Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic First Round Notes and Interviews

Lydia Ko
Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Lydia Ko follows her tee shot on the fourth hole during round one of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic at the Ocean Club course on January 23, 2014 in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic
Ocean Club Golf Course
Atlantis, Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas
First-Round Notes and Interviews
January 23, 2014

Lydia Ko -5, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Meena Lee -5, Rolex Rankings No. 75
Stacy Lewis -4, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Brittany Lang -4, Rolex Rankings No. 65

Lydia Ko is not a typical LPGA Tour rookie and the 16-year-old showed that on Thursday, shooting a 5-under 68 to tie for the first-round lead with South Korean Meena Lee at the 2014 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. Ko, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour as an amateur, got her rookie season off to a strong start with six birdies and just one bogey in her opening round at the Ocean Club Golf Course on Paradise Island.

A late-round charge helped Ko surge to the top of the leaderboard as she birdied two of her final three holes. The New Zealander sank a four-foot birdie putt after missing a long eagle chance on the 18th, which moved her into a tie for the first-round lead. Ko was a model of consistency throughout the day, giving herself many chances at birdie during her round. And while a 5-under-par round would certainly be considered a great day for any player, Ko knew that she missed some opportunities to go even lower.

“I thought I was playing much better than my scores,” Ko said. “3‑under was a great score during the middle of my round, but I thought I was playing even better.  I gave myself opportunities and I hit my putts on the line that I wanted to hit them, and sometimes it would just dive off to the left or right.  So I had a couple close ones, but like I said, the grain can definitely affect the ball.”

Lee credited a strong putting day and her eagle on the par-4 14th for her solid 5-under-par score. She holds a share of the first-round lead for only the fourth time in her career but the two-time LPGA Tour winner is feeling very confident in her game following a strong offseason.

“I had a wintertime working hard, so that's why I have confidence more than last year,” Lee said after her round on Thursday. “That's why I feel very good and happy to play in the first tournament.”

Ko and Lee have plenty of challengers right on their heels after the first day of play. Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis finds herself right in the hunt after firing a 4-under 69 that put her in a 10-way tie for third. Lewis got off to a solid start with three birdies on the front nine and she got to 5-under thru 13 holes before a bogey on the 14th slowed her momentum. Lewis was able to finish steady over her final few holes to finish just one shot out of the lead.

“I thought I'd be a little bit more rusty than I was,” Lewis said. “But I got off to a good start, and really just hit the ball really solid and was able to control some shots in the wind and the shots that I saw I was able to pull off.  I was really happy with the way I hit the ball.”
Lewis and Ko were paired together for Thursday’s opening round. Ko joked that it was pretty cool to see her name next to Lewis’ name for the first round of the tournament. But while the No. 4 ranked Ko still seems unaware of her own prowess, the woman right in front of her in the rankings couldn’t help but rave about the 16-year-old. Lewis was once again amazed at the composure and poise shown by the 16-year-old phenom, saying that nothing seems to faze Ko.

“I think our games are very similar, just the way we play,” Lewis said. “We both hit it solid and make some putts.  She rolled it great today.  For the first seven, eight holes, she made everything she looked at.

“I think she's really good.  Gosh, when she gets some confidence and really figures that out, watch out for the rest of the Tour.  I mean, it's nice to see [her modesty], but at the same time you want to see her kind of really believe in herself and believe that she is one of the best players in the world.”

What nerves? Lydia Ko expressed surprise after Thursday’s first round of the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic but it had nothing to do with her performance. Instead, Ko said that she found herself caught off guard by the lack of nerves she had when she teed off for her first round as an LPGA Tour member.

“I just felt really relaxed and kind of just played my game one shot at a time, watched Stacy and Beatriz hit,” Ko said. “I think it's great to be paired along with the world's greatest players, and just to be able to see it is a plus.  To play better golf, that's even better.”

Seeing Ko perform well, as she shot a 5-under 68 on Thursday, is nothing new for LPGA fans. But there were bound to be questions of how she might play after making so many changes during the Tour’s short offseason. Since turning professional right before the 2013 season-ending CME Group Titleholders, Ko has signed a new equipment deal with Callaway, changed her swing coach and also hired a new caddie. But none of those switches seemed to have any impact on her game on Thursday and Ko wasn’t concerned about how they may affect her going forward.

“Over the last month hearing the word change, it could pretty much be my middle name,” Ko said. “Yeah, I knew what happened like before with some other players, but you never know what's going to happen.  That slump stage, you never know when in your career it will happen.  It's good that I kind of got off into a good start and it will definitely help with the rest of the season. Yeah, I guess change is quite big, but I wanted a challenge.”

The No. 1 Goal: 2013 Vare Trophy winner Stacy Lewis picked up where she left off at the end of last season with another low scoring round after shooting a 4-under par today, one shot off the lead. Five birdies and one bogey put her in a 10-way tie for third heading into the second round on Friday.

When asked what her goals are for the year, Lewis said “I’d like to get back to No. 1 in the world. But you try not to think about it too much because there are so many good players and so many people that can be No. 1, and it’s a hard place to be. Today was a good start, and we’ve got a long ways to go, though.”

Starting Strong: After spending four weeks in Korea before practicing in Orlando the rest of the offseason, Meena Lee finished the day as the co-leader, along with Lydia Ko, after round one with a 5-under-par 69. This is the fourth time that Lee has been the leader or co-leader after the first round and the first since the 2011 Ricoh British Open where she finished T37.

“I was putting very well today, and then No. 14, I made eagle, so everything was working together.” Lee said to describe her day today.

A Gift of Luck: Brittany Lang is hopeful for a strong season after a storybook wedding to her husband Kevin Spann in early January. She started it off today with a strong 4-under-par 69 even though she said she wasn’t swinging aggressively through the first 13 holes. Thanks to a good luck charm gift from a fan, she’s hoping for a strong finish the next three rounds.

“I didn’t catch her name, but she gave me a little good luck seashell,” Lang said. “She had a cute little pink outfit on with a pink flamingo shirt. She was adorable. She gave me a good luck seashell. Somebody put in in the bag, and it’s going to be an awesome week with this.”

Quotable: "You can change your clubs, your coach, all these things, but she's still the same person,” – Stacy Lewis on one of her playing partners Thursday, Lydia Ko.

Tweet of the Day: Cards win last night. So I've got my Louisville @Konectidy bracelet on. #gocards pic.twitter.com/K0or8td1Zr -- @CindyLaCrosse, who shot a 3-under 70 in Thursday’s first round with her lucky bracelet.

Of Note…Defending champion Ilhee Lee shot a 1-over 74…Sue Kim made a hole-in-one on the 172-yard, par-3 sixth hole…2013 Symetra Tour Money List winner P.K. Krongkaphan is tied for third after shooting a 4-under 69 in Thursday’s opening round.

Lydia Ko, Rolex Rankings No. 4

Q. Congratulations, a great 5‑under par round today.  First official round as a rookie turned out for you pretty well.  Take us through your day out there.
LYDIA KO:  I had kind of like a shaky start.  I still had like a four‑footer for par on the first hole, so I was kind of wondering what the rest of the day would be.  But I made a birdie on 2, so that kind of led my day into a good day.  Yeah, I just gave myself a lot of opportunities.  I left some out there, but overall I think I was putting well and hitting the ball well.

Q. When you look at this golf course, what is your strategy with it?  Is there a certain thing that you have to be successful at to shoot low?
LYDIA KO:  I think the greens are the toughest part of the course.  Some parts can be extremely fast like on the 18th, the eagle putt.  I had no idea it would go that far past.  Some putts are really slippery.  The greens are grainy, as well, so it’s kind the most of this condition
Q. We were talking earlier just about your day, and you were saying you were surprisingly not as nervous as you have been in the past.  Why do you think that was today that you didn’t have as many nerves?
LYDIA KO:  I don’t know.  Yeah, I just felt really relaxed and kind of just played my game one shot at a time, watched Stacy and Beatriz hit.  I think it’s great to be paired along with the world’s greatest players, and just to be able to see it is a plus.  To play better golf, that’s even better.

Q. You said you struck the ball well.  It looked as though you hit a lot of good putts that did not go in.  Did you at any point get frustrated and think, wow, I could really be going low here?
LYDIA KO:  Yeah, I thought I was playing much better than my scores.  3‑under was a great score during the middle of my round, but I thought I was playing even better.  I gave myself opportunities and I hit my putts on line, on the line that I wanted to hit them, and sometimes it would just dive off to the left or right.  So I had a couple close ones, but like I said, the grain can definitely affect the ball.

Q. If you were giving yourself a grade for the way you played today, what would it be?
LYDIA KO:  I think I’d be pretty up there.  Yeah, I think this is – I was just more shocked that I wasn’t as nervous as I would be.  I think just birdie on 2 kind of got me going.  Yeah, it would be pretty up there.  I shot 10‑under at the Australian Open, but here I just felt relaxed and felt really confident.

Q. Do you think conditions were as good as they were?
LYDIA KO:  Maybe the wind might die down.  You really don’t know, and especially the holes right next to the sea.  They can get pretty windy.  Hopefully it stays like this, but yesterday playing in the pro‑am it was pretty tricky.  So if we have a day like that, the scores are definitely going to be different.

Q. I think I know the answer, but expectations that you had coming out, now that you’re a rookie, and there was some sort of a spotlight on you, did you have expectations of yourself?
LYDIA KO:  Yeah, you know, most of the times if I feel pressure about expectations, it’s about self‑pressure and self‑expectation.  My mom said yesterday just go out there, have fun, and I’m never going to always play under par.  Yeah, just tried to keep my mind positive, and yeah, just hit the white ball.

Q. When you look at the number of players that have either changed managers or hired a manager or whatever, changed equipment, they have gone through slump periods after, and yet you haven’t done that, playing extremely well in your first outing.  Is it something you’re completely able to block out, or how do you account for that?
LYDIA KO:  Yeah, over the last month hearing the word change, it could pretty much be my middle name.  Yeah, I knew what happened like before with some other players, but you never know what’s going to happen.  That slump stage, you never know when in your career it will happen.  It’s good that I kind of got off into a good start and it will definitely help with the rest of the season.  Yeah, I guess change is quite big, but I wanted a challenge.

Q. It doesn’t seem like being a rookie would feel so different.  Do you feel like a rookie?
LYDIA KO:  I do, yeah.  Seeing the other rookies for this year, like Jaye and a lot of the others, I kind of think, oh, I’m one of them, and I’ve actually become a Tour player.  Last year I was amateur pretty much the whole time.  It is definitely different, but I’m just really happy and excited to be on the Tour.

Q. Is the orientation coming?
MODERATOR:  We’ll have a few of the seminars at Founders.  They’ve had a few different things that have gone on, but no official rookie orientation this week.

Q. Lydia, now holding a tie for the first round, what’s your strategy for tomorrow?  Anything you’ll do tonight to keep yourself relaxed heading into tomorrow?
LYDIA KO:  You know, I normally like nine hours of sleep, but I don’t think I got as much, so hopefully a little bit of practice and then have a nap and go out to dinner and then sleep again.  I like to sleep, and sometimes I oversleep, which is a huge problem.

Q. What was it like to start with Stacy, and I noticed there was a lot of interaction, going down 12 you guys were laughing and talking.  What was it like starting with her?
LYDIA KO:  Yeah, I’ve never been paired with her from the first round, so that was quite cool seeing my name right next to her on the pairing sheets.  Yeah, she’s a great player, and she’s also a great person, as well.  Yeah, I really enjoyed playing with her and seeing her game, especially with putting.  She seems so confident and so relaxed, and that’s some of the things I want to learn from her.

Q. Are you one of those players that when you’re playing alongside some of the other top players in the world, do you really kind of pay attention to their game?  Do you watch and get some tips, or do you stay more in yourself and kind of appreciate what they’re able to do with their own games?
LYDIA KO:  When I’m hitting the ball, I just concentrate on mine, but when it’s not my turn, I just kind of see what they do and how different their game is to mine.

Meena Lee, Rolex Rankings No. 75

Q. What was working well for you out there today?
MEENA LEE:  I mean, I was putting very well today, and then No. 14, I made eagle, so everything was working together.

Q.  First event of the season, what is it like to get off to such a good start?  Were you feeling good about your game in the off‑season?
MEENA LEE:  Well, I mean, I had a wintertime working hard, so that’s why I have confidence more than last year.  That’s why I feel very good and happy to play in the first tournament.

Q.  Did the off‑season, because this is the first time the LPGA has started in January since 2001, did the off‑season seem a lot shorter?
MEENA LEE: Yeah, feel like very short, just a few weeks practice and then start.  But happy to start the first tournament.

Q.  How did you spend your off‑season?  Were you in Korea for most of the time?
MEENA LEE: After CME I stayed in Korea for four weeks and then went back to Orlando December 26th and then ‑‑ 

Q.  Start practicing?
MEENA LEE:  Yeah.

Q.  Anything that you worked on over that time, anything specific in your swing?
MEENA LEE:  Well, everything is the same in the last year, 2013, but more focus on the putting and short game.  Working very hard in the winter season, so I had a good round today, so yeah.

Q.  What are the keys on this golf course?  We’re playing all 18 holes this year, which that’s a good thing.
MEENA LEE:  Depends on wind.  I think it depends on weather.  Today the weather was very nice, but I think the golf course is very good.  It’s in good condition.  I think everything depends on weather, but the course is very nice.  I think there will be good scores the next three days.

Q.  How does it feel returning here to the Bahamas to play in the golf tournament?
MEENA LEE:  I’m very happy to play here.  I played last year, and it was good, but too much rain last year.  This year just so nice weather.  Everything is perfect, and the conditions are very nice.

Brittany Lang, Rolex Rankings No. 65

Q. We are here after the first round of play with Brittany Lang.  Congratulations, a great 4‑under par round today.  What was really working well for you today?
BRITTANY LANG:  Yeah, it was a good day.  I was a little bit nervous, first round of the year, after not playing in a tournament for so long, but I had a great off‑season.  I wasn’t swinging super aggressive early on and had a couple loose shots, birdied my third hole today, which was 12, and then I hit it in the water on 13 because I just wasn’t swinging aggressively.  But after that I made double on 13, but after that it was just great shots, super focused, rolling it great, swinging more aggressively and just played super solid.  I’m very happy it being the first round of the year.

Q. Short off‑season for everyone but particularly short for you getting ready for your wedding a couple weeks ago.  Take us through that.  What’s it like coming off one of the greatest moments of your life?
BRITTANY LANG:  It was.  It was the best day of my life.  I mean, it was perfection.  It was a fairy‑tale.  I had my family from all over, all my friends, Kevin’s family, obviously my immediate family.  It was a very special day, and I’m so thankful we had it.  I couldn’t be happier.

Q. I heard Kevin played in the pro‑am yesterday.  How did he fare out there?
BRITTANY LANG:  Kevin did great.  He played really well.  He had his music on, smoking his cigars, having a good time.  He played with Natalie’s husband, Katherine Hull’s husband and Dean from Pure Silk, so I know they had a good time.  If you play with Kevin and don’t have a good time, you have a problem because he’s just a blast.

Q. I can totally understand that one from hanging out with him watching you play.  I just saw you got a little good luck charm from a fan.  Talk about that.
BRITTANY LANG:  I didn’t catch her name, but she gave me a little good luck seashell.  She had a cute little pink outfit on with a pink flamingo shirt.  She was adorable.  She gave me a good luck seashell.  Somebody put it in the bag, and it’s going to be an awesome week with this.

Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3

Q. Nice round, 4‑under par today, one shot off the lead.  Take us through your round; what was really working well for you out there today?
STACY LEWIS:  You know, I really got off to a pretty good start.  I thought I’d be a little bit more rusty than I was, but got off to a good start, and really just hit the ball really solid and was able to control some shots in the wind and really the shots that I saw I was able to pull off.  I was really happy with the way I hit the ball.
Up until about – from 14 in, I hit the ball great, I just didn’t score very well.
But 4‑under, first round in six weeks, is pretty good.

Q. I know we talked about the time you took off during the off‑season to give yourself a mental break.  You were playing so well at the end of last year.  Was it tough to take that time off and were you worried you might not be able to continue that momentum after some time off?

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, I wanted to keep playing.  I wish we had more tournaments to keep going, but I knew I needed some time just to kind of step away and allow myself to break and not think about golf all the time.  I mean, it was a good thing.  I forced myself to do it, and I came back around the 1st of the year and just been really happy with what we’re working on, and it seems to be coming into play.

Q. You talked about what you’ve been working on.  What specifically have you been targeting, and what did you see kind of pay off in today’s round?

STACY LEWIS:  Well, I think really living in Florida these last couple years has helped me a lot with controlling spin in the wind, and that really helps on this golf course, just knowing if I turn one back into the wind how far it’s going to go, or I can hit one less club and let it ride the wind.  Just knowing those different types of shots, that’s helped me a lot.
Really what we worked on is just kind of the same things we’ve been working on for a long time.  I don’t know, I always try to get a little bit better every day, and just little things.  We’re not changing the whole plane of my golf swing or anything like that, it’s just little things.

Q. You were Player of the Year in 2012, Vare Trophy winner last year.  What are your goals for this year?

STACY LEWIS First I’d like to get back to No. 1 in the world.  That’s kind of the most immediate thing.  I mean, I’d like to do both of those things in one year at some point in my career.  I have a list of things kind of in the back of my head that I want to check off, and those are two things that are on it.  But you try not to think about it too much because there’s so many good players and so many people that can be No. 1, and it’s a hard place to be.
Today was a good start, and we’ve got a long ways to go, though.

Q. I know when we were talking a little bit earlier about you and Lydia both played well in the same group.  Lydia said it was fun because she had never been paired with you in the first round before and it was fun to see her name up there with one of the top players in the world.

STACY LEWIS:  It’s unbelievable. 

Q. She just doesn’t seem to really realize where she is ranked in the world.  But she also said that it was good to kind of watch you play.  Do you watch her when she’s playing?  Are there any things that you watch from her game that you kind of pick up on?

STACY LEWIS:  Well, I think our games are very similar, just the way we play.  We both hit it solid and make some putts.  She rolled it great today.  For the first seven, eight holes, she made everything she looked at.
I mean, she’s – I don’t understand.  She must not think she’s very good or something.  I think she’s really good.  Gosh, when she gets some confidence and really figures that out, watch out for the rest of the Tour.  I mean, it’s nice to see, but at the same time you want to see her kind of really believe in herself and believe that she is one of the best players in the world.

Q. I think it’s that quiet confidence she’s starting to get.  She did say today, though, that she didn’t have as many nerves on the first tee as she’s had in the past and it was a different feeling, which kind of surprised her because it’s her rookie season and her first event as a rookie that she didn’t have more nerves.
STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, not many things seem to faze her.  You can change her golf clubs, you can change her coach, you can change all this stuff, but she’s still the same person on the golf course.  That’s what I like about her.  She gets it done, and that’s all you can say.

Q. I know it’s early in the week, and it’s always hard being at the top of the leaderboard, but what are the keys you look for the rest of the week to succeeding on this golf course.
STACY LEWIS:  I really think it’s a ball‑striker’s course with the greens.  The greens are really grainy and they do get pretty bumpy with spike marks and things like that.  I think the ball strikers are definitely – the best ball striker is probably going to win this week.  It’s controlling those shots in the wind.  The last couple holes on both nines are pretty tough.  It’s really got to play well early and kind of hang on at the end.

Q. You and Lydia seemed to talk and chat and laugh.  There’s some good rapport there?
STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, we’ve played so much golf together, it’s hard to believe that she’s – I think being with her, with her first win a couple years ago in Canada and being with her that final day, we’ve played a lot together.  She’s so easy to play with.  I actually like – when I saw we were paired together I was actually pretty happy.  She’s just a really likable kid.

 

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Ko, Lydia, Lee, Meena, Lewis, Stacy, Lang, Brittany, Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic [+]

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