RICOH Women’s British Open
Carnoustie Golf Links
July 28, 2011
First-round notes and interviews
Meena Lee -7, Rolex Rankings No. 54
Brittany Lincicome -5, Rolex Rankings No. 15
Angela Stanford -4, Rolex Rankings No. 18
Caroline Hedwall -3, Rolex Rankings No. 55
Sophia Popov (a) -2
Meena Lee shot a bogey-free 65 on Thursday to take a two-shot lead over Brittany Lincicome after the first round of the RICOH Women’s British Open in Carnoustie, Scotland. Lee shot a front-nine 32 with four birdies and after making the turn added birdies on No. 11, 14 and 17 to finish the day in sole possession of the lead, as the event is held for the first time at the storied Carnoustie Golf Links.
A morning full of sunshine and calm winds at Carnoustie on Thursday gave way to rain for much of the afternoon, but many players still continued to put up solid scores. That included Lee, who escaped some trouble on her final hole. On her approach shot to No. 18, Lee landed the ball a little short of the green and got a break when it took a favorable bounce over Barry Burn, rolling until it settled about three feet from the hole. She missed the putt for birdie but still made par to shoot the low round of the day.
Lee has won twice on the LPGA Tour, capturing titles at the 2005 BMO Financial GroupCanadian Women’s Open and the 2006 Field Open in Hawaii.
Lucking out on a tee time: Brittany Lincicome was prepared to deal with the typical Scottish elements for her 7:36 a.m. tee time on Thursday morning, but the three-time winner on the LPGA Tour found very different weather than what she expected.
"Of course I have 3 layers of pants and Under Armor and jackets anticipating snow, but this morning it was beautiful,” Lincicome said. “You could have had on shorts and a short‑sleeved shirt and been perfectly fine…It was unlike the British Open actually. It was really pretty.”
Lincicome took advantage of the conditions by shooting a 5-under 67 in the first round. She had four birdies, two bogeys and an eagle on the par-5 14th hole. Her round didn’t really get going until the back nine, as she was even par after the 11th hole before going 5-under in her final seven holes.
“The front nine I felt like I was hitting the ball well, driving it well, and just not getting it close enough or not ‑‑ the birdie putts just weren't falling,” Lincicome said. “Then made the turn, and there was three holes in a row that kind of got me going. I felt like I was playing really well. It's a course where you can take advantage of the holes when you can and then there's obviously holes where you need to kind of lay off with the 5‑irons and 6‑irons and you have to play conservative. It's just a great golf course, and it seems to fit my game very well.”
Lincicome’s best finish in a Women’s British Open came in 2010 when she finished in a tie for ninth at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England.
Destiny in the cards?: Angela Stanford’s home golf course is Shady Oaks in Fort Worth, Texas and she’s far from the only accomplished professional golfer to have called it home. Ben Hogan was one of the charter members at Shady Oak and this week, Stanford is trying to see if she can do something that Hogan did at Carnoustie back in 1953 – win a major championship.
Hogan won the Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland that year, the only trip that he would make over to the United Kingdom to play in the prestigious tournament. Stanford carries a tremendous about of respect for the man that she calls “Mr. Hogan,” and there is no doubt it would mean a lot to Stanford if she could capture her first major championship at the course where Hogan won his only British Open title.
“Just being from Fort Worth and being a part of Shady Oaks and being able to call Shady Oaks home is really special,” Stanford said. “It's an honor to get to represent them and to be here and to know that Mr. Hogan won here, it's cool. So just trying to enjoy it and appreciate it this week.”
Stanford got off to a strong start in her quest to win her first major title, shooting a 4-under 68 in Thursday’s first round and finding herself in a tie for third with three other players (Sophie Gustafson, Amy Yang, and Caroline Massone).
Amateur prize: There are six amateurs competing in this year’s RICOH Women’s British Open. They are Nikki Foster (England), Danielle Kang (USA), Stephanie Meadow (Ireland), Pamela Pretswell (Scotland), Sophia Popov (Germany), and Lauren Taylor (England). All six will try to join a distinguished list of players who have been awarded the Smythe Salver, which goes to the low amateur of the week.
Last year’s Smythe Salver winner at Royal Birkdale, Caroline Hedwall, is back at the Women’s British Open this year as a rookie on the LET Tour. Hedwall, who also has status as a rookie on the LPGA Tour and qualified last week for the season-ending CME Group Titleholders event, shot an opening-round 69 on Thursday. She also had the honor of being the first player to hit a shot in this year’s championship as she was the first of her group to tee off No. 1 at 6:30 a.m. BST.
Caddying for Hedwall this week is her twin sister, Jacqueline, who is a student at Louisiana State University where she is majoring in sports administration and leadership. As part of Jacqueline’s major, she has to complete a 300-hour internship for the summer and so this year it involves caddying for her sister.
“She's really good at reading putts, so she helped me a lot about that,” Hedwall said of her sister. “She just gives me confidence and we have a lot of fun, so it's great.”
Hedwall, the 2010 NCAA champion while playing at Oklahoma State, earned category 20 status at LPGA Q-School last year but since she didn’t earn the highest category of status, she decided to play the majority of the 2011 season on the LET. Hedwall has won twice on the LET Tour and finished 12th at last week’s Evian Masters. And she’s been happy with her decision to stay in Europe for this season.
“Last year, after all the Q-Schools and everything, I felt it was quite nice to be in Europe and close to home, and it turned out to be good for me,” Hedwall said. “I’m not sure I’m ready to move to the States yet. But I really want to play there in the future, of course.”
Of Note…USC sophomore Sophia Popov, who is a native of Germany, shot a 70 in Thursday’s first round. Popov is playing in her first Women’s British Open…Defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng fired a 1-under 71 in the first round and is in a tie for 28th…Scotland native and 2009 RICOH Women’s British Open champion Catriona Matthew shot a first-round 70 and is tied for 15th.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Meena Lee in the interview area. She scored a 7‑under par 65 to be leading the championship. Congratulations. How was your round today?
MEENA LEE: Thank you. I was feeling really good today, also my putting was good today, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: And the course? You played in some of the worst of the weather.
MEENA LEE: Today is a little bit raining but not too bad, yeah. A little bit windy but still okay. Nice weather out there, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Do you like playing links golf?
MEENA LEE: Yes.
Q. Can you talk about the 18th and skipping over the burn?
MEENA LEE: I hit a really bad shot, but after it stepped over the bridge hopefully, but it took a really nice bounce. I got lucky.
THE MODERATOR: It bounced over the burn.
Q. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Have you been to Scotland before? Just tell us something about your golf and what else you do.
MEENA LEE: I'm from Korea.
Q. How long have you been playing golf?
MEENA LEE: 15 years old I start playing golf.
Q. Did your parents play golf?
MEENA LEE: My dad a little bit played golf, yeah. I was five years old and started piano, but I didn't like play the piano but I got in a fight with my dad and my dad mad and then I start play golf.
Q. You didn't like the piano?
MEENA LEE: Uh‑huh, I didn't like the piano.
Q. Did you play it well?
MEENA LEE: No, not very good. The piano is sitting down and then just hands work like –
Q. You want to be outside?
MEENA LEE: Yeah.
Q. Were your parents upset when you stopped playing the piano?
MEENA LEE: I don't know. My mom wants me to play piano, but I don't know.
Q. What did she say to you?
MEENA LEE: I mean, I know she wants me to play piano, but I don't know why she wants me to play piano. I don't know. She wants me to play piano.
Q. What did she say then when you stopped the piano lessons? Did she encourage you with your golf?
MEENA LEE: No, just happy only. Just happy.
Q. Have you been to Scotland before?
MEENA LEE: First time.
Q. You didn't play in 2007?
MEENA LEE: Yeah, I played in 2007. Yeah, second time. I like it.
Q. Why do you like Scotland?
MEENA LEE: What do I like? I don't know. I mean, it's a fun course because I live in Orlando, so a lot of different golf courses in the tournaments here, so that's why I like to play here.
Q. So these courses are a lot different to the ones you normally ‑‑
MEENA LEE: Yes, normally play, yes.
Q. So you live in Orlando. Do you live with a lot of other Korean players?
MEENA LEE: Yes, a lot of ‑‑
Q. Anyone in particular that you play a lot with or are friends with? Who is your best friend?
MEENA LEE: I play with sometimes Se Ri and Na Yeon and Song‑Hee Kim.
Q. How old are you?
MEENA LEE: I'm 29.
Q. How many hours did you practise the piano, and how many hours do you practise your golf a day?
MEENA LEE: When I start play golf, no more play piano.
Q. Did you spend three hours a day playing the piano when you played the piano or seven hours a day?
MEENA LEE: Maybe two, three hours.
Q. How many hours a day do you practise your golf?
MEENA LEE: Every day I practise five, six hours.
Q. Can we go through the birdies, the clubs.
MEENA LEE: No. 1, hit the driver and 8‑iron.
Q. How close?
MEENA LEE: Six feet.
Q. Birdie on the 6th, the par‑5.
MEENA LEE: Driver and 5‑wood and sand wedge, 56, maybe 12 feet.
Q. Birdied the 7th, the par‑4.
MEENA LEE: Hit the driver, 8‑iron again, and maybe 20 feet.
Q. The 9th?
MEENA LEE: Hit the driver and 4 rescue, nine feet.
Q. Birdied the 11th, the par‑4?
MEENA LEE: Hit the driver ‑‑ no, not driver. Hit 5‑wood and then 9‑iron nine feet.
Q. And the 14th, birdied the par‑4?
MEENA LEE: Hit driver and 3‑wood and 56, nine feet.
Q. And the 17th, par‑5?
MEENA LEE: 5‑wood and 5‑wood on the green about 45 feet, 50 feet.
Q. You had no bogeys?
MEENA LEE: No bogeys.
Q. You've shot 7‑under par today. Can you go lower yet?
MEENA LEE: No. It's the best scoring this week, I think.
Q. As good as it gets?
MEENA LEE: Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Brittany Lincicome having scored a 5‑under par 67 including a backward nine of 32. Could I ask you for your thoughts on that round.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: It was really good. I mean, the front nine I felt like I was hitting the ball well, driving it well, and just not getting it close enough or not ‑‑ the birdie putts just weren't falling. Then kind of made the turn, and there was kind of three holes in a row that kind of got me going. I felt like I was playing really well. It's a course where you can take advantage of the holes when you can and then there's obviously holes where you need to kind of lay off with the 5‑irons and 6‑irons and you have to play conservative. It's just a great golf course, and it seems to fit my game very well.
THE MODERATOR: You had a nice start. The weather was perfect. Not quite so good later on. Talk about the weather conditions.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Conditions were perfect, especially this morning. You could have had on shorts and a short‑sleeved shirt and been perfectly fine. Of course I have three layers of pants and Under Armor and jackets anticipating snow, but this morning it was beautiful. It was unlike the British Open actually. It was really pretty.
Q. Your thoughts about the golf course?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I think it's great. Obviously this afternoon it seems like it's going to rain a little bit and be a little bit windier and play a little more tough, but this morning it was great. The fairways are good, the greens are rolling really well, and it's a good test.
Q. Just tell us about your birdies and your eagle, please.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I had a birdie on 2.
Q. What club did you use?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I knew you were going to say that. No. 2 I hit driver, just hit a really little gap wedge probably 15 feet or so and made it.
Bogey at 6, literally was about an inch from hitting it out of bounds, and I had to take a drop because I was up against the fence, and hit a great third shot, a hybrid, and kind of rolled into the back of the bunker. I was in two bunkers today and was penalised in one of them. I just made a bit of a silly bogey. In the practice round I had 8‑iron into that green in two.
Birdie on the par‑3, 8th, hit just a little 7‑iron, it was probably a foot or so off the green. Had a huge putt probably 40 feet or so and made it. Just lucky.
Bogey on 10, I pulled an 8‑iron and was going to try to putt it from off the green probably 40 yards or so and just didn't hit it hard enough.
THE MODERATOR: You then started a terrific run. Birdied 12.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Birdied 12, hit a driver and then a pitching wedge to a decent range and made it. 13, the par‑3, I hit 7‑iron, a little 7‑iron to about seven feet or so. Eagle on 14, hit an awesome drive. I didn't realise when I got up there how tight this hole was. It was the longest drive that I've hit on that hole yet, so when I got up there it was only about a ten‑yard fairway, and just had a little 6‑iron and hit it to about 10 feet and made it.
THE MODERATOR: Any idea what distance you hit that drive?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Oh, it was far. It was really far, close to 300.
THE MODERATOR: And birdied 17.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Birdied 17, yeah. Again, hit 4‑iron off the tee and then 5‑iron into the green and two‑putted for birdie.
Q. What were your options when you had this ball only an inch inbounds? Did you think of playing it the other way around?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: No, because it was almost touching the fence. Even if I tried to hit it left‑handed, it still would have just rolled down the fence line and it wouldn't have got far enough away from the fence, so I just took the drop. It's a short hole so I only had hybrid into the green so I thought if I took the drop and hit hybrid onto the green and two‑putt and make par and keep going, but it didn't happen.
Q. Had you noticed the out‑of‑bounds in practice?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Yes and no. It was kind of my thought was don't hit it right because there's a creek that wouldn't have been reachable today but just because the wind wasn't as strong as the last couple days. But yesterday I was only about ten yards short of it and I didn't want to hit it too hard and hit it in the creek. It was just a bad swing thought.
Q. Great playing, finished at 4‑under. Everybody is talking about the Ben Hogan connection. If you can just talk about that a little bit.
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, just being from Fort Worth and being a part of Shady Oaks and being able to call Shady Oaks home is really special. It's an honour to get to represent them and to be here and to know that Mr. Hogan won here, it's cool. So just trying to enjoy it and appreciate it this week.
Q. If you can talk about the conditions during your round and how they changed throughout the round.
ANGELA STANFORD: Yeah, we got really lucky off the bat. I was actually hot. I wish I had shorts on, and the wind really wasn't blowing at all. We got lucky for about 12, 13 holes. So nice to have a good tee time this morning.
Q. And then thoughts going into tomorrow?
ANGELA STANFORD: Well, I mean, I don't know what the weather is going to be. It all depends on the wind. I think if the wind starts to blow here, it kind of becomes anybody's ballgame. I'm happy to be in at 4‑under, but I know that we still have three more days.
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We have Caroline Hedwall who was the first out this morning who returned a 3‑under par 69. Can I first of all ask you for your reaction.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I didn't hit the ball that great today actually. I saved myself with good putting. So I think I need to go and work on my game on the range because if it starts to ‑‑ if the wind starts to pick up, I'm going to struggle if I hit it like that.
THE MODERATOR: Were the conditions out there pretty easy?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yeah, they were, for sure.
Q. You've had a tremendous start to your professional career winning twice this year. Are you sort of ahead of the game as far as that's concerned?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I didn't expect to win twice already on the European Tour, but I thought I was ready, and obviously I was. It was just great to get a good start.
THE MODERATOR: You also won the PowerPlay at Celtic Manor a couple years ago. Everything has been good so far?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: It's been really good.
Q. There seems to be a bit of confusion over your score.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yeah, they thought I made a birdie on No. 15, but I made a par.
THE MODERATOR: Why don't we go through your birdies and bogeys.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: The 3rd hole I think I got a bad yardage. I hit a 5‑iron off the tee and then I hit it short of the water, which was kind of surprising. I hit a chip too long and then two‑putted.
THE MODERATOR: Par‑5, 6, what did you hit in there?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: 3‑wood, driver off the tee.
THE MODERATOR: Birdied the 7th.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: I hit a hybrid and then 6‑iron and then holed like a four‑metre putt.
THE MODERATOR: Bogeyed the short hole, the par‑3.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: I hit my 7‑iron in the bunker and didn't manage to get it up‑and‑down.
THE MODERATOR: Birdied the 9th.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: I hit it from the rough to about a metre.
THE MODERATOR: What did you hit in there?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: 7‑iron.
THE MODERATOR: Birdied the 11th.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Just hit a 56‑degree wedge to a metre.
THE MODERATOR: Bogeyed 13.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yeah, I got the wrong yardage again. I hit it too far.
Q. What did you hit there?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: A 6‑iron, should have been a 7.
THE MODERATOR: Birdied the 14th.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yeah, I hit it on in two and two‑putted, driver and 3‑wood.
THE MODERATOR: How long was the first putt.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Probably about 15 metres.
THE MODERATOR: And birdied 17.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yeah, I made a sand save from the bunker.
THE MODERATOR: What did you hit off the tee there.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Hybrid and then a 4‑iron into the green bunker.
Q. Can you talk about having your sister on the bag?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: She's not doing the yardages. That was all my fault. It was just, yeah, a bad day obviously.
Q. But just having her alongside you and how she helped you?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yeah, she's really good at reading putts, so she helped me a lot about that. She just gives me confidence and we have a lot of fun, so it's great.
Q. What is your sister called?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Jacqueline.
Q. Talk about hitting the first shot, how that felt.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: That was kind of cool, yeah. Someone told me I was going to be the first one, and I thought, yeah, that's a great honour for sure. It's a great golf course and a lot of fun that the women get to play here. It's fun.
Q. Early on on the 5th when you didn't hole a birdie putt and you got a little bit angry and you were sort of looking a little bit frustrated on the greens, how did you sort of turn that around?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: On 5? Did I look angry? Actually it's my serious face, I guess. I guess because I hit a good putt, and it was right in the line but I didn't hit it hard enough. I felt pretty confident. I was just ‑‑ I had a few good chances and I didn't make any birdies the first five holes, but then I made it on 6, so after that I kept putting well.
Q. Can I ask what your plans are? Are you going to try LPGA qualifying school at the end of the year?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: I don't think so. I'm pretty comfortable in Europe right now, and I'm not in a hurry to get over to the LPGA really. We'll see what happens.
Q. Talk about the Solheim Cup and your feelings about trying to make the team.
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I guess I need to win this one or the next one to be able to play into the team, but I mean, I think I have a good chance to get a wild card. But I don't want to have too high expectations because I don't know what they're looking for in their wild cards and I'm still a rookie and everything, but of course I want to play. That would be a lot of fun.
Q. Does your sister caddie all the time?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, she is actually doing her internship for a major in the States. She goes to Louisiana State University and she's in a sports administration and leadership major, so this is her 300‑hour internship for the summer.
Q. (No microphone.)
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, I don't really have any goals. I enjoy playing professional golf, and of course I want to ‑‑ well, I want to win majors in the future, but right now I just want to have fun and enjoy life.
Q. (No microphone.)
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yeah, of course. I've always wanted to go to Dubai, so I think it will be a lot of fun.
Q. (No microphone.)
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Well, we'll see. I guess Miyazato is far ahead, but we'll see.
Q. How has your game changed since this time last year where you were low am? Do you feel you're a better player?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yes, for sure, I think I'm a better player, but it's hard to say what I've changed. I think I'm just a little bit better in everything. Yeah, and I have better confidence I would say.
Q. Do you feel LPGA Q‑school last year not finishing probably like you would have liked, do you feel that worked out for the best being in Europe?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: Yes, last year after all the Q‑schools and everything, I felt it was quite nice to be in Europe and be close to home, and it turned out to be good for me. I'm not sure I'm ready to move to the States yet. But I really want to play there in the future, of course, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: What time did you have to get up this morning to make your 6:30 start time?
CAROLINE HEDWALL: 4:30. It was early, but it turned out to be nice.
SOPHIA POPOV: It's only my professional second tournament because I'm still an amateur, and yeah, my first British Open.
Q. What was your first professional tournament?
SOPHIA POPOV: It was the Swiss Open just a couple weeks ago in Losone.
Q. What are you studying?
SOPHIA POPOV: I'm studying communications, sports media.
Q. What year are you in?
SOPHIA POPOV: I just finished my freshman year. I'm a sophomore now.
Q. Tell us a little bit about today if you could.
SOPHIA POPOV: Well, I finished ‑‑ I started pretty strong, but I was like, okay, let's see how it goes, because I think it's really hard to finish good. I think the last couple holes are really hard. But I managed to just keep my score together in the middle, and with a birdie on 16, that was a great turnaround from the bogey on the hole before, and I thought, okay, now two more holes. I was trying to make a birdie on 17, but that didn't work out. But in the end I just kept it together pretty well.
Q. When did you come over and start playing? When did you come over to the UK?
SOPHIA POPOV: I came on Monday.
Q. You played a couple practice rounds?
SOPHIA POPOV: No, I only played yesterday because I came Monday late, pretty late. I came from the European Individuals, so I didn't have Tuesday because it was a pro‑am, so I only had a Wednesday practice round.
Q. Were you nervous?
SOPHIA POPOV: Very. I think I was lucky that I was teeing off at 6:30 and there weren't that many people, so that kind of made me cool down a little. I was pretty nervous. I was happy with being able to open it up. I was like, that's cool.
Q. How were your playing partners? Did they give you advice?
SOPHIA POPOV: Yeah, I know Caroline pretty well because I played with her when she was still an amateur, so I know her. They were super nice, so that really helps. They know what it feels like because they've been here just a couple years ago, not too long ago, so they know how I feel.
Q. I was with your parents when you made the birdie on the 2nd, and they said, she's leading The Open.
SOPHIA POPOV: That's right. I never thought about that (laughing). I knew I wanted to make a birdie at the beginning, just try to start off pretty well. I never thought about that. I was leading at one point.
Q. So going around you looked really quite comfortable. Your ball flight seemed to suit links golf I thought.
SOPHIA POPOV: Yeah, my drives over the past couple weeks, my driving curve has been a little flatter, I've hit it flatter, but I didn't want to change that because I knew I was going to come here, and I was like, why would I change that, I don't want to hit it high in the wind. So I can make them roll quite a lot and I had short irons into the greens, and except for on 18 I hit pretty good irons, so that helped.
Q. On 6 you hit a great approach.
SOPHIA POPOV: Yeah.
Q. Carnoustie seems to be a place where if you hit a good shot you get rewarded.
SOPHIA POPOV: Yeah.
Q. Your playing partners were just a little bit off and ‑‑
SOPHIA POPOV: Exactly, and I think that's crazy. Same with me on 17, it wasn't that bad of a shot, but I mean, it got the bunker and just like two metres further less and I would have been fine. I think either you get rewarded or not. I think you just have to hit the right side of the green, then mostly you do get rewarded. You have to be clever about it, I guess.