron play was good,” said Wie. “Just put in a lot of close shots. Didn't really take advantage of par 5s, which I kind of want to tomorrow. It was a good day. It was consistent.”

Nike has sponsored Wie throughout her entire four-year career on the LPGA Tour. The two-time LPGA Tour winner took time out of preparing for this week’s Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola to visit their headquarters.

In addition to her visit with Nike, Wie looks forward to returning to Portland each year thanks to Columbia Edgewater Golf Course and this week’s tournament sponsor, Safeway.

“It's great,” said Wie of her visit to Nike. “We had a product meeting. It's nice to be around Nike campus. It's great to be back on this golf course. Safeway just always hosts a really great event. It's a tournament that we always look forward to, so it's really nice to be back.”


Eyes on Germany…
The Solheim Cup is a biennial event that every female professional golfer hopes to be a part of. A rookie on the victorious 2011 European Solheim Cup Team, Sandra Gal failed to earn enough points to land a spot on the historic 2013 European Solheim Cup Team.

While the disappointment was hard for Gal to ignore, she has her sights set on the 2015 Solheim Cup where she will have the opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd of Germany.

“I was really disappointed, to be honest with you,” said Gal. “I tried to take it as a positive and just be more motivated for the rest of the season and for two years when it's going to be in Germany. We're all real excited about that.”

Gal is one of four Germans who are currently members of the LPGA Tour and one of only two players who are actively competing. With the Solheim Cup scheduled to take place in Sankt Leon-Rot, Germany, she hopes to earn a spot on the team and serve as an inspiration for other aspiring golfers in her home country.

“It would be unbelievable,” said Gal. “I think there are so many young girls coming up and just to see the excitement that's surrounds our biggest event for women's golf, it would be amazing to boost the sport and obviously being part of that would be just unbelievable.”


Sibling Support… Finding your comfort zone on the LPGA Tour can be a bit of a tasking process. This was no different for current LPGA Tour rookie Austin Ernst who found the number of events taking a toll on her early in the year.

The former Louisiana State University (LSU) Tiger got off to a slow start in 2013 missing seven cuts in her first 12 starts but a tie for sixth finish at last month’s Manulife LPGA Classic provided Ernst a boost to her rollercoaster of a season.

“My rookie year has had its ups-and-downs,” said Ernst. “I didn’t have as good of a start to the year as I hoped it would be but I had a really good week at Manulife which really helped me. I just made a lot of putts that week and ended up tied for sixth but it’s definitely had its ups-and-downs. Life on Tour has been a little different especially coming from college golf, amateur golf the biggest adjustment has just been playing every week. Not really having any weeks off and really playing four weeks in a row, traveling all around.”

In addition to the solid finish in Canada, Ernst’s brother now serves as her caddie and travels throughout the world with his sister. The change seems to be paying off for Ernst as she fired a first-round 5-under 67 and currently stands 2-strokes off the lead.

“I think recently what has helped me is my brother is on my bag now so I travel with him now too,” said Ernst. “It’s definitely been nice having him out with me as opposed to the beginning of the year when I was on my own trying to find my way. But it’s been a good year so far, obviously I would like to finish it off well and make it into Asia, I’m in CME already so I want to finish the year off strong.”


STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 2

Q. I'd like to welcome in Stacy Lewis, 5 under, 67 today. Fantastic round, no bogeys. Talk about your round and how it went.
STACY LEWIS: It was really pretty easy. I hit the ball great all day and kind of hit some shaky shots toward the end, but made some nice pars. I don't know, it's about as easy of a 67 as you can get.

Q. Talk about you missed only two fairways. Talk about being accurate off the tees. Everyone keeps saying tree lined, narrow fairways.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, today with it wet out there, I think it was especially important to hit the fairways to we were playing the ball up in the fairways. So if you got in the fairways, you could at least give yourself a good lie. You didn't have to worry about that. The key today was really hitting the fairways. The greens are so soft, you are just playing target golf. I love it. Wherever that ball lands, that is how far it's playing. That's my kind of golf.
I mean, had a couple putts lip out on me. Hit the flag at one point and it spun back off the green. Had a couple of things not go my way, but I would definitely take this round.

Q. Soft conditions. Like you said, you are an aggressive player going at pins. Hopefully we dont' get anymore rain delays, but to do you prefer soft conditions where it would allow you to really go at it?
STACY LEWIS: You don't want it too soft because it brings in all the low scores you are seeing today. I think it's so soft out there, I think you are going to see a bunch of low numbers. You'd almost want it a little bit firmer just so it plays a little tougher, but at the same time it's nice to be making birdies.
Either way you just have to adjust to it. The course is going to change throughout the week and you should just keep adjusting to it.

Q. I have to ask, your KPMG family is out here. Team Stacy. They had a local group from KPMG to come out and follow you. It's the second time. They had a group out at Sebonack. Talk about the partnership that's evolved with them. They are on Twitter and they kind of took it to the next level. Talk about how that has evolved and how awesome it is that they support you in every way?
STACY LEWIS: It's been about a year and a half since I have been working with them. They are at the forefront of everything. I do events for them and it's first class. They do everything right.
It's just so cool to have those people could be working and making money today and instead they are out here supporting and cheering me on. It's just really cool to have a team like that. They do it for Phil as well. They did it at the Barclays for him. It's something they've really gotten into. The employees, they love it; they feel a part of what's going on out there.
At the U.S. Open, Suzann asked if I had a football team with me. It's just fun having people following you around, people cheering for you, especially early in the morning. It can be kind of quiet out there.

Q. They started getting louder as the day progressed?
STACY LEWIS: It was a little early for everybody and they weren't quite sure. A lot of people had never been to a golf tournament before. I think it's a first experience for them and hopefully we have fans, get fans that continue to come out.

Q. The whole withdraw thing, how did it feel this morning?
STACY LEWIS: I felt great. I felt like a different person out there from last week. Just being focused and I knew what my game plan was. I felt great out there. Doing what I did last week, other than maybe not starting the tournament and just not even playing at all, but passed that I think I did the right thing.

Q. When you come in and it's sort of rainy, do you change how you approach the day?
STACY LEWIS: Well, I knew coming into the day, we got some rain overnight. Obviously coming to the course it was raining when I got here. Your mindset is different. You are attacking pins. You have got I spun back some 8 and 9 irons today. The longer irons you can be more aggressive with. I think I made two or three of my birdies with 5 and 6 irons because you can be more aggressive there.
I don't know, I think you saw scores early. I mean, people were 3 and 4 under through four holes. You had to go out there early and make some birdies. I hung in there and posted a good number.


LEXI THOMPSON, Rolex Rankings No. 26

THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Lexi Thompson into the interview room. Thanks for coming in. Great round today. I heard you tell out Jerry Foltz out there that you didn't hit your driver well but didn't reflect in your score. Nice 7 under round. What went well for you out there?
LEXI THOMPSON: I would say just my iron shots into the green. I hit a lot of good ones and I played the par 5s 4 under, so I took advantage of those.
Overall I've just been working on the consistency of my game and working on tightening my shots up.

THE MODERATOR: Yeah, I know it's been a pretty grueling past three weeks for you, kicking it off with Solheim Cup. You are young, but how are you feeling?
LEXI THOMPSON: I feel pretty good right now. A few days after Solheim Cup were pretty tough. Those few practice rounds I was definitely not into it but this is a good three week stretch with the Canadian Open after Solheim Cup and the Safeway Classic.

Q. You were working on Solheim Cup this year. What did you take away from that experience?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, it was the most amazing experience I have ever had on a golf course. I love team events. I've played a lot of junior and amateur team events and there's just nothing like that.
You make so many new friends there. Just being at Solheim Cup and having hundreds of people around to cheer you on, there was nothing like this. I mean, what I learned, you know, I learned a lot about myself and I made a lot of new friends, like I said.

Q. We have International Crown coming up next year. The teams will be announced at CME. Does that give you any extra motivation for the last few tournaments this year?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, it definitely does. I love events like that. Team stuff, there's nothing like it. I mean, we are so used to being an individual sport that we love playing as a team. I will definitely try my hardest at each event I have left this year.

Q. Kind of crazy to think that you are 18 years old and you are no longer a rookie. It seems like you're so comfortable out there. Is that true?
LEXI THOMPSON: I would say last year and this year I have been a lot more comfortable. You know, playing on sponsored exemptions when I first came out here, I had a lot to learn and just trying to make my way around here. I am getting used to the travel life and how to get around by myself.

Q. Could you tell us about your eagle? What did you hit and how far?
LEXI THOMPSON: It was on hole 7. I hit my driver actually in the right rough and I hit like a three quarter 6 iron and hit pretty far short and it rolled all the way up to about six feet above the hole and made the event. Sorry, it wasn’t very exciting.

Q. Can you evaluate how you think the year has gone for you?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I think it's gone pretty well for me. I had a little slow start. I've had a few off events for me. Right now I think this is the best my game has ever been. I am just trying to take positive things from each event to try to improve. I have been nonstop working on my game trying to improve little things and I think it's showing.

Q. Some thoughts on the golf course, what do you think of it?
LEXI THOMPSON: The golf course? The golf course is amazing. It's in great shape. It's playing pretty soft right now with all the rain. I heard it is usually played pretty firm. It's in amazing shape, it's so plush. It demands good tee-shots, it's tree lined, so you have to keep it in the fairway out here and take advantage of the shots you have.

Q. You've had the lead once this year after the first round. Did you I can't remember where that was, but did you learn anything from that one experience where you had the lead after the first round?
LEXI THOMPSON: It might have been Toledo. Every round is a learning experience. Obviously with a lead after the first round, you try to take that momentum into every other round after that. But it's golf so you have to take one shot at a time and not get ahead of yourself. That's all I'm going to do and try to take this into tomorrow.

Q. In weeks like this when you and your brother are playing on Tour the same week, do you communicate much? Do you text or call?
LEXI THOMPSON: We don't call each other that much. We text back and forth pretty much every day and say good luck to each other. I think that's the most important thing just having a good support system behind you.

Q. This is tied for your low round of the year, was it your best round of the year, do you feel like?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I would say it was. With how my golf game is right now, just trusting my shot and going for it, I would say that it was my best round.


SANDRA GAL, Rolex Rankings No. 55

Q. What did you do well today?
SANDRA GAL: It was a combination. I think I kept it in the fairway and then I hit a couple of tap ins and then made a couple 10, 15 foot putts. So it was just a little bit of everything.

Q. Did not making the Solheim Cup, did that affect you? Did that inspire you?
SANDRA GAL: I was really disappointed, to be honest with you. I tried to take it as a positive and just be more motivated for the rest of the season and for two years when it's going to be in Germany. We're all real excited about that.
It gave me an extra week to practice, so I worked hard on my game and hopefully it will show.

Q. Did you watch?
SANDRA GAL: I watched, yes. Of course I'm going to cheer my teammates on.

Q. What would that mean to make that team and play in your home country in front of everyone?
SANDRA GAL: It would be unbelievable. I think there are so many young girls coming up and just to see the excitement that's surrounds our biggest event for women's golf, it would be amazing to boost the sport. And obviously being part of that would be just unbelievable.

Q. 66, is that your best round of the year?
SANDRA GAL: Yeah, I think so.

Q. Did you feel like you played the best?
SANDRA GAL: I've been playing really well recently. I just haven't been making a lot of putts. If a couple fall then I'm good.


PORNANONG PHATLUM, Rolex Rankings No. 56

Q. So nice round, 8 under. What went well out there?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: Putting so good. This week I was change putter for this week and feeling very good. And I make many birdie today, like ten birdies today.

Q. What new putter did you get?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: Odyssey No. 7

Q. It seemed like there were a lot of Thai girls coming up on the LPGA. How nice is that?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: It's very nice and like I'm happy that the Thai player can get in the tournament. And next year P.K. going to get the get in the on LPGA, yeah. Excited. I want more Thai player coming.

Q. Do you feel like you're ready to win a tournament?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I just try my best and I'm feeling very good with the course, the golf course. I like the course, very nice.

Q. Why did you change putters?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I was putting not good last week and I felt not very good with the old putter, so I just changed.

Q. Did you make everything today or
PORNANONG PHATLUM: Yes, it was everything.

Q. What were some of the long putts you had? Do you remember?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: It's really long, about 20 feet.

Q. Twenty feet, do you remember what hole that would have been?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I don't remember. No. 5, par 5.

Q. Last year you started this tournament pretty similar. You had nine birdies on the first day?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: Yes.

Q. Had you been to Portland before last year?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: No.

Q. Is it something about this area? I mean, that's a 19 birdies in the first two rounds?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I love to come back to play here and I feel I play here good like two years ago.

Q. When you got to the course today, did you notice all the low scores?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: No.

Q. You don't look at the scores?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: No.

Q. When you saw the conditions and how soft the course was, did you feel like you might be able to shoot a low score today?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I didn't think about it, but just try my best. I saw many player play very good today and just try my best. Putting so good today, so made almost everything.

Q. Is your caddie your brother?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: Yeah, my brother.

Q. How did you convince him to wear your matching shirt and skirt?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: The sponsor.

Q. How do you find shorts that color?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I just pick it and he would follow me.

Q. That's a good brother, huh?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: Yeah.

Q. When did you start doing that?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: Last year.
Q. Last year? Is he older than you?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: Yeah, three years older than me.


MICHELLE WIE, Rolex Rankings No. 87

Q. Good playing.
MICHELLE WIE: Thank you.

Q. What went well out there?
MICHELLE WIE: Just iron play was good. Just put in a lot of close shots. Didn't really take advantage of par 5s, which I kind of want to tomorrow. It was a good day. It was consistent.

Q. I know you said you avoided the par train there toward the end. What happened on those last eight holes?
MICHELLE WIE: Just didn't make a lot of putts. The greens were a little bit bumpy with the greens being so soft. Just left myself a couple of tricky ones. I hit them well. I putted well. Had good speed. Hopefully tomorrow morning can get back on the birdie train.

Q. How nice is it to get a good round under your belt?
MICHELLE WIE: Feels good, especially the first round. It just makes things a lot easier.

Q. How is it being back here in Portland? I know it's the home of Nike.
MICHELLE WIE: It's great. We had a product meeting. It's nice to be around Nike campus. It's great to be back on this golf course. Safeway just always hosts a really great event. It's a tournament that we always look forward to, so it's really nice to be back.

Q. How are you feeling after the past three weeks?
MICHELLE WIE: You know, I was absolutely dead last week, but this week
I mean, I'm still sleeping 12 hours every night, but I'm feeling a little better during the day. So I'm feeling less like a zombie.


SYDNEE MICHAELS, Rolex Rankings No. 126

Q. Delay this morning obviously weather is a little crazy. Lift clean and place helped a little bit. But a lot of birdies. Were you kind of aggressive, just kind of going for pins?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: I was pretty aggressive today, but I hit it really good today. I pretty much had a birdie opportunity on almost every hole. I made two bogeys, but I rolled it really well and hit it really well.

Q. How about birdies, any long putts?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: Not anything crazy. I think my longest birdie put was probably like 15 feet.

Q. So all approach shots were
SYDNEE MICHAELS: Yeah, all my approach shots were pretty close.

Q. What about the bogeys?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: I hit one, I had to punch out. Hit it in the trees, had to punch out. That was one of them.
The other one was I pulled it a little left and short sided myself and didn't get up and down.

Q. A lot of people said the fairways are narrow. Was that affecting your game plan on really trying to be straight off the tee?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: That's definitely important here. The fairways are very narrow. The trees are pretty large. That was definitely something that I took into consideration in the beginning of the week and was working on hitting shots on the range like I would be hitting it off the tee.

Q. Coming into this a couple of missed cuts, were you working on anything in particular?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: It's been up an down for me this year. I have just been trying to battle hard and work hard and get back on track.
The last few weeks have definitely been I'm definitely back on the rise. It feels good.

Q. Working with coaches or anything?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: I just started working with Dave Stockton actually on my putting. I started with him probably a couple of months ago. I can really see a big improvement, especially the last two or three weeks, so I'm happy about that.

Q. What was the biggest change he made?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: I think the great thing about his philosophy is that he just keeps it really simple. I'm not really overthinking anything. He just changed a couple of things in my grip, honestly. He doesn't touch your stroke or anything. It's just really simple. It seems to be working well for me.

Q. I was going to say, you had like 27 putts?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: And last week I think I had three rounds under 30 putts.

Q. Huge difference?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: Yeah, big difference.

Q. Obviously you're heading towards the end of the season, do you re evaluate goals?
SYDNEE MICHAELS: Well, I didn't have the year I wanted to this year. I had a couple of setbacks personally and professionally, so I just I just want to finish out the season strong and get into as many Asian events as I can.


Austin Ernst, Rolex Rankings No. 186
Kristina Merkle, amateur


THE MODERATOR: Austin, we talked on the way in about you going to LSU which I think everybody knows is a huge football school. They play TCU this weekend, will you be cheering them on your Tigers this year?
Austin Ernst: Oh yeah, every weekend. I’m just hoping to get the game here but this is always an exciting time of year and I will definitely be tuning in every week and cheering the Tigers on.

THE MODERATOR: Kristina, you played here in 2010 and you played your way in this year after a four-hole playoff in the Monday Qualifier. Did playing in 2010 help calm your nerves at all on the first tee?
Kristina Merkle: Not at all, not even close. I was honestly thinking please, please, please go somewhere down the fairway. After that, I kind of looked at my caddie and said if I can get past the first three holes, then I’m set. It was nice to play with a really good group, they were all really nice to me. They always said good shot or good putt so it really helped.

THE MODERATOR: It seemed like you had a big cheering section out there. Did that help you?
Kristina Merkle: My mom is the loudest person out there. Everybody always talks about it says oh she’s so cute, that’s my mom.

Q. Austin, can you talk about how your rookie year is going and how you are adjusting to playing on Tour.
Austin Ernst: My rookie year has had its ups-and-downs. I didn’t have as good of a start to the year as I hoped it would be but I had a really good week at Manulife which really helped me. I just made a lot of putts that week and ended up tied for sixth but it’s definitely had its ups-and-downs. Life on Tour has been a little different especially coming from college golf, amateur golf the biggest adjustment has just been playing every week. Not really having any weeks off and really playing four weeks in a row, traveling all around. I think recently what has helped me is my brother is on my bag now so I travel with him now too. It’s definitely been nice having him out with me as opposed to the beginning of the year when I was on my own trying to find my way. But its been a good year so far, obviously I would like to finish it off well and make it into Asia, I’m in CME already so I want to finish the year off strong.

Q. This is the last full-field event. How did you approach the week?
Austin Ernst: I’m playing later in the season so I haven’t had a lot of pressure this week. I’m in Evian then I’m in China but this week the golf course is really good. It’s soft, it’s receptive, you can make birdies and I like golf courses that you can make birdies. I like to play really aggressive golf so I think the course set-up sets up well for me.

Q. Kristina, are you going to turn pro soon?
Kristina Merkle: Actually my family and I have talked about that and I actually do plan on staying an amateur. I’m going to go back to school and get my degree, that’s kind of been my plan. Next year I’m going to go to Q-School and hopefully that will work out well for me but going pro is definitely in my future plans for sure.

Topics: Portland Classic, Notes and Interviews, Phatlum, Pornanong, Thompson, Lexi, Gal, Sandra, Wie, Michelle, Michaels, Sydnee, Ernst, Austin [+]

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