RICOH Women's British Open First-round notes and interviews

RICOH Women's British Open
Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club
Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, England
July 30, 2009

First-round interviews: Sandra Gal | Angela Stanford | Song-Hee Kim | Michelle Wie | Paula Creamer | Jiyai Shin

First-round notes

First-round in the books at Royal Lytham. German Sandra Gal carded a 3-under-par 69 (34-35) to take the 18-hole lead at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in the 2009 RICOH Women's British Open. The historic venue, host of two previous LPGA major championships, yielded only six rounds of par or better thanks in part to a combination of a steady wind off the Irish Sea and the over 200 bunkers on the course.

Texan Angela Stanford and South Korean Song-Hee Kim are each one shot off the lead at 2-under-par 70. Sixty-seven players shot 80 or higher on a day when winds gusted to 30 mph. Yuko Mitsuka of the LPGA of Japan (JLPGA) and Hee-Young Park both carded 1-under-par 71, while Swede Maria Hjorth, a recent addition to the Moms on Tour list, shot even-par 72.

Gal was the only player to break 70 on Thursday, turning in a 3-under-par 69 on the heels of five birdies and two bogies. The second-year LPGA Tour member is playing in her second RICOH Women's British Open after missing the cut last year at Sunningdale Golf Club.

RICOH Women's British Open by the numbers.
$2.2 million – the purse for the 144-player field with the winner taking home;
47 – of the top 50 from the Rolex Rankings are in the field;
200+ -- number of bunkers at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club;
32 – of top 35 from the LPGA Official Money List are in the field;
3 – active LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Famers in the field: Juli Inkster, Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb;
Every winner from this year's LPGA and Ladies European Tour (LET) events is in the field

A Stanford education. A two-day vacation to Rome following the Evian Masters did nothing to derail Angela Stanford's form as she turned in a 2-under-par 70 (33-37) in the first round of the RICOH Women's British Open. Stanford, currently seventh in the Rolex Rankings, carded one of only three eagles on the day – all on the seventh hole – to go along with two birdies and two bogies to move into a tie for second after 18 holes. The 31-year-old, a lock to make the 2009 U.S. Solheim Cup Team, is searching for her first major championship.

Song-Hee Kim carded a birdie on the 18th hole to tie Stanford at 2-under-par 70 (32-38). The 21-year-old was 4-under-par through 13 holes, but bogies on three of her next four dropped the South Korean to 1-under-par before her closing birdie. Kim is currently 12th on the LPGA Official Money List with over $640,000. She is looking to become the third Rolex First-Time Winner since the event became a major (Jeong Jang, 2005; Jiyai Shin, 2008).

Solheim Cup of tea. The RICOH Women's British Open is the final opportunity for U.S. and European players to earn points toward a spot in the 2009 Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. U.S. Solheim Cup Team hopefuls will be rewarded with double points for top 20 finishes this week, while prospective European Team members are also chasing increased points at the season's fourth and final major championship. Ten U.S. Team members will automatically qualify based on points leaving two captain's picks for Beth Daniel to decide upon following Sunday's final round. The European Team will be comprised of five players from the Ladies European Tour points, four players from the Rolex Rankings and three captain's picks for Alison Nicholas. The biennial transatlantic match-play event will take place Aug. 21-23, 2009 outside Chicago.

Wie bit windy. LPGA Tour rookie Michelle Wie is in the hunt after 18 wind-soaked holes at the RICOH Women's British Open. The 19-year-old carded a 1-over-par 73 on Thursday to move into a tie for seventh place. Wie, who tied for 26th the last time the British Open was played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, recorded three birdies and four bogeys on the day. In addition to the quest for her first LPGA Tour victory, Wie is also trying to secure a spot on the 2009 U.S. Solheim Cup Team. The only way for her to guarantee a spot on the squad would be with a victory, but she may also be considered for a captain's pick.

First-round interviews: Sandra Gal | Angela Stanford | Song-Hee Kim | Michelle Wie | Paula Creamer | Jiyai Shin

Sandra Gal, 34-35=69 (-3)
Hole 7, 542-yard, par 5: birdie – 9-iron to 12 feet
Hole 10, 334-yard, par 4: birdie – 8-iron to 13 feet
Hole 11, 487-yard, par 5: birdie – 7-iron to 8 feet
Hole 12, 160-yard, par 3: bogey – 3-putt from 50 feet
Hole 15, 464-yard, par 5: birdie – 8-iron to 8 feet
Hole 16, 343-yard, par 4: bogey – 3-putt from 50 feet
Hole 17, 419-yard, par 4: birdie – 4-iron to 5 feet

SANDRA GAL:  It was very tough conditions out there.  But I felt like I played steady and kept my ball in the fairway most of the time, and that shot was very nice.  I just tried to get it up as high in the air as I could, and it came out perfect.  It couldn't have been better.

Q.  Where did your drive finish?
SANDRA GAL:  It was in the rough, and I was thinking of hitting 5-iron or 6-iron, it was probably a good idea to hit the 6-iron because it was not that easy of a lie.  I thought I would pull it left but I holed it well, it went to the right.

Q.  With the time of night and the crowd and you're leading --
SANDRA GAL:  A few gutsy people out there still that were following, so that was nice.

Q.  Leading a major, how does that feel?
SANDRA GAL:  You know, it's the first round.  You don't win majors in the first round.  But it's definitely always nice to be on top.

            Lots of golf to be played, so I look forward to it.

Q.  How was pace of play?
SANDRA GAL:  It was very slow, unfortunately.  Yeah, I mean, you can't expect anything being out the second to last group, being so late.  But can't change it.

Q.  You don't have any Solheim Cup pressures, do you?
SANDRA GAL:  Unfortunately not.  Yeah, I had a very, very short off year, so I decided not to play Q-School for the European Tour this January, which probably regret a little bit.  I would love to play on the team.  But I'm surely going to do that next year.

Q.  Are you still at University?
SANDRA GAL:  No, I graduated last August.

Q.  You can't join now?
SANDRA GAL:  The Tour?  If I win.  I have no idea.

            If you have special play, that can make you a member, something like that.

Q.  An exciting possibility.
SANDRA GAL:  Yes, it is, for sure.

Q.  How long was your putt on 18?
SANDRA GAL:  I would say maybe a foot.

Q.  What time are you playing tomorrow?
SANDRA GAL:  10.42.

Q.  You were born in Cologne, but how long have you been living in the U.S.?
SANDRA GAL:  Since college, so five years now.

Q.  You grew up in Germany?
SANDRA GAL:  Yeah, grew up in Germany, went to high school there.

Q.  Did you play junior tournaments there?
SANDRA GAL:  No, I played all over Europe really.

Angela Stanford, 33-37=70 (-2)
Hole 7, 542-yard, par 5: eagle – 3-wood to 66 feet
Hole 13, 340-yard, par 4: birdie – 9-iron to 10 feet
Hole 15, 464-yard, par 5: bogey – 3-putt
Hole 17, 419-yard, par 4: bogey – 3-iron short, chip to 12 feet, 2-putt
Hole 18, 386-yard, par 4: birdie – 4-iron to 30 feet

COLIN CALLENDER: We have Angela Stanford, who just shot a 2-under par 70 in very difficult conditions. How do you feel about that?
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, I feel really good to be sitting here talking to you about this round.

You know, it is really tough out there. Some of the pins are close to the edges today. So you know, when you find the pin that's just four or five off the right or left and the wind is blowing the opposite direction, it makes it kind of tough.

COLIN CALLENDER: Jiyai Shin said to me earlier that the fairways seem to be drying out, as well, and the ball seems to be running into the rough. How did you find that?
ANGELA STANFORD: I played yesterday afternoon, so I was not here when it was at its wettest. So for me, it seems dry. I mean, it didn't seem real wet, but I don't have anything really to base it off of.

Q. Of the first ten groups, you were one of only two players to shoot level par. I'm just wondering in the it difference in wind going out and coming back, and in terms of clubs, what was the difference in clubs, strength of wind?
ANGELA STANFORD: It seemed fairly strong starting out, and then coming in, you know, I don't know if the clubhouse had anything to do with it, but on 18, I felt like I was standing over the ball and it was dying down.

I don't know, it seemed to be blowing pretty good all day. It seemed to actually, blow harder 13, 14, 15 in there where you start kind of crossing, the wind is crossing you. It seemed to blow harder at that point. I don't know, it's harder for me to tell. It just seemed like it was pretty consistent all day.

Q. Club difference?
ANGELA STANFORD: We played at least two coming in.

Q. I gather your preparations were a bit unusual going off to continental Europe, so tell us about that.
ANGELA STANFORD: How did you find out about that? (Chuckling).

The last couple of weeks has been kind of tough and I haven't really played very good, and you know, I come here every year and try to prepare my best. You know, my best finish at a British has been my very first time in '02. So recent history, I haven't played well here.

So I thought, you know, I'm going to take my mind off of this, all of the negative feelings I have, and I've always wanted to see Rome and took a short vacation. I got here yesterday afternoon. It was the best weather that y'all have had all week and got a great practice round in, got some good positive vibes going, and was I think mentally in a better state than if I would have been here the whole week.

Q. What did you see in Rome, and any prayers involved?
ANGELA STANFORD: Of course, if you're standing in the Sistine Chapel, you're saying a few prayers.

You know, I have a connection through some friends at home. There's a tour guide that had spent some time in Texas and now they do tours, his family does tours around Rome. We really just had him Monday and half a day Tuesday, so he got us in the Vatican early and we went to another chapel. We saw a couple different churches. We saw St. Peter's. We saw the Colosseum the second day. So just a bunch of fun things and fun facts; the Forum.

It was just a lot of fun. And you know, you get to a church -- I don't know, it's pretty cool as a Christian to reflect on that. We saw the Catacombs, went there. That was kind of eerie/cool, in that I'm a Christian and what it would have been like to risk your life for that.

So a couple good days. Just a lot of reflection on stuff like that and not golf.

Q. How many days?
ANGELA STANFORD: Only two days. We flew in Sunday night and left Wednesday morning.

Q. When did you decide to do that?
ANGELA STANFORD: I've always wanted to go to Rome and we've always been so close being over here, and I just decided at the first of the year, I'm just going to do it.

When I bought the ticket, I don't know, it fell into place perfectly. I didn't think it would -- I knew it was going to be a good trip, but I didn't know it was going to be that good.

Q. Have you ever got in for a major so late before?
ANGELA STANFORD: No, I haven't. But you know, I played here in '03 and '06, so I'm fairly familiar with the golf course and my targets. So once you get here, you can play a different course seven days. So if I were to get here Sunday night and play Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I may play a different course on Thursday. That's how I justified it in my head.

Q. Is this the sort of place where it could spook you out if you played too much before the Wednesday?
ANGELA STANFORD: Oh, I think so. Even me today going around today, it's like, I've been there or I know what happens if I miss my target here. Oh, yeah.

Q. Before you came here, would you have considered yourself a good wind player?
ANGELA STANFORD: I think so. I think just growing up in Texas, I'm not somebody that wants the wind in blow by any stretch of the imagination. But I think growing up and playing in the wind, it just doesn't bother you as much as it would bother somebody that never plays in it. You know what to expect and I know what's going to happen in my golf swing and what's going to happen in my putting and my chipping. I think I'm just more aware of what the effects of the wind will do.

Q. What is it about the British that gives you the bad vibes or had given you in the past?
ANGELA STANFORD: I think it's just I'm not used to this type of golf. I mean, you know, where I grew up, you hit it in a certain spot, it's probably going to be there. Here, you could hit it right at your target and it could be 15 yards off line because it gets a funny bounce.

Like the ball I hit on the par-5 seven today: I thought I was in the bunker because it was going dead at the bunker and we get up there and it's on the green. I'm like, okay. It's just stuff like that.

And I think I need to be better mentally here, and that's where along in my career, I've matured mentally. In recent past, I haven't been, so it makes me angry that I feel like a hit a great shot and it's not where it should be.

You've just got to kind of go with the flow, and this is just the kind of golf it is. I'm not used to going with the flow. I try to control it.

Q. So were you fearful of what might happen today going out there with the wind?
ANGELA STANFORD: Yeah, but you know, I also stood on the first tee and told myself, you know, whatever happens, happens. You can't control it. Today I just tried to focus on the contact of the golf ball and the type of shot I was going to hit. Whatever happens, happens. I mean, I hit it in the first two bunkers on the first two and hit one of the best bunker shots of my life on No. 2.

So I think just having that attitude of, okay, yeah, I felt like I hit a good shot, it ended up in the bunker, what are you going to do about it? You are going to go hit it. I think my attitude starting today is a lot better than it's been in the past.

Q. Do you have any time now for more sightseeing, any plans?
ANGELA STANFORD: No. We have to go straight to Chicago after this. Captain (Beth Daniel) told us, time to go to Chicago.

Q. Anything around here?
ANGELA STANFORD: I'm tired now, 18 holes out there, that will wear you out.

Q. Just in terms of the scoring and the conditions, where would you put this in satisfying rounds in your career?
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, you know, for me, it's recent past. And my recent past the last four events, three events, has not been very good.

So you know, for me, this was a big deal for me today. I mean, that was probably the -- I didn't think I was going to do that to be perfectly honest. So that really helped me today because I haven't played that good mentally in the last three events. So it was a big boost for me today.

Q. I know that the general view is that the wind blows everywhere in Texas, but did the place where you grew up, where you learnt your formative golf, would it be considered to be a particularly windy place or a less windy place?
ANGELA STANFORD: Not as windy as west Texas. I'm not all the way in west Texas but the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex gets a fair amount of wind. And somebody told me this one time, I don't know if it's true, but they say Chicago is the Windy City. Well, Dallas is actually the windiest city, and however they measure that; apparently Dallas is the windiest city in America.

So I grew up about 45 minutes west of there, so pretty windy. I grew up in Saginaw, Texas, or just north of Fort Worth.

Q. The last couple of events, you've had to try to block out some personal stuff; is this one of those first rounds where you have been able to just put that aside and not think about your mom?
ANGELA STANFORD: Yeah, you know, and I think she's had some good days lately, and when I call home, she sounds good. And I think as much as you try to not let it affect you, it affects you. And I didn't know how to just let it and deal with it instead of trying to not let it affect me at all and just trying to do what I do.

But you know, I think when she sounds good, it helps. But I also know that watching her go through her first chemo treatment and watching how it wasn't as bad as what it could have been, that helped. We know it's going to get harder. But I also have a plan for the rest of the year.

I think a lot of times when you don't know what's going to happen, that's scarier. But now we kind of know what's going to happen and we know how it's going to affect her. So that helps.

And you know, as bad as this sounds, I think being so far away from home, it's hard to think about it all the time. I mean, I can't just get on a plane and go home. That's what I told her before I left. I told her, mom, if I just come home, it's going to take like a day. As bad as that sounds, it helps. It's so far away.

But at the same time, like my brother's birthday is today. Their anniversary was four days ago. You know, they are a good couple of weeks to be gone. So it helps that she's having some good days, to get to your question.

Song-Hee Kim, 32-38=70 (-2)
Hole 2, 401-yard, par 4: birdie – pitching wedge to 15 feet
Hole 6, 492-yard, par 5: birdie – hybrid short, chip to 12 feet
Hole 9, 156-yard, par 3: birdie – 9-iron to 2 feet
Hole 13, 340-yard, par 4: birdie – driver in left rough, 51-degree wedge to green
Hole 14, 420-yard, par 4: bogey – unplayable lie
Hole 16, 343-yard, par 4: bogey – wedge short, chip and 2-putt
Hole 17, 419-yard, par 4: bogey – 4-iron long, chip and 2-putt
Hole 18, 386-yard, par 4: birdie – 6-iron to 20 foot putt

Q. Are you happy with your round?
SONG-HEE KIM: Yeah, with my swing, I hit the ball high, but today I tried to hit it lower and it worked.

Q. Are these conditions tough?
SONG-HEE KIM: Yeah, this is my second time playing the British Open. I played last year at Sunningdale and missed the cut. Couldn't make a putt. The course is hard here (at Royal Lytham) and the wind is strong.

Q. Is this the first time you've played links golf?
SONG-HEE KIM: Yeah. Actually this year I've been working on hitting the low ball. My teacher has been helping me hit the low shots, not specifically for this tournament though.

Michelle Wie, 34-39=73 (+1)
Hole 2, 401-yard, par 4: birdie – 2-putt from 32 feet
Hole 6, 492-yard, par 5: birdie – 5-iron over the green, chip to 4 feet
Hole 8, 389-yard, par 4: birdie – 5-wood into bunker, blast out, sand wedge to 15 feet, 2-putt
Hole 10, 334-yard, par 4: bogey
Hole 11, 487-yard, par 5: birdie – 3-wood right of green, chipped to 9 feet
Hole 13, 340-yard, par 4: bogey – 3-putt from 30 feet
Hole 17, 419-yard, par 4: birdie – 4-iron into bunker, missed 6-foot par putt

Q. Talk about your day.
MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, you know, it was tough out there. The wind was strong. You know, it was a tough day. I felt like I played fairly solid. I was proud of the fact that I was patient today. Made a couple of iron shots in there. I felt like I just made a lot of good pars and I made some good birdies, and hopefully tomorrow morning the wind won't be as strong and hopefully get some birdies early on.

Q. Is 9 when the wind changed on you?
MICHELLE WIE: It was pretty strong but I think up to that point all of the holes were downwind so you make that turn, everything it becomes the hard wind into you. I think it was tough out there, but like I said, I think I was pretty patient so I was proud of myself for that.

Q. Do you consider yourself to be a good wind player?
MICHELLE WIE: I think growing up in Hawaii, there's no joking around, it's a lot of wind but it's about 70 degrees cooler than in Hawaii. Yeah, I grew up in the wind and that will help me.

Q. Good putt on 15?
MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, it was the toughest putt I had an 15. It broke a lot. I made some good pars. It felt good. It feels good to make putts like that.

Q. How much break was on the putt?
MICHELLE WIE: A lot, I think it was two feet left.

Q. How far?
MICHELLE WIE: Probably about like 25 feet or so.

Q. Is that the longest?
MICHELLE WIE: Actually, no. I had a good one on 2 or 3. I had an 8-iron.

Q. How were the crowds?
MICHELLE WIE: The crowds were very encouraging, and it was nice to see them cheer for you and stuff like that. Like I said yesterday, they are just really respectful out there. I haven't heard a cell phone ring out there or anything. I accidentally hit this one poor lady out there today, but sorry for that.

Q. Was she hurt?
MICHELLE WIE: No, I don't think so.

Q. Ball rolling well in the fairways, or was it drier out there today?
MICHELLE WIE: More or less. I think it's not -- I mean, considering the last time we played, it's not as fast as then, but it's drying out. For sure the wind helps and the greens are rolling really nicely today.

Q. Four shots off the pace; still on target for your first win?
MICHELLE WIE: There's a lot of golf ahead of us. I'm in good position. I felt pretty good with the way I played today. Like I said, there's a couple of errant shots out there. But there's three more days of golf and it's the British Open. I feel I can do it.

Paula Creamer, 36-38=74 (+2)
Q. How did it go out there today?
PAULA CREAMER: I hit the ball really well out there. My caddy and I judged the wind very well considering what we were going through out there. I shot 2-over with two bogies. It could have been a lot lower. Not one birdie, but I had a lot of looks.

Q. How many chances did you have?
PAULA CREAMER: The par 5's are good chances. One of my bogies was a four-and-a-half, five footer. It's difficult with how windy it is to make putts.

Jiyai Shin, 36-41=77 (+5)
Q. How tough was it out there?
JIYAI SHIN: It was very tough. The wind is the biggest problem. One minute it strong and the next it goes down. The fairways are also drying so the ball is running into the rough more than it was in practice. It's hard.

Q. How do you feel about your round?
JIYAI SHIN: It was a bad start and a bad finish but the rest was OK. I'm disappointed because if I had finished 4, 4 rather than 6, 6 it would have been good. I don't think there will be many scores under par so 1 over would have been good.

Q. Did you try to hit down the 16th fairway of the 17th tee?
JIYAI SHIN: Yes, it was something Dean (Herden) and me talked about. It shortened the hole and if the pin is in the right place it shouldn't be a difficult shot. But it didn't work out. I hit it onto 16 fairway but then hit 3-wood into rough. Not a good place. Had to chip out and then hit shot onto the green a took 2 putts tomorrow.

Q. Will you try it again tomorrow?
JIYAI SHIN: We will see where they put the pin, maybe not though. It didn't work today.

Q. What will you do this afternoon?
JIYAI SHIN: I need to work on my putting. I will need to putt better to (catch) up with the leaders.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Ricoh Women's British Open

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