Safeway Classic -- First-round notes and interviews

Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola

Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Ghost Creek Course
North Plains, Ore.
First-round notes and interviews
August 20, 2010

It may be in Oregon, but the Safeway Classic presented by Coca-Cola had a luau Friday. Well, a Lu-Ai. Rolex Rankings No. 2 Ai Miyazato fired a bogey-free 6-under 66 Friday to lead Teresa Lu and Jee Young Lee by one shot through the first round of the 38th annual event at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club’s Ghost Creek Course outside Portland. Miyazato closed with birdies on two of her last three holes, including a tap-in on the seventh (her 16th) after her approach shot rattled the pin. Miyazato is vying for her LPGA-leading fifth win of the year.

“I got some checkpoints from last week, and right now I feel like I’m coming into my own because of that,” said Miyazato, who tied for fourth last week on the Japan LPGA. “So I had so much confidence this morning, so that's why I think I played good today.”

Yes, Ai can! Miyazato also credited her good opening-round play to a mental tweak on her putting. The last couple weeks, she was simply trying too hard, she said. “But right now I really stay in the present and really focus on my stroke, so it's less tension,” she said. “That's why my putting feels good.”

No. 1 du jour: The race to Rolex Rankings No. 1 has been a hot topic lately, and with Miyazato’s strong start, it will definitely stay that way. A win would put her back on top. “It's really fun, really exciting,” Miyazato said of the jockeying for No. 1 that’s happened since Lorena Ochoa’s retirement in May. “Especially because the top five players all represent different countries. It's a really good motivator for me, and it's great experience.”

Who will it be? This week, any one of the top five players in the Rolex Rankings could take over No. 1 Monday. Kerr (70) is No. 1, followed by Miyazato at No. 2, Jiyai Shin (69) at No. 3, Suzann Pettersen (71) at No. 4 and Yani Tseng (75) at No. 5.

Lu-Hoo! With this being just a 54-hole tournament, and the Ghost Creek Course playing with five par-5s and a reachable par-4 – at least it will be Saturday and Sunday with the tees up – Teresa Lu said 5-under is good for the first day, but it’s just that, the first day. “Well, playing one day doesn't mean I can win the tournament, so I need to play aggressively the next couple of days to keep shooting low numbers,” she said. “I think people are going to shoot low, so you have to keep going.”

Team Taiwan: There are two Taiwanese players among the top 10 after Friday, and neither is named Yani Tseng. Tseng struggled to a 3-over 75, but Teresa Lu and Amy Hung picked up the mantle with a 5-under 67 and a 4-under 68, respectively.

Rolex Player of the Year remains tight: First-round leader Ai Miyazato is currently second in the Rolex Player of the Year with 142 points, four behind Yani Tseng. Both Miyazato and Cristie Kerr (133 points) have a chance to take the lead in the Player of the Year race this week.

Low Rookie: Mina Harigae took home the honor for the first round with a 3-under 69.

Of note: Jamie Hullett aced the 131-yard par-3 16th with an 8-iron… Former Oregon Duck Cathryn Bristow, a native of New Zealand, shot an Even-par 72 Friday… Juli Inkster didn’t make a par over a seven-hole stretch from 4-10. Instead, she went eagle-birdie-bogey-birdie-birdie-double bogey-birdie to get to 3-under, where she eventually finished… Depending champion M.J. Hur shot a 2-over 74… Monday qualifier Amy Simanton, who graduated from nearby Lake Oswego High School in 2009, shot a 3-over-par 75.

WD: Jeong Jang withdrew after the first round.

AI MIYAZATO, Rolex Rankings No. 2

Q Obviously, it went well today and then in Japan last week. Just tell us a little about what's going well for you.
AI MIYAZATO: Let's see, well, I played really well in the last round of the British Open, and so afterwards my feeling were so much better. And this week my putting is really comfortable right now. And then after that, I had a really good week off, and then I played in Japan. I got some checkpoints from last week, but right now I feel like it's coming into my own because of that. So I had such a good confidence this morning, so that's why I think I played good today.

Q Excellent. It seems like we're kind of asking this every week, but how much does the race to Rolex Rankings No. 1 drive you?
AI MIYAZATO: It's really fun, really exciting. Because especially, you know, the top five players all represent different countries. And it's really good motivator for me, and it's going to be a great experience.

Q Ai, you played well here last year. What is it about this course?
AI MIYAZATO: I don't know, I just like this golf course I think. But, it's only three days tournament. Because of that I think, you know, I try to be a bit more aggressive, so that's why I think I play good over here I guess.

Q When you were here last year, you had just gotten your first LPGA win. Now you've had four more wins and you've been No. 1. Do you feel like a different player, more confident player now?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, definitely I have little bit more confidence since playing, more than last year. But still, I'm still in the process and trying to learn something almost every day. So I don't know what's going to happen end of this season, but trying my best every week.

Q How do you find the course playing? Was it playing fast? Was it playing long, especially as the day went on?
AI MIYAZATO: It was a little bit windy some of the holes, but I really handle well like my play, and especially towards the end. Like 7 and 8, I made such great birdies and that was a great finish. So, those two birdies will let me keep my round going into tomorrow.

Q OK. On 7 and 8, can you describe what kind of putts you made or whatever?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, on 7 I hit 7-iron on the second shot, and I hit the pin actually, and it was just a tap-in birdie. And 8, I hit the fairway with my tee shot, but I made putt like, I don't know about feet, but five meter. So it was a nice putt, nice birdie putt.

Q And your putting, what is it that kind of clicked in for you? Was it that you're working on the stroke or is it up here that makes you feel so comfortable with putting right now?

AI MIYAZATO: The last couple weeks I just trying so hard to make it happen, like trying to -- like trying to go in like almost every time. But then right now I really stay in the present and really focus on my stroke, so it's more less tension. So that's why my putting feels good.

Q Given the course, do you think somebody's going to have to shoot maybe better than last year to win here or what do you see happening in the next few days?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, actually I forget the winning scores from last year. Is that 14?

Q 13.
AI MIYAZATO: 13? I think it's going to be about the same. It depends on the wind, it depends on the weather. But, well, I can only focus on what I need to focus on so I can't really set a final score that I'll shoot for.

Q Having won the four times this year, now are you put in the position of being more relaxed or, you know, is it getting to be kind of old hat?
AI MIYAZATO: I feel like I'm more relaxed right now. Well, it's not just for this season, you know, the race for No. 1 is going to give me good experience, so I just try to get good experience out of it instead of focus on the results.

Q You got to No. 1 then out in one week. Was that disappointing? How did that feel and did you find that a little disappointing that you lost it?
AI MIYAZATO: No, I don't feel that way. Well, even though it just for two weeks, I was so very happy. And why I was happy is because I experienced something that I never really experienced before, and so it will just be really good for my future as my career goes on.

TERESA LU, Rolex Rankings No. 101

Q Great round, 5-under 67. Just talk a little bit about the round.

TERESA LU: I got lucky today. I got a lot of birdie chance, like 3, 4, OK birdie. So that makes my day a little bit easier.

Q So far this year, it probably hasn't gone quite as well as you'd wanted. Did something flip in the last couple weeks? What do you attribute your good play today to?
TERESA LU: After Europe tournament, I went back to Taiwan and I really worked hard with my game. I was struggling with my driver, so just try to work on getting things right. And it turned out pretty good today.

Q Can you talk about how the course is playing? I mean, is it playing pretty hard and fast?

TERESA LU: Uh-huh. I think it's a great course and the greens are very good. And some of the holes you can, like par fives, you can almost reach the green. And it's quite interesting, like I go for the green and see how many birdie you can get and possibly eagle.

Q And then, I think you're one of four players from Taiwan in the tournament? Can you talk about that and how the country’s expanding more in golf with Yani and Candie's success, is women's golf becoming more popular in Taiwan?

TERESA LU: Yeah, a little bit. Just a little bit, not much. Like with Yani's winning, the people in Taiwan is really trying to have the LPGA tournament in Taiwan. And they're really hoping we can see the tournament come next year.

Q Do you think there might be more players coming up in the U.S. to be --
TERESA LU: Yeah. Yeah, definitely, definitely. Some of the businessmen is already supporting lots of the players to the U.S., like they're playing in the Futures, so maybe we'll have some more next year.

Q I know it's pretty early, but what you do think about the next two days, do you think someone will need to keep shooting in order to win this or they'll need --

TERESA LU: Well, playing one day doesn't mean I can win the tournament, so I need to play aggressively the next couple of days to keep shooting low number. And I think people are going to shoot low on this green, so you have to keep going.

Q Could you describe your first, you know, few birdies and how they came about with those holes?
TERESA LU: Yeah. I had the bogey on number three, and a birdie on four, a little birdie. And then No. 6 is birdie, like five-footer. And then 8, 9, birdie, birdie, 10 birdie. They're OK birdie, tap-in birdie. And number 16, I had 30 footer -- I mean, no, three-yard, like six-footer.

Q So you were hitting it pretty close.
TERESA LU: Yeah. Most was good.

Q Did you find the course changing as the day went on, as you were getting still toward the back end of it? Was it changing how it played, was it playing faster as the day went on?
TERESA LU: It didn't feel much different.

Q Have you had a first-round lead before this year?

TERESA LU: No. No. First time.

JEE YOUNG LEE, Rolex Rankings No. 42

Q Jee Young, welcome. Good round today. Just talk a little bit about how you played.

JEE YOUNG LEE: I played good today. My shot was really good, but front nine, I putted a little bad, but back nine I made a lot of birdies.

Q Good. Did you come in here feeling good about your game and confidence or what was your attitude like?
JEE YOUNG LEE: Yeah, I had confidence. Actually, last week I had somebody give me “Vision 54”. So I read that book, and, yeah, a lot of help.

Q So, it sounds like you kind of felt you had got better as the day went on and really started putting better?
JEE YOUNG LEE: Yeah. I changed putter, so more -- I can putt better.

Q When did you change putters?

JEE YOUNG LEE: Last week.

Q Is it just a different feel or is it a whole different style?

JEE YOUNG LEE: Yeah, more -- I think I feel more smooth. Yeah, feels more better.

Q Is it a putter you used before or is it brand new?
JEE YOUNG LEE: Four or five years ago. Yeah, I used that a long time ago.

Q How about the course today, is it good?
JEE YOUNG LEE: Yeah. Some holes, they're narrow and some was wide, and my ball going a little bit like right-left, but most ball going straight, so no problem with that.

Q Have you had a lead this year?

JEE YOUNG LEE: I don't think so. Yeah, one time. Maybe Mobile tournament.

Q Was that the first round?
JEE YOUNG LEE: First round.

Q Yeah when you were in Alabama, you had the lead overnight, right? So, do you remember the feeling? Did it make you more nervous or did it not affect you?
JEE YOUNG LEE: I think same feeling.

Q Can you talk about how you think your year is going for you?
JEE YOUNG LEE: Actually, better than last year, but this year I change something, my mind and the swing, so I think getting better than last year.

Q What sort of mind changes I guess?

JEE YOUNG LEE: Yeah. Thinking a little change. Like when I made bogey I was little mad. But now, just like changing more better feeling. So yeah.

Q So you don't get as mad when you make bogey?

JEE YOUNG LEE: Yeah. But I think more fun, thinking fun.

Q So you're more even keel, you don't go up and down?

JEE YOUNG LEE: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Portland Classic

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