Final round notes and interviews

CME Group Titleholders
Grand Cypress Resort
Orlando, Fla.
November 20, 2011
Final-round notes and interviews

Hee Young Park -9, Rolex Rankings No. 58
Paula Creamer -7, Rolex Rankings No. 7
Sandra Gal -7, Rolex Rankings No. 44
Yani Tseng -2, Rolex Rankings No. 1

 

Rolex Rankings No. 58 Hee Young Park staved off late charges by Sandra Gal and Paula Creamer on Sunday to become a Rolex First-Time Winner at the LPGA’s 2011 season-ending CME Group Titleholders at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, Fla. Park fired a 2-under 69 to finish at 9-under-par and win by two shots over Gal and Creamer.

While it was an up and down day for the majority of the field, Park managed to keep her composure en route to earning her first career victory and a $500,000 first-prize check. Park followed up a bogey on the fourth hole with birdies on three of her next four holes and she finished up her round with 10 straight pars to secure the title.

“It was difficult on the greens with tough pin positions today,” said Park, 24. “I felt the pressure. I tried hard. I always felt I could win, so today I know that dreams come true.”

Although this is Park’s first victory on the LPGA Tour, she has captured six career wins on the KLPGA Tour. Park’s career-best finish on the LPGA Tour prior to this week was second place, which she did twice during the 2009 season (the Honda LPGA Thailand and the Mizuno Classic). A four-year member of the LPGA Tour, Park made 18 of 20 cuts coming into the season-ending event on Tour this year.

Once voted by KLPGA members as having the best swing on Tour, Park was the 2005 Rookie of the Year on the Korean LPGA Tour and came to the U.S. LPGA with high expectations. Park’s sister, Ju Young, currently plays on the KLPGA Tour and has aspirations of one day playing on the LPGA Tour herself.

“Then my younger sister plays golf, too, on the Korean Tour, so she's going to be playing KLPGA final Q‑school this week,” Park said. “I think it's a lot of motivation to her.”

 

Strong Finish…Paula Creamer might not have recorded a victory during this year’s LPGA Tour season but consistency has been key for the Pink Panther. Creamer has recorded nine top-10 finishes this season and has placed top-5 an impressive five times.

Creamer has also come on strong as of late recording three top-10 finishes at her last three tournaments including tied for second at this week’s CME Group Titleholders.

“It's been a year of definitely just almost there but not quite good enough for a lot of things,” said Creamer. “But I look at it, and these last couple tournaments I definitely played a lot better.”

While Creamer would have liked to have notched a victory to top off this year’s season, she credits her consistent season to a newfound attitude on the golf course and a boost in confidence.

“My attitude on the golf course this year was 100 times better than I believe it's ever been,” said Creamer. “Confidence wise I think that I'm a little bit back, and when you struggle your confidence tends to go away, and these last couple events I've definitely gotten that back.”

 

So close yet again: Sandra Gal went into Sunday tied atop the leaderboard with Hee Young Park but a sluggish start prevented her from a second trip to the winner’s circle this season.

“I had just kind of a slow start,” said Gal. “I was kind of struggling the first nine, and I got kind of a little pissed off at myself to be honest with you, so I made a couple of good birdies, and I thought I had a good chance with the final three holes to make some more birdies, but that bogey cost me on the par‑5.”

While Gal couldn’t close out a victory this week, she became a Rolex First-Time Winner earlier this year when she prevailed over Jiyai Shin at the Kia Classic.

“I won this year, and it's always great to be in the final round, and I think I hung in there really well today,” said Gal. “Sometimes you're the winner, sometimes you're not. That's just how it goes.”

 

Year of Yani: Yani Tseng couldn’t end the 2011 LPGA season the way she started it by capturing yet another victory, but on Sunday she wrapped up what was truly an impressive season.

She won seven LPGA titles while accumulating a total of 11 worldwide wins. Tseng finished the year by locking up her second straight Rolex Player of the Year honor, finishing 210 points ahead of Stacy Lewis for the honor. Tseng also captured her first ever Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average with a 69.66 stroke average, finishing nearly a stroke ahead of Na Yeon Choi who was second with a 70.53 average.

Tseng also claimed the 2011 LPGA Official Money List with a season-ending total of $2,921,713.00. She defeated Cristie Kerr for the title by $1,450,734. It’s the first time in Tseng’s career that she has won the money title. The 22-year-old has finished in the top-10 on the money list in each season since joining the Tour as a rookie in 2008, but her highest finish before this year was a third place finish in ’08.

 

Bye bye win streak: Cristie Kerr’s streak of at least one LPGA Tour victory in each of the last seven years came to an end on Sunday when she failed to win the CME Group Titleholders.

Kerr has three runner-up finishes and three third-place finishes this season. She had an impressive streak earlier this season when she finished in the top-3 in five straight tournaments but somehow a victory has eluded her. She has also had to battle wrist tendonitis which began at the Solheim Cup and a stomach bug that she’s dealing with this week.

“It's felt like a bit of bad luck,” Kerr said of her season earlier this week. “It's felt like ‑‑ you know, some of the tournaments where I came in second I played awesome but somebody played better. That's the way it goes sometimes.

“It's frustrating, I've never had to deal with trying to pay attention to an injury like that [referring to her wrist tendonitis]. And then getting sick here, it's kind of the way the year has gone. But maybe somebody will smile on me this week.”

 

Of Note… Maria Hjorth, who won the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship last year at Grand Cypress, shot a 4-under 68 on Sunday and finished in ninth place at 1-under-par....Katie Futcher shot the round of the day on Sunday with a 5-under 67 and moved from a T33 into a T12.

 

HEE YOUNG PARK, Rolex Rankings No. 58

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome 2011 CME Group Titleholders champion Hee Young Park. How does that feel to hear your name as champ?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Still I cannot believe, and I think it's going to be good for my family to present with this win. I want to say thanks for the CME Group, the sponsor, and then Rolex sponsor and then Grand Cypress, thank you very much. And LPGA staff and LPGA commissioner Mike Whan, thank you very much. And then all the volunteers, thanks for coming out this week.

THE MODERATOR: Can you just take us through your day, the last 18 holes? When did you know that you were going to win this event?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Actually, you know what, I was worried about maybe No. 13, 14. That was a little early, but how can I do English, like automatically, you know, it was ‑‑ my body felt like it's going to be close, like I can tell. Even I couldn't see the leaderboard, but my feel and then that kind of stuff.
Back nine getting like nervous and then getting tight in my body, so my caddie said, just keep going, keep trying to like first round, you're on the tee first time each hole, and just keep doing the same thing, and then I say, okay. And then even No. 18, last putt, I just thought about this is first hole, first hole putt, like I just remind and then putt.

THE MODERATOR: How good does it feel when you look at that leaderboard and see some of the names that you beat that have been so successful on the LPGA Tour? How good does that feel?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, I played with Paula and Yani and Sandra this week. They are really, really fantastic players, and they are really, really strong, even mind golf, everything. But even this week I learned a lot to them. I think I'm very ‑‑ have to win this week, too strong mind.

THE MODERATOR: So will your family get some better Christmas presents now?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, pretty much (smiling), and then my younger sister plays golf, too, on the Korean Tour, so she's going to be playing Q‑school this week, final Q‑school. I think it's a lot of motivation to her.

Q. LPGA Tour Q‑school?
THE MODERATOR: KLPGA.

Q. Your caddie's name and also your sister's name?
HEE YOUNG PARK: My caddie's name is Kylie Pratt, and my sister's name is Ju Young Park.

Q. You bogeyed the fourth hole and then birdies on 5, 6 and 8. Can you talk about that stretch and how you did that?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, No. 4, par‑3, was difficult, difficult. And then I think too much thinking, like worry about after shot. So right after it, next hole, just think about my distance and then my ‑‑ just trust my club and then just hit the shot. So it was pretty simple.

Q. Can we get the length of those putts on the three birdies?
HEE YOUNG PARK: No. 5 was like two feet, really close, almost in. And then No. 8 was like 12 feet. And No. 6 was eight feet.

Q. I know you've wanted to win for a while, so where did you feel the most pressure? Was it from back in Korea, from yourself, family?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, I really, really missing my home friends, actually too much ‑‑ on a Tour a lot of friends, but like my old best friends still live in Korea. And you know different time, different time Korea to here, so really difficult even calling, so I really, really missing my old friends.
And my family, we are calling on Skype on the computer to say hi. So probably I'm very missing my friends.

THE MODERATOR: Did you feel pressure from anyone to win other than yourself, pressure from Korea, pressure from anyone?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Pressure from actually my sponsors. (Laughter.) I mean, that question was like pressure to play, right?

THE MODERATOR: Pressure to win.
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, sponsors. (Laughter.) They really, really badly waiting for the win. Why not you win? Why not? That's what I'm saying, I'm trying every week, and I work hard. I want to make some low under par every day, and then every day, every week, win. But everybody played good, and then ‑‑ I think that they are really, really happy right now.

THE MODERATOR: You'll be happy to know I just got an email that you need to call your sponsor when we're done.
HEE YOUNG PARK: Okay.

Q. To follow up that question, who's happier, you or your father?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, I just called my father maybe ten minutes ago. My father will not really cry, but he just cried, I'm so proud of you. Oh, thank you.

Q. So your father was not here today?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, because my sister playing Q‑school, which is really, really important to her, so I just said, stay in Korea and supporting my sister.

Q. What is your father's name, please?
HEE YOUNG PARK: A little different, Hyung Sub Park.

Q. You joined quite a number of countrywomen from South Korea to have won tournaments. How does that feel to be in that club, to have won an LPGA event?
HEE YOUNG PARK: I won in Korea four or five years ago, and then right now this is my first win in U.S. but it feels totally different still same kind of goosebumps, same thing, but this win I think getting changing my life, my future.

THE MODERATOR: How good does it feel to know you can go to dinner with Na Yeon now and say, "I won, also"? And I.K. and all of your other friends who have won on Tour.
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, there are really a lot of people who win one already. We not care about ‑‑ we care about win, but not care about, oh, you won twice, you won four times. We never talking about that, just we play hard. We know that on the golf course try hard everybody and then just ‑‑ if they break par, get the win, just congratulations. Actually not really talking about a win or second, what place.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your putting on the back nine? You had players two shots behind and you stayed steady on the back nine. How important were those putts that you made and were there any of them that you didn't think were going to go in?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Actually this week a little bit of change my putting style, like gripping. Normally when I hit the ball and then look at the cup, but this week it doesn't matter how long, how far away, just ‑‑ I just pointed my like one feet in front of the target and then try to hit over my small target. And I think that was really, really good work for me. Even my later trouble, like first putt, but after like really, really three, four times made a par putt, which is, I think, good work, confidence.

Q. Can you just talk about the last couple holes? Did looking at the leaderboard make you very nervous?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, I'm not try to look at the leaderboard, and then my caddie said, oh, oh, don't look at the leaderboard. Yeah, but I really, really want to look at the leaderboard later on during the play. But just that leaderboard means nothing to me, just nothing to different my visuals, just keep playing. I think my caddie wants to just keep playing, all my shots, everything, so I didn't look at the leaderboard. But I did actually once.

Q. What hole, 17?
HEE YOUNG PARK: 16.

Q. Does the win have more meaning, or is it more rewarding because some of the best players were right in the hunt?
HEE YOUNG PARK: I think winning means ‑‑ anyway there are players every week ‑‑ most weeks we play together, and then even this morning Cristie Kerr said, Hee Young, you can do it, good luck, even competition, right. She just said, cheer up, you can do it. We are actually pretty good friends like without the golf course.

Q. Where did Cristie say that to you?
HEE YOUNG PARK: You can do it.

Q. Where?
HEE YOUNG PARK: At the driving range this morning, the driving range.

Q. How did you like your victory bath, shower, whatever, the beer shower?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Actually it feels really good. I can do one more. Anyway, last week I went to Mexico, Lorena Ochoa Invitational, and I bought a tequila, big bottle, and not yet to open, but I think tonight maybe I'm going to drink it (laughing).

Q. One of your bios it says your nickname is Rocket. Is that true, and how did you get that nickname if it's true?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, maybe two years ago it was Thailand ‑‑ the Honda Classic, but I shoot like 64‑65‑67 kind of stuff, and then when I make a birdie sometimes like easily like three in a row, more than that, and the people just, oh, you're rocket, you just feel it and keep going. That's why I think they called me Rocket.

 

PAULA CREAMER, Rolex Rankings No. 7

Q. Talk about the day.
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, I gave myself a lot of chances. Got off to kind of a weird start, that's for sure, with the three‑putt from four feet on the second hole and birdie on the next. I constantly had left‑to‑right putts, and after yesterday on 18, I missed that left‑to‑righter, I went and worked about 30 minutes on the putting green on these left‑to‑right putts, and then every single putt I had today was a left‑to‑righter, so it was kind of a bit of ‑‑ just in a weird way, you have one thing that you've been really working on and you're constantly going against it.
But I gave myself a lot of chances. I have to be very proud of myself after the start I got off to to finish where I did.

Q. Talk about the year in general.
PAULA CREAMER: The year in general?

Q. Close again.
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, it's been a year of definitely just almost there but not quite good enough for a lot of things. But I look at it, and these last couple tournaments I definitely played a lot better. My attitude on the golf course this year was 100 times better than I believe it's ever been. Confidence wise I think that I'm a little bit back, and when you struggle your confidence tends to go away, and these last couple events I've definitely gotten that back.
I'm really looking forward to the off‑season. I want to win. I want to be the best, and I know what it takes. Unfortunately I didn't win this year, but next year is another year.

Q. Are you through for a while?
PAULA CREAMER: I'm going to play Taiwan, so I'll take next week off, and I'm still thinking of it like I have one more tournament left, and I'll do what I do and grind it out and see what happens there. And then I'll be done for a while, but I'm not going to take a ton of time. I think I'm going to take more of vacation type things instead of just maybe staying at home. I'm really going to try and get away from the game for a little bit and then get back at it 100 percent.

Q. Will you travel?
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, like when I go to California maybe go sightsee a little bit more, things like that. I'm going to see my grandma, my grandpa. My grandma has Parkinson's and my grandpa is 93, so I have to take the time that I can right now and spend as much of it with them.

Q. Anything about Hee Young today? She just didn't come back.
PAULA CREAMER: Honestly I didn't look at a leaderboard. I did at the beginning, and then when I made the turn I told myself just make as many birdies as you can, and what happens happens. I think she's at 9 I saw when I finished. I looked at the board. But that's awesome playing. That's really good, especially in these conditions when there's a lot of top players battling trying to get up there, and she knew that. She played well. I played with her yesterday, and at the end, I was like, wow, where did all those birdies come from. She's a good player, and she deserves it.

Q. Are you pretty happy with the way you hit it today?
PAULA CREAMER: I mean, I don't know how ‑‑ I think I missed maybe four greens or five, if that, maybe, which is a positive thing. I did, I hit my irons great. I gave myself countless opportunities, and that's all I can ask for. Just have to work on those putts.
But it's not the easiest golf course to make putts on, that's for sure.

Q. Not a lot of flat spots.
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, every putt you play is outside the hole. Even that little one I had on the last hole, it's hard to play a three‑and‑a‑half‑footer, two‑footer outside the hole, but you have to do it.

 

SANDRA GAL, Rolex Rankings No. 44

Q. Did you know that was going to make the difference?
SANDRA GAL: You know, I had just kind of a slow start. I was kind of struggling the first nine, and I got kind of a little pissed off at myself to be honest with you, so I made a couple of good birdies, and I thought I had a good chance with the final three holes to make some more birdies, but that bogey cost me on the par‑5. I was committing to every single shot there, just that putt downhill was very tricky, and I hit a good second putt, it just lipped out. There's nothing you can do. Hee Young played great, and she really deserves to win. I'm really happy for her.

Q. Hee Young had never won on the LPGA Tour before. How impressed were you with how she played during this final round and how she was able to maintain her composure?
SANDRA GAL: Yeah, she had great composure all day long. She's always smiling. I've played with her many times, and she's such a great competitor to play with because she's always happy and just plays her own game, and I think she really, really deserves it.

Q. Kind of tough to make up shots on this course when Hee Young isn't giving anything back to par?
SANDRA GAL: Yeah, probably, that's right. She didn't make any bogeys. Her short game was great, and she made some good birdies early on, and I think that kind of gave her the momentum for the round.

Q. What did you hit in for the third shot over the green on the par‑5?
SANDRA GAL: A little wedge, but I thought it was into the wind, and it never touched the wind and just went right through. I hit a great shot. I was like, this is going to be really close, but it just went right through.

Q. Will this be a learning experience for you?
SANDRA GAL: Definitely. I won this year, and it's always great to be in the final round, and I think I hung in there really well today. Sometimes you're the winner, sometimes you're not. That's just how it goes.

 

YANI TSENG, Rolex Rankings No. 1

YANI TSENG: Some disappointment today. I had three bogeys on the front nine and I didn't make any putts and then just kind of thinking too much, trying too hard to make putts. I really, really wanted to win this tournament and just didn't go the way I wanted. Kind of disappointed. But it's the last day of the last tournament of the year, so it's ‑‑ I'm happy and just nice to have something that I know I can work on in the off‑season and just ‑‑ that's it. Today I was hurting my knees a little bit on No. 5 or No. 6 when I squat down and feel like something was crooked there and it was sore a little bit down here and I couldn't squat much, and I was changing my position a little bit, but I don't think that's the reason why. But it was a little painful.

Q. Has it bothered you before?
YANI TSENG: No. It's just only left knee. That's why when I squat I always ‑‑ my right knee is my control ‑‑ I don't know how to say that, but now today I kind of switch a little bit. But it's not hurting too much, maybe I just ice and a couple days it'll be fine.

Q. It was the right knee you hurt today a little bit?
YANI TSENG: Yeah.

Q. You said you know there are some things to work on for next year. What might those be?
YANI TSENG: Well, I think this year ‑‑ before I was pretty good to hitting kind of those different shots, and I feel like now this year I don't ‑‑ I'm kind of back out a little bit to not really get to hitting those different shots like I did before. If I say, okay, let's fade five yards, I can do that, but now I don't think I can, because lots of golf courses are pretty straightforward, and this course you have to ‑‑ like this course and last course, like last week in Mexico, you have to hit kind of different shots, hitting draws to the pin, hitting fades to the pin, and I feel like these two weeks I couldn't do that as much as I'm thinking, so that's something I want to work on.
I mean, like off‑season I say I'm going to hit some shots, just hit into the woods and then try to punch out kind of hitting those imagination shots, and I need to work on something like that, because before I've been working on that every day, starting to hit all different shots, but not much this year. I was always on the road and don't have much time to practice that, like different shots. That's why I think if I'm good with all the different shots and I've got more feel with my clubs. This year most of the time shots, but for me I want to hit more imagination shots and some crazy shots, and I need to practice it.

Q. How long do you figure you'll take off before you actually start working on some of this?
YANI TSENG: How much time am I going to take off? Two weeks say, and I have a whole month of January and I can work on this. And I think Gary, my coach, he knows what I need to work on, too, with my swing. I think we have a pretty good goal for next year.

Q. You're going to play Swinging Skirts, right?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, that's the last event of the year.

Q. What will be your first event next year?
YANI TSENG: I think the Australian Open.

Q. It will be?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, I was watching The Presidents Cup and it looks so much fun, and I wish they can put a speed like that for us, too. That would be fun.

Q. Be careful what you ask for.
YANI TSENG: I know, I told my caddie, even when you play bad you're probably still happy because that's why you're working hard, you want to challenge yourself. It looks so much fun, and it was great to watch the Presidents Cup.

Q. Did you find the difficulty of the greens and the wind harder to attack the pins today?
YANI TSENG: Yeah, today they have some ‑‑ a couple pin was pretty tough, but today I was kind of thinking too much, didn't commit to shots. I got a pretty good feeling before I go out, and after when I'm hitting, like five, six holes, I told my caddie, I start worrying about something, and that's not good for being three shots back because you have nothing to worry about, you should just go for it and enjoy it.

Q. When do you go to Vegas?
YANI TSENG: I don't know yet, maybe end of the year for the new year.

Q. Have you been before?
YANI TSENG: No, never, first time. So I'm pretty excited about that.

Q. You're a gambler, too. This is could be dangerous.
YANI TSENG: A little bit, yeah (laughing).

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