Airbus LPGA Classic Presented by JTBC Wednesday Notes and Interviews

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Stacy Lewis watches her drive on the 4th hole of the final round of the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic at the Crossings Course at the Robert Trent Jones Trail at Magnolia Grove on May 19, 2013 in Mobile, Alabama.

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail - Crossing Course at Magnolia Grove
Mobile, Alabama
Wednesday Pre-Tournament Notes
May 21, 2014

Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park
Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis
Rolex Rankings No. 12 Michelle Wie
Rolex Rankings No. 54 Jennifer Johnson

Much of the country suffered through either a cold winter or an extremely wet spring and many golf courses were affected. The overall consensus from the players is that the Robert Trent Jones Trail held up extremely well despite the weather.

“It usually is pretty firm when we’re here, but the ball’s starting to release out the last few days. It’s definitely dried out but the greens are holding, which is nice for us actually.” Lewis said. ”I think it’s going to be a little soft to start the week but I think it just gets firm as the week goes on, which is good. But the greens are rolling great, they’re fast. Fairways, everything’s really in good shape. You wouldn’t even know that you had a bad winter.”

If past performances are any indication, the key to winning here is to go low and keep making birdies. Inbee Park hasn’t played here for three years but thinks there will be plenty of low scores out there this week.

“The greens seems like it’s a little bit more -- a little bit bouncy.” Park said. “But I still think there’s a lot of
birdies out there. It will be a good scoring golf course.”

THE WAY TO WIE’S HEART IS THROUGH HER STOMACH

There is no biggie foodie on the LPGA tour than Michelle Wie. The #12 ranked player in the world spends a great deal of time on the road scouting out great food locations and the better the restaurants, the more she enjoys the city. Mobile is one city that hold a special place in her stomach.

“I’m really excited to be here and some good food this week.” Wie said. “The clubhouse food is amazing, it’s definitely one of the stops that we look forward to every year. There’s a lot of just great restaurants in Mobile, a lot of great seafood, so I’m really excited for that.”

UNDERSTANDING HER ROLE

At the age of just 29 years old, Stacy Lewis find herself as one of the veterans on tour. As a veteran, and someone who has had a lot of success out here, many of the younger players look to her for guideance and watch her for lessons on how to be a true professional.

When asked how she feels playing the role of leader out here on tour she said it feels a bit strange.

“I don’t consider myself old but I guess I am compared to all the other standards. It’s fun.” Lewis said. “It makes you kind of keep you on your toes and realize that you have to make sure what you’re doing is right because people are always watching you, they’re watching how you’re handling things and what you’re doing.”

Knowing you are being watched has some pressure but that is a role that Lewis has embraced.

“I like giving the younger ones advice. “ Lewis said. “I like to see them do it the right way and learn along the way. You know, hopefully when they’re my agethey’re bringing sponsors in and doing things for the Tour.”

JOHNSON LOOKS TO IMPROVE ON LAST YEAR

Defending Champ, Jennifer Johnson, is focused on returning to the Winner’s Circle this week at the Airbus LPGA Classic Presented by JTBC. Last year she clinched the win by shooting a 65 on both Saturday and Sunday, and Johnson expects similar results this year.

“Just trying to shoot the same thing as I did last year,” Johnson said. “I’m always trying to do better than I did the year before.”

Johnson has had a struggle returning to the top of the leader board this season, but momentum is on her side. During last week’s tournament in Kingsmill she tallied a season best 12th place finish.

“All of the memories coming back,” Johnson said. “I love this place, the course. It is just a lot of fun.”

As Johnson begins her first-round Thursday, she looks for those memories to help guide her back to the leader board this weekend here in Mobile.

A CHANCE AT #1

If the final field is set as it stands as of 6:00p CST, there are a few scenarios that have to play out for Stacy Lewis to regain the Rolex World #1 Ranking. Here are five different scenarios.

For Stacy to take over #1:
-Will take #1 with a win regardless of other finishes
-Will take #1 with a solo second and Inbee finishes T4 with two or more players or worse.
-Will take #1 with a T2 with one other player and Inbee finishes 9th or worse
-Will take #1 with a T2 with two other players and Inbee finishes 17th or worse
-Will take #1 with a solo 3rd and Inbee finishes 26th or worse
**DISCLAIMER: If the field changes before the tournament begins on Thursday morning, these scenarios will change.

NOTHING BUT A NUMBER

Inbee Park has been holding the No. 1 spot on the Rolex World Rankings for 58 straight weeks. Players such as No. 2 Stacy Lewis and No. 3 Lydia Ko have been in the hunt to chase the top spot, and their time could be approaching.

“I don’t really think about that No. 1 spot,” Park said. “Everybody talks about being No. 1 and if you have a big lead, small lead or how many weeks are you going to hold, you could be No. 2 next week. I don’t think about that.”

Park knows that there is a chance that the No. 1 spot could be taken over by another player in the next few weeks. The movement is part of the game and she has acknowledged that she will move up and down in the rankings.

“I just think that numbers take my fun away,” Park said. “So I’m just trying to enjoy the game and not think so much about the numbers. It doesn’t really matter to me. I reached my goals and I’ve put myself into position where I want to.”

WOUNDED WARRIORS PROJECT CLINIC

Members of the Wounded Warriors Project, Bobby Dove and Brian Lowen, improved their golf game with the help of Nicole Castrale Wednesday. Castrale hosted the men for a clinic as part of the Wounded Warriors Project initiative in Mobile.

“It’s been great” Dove said. “I would jump on the opportunity if we could do more events like this out here.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“You know, one, I just think at any age to qualify for the U.S. Open is impressive, it doesn’t matter if you’re 11 or if you’re 30. I don’t know, it’s not something I would encourage kids to do. I like to see kids get better at every level, win as a junior, win at college golf, win in high school golf and then come out here and play. But one week out of the year, let’s do it, have some fun with it, but I hope it’s not a trend we see continuing.”

-Stacy Lewis when asked what she thinks about 11-year old Lucy Li qualifying for the U.S. Open.

The social scene

Airbus has done a great job decorating the course for the event this week. The work put in was not lost on the players who took to social media to show their appreciation of the event.

“Coolest tee markers I have ever seen!!!!”

- Paula Creamer on Instagram (@paulacreamer1)

TV COVERAGE

Golf Channel will once again be covering the LPGA this week in Mobile. The airtimes are as follows (CST):

Thursday 5:30-8:00pm (Taped) or LIVE on the Golf LIVE Extra app from 4-6:30pm
Friday 5:30-8:00pm (Taped) or LIVE on the Golf LIVE Extra app from 4-6:30pm
Saturday 2:00-5:00pm
Sunday 2:00-5:00pm

INBEE PARK

MODERATOR:  All right, I'd like to welcome Inbee Park into the media center today.  Inbee, you've held the top spot in the Rolex Rankings now for 58 straight weeks.  When you first took over the spot, did you ever envision that you would keep it this long or did you have a number in mind for how long you did want to hold onto it?

INBEE PARK:  No, I didn't, I didn't have a number in mind how many weeks I wanted to be there or how many weeks I was going to be there, but just I was playing week by week and trying to have, you know, bigger gap and just tried to play better every weekend.  I think that's been already over a year.  Yeah, it's pretty surprising.

MODERATOR:  Knowing that you're No. 1 and everyone's out here chasing you down, does each week that goes by, is that added pressure with the way that you play, how you approach each tournament?

INBEE PARK:  I mean, I don't really feel much of a pressure or I don't really think about that No. 1 spot as much as other people think.  Everybody talks about being No. 1 and if you have a big lead, small lead or how many weeks are you going to hold, you could be No. 2 next week.  I don't think about that.  I really think I don't mind, you know, even if I do become No. 2 after this week, I have one more spot to move two weeks later and I just can't be really bothered and trying to think about numbers.  I just think that numbers take my fun away, so I'm just trying to enjoy the game and not think so much about the numbers.  It doesn't really matter to me.  I reached my goals and I've put myself into position where I want to and I feel good about my game and I just play my own game and just can't control what everybody else is doing.

MODERATOR:  Last week was a week off away from tournament play for you.  Did you get a chance to get away from the game at all?

INBEE PARK:  I wasn't really feeling well for last couple weeks I played, played the tournaments, so the next week was I probably took three or four days off trying to get healthier and get the bad things out of my system.  The next week I try to practice a little bit more and work on my game because I didn't really have that big of a gap or a break when the season started, so I didn't really have time to work on my game as much as I would like to.  That's why I take this past week and I feel like I'm more prepared than the other week.  Yeah, I feel like I'm back in a healthy condition, that's the important thing.

MODERATOR:  Was it a virus you were fighting?

INBEE PARK:  I think it was food poison, and then I was catching a cold.  Yeah, just everything was just really coming together.  Just happy that I feel like my own person now. 

MODERATOR:  So final question, Inbee.  You've had some experience on this course and it's been kind of a go‑low‑or‑go‑home type of course.  Do you expect as you play now out here more of the same, kind of a birdie‑fest this week?

INBEE PARK:  I haven't really played this golf course for the last three years because I didn't (inaudible) for three years.  The last time I played it was playing probably a little bit softer than it is right now.  The greens seems like it's a little bit more ‑‑ a little bit bouncy.  But I still think there's a lot of birdies out there.  It will be a good scoring golf course.  So yeah, like you say, go low.

MODERATOR:  Well, thanks for stopping in the media center.

INBEE PARK:  Thank you. 

STACY LEWIS

MODERATOR:  We're here with Stacy Lewis.  Stacy, with how well you've been playing this year, eight Top 10s including one win ‑‑ you do only have one win ‑‑ how hard has it been to win out here this year?

STACY LEWIS:  It's been extremely tough.  You've got a lot of girls playing some of their best golf.  It's a great thing, though.  As a player, you want to play against people when they're playing their best, so it's been a great thing for the Tour.  We have seven Americans in the Top 15 in the world now.  The Tour is in a great place and it's just fun to be a part of it.

MODERATOR:  You said last week that your ultimate goal is to win tournaments, but you wouldn't mind if you accidentally stumbled into the No. 1 world ranking again, would you?

STACY LEWIS:  I wouldn't mind at all.  It would be nice to get it the way Adam Scott did, but I want to win tournaments at the end of the day.  Being No. 1 in the world is definitely a goal but you can't think about it all the time.  If it's something I'm thinking about trying to make a birdie putt, it's just not going to happen, so I just have to keep doing what I know is right.  Even if I do get to No. 1, the goals don't change.  It's still give myself a chance to win on Sunday and let everything else take care of itself.

MODERATOR:  Speaking of winning tournaments, you have won here before.  In 2012 you pulled an Alabama sweep, didn't you?

STACY LEWIS:  Yes, I did.

MODERATOR:  So is the key here this week to actually just go as low as you can?  Is it going to be a birdie‑fest like it was last year?

STACY LEWIS:  There's holes here you can birdie but there's holes you have to really play it safe on, too.  Depends on hole locations and playing smart.  It's just the way the greens are set up.  They're set up to make birdies, they're set up to kind of funnel some shots in and get them close.  It's fun for the fans, it's fun for us to play, and being a good ball striker is where you want to be.

MODERATOR:  And finally, much has been made of the strength of the Americans and also the strength of the young players out here.  How does it feel knowing that so many of the Americans and so many of the young players look to you now for guidance and to be a leader?

STACY LEWIS:  Well, I mean, it's a little strange.  I don't consider myself old but I guess I am compared to all the other standards.  It's fun.  It makes you kind of keep you on your toes and realize that you have to make sure what you're doing is right because people are always watching you, they're watching how you're handling things and what you're doing.  If anything, it keeps you on your toes.  I like giving the younger ones advice.  I like to see them do it the right way and learn along the way.  You know, hopefully when they're my age they're bringing sponsors in and doing things for the Tour.

MODERATOR:  Perfect.  We can open it up for questions.

Q.  I was going to say, how impressed are you with Lydia Ko this year?  We talk about the race for No.1 and she's up there.

STACY LEWIS:  Right.  I've played a ton of golf with Lydia Ko.  I mean, it doesn't surprise me the way she's played.  I played with her when she won her first event when she was 15 at the Canadian Open, so it doesn't surprise me.  Her demeanor on the golf course is tremendous and just the consistency in her game.  You know, I would just like to see her keep playing well for a lot of years to come.

Q.  How did you find the golf course?  I know you like this place.  Especially when you consider the winter that most of the people have had and this place had a foot of rain two weeks ago, is the course holding up pretty well?

STACY LEWIS:  Yeah, the golf course looks great.  It usually is pretty firm when we're here, but the ball's starting to release out the last few days.  It's definitely dried out but the greens are holding, which is nice for us actually.  I think it's going to be a little soft to start the week but I think it just gets firm as the week goes on, which is good.  But the greens are rolling great, they're fast.  Fairways, everything's really in good shape.  You wouldn't even know that you had a bad winter.

Q.  You talked about age.  An 11‑year old just qualified for the U.S. Open.  They can't even go to a PG‑13 movie and they're going to do that.  What do you think about that?

STACY LEWIS:  You know, one, I just think at any age to qualify for the U.S. Open is impressive, it doesn't matter if you're 11 or if you're 30.  I don't know, it's not something I would encourage kids to do.  I like to see kids get better at every level, win as a junior, win at college golf, win in high school golf and then come out here and play.  But one week out of the year, let's do it, have some fun with it, but I hope it's not a trend we see continuing.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Stacy.

MICHELLE WIE                 

MODERATOR:  We're here with Michelle Wie at the Airbus LPGA Classic.  Michelle, how are you feeling this week?

MICHELLE WIE:  Good, I'm doing great.  I'm really happy to be back in Mobile.  It's just a great golf course.  I haven't really done well in the past here, so I'm determined to do well this week.  It's a great track.  I'm really excited to be here and some good food this week.

Q.  Good food, are you planning anything?

MICHELLE WIE:  Well, the food's always important here.  The clubhouse food is amazing, it's definitely one of the stops that we look forward to every year.  There's a lot of just great restaurants in Mobile, a lot of great seafood, so I'm really excited for that.

Q.  There's a great field here.  What are some of the other reasons you think this is such a popular spot?

MICHELLE WIE:  I think the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, you know, we play in Prattville, we play here.  It's just a great track, a great golf course.  Alabama, we have a lot of great fans.  It's just a lot of fun to play here.

Q.  What about this course?  You said you haven't played well here before.  What's tricky about this course?

MICHELLE WIE:  You know, I just think that it's a tricky golf course.  You have to be on the right parts of the greens, you have to keep it on the fairway.  It's a good track.  It looks good visually, and it's weird that I haven't really played well here in the past.  It's one of those golf courses where it's just a lot of fun to play.  So this year I'm just going to put no pressure on myself and just have fun playing the golf course.

Q.  After winning did you kind of reset the chessboard because you were playing so well or didn't want to lose the momentum?  What's been going on?

MICHELLE WIE:  You know, it's just really the beginning of the season.  I think that I'm very happy with the way I'm playing but I think just setting in well for the majors that are coming up.  And also I'm just having a lot of fun out here.  Every week is a fresh new start.  It doesn't matter if I won or came in dead last the week before, it's a whole new fresh start.  It doesn't roll over to the next week.  Every week I'm still focusing on getting better and improving every week.  I just want to take small steps forward every week.

Q.  Did you kind of enjoy the feedback that you got after winning and everybody compared your putting stance to Jack Nicklaus'?

MICHELLE WIE:  You know, I don't read anything at all but I have to say I was extremely happy just after I won.  It's just a great, great feeling.  Definitely it made my hungry for more.

Q.  How tough has it been for you to get to that place mentally where you're having more fun going week to week?

MICHELLE WIE:  You know, I've always had fun on the golf course whether it's been hard or not.  Just got to put things in perspective.  You're out here, it's beautiful outside, I'm outdoors doing what I love to do for a living.  Obviously there are hard days where it isn't so much fun, but you just have to look back, step back and just really realize how lucky I am.  I'm just grateful for each opportunity that I have, and just to be here playing in Mobile this week, you know, I'm just really grateful for this opportunity and hopefully I can make the most out of it.

Q.  What is your advice that you give to some of the younger girls who come out on Tour like you did maybe that you learned that you could pass on to them?

MICHELLE WIE:  You know, just really to do what they want to do, you know?  If they want to do this and do that, it's their life, they really shouldn't do it to try and please others or try not to cause controversy or whatever.  If they want to do something, just go for it.  I don't really hand out advice unless they ask for it.  I feel like they have a great head on their shoulders, and if they want to ask me something, they're obviously more than welcome to.  I feel like I make myself very available for that, but I don't really try to guide them.  I think they're doing great on their own.

JENNIFER JOHNSON

MODERATOR:  We're here with Jennifer Johnson, the defending champion here at the Airbus LPGA Classic.  How excited are you to return this year?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  It's been a fun week so far, just all the memories coming back.  I love this place, the course.  It's just a lot of fun.

MODERATOR:  You described yourself as a big foodie last year after you won.  Have you gone to any of the places?  Have you repeated anything from last year and are you superstitious at all?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  Well, The Shed I was told shut down.  I think the one in Mississippi's still open.  I'm going to have to find a new barbecue place this year.  That's on my to‑do list this afternoon.

MODERATOR:  The Shed was kind of a hole‑in‑the‑wall by (indiscernible) place, right?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  Oh, yeah.  It looked like a shed but the food was really good.  I just love barbecue.  I don't get too much of it when I'm in California.

MODERATOR:  Did you eat a lot of it last year while you were here?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  I think we went two times.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Now talk about the excitement of winning here, though.  Do you feel any pressure coming in now that you're a defending champ?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  A little pressure, I think.  Maybe just trying to shoot the same thing I did last year because I'm always trying to do better than I did the year before.  But I think the pressure really just you put it on yourself.

MODERATOR:  You shot a 65, didn't you, in the final round?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  Um‑hmm, Saturday and Sunday.

MODERATOR:  Saturday and Sunday, excuse me.  Can you do better than that?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  It may be tough but I'm going to try.

MODERATOR:  That's a good answer, I like the confidence.  So before your win last year, you mentioned that you went and got some last‑minute putting lessons and then you made a putter switch, is that correct?  Have you made any changes, I'm sorry, before this tournament?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  No, I haven't really had time to go see my coach, but I've been using the putter I switched to for a year now.  That's like the longest I've used a putter, I think, in my career for a while.

MODERATOR:  Stick with what works then.

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  Yep.

MODERATOR:  And then finally, you completed in the longest drive contest yesterday at the airport.  How difficult was it actually hitting the ball down a runway?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  It's a lot tougher than it looks because your fairway's basically a white line.  If you land on the right or the left, it's not going to stay on there as long.  It felt tighter than an actual fairway.

MODERATOR:  Did you enjoy it, and how do you feel about your performance there yesterday?

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  It wasn't my best but it was fun.  You don't get to do that every day.

MODERATOR:  Very good, well, thank you.

JENNIFER JOHNSON:  Thank you. 

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Airbus LPGA Classic, Johnson, Jennifer, Lewis, Stacy, Wie, Michelle, Park, Inbee [+]

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