First-round notes and interviews -- Avnet LPGA Classic

Avnet LPGA Classic
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove, Crossings Course
Mobile, Ala.
First round notes and interviews
April 28, 2011

Song-Hee Kim -5, Rolex Rankings No. 13
Grace Park -5, Rolex Rankings No. 289
Karen Stupples -4, Rolex Rankings No. 93
Stacy Lewis -4, Rolex Rankings No. 14
Se Ri Pak -3, Rolex Rankings No. 35 and defending champion
Marcy Hart -2, Rolex Rankings No. 255
Alexis Thompson -1, Rolex Rankings No. 100

Song-Hee Kim and Grace Park each shot a 5-under-par 67 on Thursday at the Avnet LPGA Classic to take a share of the first round lead.
The duo leads Karen Stupples and Stacy Lewis by one shot entering second round play at Magnolia Grove’s Crossings Course, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Kim, who tallied 15 top-10 finishes in 2010, is trying for her first career victory after recording seven birdies and two bogeys in the opening round. Park is a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour but she’s looking for her first LPGA victory in quite some time as she hasn’t won a Tour event since 2004.

Back in action: For the past few seasons, Park has been bothered by back problems and her cranky back even forced her to withdraw from Wednesday’s pro-am at the Avnet LPGA Classic. But despite the minor setback, Park didn’t have any health issues on Thursday as she shot an opening-round 67. Park tallied five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys en route to shooting her lowest round so far this season. Park has yet to make a cut in her three previous events in 2011. “I'm very happy that even though my back, I had a little scare last couple days, but I mean, my back is feeling good,” Park said. “I'm being able to practice, work out, staying strong. Overall it's a great feeling. If I can just keep my back solid, I think I will start putting in some low numbers.”

Defending champion Se Ri Pak wasted no time in finding herself back near the top of the leaderboard at the Avnet LPGA Classic. Pak shot an opening-round 69 to finish at 3-under, tied for fifth with Na Yeon Choi and Angela Oh and three shots back of the leader. This golf course -- the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove, Crossings Course – appears to be a place of comfort for the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member. Since 2001, Pak has won a total of three times at this golf course. She tallied victories at the 2001 and 2002 Tournament of Champions and last year she won the 2010 Bell Micro LPGA Classic, which was rain-shortened to 54 holes, in a playoff over Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen. Pak also shot a 69 in the first round last year en route to winning the tournament.

In the nick of time: Karen Stupples wasn’t sure how she was going to play in the first round on Thursday after her 4-year-old son Logan became sick on Wednesday night. Stupples’ husband, Bobby, is her caddy and Logan couldn’t go to daycare being so ill. But the Stupples’ found someone to watch Logan before her tee time and Karen wound up delivering one of the best rounds on Thursday. She shot a 4-under 68 with four birdies, an eagle and two bogeys to finish one stroke behind the leaders and in a tie for third with Stacy Lewis.

Recent Rolex First-Time Winner Stacy Lewis found herself once again near the top of the leaderboard on Thursday. Lewis, who picked up her first career win and her first major title at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last month, shot a first round 68 to sit in a tie for third place with Stupples. Lewis is looking to join LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb as the second back-to-back winner on Tour this year. Webb captured back-to-back wins at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore and the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.

Trying to earn a spot: The top-10 players after Friday’s second round at the Avnet LPGA Classic, who are not already qualified, will gain entry into the Sybase Match Play event in Gladstone, New Jersey on May 19-22. As of Thursday, Grace Park -5, Angela Oh -3, Paige McKenzie -2, Sandra Gal -2, Marcy Hart -2, Sarah Kemp -2, Stephanie Sherlock -1, Jenny Suh -1 were the top eight with 12 players tied for the final two spots. In addition, the top four players on this year’s LPGA Official Money List, not already qualified, after the completion of the Avnet LPGA Classic will also earn spots into the Sybase field

Of Note…Jenny Suh carded her first-career LPGA hole-in-on on the 14th hole with 5-hybrid from 151 yards…Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng shot a 5-over 77 in Thursday’s first round…Pernilla Lindberg was disqualified after the first round for signing an incorrect scorecard.

SONG-HEE KIM, Rolex Rankings No. 13

Q. You’re 5-under-par, tied for the lead. How does it feel?

SONG-HEE KIM: I feel pretty good to be tied with Grace Park. I played solid today and hit it much better than other tournaments. I made a lot of putts, so I like it.

Q. You’ve struggled this year compared to the last few years. What has it been?
SONG-HEE KIM: I’ve been a little sick. I went to Korea a couple times and got a cold. My body was weak, sick. My mind has really been worried about everything. I try too hard. My shots aren’t the same as last year. Hitting left, right, left. I’ve had better shots the last three weeks, working pretty hard.

Q. Does this course suit your game?

SONG-HEE KIM: Yeah, I like it. The greens are good today. Really fast, which I like. The weather was pretty good. The greens are a little firm, but I like that better than soft.

GRACE PARK, Rolex Rankings No. 289

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Grace Park into the interview room. Congratulations on your 5 under round today. Take me through your round today. What went really well for you?

GRACE PARK: Every thing. Obviously when you finish the round at 5 under, everything has to go pretty well. I started out hitting my irons really close. Birdied the third hole; eagled the fourth, which was par 5, No. 13, so 3 under right there. Everything was just easy and smooth today. Made a couple of mistakes, but overall in these windy conditions I stayed very consistent to the green and rolled in some putts, and birdied the last two holes to finish at 5 under.

Q. How are the conditions out there? I know it's been rainy and windy the last couple days. How were they today?

GRACE PARK: I think it's perfect, obviously. It's suiting my game. It's windy, but it's not too bad. The greens are rolling beautifully. I love to putt on fast greens and hard greens. It's playing very fair.

Q. I know in the past few years you dealt with some back issues. How are feeling now?

GRACE PARK: I actually had to withdraw from the Pro Am yesterday because I started feeling a little funny Tuesday afternoon. But overall, my back's been better than it has been in the last five, six years.I mean, I'm feeling really strong; I'm feeling really good.

Q. How good is that, to be able to have a round like that because of the back issues and you haven't been able to play as you would like?
GRACE PARK: It feels awesome. But more so, I want to say it's a relief. I'm obviously very, very happy, but I've been waiting for this round. I played three events early on, and I never knew what being rusty was. After having two seasons out with surgeries, I was lucky. I was swinging just as well, putting just as well, just not putting the round, the shots together. But today, you know for the past three weeks I played a lot of golf, and it seems to have helped.

Q. How does that feel, to have that come back again and to have that feeling and be able to control your game more like you had previously?
GRACE PARK: Yeah, I mean, it's nice. But more so, I'm very happy that even though my back, I had a little scare last couple days, I mean, my back is feeling good. I'm being able to practice, work out, staying strong. Overall it's a great feeling. If I can just keep my back solid, I think I will start putting in some low numbers.

Q. Is it tough to trust it again, to just mentally trust that your back is a going to be okay, or that doesn't weigh into it?
GRACE PARK: I can't say it's easy, but I'm just trusting. I just believe that it's going to be okay. As I said, I've had a couple surgeries. I was in rehab for several months. My back is as strong as it's been in I don't know how many years, so I'm very optimistic.

Q. When you withdrew from the Pro Am, did you do anything to get any treatment?
GRACE PARK: Yeah, I have a trainer that I started traveling with. She helps me with, you know, getting all the tightness out of my system. She's a masseuse; she's my trainer; she's my assistant; she's my manager. She's just a multi task girl. She's been helping me a lot with it. And Caroline and Rob in the trailer have been helping me. Lots of Advil, lots of ice. Same old, same old.

Q. Because of the injury and because of the rust, did you come to Mobile with any expectations, or just let's see how we play?

GRACE PARK: You know, definitely more expectations than I had starting the season back in March. I have three tournaments under my belt. I had three weeks to regroup, practice, and really focus on what I learned from those three weeks. This tournament, coming into it I was very looking forward to it. This is a golf course that I'm very familiar with; played well on it. I love the golf course, so I've been looking forward to it. Seems to be working, right?

KAREN STUPPLES, Rolex Rankings No. 93

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Karen Stupples, one of our moms on tour, who's currently at the top of the leaderboard at 4 under at the Avnet LPGA. Karen, just what worked today?

KAREN STUPPLES: You know what, it was quite funny. I didn't know even if I was going to play today, really. Logan, my son, was sick last night, so he couldn't go into day care. My husband now caddies for me, so it was a bit of a drama this morning trying to figure out what we were going to do. Very fortunately we found someone to come and take care of Logan. It was a bit of a rush and a panic, but I think just the fact that something else was going on kind of takes your mind off the importance of actually putting a score together.

I played very, very solidly. I've been working really hard on my game, and everything is starting to slowly come back where I feel like it should be.

MODERATOR: Is Logan okay?

KAREN STUPPLES: I think so. He seemed to be much perkier this morning. I mean, he still wanted to go into day care, but obviously we couldn't go in. They had a big day trip planned today, so he was gutted.

Q. You played here before and you know the course. Did that knowledge help you a lot today, do you feel like, or was it just that you kind of put it on automatic pilot?
KAREN STUPPLES: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I've always played fairly solidly round here. I feel very comfortable her in Mobile in general. Everybody is really very friendly. It's just a nice, nice place. Everything is really cool. And the fact that, yes, I was here at the Tournament of Champions for a number of years, and now that they have done the renovations the course is really terrific. It's really a joy to play, and I think it's always nice to play a place that's fun to play.

Q. The wind was up a little bit. Does that create an adjustment? And do you think the people starting late, that there may be an advantage there?
KAREN STUPPLES: In all fairness, it seemed like just a small little breeze in comparison to yesterday. Yesterday was brutal. Today was a nice stroll. It was a comfortable temperature to play golf in. That little breeze makes it a little bit interesting. There were some holes where particularly on the front side they've got the pins right over bunkers sort of downwind that are almost impossible to get anywhere near the hole. So you have to really play the course very cleverly and take the birdies when they come and be patient and accept pars otherwise.

Q. Do you get bored at all during the break? How much did you want to play this week?
KAREN STUPPLES: Obviously I want to, yeah, play. I'm a competitor. I love to play competitions. That's part of why we're all here. For me, I'm incredibly busy. It probably doesn't weigh on my mind as much as some of the players. Obviously with Logan I'm pretty busy there. I changed coaches, swing coaches, so I've been working through some changes there. So I've had plenty to keep myself busy and occupied.

I've just had some work done on my knee as well. Everything seems so be I always seem to be busy. I never really have much time to sit and think about it. But would I rather be playing? Absolutely. I think everybody would.

Q. What have you been working with Gary on? How has he helped?
KAREN STUPPLES: We went back to a few little basic things. My grip was pretty strong, so I've been working on weakening that. To be honest with you, I think that's going to be a constant battle for me. I'm going to have to keep working on that. We worked a little bit on my backswing, and we're still continuing to work on my downswing. I tend to bend a little bit too much with my knees into the ball. I'm working on trying to maintain my balance a little bit better through the ball. I'm thoroughly enjoying my time with him. He's helped me out tremendously.

Q. I would be remiss if I didn't ask a royal wedding question.

Q. Do you care at all?
KAREN STUPPLES: You know, it's a funny question. I mean, obviously I live over here. Do I like the fact they're getting married? Yes, I do. They have been together a long time. I think it's long overdue. Do I like the fact that it's costing so much money? Probably not. But what can you do? I mean, they're figureheads for our country.

You know, I'm actually not too upset that I'm going to be playing golf so I don't have to watch it. I remember watching Charles and Diana. The whole country stopped. We had it playing in school and the whole thing. So I feel like I've done the royal wedding. I don't feel like I need to do another one. But, yes, I'm happy that they're getting married, because they should be. Although I think a funner run would've been if they'd just eloped to Sandals or something. (Laughing.)

STACY LEWIS -4, Rolex Rankings No. 14

Q. Congratulations on shooting a 4-under 68 in the first round. Can you take me through the round, having tallied four birdies and no bogeys?

STACY LEWIS: I was a little bit surprised. I played really good and I was kind of surprised just because I hadn’t been able to practice like I wanted to the last couple weeks. But I was pleasantly surprised. I played really solid. I had a lot of putts around the hole. I just got a couple to drop.

Q. Yesterday you said that you had been feeling good about your play after winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship. To be able to come out here in the first round and continue that play, how good of a feeling is that for you?
STACY LEWIS: It’s nice knowing that I didn’t actually have the time to put the work in and it’s still there. I was just more surprised than anything. I felt good out there. My swing felt good and I don’t know. It just felt good.

Q. How different were the conditions today from the previous days when there was rain and a lot of wind out there?
STACY LEWIS: The course was in good shape. It was pretty dry. Things were rolling out towards the end of the day. The only thing is that we had a completely opposite wind of what we had the last couple days which I liked the wind today. It actually played a little easier, I thought.

Q. During yesterday’s press conference you had talked about length being a key on this golf course. Did you feel like your length was helping you out today?

STACY LEWIS: Yeah, it’s more length with your irons and the ability to hit high shots. The greens are firm and to miss it in the right spots around the greens I think that’s the key to not making too many mistakes.

Q. Coming off a win and now being near the top of the leaderboard again, do you have a different mentality at all about being there? Or does your mentality stay the same?
STACY LEWIS: I think I’m more comfortable there. I think Saturday of the Kraft, I was definitely a little uncomfortable with the lead. But I think I’m more comfortable being on the leaderboard and just trying to control what I can control.

SE RI PAK, Rolex Rankings No. 35 and defending champion

MODERATOR: Se Ri, the defending champion, back in the interview room at 3 under par today. Currently one shot off the lead. If you would, just tell us about your day.

SE RI PAK: Well, really glad to be back again. Always after the round come back and do it, that's a good thing. (Laughing.) But actually was pretty difficult this morning, because really windy out there and greens are pretty hard to get the right distance. But as I said, again, I'm trying my best, trying to be patient. So overall, I got another solid round today.

Q. Is that a key, the patience? I mean, because you have been around here before and you understand that. How much of that do you believe was a factor in your round?

SE RI PAK: It is important to be patient out there today. Especially the golf course is perfect conditions. But greens wise it's pretty hard, especially the wind is blowing is even harder.Yeah, I was out there. I making good shots. I'm happy about the results. It's just that off the green, over the greens, making a tough lie, but nothing you can do about it.

So as I said at the end of the round, one or two good putt be in pretty good shape. Maybe in the afternoon a lot better shape, but still the greens kind of firm. So next couple days are going to be fun.

Q. Just how much has your past success here helped? You feel like it's an advantage?
SE RI PAK: Of course. I mean, as I said, you play the golf course pretty well if you win it three times. There's a lot of good thought in the golf course. Give you a lot of confidence, too. So I guess again today, I mean, as I said, (indiscernible). Hopefully do it tomorrow.

Q. Sometimes you've gone through periods where you love the game, and then you've stepped away from the and you then you come back. How do you feel about it now?
SE RI PAK: It was really good to be back again. I think that's what it is, because we're traveling all year long. I mean, when season started we have couple weeks off, but still feel like you have to pack and leave again. So that's actually tough. Still not used to. Still not really fun to do it. I love to play, but travel wise is more difficult thing I guess.

So that's why, as I said, I'm happy be back. Before I feel like I needed more rest, but this year so far I'm feeling great about it. In between enough time to rest, go home, working on some game and play some more. For me, that's so far what I really like about it so far this year. So my game of course makes me happy, and then I really enjoying it.

Q. How much longer do you think you'll play?
SE RI PAK: Not too long. Maybe couple more years. Not as much. I mean, you never know. (Laughter.) Couple more years.

MARCY HART, Rolex Rankings No. 255

MODERATOR: Marcy, great round today, a 2-under 70. Take us through your round a little bit, how things went out there.

MARCY HART: You know, it was pretty solid; pretty uneventful, I would say. Actually, I thought the course was playing really long. I just made a couple longer putts, you know, and I chipped in once. So other than that, it was pretty much mostly pars.

MODERATOR: This season at the Kia Classic you had your first Top 10 in quite a while and that earned you a spot to play in the Kraft Nabisco. It seems like your game has been going really well. What's been the difference for you so far at the start the season?
MARCY HART: It's funny, because I didn't take all of last year off, but I only played three tournaments. Then Reece was born in September, and I didn't really well, I did play a couple of times, you know, a month or two after she was born. But I haven't practiced or played or done a whole lot. Maybe that's the key. (Laughter.)

Q. Has having your daughter kind of changed your perspective, too, about golf and about worrying about how you play or not worrying?
MARCY HART: Yeah, definitely. She's definitely my priority now. I don't get a lot of time to play or practice, but when I do get out there, I got to make it count and make it quality. I don't have all the free time that I used to.

Q. I was looking at your record from the past couple years, and there haven't been a lot of tournaments. Has there been injuries, or just you haven't had that opportunity to play as much?

MARCY HART: Are you talking about last year?

Q. Yeah, last year you only had three tournaments.
MARCY HART: I was pregnant, so I played...

Q. Yeah. The years before though did you play pretty full schedules?

Q. Okay.
MARCY HART: I mean, pretty much everything. I don't know that I'm trying to think. The last time I went back to Q School was maybe '09, so, yeah, I pretty much played full schedules besides last year.

Q. You said you chipped in. Where did you chip in? You said you had some long putts. Tell us where those were and about how long.
MARCY HART: Let's see, I putted in from the fringe on 15. I made sort of a long ish one on 18. Then I chipped in on 5? Yeah, 5.

Q. You talked about being a mother. When you are out on the practice range or get a chance to practice, I assume that, Okay, this is it. We've got this amount of time. Let's get things in. How has that changed?
MARCY HART: I mean, it's changed a lot. You know, I used to think that I had to spend a ton of time practicing and be out there for, you know, six hours at a time. I definitely don't do that anymore. If I get one hour, it's good.

So, you know, I've been playing more. Like when I was at home just these last few weeks I played more than I practiced. Like I said, it's just not my whole life now. So I think it puts things into perspective for sure.

Q. Are your parents here caddying and baby sitting?
MARCY HART: Yes. Yeah, same routine.

Q. When you're home and practicing, what does fill your time? How much time are you doing that? How is it different? Just like a couple hours?

MARCY HART: You know, I think before I felt like I had to be out there. Okay, this is my job. I have to be out practicing or playing. Now, you know, with her, I would rather spend my time with her. So like I say, she's my priority, my main focus. But then it's like, Oh, maybe I'll go practice for a little bit. So that's I spend most of my time with her. Like I say, I played more than I practiced when I was at home this last time. I would rather play than practice.

ALEXIS THOMPSON, Rolex Rankings No. 100

Q. You shot a 1-under 71 today in your first LPGA event of the 2011 season. Can you talk about your round?

ALEXIS THOMPSON: It actually went really good today. My ball striking turned around, much better than the practice rounds. I hit it real good. I missed a few putts but that’s golf. I hit some good iron shots, I guess. But it was a good round and I had a good group to play with.

Q. This is your first LPGA event of the year, earning a sponsor’s exemption into the Avnet LPGA Classic. Was it good to get back out here playing on Tour?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: Definitely it’s exciting. I played out of the country a few times but it’s nothing like being in the U.S. and playing. I’m really excited. This is my first event of the season to play in and it’s been great. The food has been great laug and obviously the golf course is in amazing shape for us.

Q. Looking forward past the first round, what is going to be the key for you with your golf game the rest of the week?
ALEXIS THOMPSON: I just need to keep hitting it like I did today, very consistent. I need to keep the ball in the fairway and out of the bunkers. That’s about it. I just have to be patient, take pars and then take birdies when you get the chances.

Topics: Notes and Interviews

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