Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC First Round Notes and Interviews

Azahara Munoz
Photo Credit: Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Azahara Munoz of Spain smiles after making her birdie putt on the ninth hole during the first round of the Kingsmill Championship presented by JTBC on the River Course at Kingsmill Resort on May 15, 2014 in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Kingsmill Resort - The River Course
Williamsburg, Virginia
Thursday - First Round Notes
May 15, 2014

Rolex Rankings No. 20 Azahara Munoz (-6)
Rolex Rankings No. 175 Austin Ernst (-6)
Rolex Rankings No. 23 Hee Young Park (-5)
Rolex Rankings No. 10 Cristie Kerr (-4)
Rolex Rankings No. 6 Lexi Thompson (-4)
Rolex Rankings No. 351 Kathleen Ekey (-4)
Rolex Rankings No. 3 Lydia Ko (-1)

The morning wave at the first round of the Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC seemed to be at an advantage today as the wind picked up as the day wore on.

Austin Ernst, who had a 7:52 a.m. tee time, heads into tomorrow as the co-leader with Azahara Munoz after each player shot a 65 today. It was Ernst’s best round since the 62 she shot in the third round at Safeway last year. Ernst described her day as solid and only missed three fairways during the day.

“Gave myself a lot of looks.” Ernst said. “Hit a lot of greens and made it really easy on myself out there on a day when it was pretty windy and it could kind of get away from you a little bit.”

Azahara Munoz described the wind as “tricky” but it didn’t seem to bother her, shooting a bogey-free round.

“The course is playing much shorter than normal because it’s warmer and drier.” Munoz said. “Holes I have been having 4-irons in I was having 9-irons in today. The greens roll nice, so it;s real nice to putt. If you hit a good putt, it’s going to go in.”

The forecast for tomorrow shows heavier showers in the morning but clearing in the afternoon.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH
Co-leader Azahara Munoz has been playing well this year with four top-10 finishes, including two second place finishes this year. She credits the mental work she has put in with Peter Crone for her improved approach to the game.

“He’s been helping me so much.” Munoz said. “I have been working with him since last September and I’m just like a different person. “

Munoz has noticed a big difference between last year and this year.

“This year it’s been so much better. I’ve been having a much better attitude, so it’s easier. When I miss a shot, I don’t let it get to me so much like I used to. I used to get pretty upset, and that really hurt me. “

THOMPSON POSTS HER BEST OPENING ROUND OF 2014
A ho hum even-par 35 on her opening nine – the back nine at Kingsmill – River Course – wasn’t what Lexi Thompson was looking for to start the Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC. The show was just
getting started, though. Thompson proceeded to birdie four holes on the opening nine for a four-under 32 and vault herself into contention as the day closed.

“I definitely made a few more putts on second nine and hit a few better shots going into the second nine. Definitely had my chances on the last few holes in the first nine,” Thompson said. “Overall, I’ll definitely take 4-under.”

The 4-under-67 was her best opening round of the year and was the best round of any of the eight top-10 ranked players.

IV AND HOSPITAL VISIT NOT ENOUGH TO KEEP KERR FROM UNDER-PAR GOLF AT KINGSMILL
Cristie Kerr had to withdraw Wednesday from the pro-am for sickness and ended up in the hospital. So there was a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the defending champion heading into Thursday’s first round.

Heat exhaustion and an infection weren’t enough to keep Kerr off the golf course or the leaderboard, though. She birdied three of her first five holes and went on to finish with a 3-under-par 68, placing her just three back of the lead heading into the second round.

“I was just going to stay in bed and try to recover, but my husband was like, ‘You got to go see a doctor.’ So I went and he was like, ‘You have heat exhaustion and maybe something else going on,” Kerr said. “So they took me to the hospital and gave me IV fluids and ran some tests and I had an infection. It was a good thing I went because maybe yesterday could have been like today, too.”

The unexpected illness threw a monkey wrench in the three-time champion’s preparation plans. Originally slated to play the Pro-Am, Kerr had decided to only play nine holes Tuesday and as a result, Thursday’s first round was the first time she’s seen the back nine since last year’s tournament. She bogeyed the 10th hole but tamed a whipping, back nine wind the rest of the way, finishing with three birdies and five pars to head into the clubhouse just two back of the lead.

“I hung in there, made some good birdies, and kind of got it going in the right direction after the 10th hole,” Kerr said.

She doesn’t expect any lingering effects of her illness.

COLD AS ICE
Hee Young Park fired her best opening round of the year Thursday - a 5-under-par 66 that included a front-nine (her back nine) 4-under 32 to climb into sole possession of third heading into the second round. She hasn’t had a first round that low since her 65 to open the 2013 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, which she went on to win and post a 26-under 258 for the week.

“Everything is pretty good,” Park said. “I made a lot more putts. I practiced a lot of long distance putts, and I made quite a bit of long putts.”

Park’s wrist had been hurting her for months, and she didn’t touch a golf club for eight days after the North Texas Shootout. Treatment, acupuncture and ice have her feeling better and she doesn’t expect it to be an issue the remainder of the week.

Park – 23rd in the Rolex World Rankings – tees off on the first hole at 8:36 AM Friday.

ANOTHER AMERICAN LADEN LEADERBOARD
The resurgence of Americans to the top of the leaderboard this year continued Thursday with seven of the top 10 in the clubhouse flying an American flag. American Austin Ernst is tied for the league at 6-under par with Spain’s Azahara Munoz. Americans Danielle Kang, Lizette Salas, Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lang, Cristie Kerr and Kathleen Ekey all fired 67 on the par-71 layout.

“I think definitely a lot of those top players, there is a few Americans up there, which is nice to see,” Thompson said. “But the LPGA is such a global tour. It doesn’t really matter where you’re from. It matters what you bring to the table.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I say if I’m still breathing, I’m all right. My college coach used to say that: Are you guys still breathing? If you’re breathing, you’re okay.”

-Kathleen Ekey explaining her philosphy on playing through the stress fracture in her wrist.

THE SOCIAL SCENE
Even though Lydia Ko is ranked third in the Rolex World Golf Rankings, she still has to finish her homework. In order to complete a photography assigment for one of her classes, she enlisted the help of LPGA photographer Gabriel Roux.

“I feel like a reporter today!” Ko said with a smile before she recorded the conversation.

The two spent an hour and a half together today while Gabe answered a series of prepared questions ranging from what sort of filter he prefers to what ISO settings he uses when shooting outside.

Later, she headed outside herself to practice what he taught her as she took photos of her fellow golfers.

Despite her success in this sport, Ko remains just a regular teenager with homework to turn in.

TV COVERAGE
Golf Channel will once again be covering the LPGA this week. The remaining air times are as follows:

Friday 8:30-10:30pm (Tape)
Saturday 5:00-7:00pm
Sunday 5:00-7:00pm

Rolex Rankings No. 20 Azahara Munoz (-6)

AZAHARA MUNOZ:  I don't think it's easy.  You know, the wind is pretty tricky, but pins were somehow accessible.  Obviously the course is playing is much shorter than normal because it's warmer and drier.
           
You know, holes I been having 4‑irons in I was having 9‑irons in today.  So it's obviously a big difference for us.  The greens roll nice, so it's real nice to putt.  If you hit a good putt it's going to go in.

Q.  Did you even come close to making a bogey today?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:
  One hole I came close.  I made a 10‑footer for par.

Q.  Which one?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:
  Second one, 11.  Hit it in the bunker and up‑and‑down.

Q.  Obviously you've been very close this year.  Just doing everything pretty well right now?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
Yeah, I've been playing pretty well this year.  Normally my long game is pretty good and my short game is the one that is a little, you know ‑‑ when I do it good I play I good; when I don't, then I play bad.
           
This year it's been so much better.  I've been having a much better attitude, so it's easier.  When I miss a shot, I don't let it get to me so much like I used to.  I used to get pretty upset, and that really hurt me.
           
It's been really nice to have a week off.  I was seven weeks on the road, so the last couple tournaments I was really struggling.  I was tired.  You always get to your bad habits.  So it was nice to have a week at home and practice and get back to it.

Q.  Is improving your attitude not getting upset with yourself about a poor shot, is that a matter of maturity?  Age?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
No, I don't think so.  I wish could say that.  I've been working with this guy, Peter Krohn (ph), and he's been helping me so much.  I have been working with him since last September, and I'm just like a different person.
           
I have bad days.  Sometimes I just really fall off.  I've never been awful, but like on the inside.  I don't really show it.  Like I'm pretty well behaved.
           
But this year I've been so much better.  It's just so much easier to have good rounds.  And when you have a bad round, it's not that bad.

Q.  You're a passionate person and you don't want to lose all of that.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
No, no.  Yeah, of course.  I'm going to keep on (indiscernible) and I don't care if I look crazy.  I love it.
           
What I mean is that if I hit a bad shot, I don't let the whole day to be ruined because of that.  If I have a bad round, it is what it is.
           
I want to play golf, but I don't want to be miserable every time I have a bad round.  You're going to have so many of those in your life.  I don't want to be like that.

Q.  You've been out on the tour long enough and you're really starting to finding yourself and hitting your peak years.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
I hope so.  Now I know everybody and I know all the golf courses and where I'm going, so that really helps out.

Q.  Were you an NCAA champion?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
Yeah.

Q.  Did you feel that was pretty instrumental in your development?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
Going to college?

Q.  Yeah.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
I think so, especially I came to the States and I didn't speak English.  I think it's really hard for some of the players that come from Korea and still don't speak English.  It's so hard.  You feel uncomfortable because you can't talk to anyone.
           
I think just learning the language and how everybody is.  Obviously we're not that different in Spain, but how you call it, like behaviors are a little bit different.  So learning those.
           
The golf courses, too.  Golf courses in Europe are easier and softer and not so much rough.  I think learning to play those in college really helps to get on the LPGA Tour as well.

Q.  You went one year?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
I went four.

Q.  Four?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
Yeah.  I graduated.

Q.  Did learning a second language come easy to you or was it difficult?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
Now it's easy to say, Oh, it was easy, because I don't remember.  But I remember the first month it was tough.  Like I remember walking from class to my dorm thinking, I don't know why I go to class because I can't understand anything.
           
So the first few months were tough, but then all of a sudden you learn it so quick because you have to.  It's so much easier when you have to.  Like it's not lessons in the afternoon.  It's either I learn it or I don't talk.  And I like to talk, so I had to learn.  (Laughter.)

Q.  Have you played Pinehurst No. 2?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:
  No. I was going to go last week after Dallas, but I was so tired I decided to just go home.

Q.  Do you think you'll have a chance, or will you go watch the men's?
AZAHARA MUNOZ:
  That for sure.  I'll watch that.  I'm not playing Manulife.  I have to go get my visa, so I won't have time.  The week before the Open, I think I'm just going to go home.  I like to be home.

Q.  Where is that?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
Palm Beach Gardens.

Q.  What are your thoughts on the Open experience, having the men and women back to back?  A lot of players are saying, Hey, we don't know.
AZAHARA MUNOZ:
  It's hard to have an opinion because it's never happened.  I don't want to say I really like it or I don't like it.  I just hope the weather is really good and make everything easier on everybody.

Q.  It would be much easier if you were playing first.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
Yeah.  I like that much better.  I will have no problem then.

Q.  Are you happy to have an afternoon tee time tomorrow?  The weather is supposed to be iffy.  You don't have to be out here early.  Is that an advantage to having an afternoon tee time tomorrow?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: 
Yeah, I think so.  I think if the weather is how it's supposed to be, like it doesn't change, I think it's definitely an advantage to have an afternoon tee time.

Rolex Rankings No. 175 Austin Ernst (-6)

Q. How did that compare to the 62 round in Safeway last year?  Kind of have that same feeling out there at times?

AUSTIN ERNST:  Yeah, I mean, it was just solid really.  You know, it could have probably been a couple lower.  Really only time I even made a bogey or was is trouble of making a bogey was when I missed the fairway.  Missed I think three fairways.
           
Really just solid.  Gave myself a lot of looks, hit a lot of greens, and made it really easy on myself out there on a day when it was pretty windy and it could kind of get away from you a little bit.

Q.  3 is downwind, is that how you made eagle?
AUSTIN ERNST:
  Yeah, 3 is downwind.  Driver and then i had 182 yards to the hole; hit 6‑iron there to about 10 feet.

Q.  First or second eagle this year?
AUSTIN ERNST:
  Second.  May need to check that.

Q.  Think 6 will hold at the top of the leaderboard?
AUSTIN ERNST: 
I don't know.  I mean, if you're driving the ball well out here, the pins, they made the pins where you can get to them today.
           
We'll just kind of see.  But I've done what I wanted to do:  put myself in position for the rest of the week.  Can't really complain about 6‑under.

Q.  Do you guys keep in mind the fact that tomorrow may be a complete washout and the scope of the tournament may change?  Does that make today more important?  Is that in the back of your mind at all?
AUSTIN ERNST:
  No.  You just kind of handle tomorrow.  Whatever happens.  We'll just kind of see.  I'm kind of glad I'm in the afternoon tomorrow.  That way I don't have to kind of hang out.  If it does get delayed, you're waiting on the update every 30 minutes.
           
It'll be nice to relax, go practice a little bit.

Q.  (Recording interruption.)
AUSTIN ERNST: 
I wasn't hitting the ball as well as I am now.  Wasn't rolling it well.  You know, I'm a lot different player this year coming into this one.  Even though the results haven't been great this year, it's been really close.
           
Basically just driving the ball and putting.  I've just kind of left myself in some bad positions off the tee and haven't made a lot of putts.
           
Today I made it very easy and gave myself a lot of looks to where I had a few short putts, hit the ball a lot better.
           
Yeah, a lot different than last year.

Q.  Was 7 a two‑putt birdie or did you just chip it close?
AUSTIN ERNST:
  No, it was ‑‑ drove it right off the tee and just had to layup, then hit a 54‑degree up there to about three feet.

Q.  Okay.  I saw you one‑putt 8 and I though you made another one.  Apparently not.  Were you in trouble off the tee?
AUSTIN ERNST:
  Yeah, I got myself in trouble off that tee.  I just pushed it a little bit and the wind kind of got it and hit it in the bunker on the right, which had nothing.  Just kind of had to pitch it back in the fairway.
           
Then 8‑iron up there and made a nice putt; 25‑footer there.

Q.  Still have LSU on the bag.  Old school loyalties die hard, huh?
AUSTIN ERNST:
  Yeah.

Q.  Talk a little bit about winning the NCAA Championship as a freshman and what that did for your confidence.  And the way you won, with an ace, right?  I don't know what round it was.
AUSTIN ERNST:
  Yeah, final round.  That gave me a lot of confidence.  I played well up until then.  I had won a tournament earlier in the spring.  Yeah, that just kind of jump started everything I think.
           
Obviously that opened a lot of doors, and then I played later on that summer at the Women's Am.  Any time you play a tournament that big ‑‑ that's one of the biggest tournaments you play in as an amateur ‑‑ any time you kind of go win it the way I did, you know, I played the well the last day, it gives you confidence.  That jump started this thought to turn pro a little bit early.
           
Yeah, confidence‑wise, you can always look back on that.  You were playing against some of the best players, best amateurs in the world.  Some of them are out here.  So you just draw back on any experience where you play well and end up winning a tournament.

Q.  So the game plan wasn't to turn pro after two years when you went to college?
AUSTIN ERNST:
  Not originally, but those doors open.  I had a very good amateur career to where ‑ obviously enough to turned pro.  Luckily I got to come out here early and luckily I played well (indiscernible) jump right back on the LPGA.

Q.  Do you feel like you play well when you're at or near the lead?  Will you be comfortable in the next couple days seeing your name up there?
AUSTIN ERNST: 
Yeah, I mean, I had a couple experiences last year where I kind of got to do that.  You know, out here, just the more you can get yourself in that position.  You want to get yourself in the lead or near the lead every week if you can ‑ especially on the weekend ‑  just to feel those nerves again.
           
You're playing to win.  So I never play not to win.  But, yeah, there'll be nerves for sure.  But it's only Thursday.  Can't get too caught up in it tomorrow, playing on Friday.  Same plan all week.  Just give yourself ‑‑basically the game plan is to hit the fairway and give myself a lot of looks on the green.
           
I hit a ton of greens today.  If I can hit that many greens again, I'll be in a good position for the rest of week.

Q.  What did you have, T6 and T9 last year; is that right?
AUSTIN ERNST: 
Yeah.

Q.  Were those the events where you found yourself after two or three rounds near the...
AUSTIN ERNST: 
Yeah, I think Manulife is where I was finished (indiscernible.)  Then I was kind of up there after the first two days and stayed in that position for Saturday and Sunday.
           
Then obviously when I shot 62 in Portland last year in the Safeway.  That third round.  I wasn't really in the lead or near the lead until that last round.  Any time you can feel the Sunday nerves, it's always a good thing.

Q.  A lot of doglegs out there.  Were you able to hit a lot of drivers?
AUSTIN ERNST: 
I hit a lot of drivers out here.  I only one 3‑wood on 8 today.  Just kind of ‑‑ you know, sometimes you have to cut a corner here and there.  Any time you can get a wedge in your hand out here, that's important so you can be a little bit more aggressive.

Q.  Par‑5s are pretty accessible in two?
AUSTIN ERNST: 
Today they definitely were.  I think 15 was into the wind.  One of the players in my group actually got it on the green there.  I didn't hit a very good drive there, but then 3 is downwind so you can get up there.
           
And 7, if you hit a good drive you can get on it, too.

Rolex Rankings No. 23 Hee Young Park (-5)

Q. We were kind of racing against some weather out there.  How did that factor into your last nine?
HEE YOUNG PARK:  Yeah, first, when I was practice on Monday to Wednesday it was very calm, nice weather.  Like bit hotter, but it was really nice weather.

But I expected at Kingsmill.  This golf course always windier and like tougher, so I expected.  I practiced in my off week, so today was that time. 

And I rested a lot because I been hurting my wrist.  So I played Texas Shootout and then didn't grab a club eight days.  I think that helps a lot more focused whole 18 holes.

Q.        Did you feel any pain in your wrist today? 
HEE YOUNG PARK: 
No.  I been really good treatment, which is icing and definitely some like cream on and always do a lot of good treatment, like acupuncture.

So a little bit of painful.  Like can feel it.  Number like maybe two.  It was like eight just to grab the club.  Morning time was more worse. 

So I worry about it, but I took an MRI x‑ray and it wasn't any problem.  Only inflammation, so doctor say just to rest and icing is my best friend, so...

Q.        How long have you been battling this? 
HEE YOUNG PARK:
  It's been two months.  Yeah, over two months.

Always on and off my wrist or elbow a little bit hurting and then it's disappear.  This time a bit more worse so I was a bit worry about it, but doctor said like should be okay. 

Q.        Have you had it prior to this year?  The wrist, did it hurt last year?
HEE YOUNG PARK:
  Maybe two, three years ago, but it was end of season.  This first time ever like worst my body condition.

I'm very excited playing this week because I feel a lot better than any other few several tournaments before. So I'm happy.

Q.        You must have hit it very well today.  Very pleased with way you're playing?
HEE YOUNG PARK:
  Everything is pretty good.  I made a lot of more putts.  I practiced a lot of long distance putt and I made quite a bit few long putts.

And also like more focused.  I been focused pretty well today, which is more think about distance and not like technique.  So that help.

Q.        So plan tonight is just ice and more rest?
HEE YOUNG PARK:
  Yes.  Just a little bit of checking short game, maybe few balls, and then I have to play morning tomorrow...

Q.        Maybe.  Weather. 
HEE YOUNG PARK: 
Yes, maybe.  But I have to ready tomorrow, so more icing, rest, good food, good sleep.

Q.        You feel good about play heading into tomorrow then?
HEE YOUNG PARK:
  Yeah, I'm very happy.  Especially like raining day like worst day I'm more into it.  So I'm ready. 

Rolex Rankings No. 10 Cristie Kerr (-4)

CRISTIE KERR:  I'm actually a little tired now.  Yeah, it was weird.  I started feeling really bad on Tuesday night.  I woke up and just didn't want to get out of bed.  Just kind of knew something was wrong.
           
I just was going to stay in bed and try to recover, but my husband was like, You got to go see a doctor.  So I went, and he was like, You have heat exhaustion and maybe something else going on.
           
So they took me to the hospital and gave my IV fluids and ran some tests and I had an infection.  So it was a good thing I went, because maybe yesterday could have been like today, too.
           
I'm a little bit tired now, but I'm feeling a lot better.

Q.  Any concerns about not playing beyond today?
CRISTIE KERR: 
No.  No, I'm feeling good.  It's a hilly course.  It's a long day with threesomes.  Just going to get rested up for the quick turnaround.
           
I have no idea what the weather is going to look like tomorrow.  People are saying it doesn't look too good.

Q.  What was your first round like?
CRISTIE KERR:
  It was good.  You know, it was the first time.  I hadn't played the whole golf course before I played the tournament.  I didn't get to pay the back nine because I thought I was going to be able to play the pro‑am yesterday.
           
So I had only played Tuesday the front nine, so it was a little refamiliarization with the back nine.  But I hung in there, made some good birdies, and kind of got it going in the right direction after the 10th hole.
           
Almost choked on my sandwich on the 10th hole.  They're like, Do you want to have somebody else go?  I thought I was okay.  I probably should've had somebody else go.  It was kind of a weird day like that.

Q.  Speaking of your back nine, you bogeyed 10, and then the wind starts to kick up and you still make three birdies and five pars coming in.  You've got to feel pretty good about the way you finished.
CRISTIE KERR: 
Yeah, I do.  Just got to go get rested up.  Tomorrow could be a long day with the rain.

Q.  A 100% chance, they said.
CRISTIE KERR:
  Jeez.  Well, I looked at the radar before we played and I thought it was storms that were going to go through tonight and be done with, but apparently there is another system coming in.
           
That's too bad.

Q.  Being a former champion, do you go into your mental rolodex knowing that you can make the adjustments that you need to?
CRISTIE KERR: 
Yeah, and it really helped me a lot today ‑  especially with not being able to play the whole course and not being able to play the pro‑am.  I was really looking forward to it, because I love playing this golf course.  Yesterday it didn't happen.  I was glad when I woke up this morning that I was feeling a lot better.  I was just like, Hang in there.  Do the mental stuff well today and make some birdies.  I had a good round under my belt.

Q.  Have you played Pinehurst No. 2 yet?
CRISTIE KERR:
  Yeah, I played this past weekend.

Q.  What are your thoughts?
CRISTIE KERR:
  I think it's great.  I mean, I have no idea how the divots are going to come into play.  It's just a really good, solid golf course.

Q.  How do you think it compares to Pine Needles?
CRISTIE KERR: 
Yeah, I mean, to me it's a similar feel.  I think the greens are not quite as big at Pinehurst No. 2 as Pine Needles.
           
You definitely need to play there a few times to know where to miss it and where not to miss it and when to be aggressive when you can't.  So it's good to get a couple rounds.
           
Who knows what's going to happen that week, so at least I've played the course a couple times.

Q.  (No microphone.)
CRISTIE KERR:
  Yeah, definitely.  We're doing like a little wine tasting for the members of Pine Needles on Monday.  Yeah, so it's going to be fun to go back.

Rolex Rankings No. 6 Lexi Thompson (-4)

Q. 4‑under on your back side?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Uh‑huh, yep.

Q.  Was it just a matter of putting better on the back side?
LEXI THOMPSON:
  Yeah.  I definitely made a few more putts on my second nine and hit a few better shots going into the second nine.
           
Definitely had my chances on the last few holes in the first nine.  Overall, I'll definitely take 4‑under.

Q.  Got to feel pretty good about the way this year is going.  Heading into the stretch run, if you will.
LEXI THOMPSON: 
Yeah, I definitely feel really well about my game right now.  I've worked extremely hard in my off season, especially on my short game.  I put a lot of hours and hard work into it.  To see it paying off definitely helps my confidence out just coming into each day.

Q.  (No microphone.)
LEXI THOMPSON:
  It changes you mindset just more confidence going into each event or shots for that matter under pressure you know that you can pull off.
           
But doesn't change who I am individually.  I'm still the same person.  Just a little bit more confident, I guess, when I get to the golf course.

Q.  Have you been up to Pinehurst No. 2.
LEXI THOMPSON: 
I haven't, no.

Q.  Have you heard much about it or had a chance to play it before?
LEXI THOMPSON:
  Well, I'm hoping that actually my brothers make it to the Open so I can go and watch them and feed off the guys a little bit, see how they play through their shots.
           
All I've heard is there is pretty much no rough and it's dome greens.  So pretty much hit the green and you'll be good.

Q.  You played since you were 12, I think, so it's sort of old hat in some ways.  That tournament is the biggest tournament, but you have to be pretty confident going into it because you've played it so many times.
LEXI THOMPSON:
  Yeah, I definitely am confident going into the Open week.  It does seem kind of weird that I'm only 19 and played in a good amount of them.
           
But I am going into it with the same mindset:  just another tournament; try to go out there and do my best and hopefully win.
           
With a major you just have to stay mentally strong throughout every shot and every day.

Q.  Do you feel rivalry among the American players?
LEXI THOMPSON:
  I think every player is just focusing on themselves and trying to do their best out here.
           
I mean, we're playing a sport we love.  We're playing golf every day.  It can't get much better than that.
           
No, we're just trying to beat the whole field.  There are so many top players in each event, and we know we have to bring our A+ game to won every week.

Q.  (Question regarding resurgence of American players.)
LEXI THOMPSON:
  Yeah, I mean, I think definitely a lot of the those top players, there is a few Americans up there, which is nice to see.
           
But the LPGA Tour is such a global tour.  It doesn't really matter where you're from.  It matters what you bring to the table.

Q.  The U.S. Open, has it always been a major goal of yours?
LEXI THOMPSON:
  Of course.  I mean, it's definitely my top goal coming into the year.  To win the U.S. Women's Open, being an American and winning the championship of the year, it's the highest honor.

Rolex Rankings No. 351 Kathleen Ekey (-4)

Q. Do you recall liking the course, and did you feel good coming in here?
KATHLEEN EKEY: 
Yeah, I think this is one of the best golf courses we come to all year.  I think most of us enjoy playing here and getting to come here.
           
I know when we lost the tournament and got it back, that was my rookie year.  I remember everybody was super excited to get to come back.  I definitely agree.
           
It's the great golf course, and the people here are awesome.  Definitely a spot we look forward to coming back to every year.

Q.  How did the wind change things in the afternoon?  Obviously the front wave didn't have to deal with that.  Did it get tougher as the day went on?
KATHLEEN EKEY: 
Yeah, you know, I know it was a little windy this morning.  There was a bit of a breeze, but it definitely kicked up this afternoon.
           
Really something you had to pay attention to.  It got swirly at times.  Just had to be patient with it, so...

Q.  You hung in there pretty good with it.  Did it take a lot of concentration to fight it?
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  I live in south Florida now, and we have a lot of wind so I'm used to it.  I enjoy playing in the wind.  I think you just have to go into it knowing, Hey, I might get it wrong, but I'm going to try to commit to something.  If it's right, great.  If not, that's just the nature of the beast.
           
I think my brother and I did a really good job out there today getting a number, talking about what we thought it was playing, and just going with it.  I hit the ball really, really well today, and so it was good.
           
Q.  How do you sort of explain coming in so cold and going out and just...
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  I've been super frustrated because I've felt like I've been playing way better than I've been scoring and just haven't really put things together.  Historically with me that's kind of how it goes.  You just have to be really patient, even though you want to scream, and you come out of the dark tunnel.
           
But that's golf.  That's just how it is.  I've had a stress fracture in my wrist, so we've had a lot of things going on.
           
Q.  That you were sort of playing through?
KATHLEEN EKEY: 
Yeah.  It's getting a little better, but...

Q.  Still feel it?
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  Yeah.  We got a tape job over there.  It's all right.  I say if I'm still breathing, I'm all right.  My college coach used to say that:  Are you guys still breathing?  If you're breathing, you're okay.

Q.  Do you have to get treatment on it?
KATHLEEN EKEY: 
Yeah, the guys in the trailer from Top Tier Sports are awesome.  They probably see more of me than they would like.

Q.  Is your brother your full‑time caddie?
KATHLEEN EKEY: 
He is.

Q.  How long has he been doing it?
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  This is his first year out here.  My dad caddied for me for two years, 2011 and 2012 and kind of half of last year.  Byron has been out here all year with me this year.
           
It's really good.  We've been close since we were little.  He's my best friend, and I think he would say the same of me.  It's awesome that I can ever have him out here.

Q.  Big or little brother?
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  Little brother.  Three years younger.

Q.  Although you've been swinging with confidence through the season even thought results haven't been there, did you go through any kind of crisis?
KATHLEEN EKEY: 
Yeah, well, it's hard sometimes.  You feel like you're doing the right things, and it's hard not to question yourself when you don't see the results you want to see.
           
But, you know, I just try to stay patient and stick to my basics.  I've been working are really hard, so it's nice to see that it kind of made a turn this week.  Especially yesterday.  Really started to hit it well yesterday.
           
You know, golf, that's just how it works.  It's crazy.

Q.  You have a coach?
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  I do.  His name is VJ Trolio.  He is teaching out of Old Waverly in West Point, Mississippi.  I'm really excited.  He's going to be out next week in Alabama, so...

Q.  (No microphone.)
KATHLEEN EKEY: 
Yeah, it's great.  I love obviously going Alabama, but Mobile is a great tournament.  Really good golf course.  Really looking forward to it.

Q.  Have you noticed the resurgence of Americans not only at the top of the rankings, but the leaderboard each week?
KATHLEEN EKEY
:  Yeah.  It's really good to see, I think.  We have a lot of really good talent, and I think it's really good for women's golf.  I think women's golf and the LPGA are headed in a really good direction.  Obviously it's really good to see the Americans play well.

Q.  If I read your numbers up there, five birdies and bogey today?
KATHLEEN EKEY: 
Yep.

Q.  Walk me through some of your highlights today.
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  I mean, I hit a lot of really good shots and gave myself a lot of chances.  I think that was the key today.  Trying to think.

Q.  You want the putt back o 15, the birdie putt?
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  The birdie putt?  I hit a good putt.  Yeah, just probably didn't give it ‑‑ just didn't play enough break.
           
But I gave myself a lot of chances.  Even on the back nine.  I think I only made one or two birdies on the back nine.  I don't even know.  I guess I made one.
           
But I felt like I had a chance on every hole.  I hit a lot of really good putts.  Unfortunately everything was kind of right near the edge if it wasn't lipping out.
           
That's good.  I wish they would have gone in, but I was hitting good putts.  That's all you can do.

Q.  Is the front or back nine playing tougher?
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  I don't know.  I think they're both tough.  It's a good golf course.  It's a ball‑striker's golf course.  You have to hit good shots and put yourself in the right position.
           
As we talked about, the wind made it even more interesting today.  Yeah, you just to have take that shot by shot.

Q.  You talked about being super frustrated not scoring as well as you thought you should be.  Was it a matter of not making putts?
KATHLEEN EKEY: 
I haven't hit it as well as I'm used to hitting it.  I wasn't getting it close enough to the hole.  When I was, I was lipping out.
           
It was just kind of one of those things where nothing was really falling into place.  Really hard not to get frustrated.  I tried to stay patient and I have a really good attitude, but when it goes like that for, you know, a few weeks in a row, it's hard.
           
I was definitely down on myself.  My brother kept saying, Hang in there, sis.  We've been working at it really hard, so it's nice to see some results.

Q.  I was going to ask, when you have those, how cool is it to have your best friend right there on the bag?
KATHLEEN EKEY:
  It is.  He's super encouraging.  I'm just lucky to have him.

Rolex Rankings No. 3 Lydia Ko (-1)

Q. Looked like you had a lot of birdie putts that you narrowly missed.
LYDIA KO:  Yeah.  I mean, I had a lot of lip‑outs.  When you say lip‑out, it like smaller than a millimeter from going in the hole.  I was kind of gutted that I did have those opportunities and I wasn't able to execute them.
           
I finished well with a birdie.  It was kind of like a grinding out.

Q.  Were all the lip‑outs and missed birdies, they were like 10 feet and in, right?
LYDIA KO:
  Yeah, I think I had a lot of 15‑foot‑and‑in putts today.  My par putt lipped out on 2 and birdie putts starting to lip out.
           
I think it was kind of one of those days where it just didn't want to fall in.

Q.  Looked like you were hitting the approach pretty well, though.  You were consistent.
LYDIA KO:
  Yeah, I think I'm hitting the ball really well, which is a really good sign.  Some shots here (indiscernible), so just giving yourself opportunities is first stage done.
           
So hopefully I can hit like this the next couple days and get some putts going in.

Q.  When you play of course for the first time in competition, do you almost expect to maybe just go even and just sort of feel with you way around a little bit?
LYDIA KO: 
Yeah.  I mean, I played like three rounds, including the pro‑am round prior to this.  It would have been great if I played this tournament before, but it's what it is.  I just have to play with that kind of condition.
           
Hopefully I'm going to get more used to the course.  I am really liking that it's bentgrass here, which is actually one of my favorite grasses to play on.

Q.  All of this is still so new:  new courses, new things.  Do you take a lot of notes mentally, write things down?
LYDIA KO: 
Yeah, I have my yardage book on me pretty much the whole time.  I always write what I missed so maybe next year I might have a similar putt to that.  Yeah, I kind of try and reference it from the days before.

Q.  What's it's like managing what it's like to be out here?
LYDIA KO: 
Yeah, it's just over time hopefully I'll be more experienced.  Yeah, that's what experience is all about.  So I'm just trying to enjoy myself out here and hopefully have a long career.

Q.  Do you usually use an umbrella when you're out there?
LYDIA KO:
  It's getting pretty sticky and humid out here, so you really don't want to be burnt out because of the sun.  Energy is a huge factor.  Luckily we had the wind today to kind of cool it off a bit.

Q.  Do you have a regular caddie?
LYDIA KO:
  I've got Steve for the next couple of tournaments.

Q.  And you had him in...
LYDIA KO: 
I had him in Hawaii, yeah.

 

 

 

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Kingsmill Championship, Ernst, Austin, Kerr, Cristie, Ekey, Kathleen, Park, Hee Young, Thompson, Lexi, Ko, Lydia [+]

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