2009 Final Qualifying Tournament - Round One Notes and Interviews

LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament
LPGA International, Champions and Legends Courses
Daytona Beach, Fla.
December 2, 2008

First-round interviews: Nikki Garrett | Gwladys Nocera | Leah Wigger

Garrett leads LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament after 18 holes

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Dec. 2, 2009 – Nikki Garrett leads the field of 105 players after the opening round of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla.  The Australian player carded a 5-under-par 67 (34-33) on the Champions Course at LPGA International.    
           
Garrett has played on the Ladies European Tour (LET) since 2006, when she was named the Tour's rookie of the year.  That year Garrett played in 29 tournaments, and finished in the top-10 six times, including four top-5 finishes.  Her career highlights include a pair of wins in 2007, which came at the Tenerife Ladies Open and the Open de Espana Femenino.  This season, the 25-year-old has played in 12 events on the LET, finishing in the top-10 three times, including a season-best seventh-place at the Finnair Masters.  Overall, Garrett is happy with her opening-round performance. 
           
“Yeah, it was a good start,” said Garrett.  “I actually probably didn't hit it that great today, but I think I only hit like three or four greens on the front nine.  I got up-and-down well and I played pretty well.  I kept my drives in play, which was good.  It was just a fun day, really.”
           
Finishing one stroke back of Garrett was France's Gwladys Nocera, the European Team's top points earner at this year's Solheim Cup.  Nocera finished her opening round of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament at 4-under- par 68 (32-36), which puts her in solo second.  Playing on the Champions Course in winds that reached up to 15-20 mph, Nocera turned in a bogey-free, five-birdie scorecard.
           
“I think I took advantage of the wind when it was helping,” said Nocera.  “In to the wind I didn't hit the ball that well.  I played good, so you know, it's a good start and I am happy.  I had some good saves.  It was just a normal round of golf, you know.  Good save, bad save, a little bit of everything.”
           
The two sectional qualifier medalists, Amanda Blumenherst and Stephanie Connelly, each finished round one at even-par and 1-over-par, respectively.  Blumenherst, the winner of the first LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament in Palm Springs, Calif., came in at even-par 72 (36-36) and recorded a pair of birdies and a pair of bogeys on the Legends Course to finish round one five strokes back from Garrett.  Connelly, the winner of the second sectional qualifier held in Venice, Fla., played her first round of the five-round event on the Champions Course, and finished at 1-over-par 73 (38-35), which put in a 15-player tie for 29th. 

The five-day qualifier is played on both the 6,452-yard Legends and 6,389-yard Champions courses at LPGA International, with a 72-hole cut to the low-70 players and ties.  Those players will then compete on Sunday on the Champions course for the final 18 holes of play.
           
The top 20 players at the conclusion of the event will earn Priority List Category 11.  In the event of a tie, a playoff will decide the 20th position.  Players finishing in the 21st through 30th spots will earn Priority List Category 16, followed by 31st to 40th, who will receive Priority List Category 20.

First-round interviews: Nikki Garrett | Gwladys Nocera | Leah Wigger

Nikki Garrett, 34-33=67, -5

Q. Can you talk about your day?
NIKKI GARRETT: Yeah, it was a good start. I actually probably didn't hit it that great today, but I think I only hit like three of four greens on the front nine. I got up-and-down well and I putted pretty well. I kept my drives in play, which was good. It was just a fun day, really.

Q. Was it about this windy out there all day today?
NIKKI GARRETT: You know what, I'm going to say it was windier. You know, I was hitting two or three clubs more than usual. I hit a 4-iron and it was like 166 to the bunker or something like that, and it actually went 164. I was like, I hadn't hit a club that long all day. It was just blowing that way. So, I probably think that it was a bit more windier out there today in a lot of different areas.

Q. Are you normally a decent wind player?
NIKKI GARRETT: Yeah. The golf course I represent, the course I play at home is right on the beach, so I've grown up playing in the wind.

Q. What part of Australia?
NIKKI GARRETT: It is north of Sydney. It's called the Central Coast, right on the beach. Any wind is wind, but you know, I tend to like the wind.

Q. Was there anything other than birdies?
NIKKI GARRETT: I had a bogey on 15. I put it into the fairway bunker off the tee, and then I put it into the greenside bunker from the fairway bunker. I just didn't get up-and-down and just missed the putt. I think they (sand saves) were all pretty good. I got up-and-down on two, three and four, and then, I got up-and-down a lot. They weren't really particular difficult chips, but they were still hard. I think I pretty much just missed like one inside 10 feet.

Q. You were the 2006 rookie of the year on the LET (Ladies European Tour). Have you been playing there ever since?
NIKKI GARRETT: Yes, four years. I came back in '07 and didn't go any good, so I just thought, you know, at the end of the day, you're dream is always in America. I love it in Europe. It feels like home over there, but you have got to step outside your comfort zone at some point.

Q. Is this outside your comfort zone?
NIKKI GARRETT: Well, you know, I've been in Europe for four years and I haven't been out here. So, it's tough. It's totally different course, it's totally different, so just things like that.

Gwladys Nocera, 32-36=68, -4

Q. How was it today with the gusty winds?
GWLADYS NOCERA: I think I took advantage of the wind when it was helping. In to the wind I didn't hit the ball that well. I played good, so you know, it's a good start and I am happy.

Q. What brought you over here this year? You have had a fairly successful year over on the LET (Ladies European Tour).
GWLADYS NOCERA: You know, I want to be better, so I think I need to play a few tournaments in the U.S. Last year by being number one on the Ladies European Tour I didn't get any invites, so I figured out the only way to play over here is to get my card. So, I'm here.

Q. So not a lot of respect for the Ladies European Tour?
GWLADYS NOCERA: Well, I think, I mean you play the U.S. Open, Nabisco. When you're number one you get into Singapore. So, I figure the only way to play a few more is to get my card. And you know, I want to play with the best.

Q. Have you tried this Tour before?
GWLADYS NOCERA: I came to the final in 2006.

Q. Did you go to college over here?
GWLADYS NOCERA: Yes, New Mexico State. Graduated in International Business.

Q. Did anything stand out today?
GWLADYS NOCERA: Yeah, I had some good saves. It was just a normal round of golf, you know. Good save, bad save, a little bit of everything.

Q. So if this week goes well, your plan is to split time on both tours next year?
GWLADYS NOCERA: Yeah I think I will. I had a look at the LPGA schedule. I know it's a hard time for everybody, but I guess it's good that we can play golf, so I won't complain. I haven't seen the European Tour schedule yet, I will see it next week.

Leah Wigger, 35-34=69, -3

Q. How does it feel to come back and play here?
LEAH WIGGER: You know, I don't know. It's just a lot of good memories. It's great to be able to come to a place where you have so many positive feelings. I mean, it's all about having the right attitude to come down here, because it's five days of golf. You can make it as hard as you want, or you can make it as easy as you want. It's just all how you look at it.

Q. What went well today?
LEAH WIGGER: I putted well. You know, I had some chip-ins, chipped in for birdie on 15. You know, it was just a good, solid day. The only bad swing was the 18th tee shot, where I hit it into the water. But, it was still a solid round.

Q. Any other highlights of your day, birdies or bogeys?
LEAH WIGGER: No eagles, no doubles. I mean my goal today was just to stay as relaxed as possible. You know, the harder you swing, the worse it gets. That was just my goal and it seemed to work well today.

Q. What do you look forward to tomorrow?
LEAH WIGGER: Well, I just try to treat it as another round of golf. You've got to look at it that way. It took more pressure on the first round to get your week going, you know, now it's just a long four days.

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