Third-round notes and interviews -- Avnet LPGA Classic

Avnet LPGA Classic
Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove, Crossings Course
Mobile, Ala.
Third round notes and interviews
April 30, 2011

Lexi Thompson -7, Rolex Rankings No. 100
Song-Hee Kim -7, Rolex Rankings No. 13
Amy Yang -6, Rolex Rankings No. 25
Maria Hjorth -5, Rolex Rankings No. 27
Hee Kyung Seo -4, Rolex Rankings No. 28

16-year-old Lexi Thompson and Song-Hee Kim are tied for the lead at 7-under-par and lead by one stroke over Amy Yang entering the final round of the Avnet LPGA Classic. Thompson fired a 5-under 67 on Saturday at the Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove in Mobile, Ala. while Kim shot a 2-under 70 to put them as co-leaders after 54 holes of play. Thompson, a Coral Springs, Fla. native, recorded six birdies and one bogey in her round to vault herself from a tie for 16th into sole possession of the lead. This is Thompson’s first LPGA event of the 2011 season and she is playing on a sponsor’s exemption.

If Thompson can hold on to win, she would become the youngest champion in LPGA history. Thompson will be 16 years, 2 months and 21 days on Sunday. Marlene Hagge was 18 years, 14 days when she won the 1952 Sarasota Open, which was an 18-hole event. Hagge won two 18-hole events at the age of 18. The youngest winner of a multi-round event on the LPGA Tour was Paula Creamer, who captured the 2005 Sybase Classic when she was 18 years, 9 months and 17 days.

Another Rolex First-Time Winner? There have already been two Rolex First-Time winners on the LPGA Tour this season – Sandra Gal and Stacy Lewis. And it’s possible that there could be a third at the Avnet LPGA Classic. None of the top three players on the leaderboard heading into Sunday have won an event, but all are no strangers to being in contention at tournaments. Kim recorded 16 Top-10 finishes in 23 events last season, which included a runner-up finish at the 2010 LPGA Championship presented by Wegmans. “It happened before a lot of times, so I know what I need and I know what I have to do,“ Kim said of having a lead in a tournament. “So I just try to play my own game and talk to caddie more and enjoy it.”

No stranger to the attention: Thompson’s best finish in an LPGA event came last July at the 2010 Evian Masters when she finished in a tie for second place – one stroke behind winner Jiyai Shin, who at the time was the No. 1 player in the Rolex Rankings. Yang had six top-10 finishes last season, which included a career-best, runner-up finish at the 2010 LPGA Tour Championship

Age is just a number: Thompson is certainly drawing a lot of attention based on the fact that she’s only 16 years old, but it’s not just the youngsters who are near the top of the leaderboard heading into Sunday’s final round. A pair of 37-year-olds are currently in the top-5 with Maria Hjorth and Karen Stupples sitting in a tie for fourth at 5-under par.

A busy Moving Day: There were a number of players who took advantage of moving day on Saturday with low rounds. Hee Kyung Seo, the 2010 Kia Classic winner, teed off in the second group of the day and fired the low round of the tournament with a 7-under 65. Seo started the day in a tie for 69th at 3-over par and wound up in a tie for seventh at 4-under. There were a total of 22 rounds under par on Saturday.

Welcome to Sybase: On Saturday, three more players earned entry into the Sybase Match Play in Gladstone, New Jersey on May 19-22. Mi Hyun Kim, Haeji Kang and Chella Choi solidified the final three spots in the event. They join Sandra Gal, Jenny Suh, Sarah Kemp, Mindy Kim, Alena Sharp, Paige Mackenzie, and Grace Park, as well as the top 48 from the 2011 LPGA Priority List. 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.

LEXI THOMPSON, Rolex Rankings No. 100

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Alexis Thompson into the interview room. Congratulations on your 5 under round of 67 today. You're currently leading the tournament at 7-under. What went right for you today in the round that was perhaps different from the two rounds before?
LEXI THOMPSON: I would just say my putting was pretty good today. I mean, I dropped a few 15 footers, so that definitely helped me out. You know, I came out of a few golf shots, didn't really trust 'em, but my putting definitely helped.

MODERATOR: You have been in contention before. Last year at Evian you were up near the top of the leaderboard. How much did that help you coming into this and now as you head into tomorrow being at the top again?
LEXI THOMPSON: It definitely helps. All of these tournaments are learning experiences for me. I came into the last day at Evian probably a few more back, so I just went all in on every golf shot and didn't really worry about it. I ended, like, coming back one, so it was a great experience. Just going to take one shot at a time tomorrow.

MODERATOR: This is your first LPGA Tour event of the season. To be in contention and here on a sponsor's exemption, how nice is it to be up here in this position heading into Sunday?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I'm just really grateful that I'm here. I mean, my first LPGA event on a sponsor's invite, I'm just really honored and I'm really happy to be here and not where the tornadoes are hitting. I'm just really grateful and I'm honored to be playing this tournament.
Q. Would you talk about your putting? Talking with you dad, he said that seemed to be the thing that was really most different from the previous two rounds. Was there extra confidence today? Pin placements? Just what was it about it?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, the pin placements are a little easy are today, that's for sure. Yesterday you just had to play to the middle of the green. Me and my dad have been getting along really well, so I've just been trusting my reads on the greens and see where that goes. I made a few, so really grateful about that.

Q. I couldn't tell exactly how far you were away on 16, but the 12 , 15 foot range sum it up?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I made a few of those, yeah, about 12 , 15 footers. I got up and down there for birdie. You know, I hit a few good iron shots today. The course is in great shape for us. To play with Grace Park was amazing, too.

Q. You've gotten the lead, and you probably know you're close when you're coming up 18. Just to be able to get up and down from where you were, how much confidence does that give you going into tomorrow?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I actually saw the leaderboard going into 18. I hadn't been looking at the leaderboard. I'm not trying to worry about that. I just glimpse at it. But getting up and down there definitely helped. Side of the green wasn't that good, but I two putted, so definitely take it. I'll hit a few more now and be good tomorrow.

Q. That brings me to my question: What were you thinking when the shot landed where it did on 18? Could have been trouble.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I was just hoping, ‘Don't go in the bunker. Don’t go in the bunker.’ I mean, when I hit it, I was like, ‘Wow, that was really bad.’ But, you know, it's golf. You hit shots like that, and you just have to take and go find and get up and down from wherever it goes.

Q. How different will it be for you if it holds the way it is right now, having the lead not having the membership but having the lead and going in on the final round?
LEXI THOMPSON: Not really worried about that. Going into tomorrow just going all in on every golf shot. Play consistent like I did the last few days, and hopefully it'll all go well.

SONG-HEE KIM, Rolex Rankings No. 13

Q. To be tied for the lead after three rounds, how is that going into Sunday now?
SONG HEE KIM: I mean, it happened before a lot of times, so I know what I need and I know what I have to do.So I just try to play my own game and talk to caddie more and enjoy it.

Q. At 18 here there was a little concern when you hit into the bunker on your second shot, but you handled that pretty well.
SONG HEE KIM: Yeah, I was thinking I needed like little shot, but I have to hit a full one. But, anyway, I had a great lie on bunker, so I knew I'm going to have par. So I had a lot of confidence, and I think that's why I made a par.

Q. Do you have good confidence going into tomorrow?
SONG HEE KIM: Yeah, I need it.

AMY YANG, Rolex Rankings No. 13

Q. Being one shot out of the lead heading into Sunday, how nice of a feeling is that for you?
AMY YANG: I haven't been that position too much, but I think that way is, you know, more better than one shot lead. [The leaders] are probably a little nervous, you know.

Q. Yeah, I was going to say, no pressure then when you're not in the lead. Is there less pressure then when you're coming from behind?
AMY YANG: It's kind of less pressure, you know. Still in the top, so still going to be a little pressure, but less pressure than one shot lead.

Q. Today's round, even par, a lot of pars, not many birdies, bogeys. Was it consistent for you or just not a lot of opportunities? How would you describe your round?
AMY YANG: I had little tough day. It was a little more breeze today. That made greens faster and firmer. But although I had some chances for birdies, I had tough time with putting.But it was a good day. I had some good par saves.

MARIA HJORTH, Rolex Rankings No. 27

Q. Can you take us through your eagle on the par-5 16th hole?
MARIA HJORTH: I hit a good drive. I thought it was going to be a little bit further up but I think it landed soft. But I hit a 3-wood for my second shot to about 15 feet and made the putt.

Q. Just a routine eagle?
MARIA HJORTH: laug A routine eagle. No, it was a really good second shot. The pin is way back there and the wind is coming off the right so it was kind of the perfect shape to get into the pin. I just ended up -- I had a great result.

Q. It’s moving day and you did some moving.
MARIA HJORTH: Yeah, definitely. It’s tough out there because of the wind. I knew that if I could try for maybe 3-under today or something like that, I knew it was going to be a very good round and move myself up. But 5-under obviously helps and they still have a lot of holes out there to go so we’ll see where that ill leave me for tomorrow. But I’m very excited about my round today and the way that I played. I made a few putts. A couple of bogeys still but that’s going to happen out there.

Q. You had the back-to-back bogeys and then you were able to come back from that. Was there a point of saying, ‘OK, settle?’
MARIA HJORTH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I have my caddy out there and he helps me out. Obviously I made a really silly bogey on the par-5 6th out there and just a bad tee shot on No. 7, kind of ended up with a really difficult second shot from the fairway bunker. I knew I was playing well leading up to that. So I had to make sure that I stayed up there and I stayed positive. I knew that it was a tough day and still be able to maybe shoot a couple under from there and I shot a bit more. So it’s great.

HEE KYUNG SEO, Rolex Rankings No. 28

Q. Playing in the second group of the morning, you went out and shot the lowest round of the tournament so far, a 7-under 65. Can you talk a little bit about the round and what was going well for you on the course today?
HEE KYUNG SEO: Well yesterday, I had a good shot but I didn’t make a lot of putts. I had lots of opportunities to have birdies but I didn’t make them all. I was thinking just about positive things today and I hit really good and my putting was all good. So I’m really happy.

Q. Players had been saying all week that it was an advantage to tee off early before the greens firmed up later in the afternoon. Did you hope going off early today that you could put together a good round and make a run at the leaders?
HEE KYUNG SEO: Yeah, actually it was really calm and no wind. So the green was a little soft and I could make my own swing. I think that was helping a little bit. Starting out on the back nine there was a little bit of wind, but it didn’t make a big difference.

Q. Did you think that a low round out there to be had today?
HEE KYUNG SEO: I didn’t think about the scores. I just wanted to play my game because the last few weeks I didn’t play my own game. I just think about too much about the scores. So I just try to think about one shot at a time. That proved helpful today.

Topics: Notes and Interviews

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