Kraft Nabisco Championship Final Round Notes and Interviews
Mission Hills Country Club
Dinah Shore Tournament Course, Rancho Mirage, California
Sunday Notes and Interviews
April 6, 2014
Lexi Thompson started her day with a birdie and didn’t look back as she fired a bogey-free 68, the low round of the day, to capture a three-shot victory over Michelle Wie at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
“Well, it was an amazing day,” Thompson said. “Starting off with a birdie definitely helped. But just hitting that first tee shot obviously a little nervous, but it was definitely what I’ve been practicing for, what I live for, to play under that pressure and to get a major win under my belt, especially the Kraft Nabisco. It’s such a huge honor to win this tournament.”
With the win Thompson captured her first-career major becoming the second-youngest player to win a major championship in the process.
“It’s a great feeling. This is what I’ve worked so hard for,” Thompson said. “This was one of my goals coming into the year, to win a major. I’ve always seen myself winning a Kraft Nabisco. It’s such a huge honor with all the history behind the tournament. It’s just a dream come true.”
Thompson’s play drew praise from the golf world including her playing partner and tournament runner-up Michelle Wie.
““(Lexi) played amazing today. She played probably the best I’ve ever seen her play. She hit the ball so well. She made everything. It was just hard to catch up to her all day today, but I’m really happy for her. I’m really proud of her,” Wie stated.
With the win, Thompson has now won the last four times that she held the lead going into the final round of a tournament. All four of Thompson’s career victories have come when she has slept on the lead heading into the final day.
“It’s been great,” Thompson said. “This is what I’ve worked my whole life for and practiced my butt off for, but especially the off season. This was one of my main goals, to come into this year to play on International Crown was one of my goals, but to win a major has been a goal of mine my whole life, especially this year. I’m going to continue to work hard and set even more goals for the rest of the year.”
WIE comes up just short
Michelle Wie shot a final round 71 to finish the tournament at -11 in solo second, her best finish in a major championship.
“You know, it was a lot of fun playing in contention, being in the final group,” Wie said. “It was nice to be in the final group at Kraft again. I think it’s a sign. I think I’m getting close. I think I can get a lot of confidence from this week. I think I’m improving and improving, and I think getting second at a major, I think it means that I’m close, and I’m really proud of myself, and I’m really excited for the upcoming events. There’s four more majors left this year, and I’m just really proud of myself, and I just want to keep improving a little bit every day.”
Minjee Lee (E) had a tough start to the day with a double bogey, birdie, bogey on the first three holes, but it all evened out over the remainder of the round.
“I birdied the ninth, so it was like, okay, I’m coming back.” Lee said. “That was good, and then I made a couple birdies coming in, so just finished with even.”
Overall, Lee walked away from her first appearance at the Kraft Nabisco Championship satisfied with her performance and the experience in general.
“It was such a great week. I had a great time, like just the atmosphere and having the crowds, and it was just really good. I haven’t experienced this before, so it was really good.”
Her one disappointment in the week was not being able to play alongside one of the players she has long watched from afar.
“I really wanted to play with Suzann (Pettersen), but she didn’t play this week unfortunately.” Lee said. “Just when I watched TV and stuff, she’s always been like my favorite. I think she’s just really determined, and we can see that definitely. Just her game is great.”
Thompson Takes Early Lead for Rolex ANNIKA Major Award
With her win at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Lexi Thompson has earned 60 points and taken the early lead in the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award standings.
The Rolex ANNIKA Major Award recognizes the player who, during a current LPGA Tour season, has the most outstanding record in all five major championships. Points will be awarded at all five major championships to competitors who finish among the top-10 and ties. To take home the award, a player must also win at least one of the five majors.
The winner of the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award will be announced in a ceremony at the Evian Championship, wrapping up what promises to be an exciting season of majors in 2014.
All tournaments will have the same point values in the Race to the CME Globe except for the five major championships, which will carry 25 percent more value. The winner of all official LPGA events leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship will earn 500 points and the winner of each major championship will earn 625 points. For all LPGA events with a cut, points will be awarded to LPGA members who make the cut. Only LPGA Tour members are eligible to earn points in the Race.
The field at the $2 million CME Group Tour Championship will consist of the following: the top 72 players on the Race to the CME Globe Points Standings at the conclusion of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex, any LPGA member – not otherwise qualified – with at least one official LPGA win during the season and any non-member with at least one official LPGA win during the year.
Eagles for a Cause
“Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends” is a season-long charity program that will be tied into the Race to the CME Globe. Each Saturday and Sunday at LPGA tournaments, CME Group will donate $1,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® for each eagle that is recorded. This amount will increase to $5,000 for each eagle during the weekend of the CME Group Tour Championship and a formal check will be presented to the Wounded Warrior Project® during the trophy ceremony at the CME Group Tour Championship.
This weekend, six total eagles were recorded, two today and four yesterday, which brings the total money raised this year to $81,000. Through the first six tournaments prior to the Kraft Nabisco
Championship, $75,000 had been raised.
Quote of the Day
“We had amazing fans, such a huge amount of fans out there, so it’s great to see just how much the game of golf is growing.”
-Lexi Thompson talking about the support at the Kraft Nabisco Championship
The Social Scene
Numerous players took to players social media to congratulate 2014 Kraft Nabisco Champion Lexi Thompson (@lexi). Among the players to congratulate Thompson was her playing partner today Michelle Wie (@michellewie).
“SO PROUD of you @Lexi !!!! You played AMAZING today!!!!!”
THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome the 2014 Kraft Nabisco champion, Lexi Thompson, into the interview room. Congratulations.
LEXI THOMPSON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: What a great final round performance, 4‑under par, started with a birdie on the first, and it just seemed like you didn't look back from there. Take us through the day. What was the day like for you becoming a major champion for the first time?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, it was an amazing day. Starting off with a birdie definitely helped. But just hitting that first tee shot obviously a little nervous, but it was definitely what I've been practicing for, what I live for, to play under that pressure and to get a major win under my belt, especially the Kraft Nabisco. It's such a huge honor to win this tournament. It was such a solid day, and playing with Michelle helped out a lot, too.
THE MODERATOR: You headed into 18 with a four‑shot lead. What was that moment like walking down that fairway and the crowd ovation? Were you able with that lead to kind of soak it all in?
LEXI THOMPSON: I actually didn't look at a leaderboard. I looked at one on No. 9 and didn't look at one the whole back nine. I figured I had a few‑shot lead, but I just played aggressive pretty much the whole day and just played how I have been the last few days. But just had fun out there. I just followed my way through the whole week.
THE MODERATOR: You've had three victories since October. What has this stretch been like for you, and how different is it with a major championship win compared to the other victories that you've had on your resumé?
LEXI THOMPSON: It's been great. This is what I've worked my whole life for and practiced my butt off for, but especially the off‑season. This was one of my main goals, to come into this year ‑‑ to play on International Crown was one of my goals, but to win a major has been a goal of mine my whole life, especially this year. I'm going to continue to work hard and set even more goals for the rest of the year.
THE MODERATOR: I know I had asked you yesterday had you thought about that jump into the pond, but as I talked to you as you were getting ready to go in, you were still like, how am I going to jump. Had you thought about it at all and what was the decision in doing a cannonball?
LEXI THOMPSON: I would say the first time I thought about it today was going up to the 18th green. I was like, oh, I guess I should probably think about this a little bit. I just kind of went for it, made sure I jumped in far enough into the deep part, and I guess I did a cannonball. I just jumped.
Q. How will winning a major championship change the way you think about yourself?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, I think winning this tournament just overall has helped out my confidence a lot. I've always imagined myself winning this tournament and how I would win it, but it's been a dream come true winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship. But it doesn't change who I am. I mean, it obviously changes my confidence going into each event, but I'm still going to practice and work on improving stuff in my game that needs to be improved on.
Q. How do you think it'll change the way the fans look at you? You're looked at as the young up‑and‑coming star now. Now you're a major champion. Do you think that might change their perception?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, I hope it would just gain more fans on my side. But the fans are so amazing here at Mission Hills. I love coming to this tournament and playing in front of the crowds. They're always rooting you on no matter how you're playing, even if you're playing bad. Walking to the next tee, they're always saying, go for it, you can do it. It's so great to have a fan base behind me and a support system like that.
Q. Can you describe the leap into the pond? Was it cold? How was the water?
LEXI THOMPSON: It was a little cold. A little unexpected. But it felt really good because it was so hot today, it was probably about 90 out. But it was everything I imagined. The jump into that pond with my family, it was a moment I'll always remember.
Q. You hit driver a lot today. Was there any ‑‑
LEXI THOMPSON: (Laughing.)
Q. ‑‑ thought at any point to I just need to throttle this thing back and get it to the house, or were you like, I've got confidence in it, I'm just going to keep hitting it?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, I pretty much hit driver on almost every hole out here. I play this course very aggressively, and I didn't want to change the way I played the last few days because my driver won't get me in any trouble on a lot of the holes, so laying back wouldn't really make sense.
Q. What's the secret to hitting the long distance consistently?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, I train a lot. I mean, I train at least four days a week with my trainer back at home, so strength is obviously very important. But really, I mean, consistently I don't try to just rip the ball. I don't go at it 100 percent, even though it probably looks like it. Really just picking out my target and committing to every shot, going up to it confidently, I think that's the main thing on being consistent.
Q. Four titles including a major at age 19. Is this going along as you planned, or have you surprised yourself with where you are right now?
LEXI THOMPSON: I think it's going as I planned. It's kind of hard to say. I've always ‑‑ I go into every tournament wanting to win. I would picture myself winning. But I've worked my whole life to be on the LPGA. It's always been a dream of mine, and obviously to win the Kraft Nabisco has been a dream of mine.
But I'm going to continue to work hard and hopefully win a lot more, but I'm really looking forward to the future.
Q. Can you just talk about the walk up the Walk of Champions and the feelings you were having, what you were thinking, you were high‑fiving some fans. How much fun was that?
LEXI THOMPSON: It was so much fun. Having that walk up to the 18th green, high‑fiving all the fans and the crowds, there's nothing like it. I mean, just knowing walking up to the 18th green that you're going to win a major championship, it's such a huge honor and a great feeling to myself, but embracing the fans the whole week was a huge part of it because they were always rooting me on. Even if I had bogeyed a hole or hit a bad shot, they were always saying, you can get it up‑and‑down or get it from there.
Q. You driving the ball off the tee on most of those holes versus Michelle not using a driver, it seemed like you had a great advantage being farther along and closer to the green consistently. Would you agree with that, that that gave you an advantage?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, I would say this golf course, the greens were a little firmer this week, so even with a wedge in your hand you had to play for quite a bit of bounce‑out. I figured the closer I could get, even if I was in the rough, I could get it pretty close to the hole. I think mainly just trying to place yourself in the right areas on this golf course is key.
Q. Benji was talking about how you guys were pretty care‑free today. You were cutting up and telling jokes and singing songs and what have you. Is that good for your game? Are you the type of player that responds best to not stressing out and just being loose and not thinking about a lot of things and stressing yourself out?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I would say ‑‑ I just learned this in the past few weeks. I usually am mentally tough on myself. I get really serious, and when I struggle I get even more serious. But these last few weeks have been huge for me with Benji, and we've pretty much laughed our way through a lot of the rounds and just had fun, relaxed, and that's really when my game comes out the most, like even when I'm just at home playing with my brothers, we're just having fun, listening to music, and that's when I play my best.
Q. How has your improved putting taken the pressure off the rest of your game, and if it has, how instrumental was that in your winning here?
LEXI THOMPSON: My putting?
Q. Taking the pressure off the rest of your game.
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, I would say it definitely helped. I worked really hard on my short game overall in the off‑season, especially my putting. I worked with Jim McLean a lot with it. It helps a lot because not every day you're going to have a good ball‑striking day, so you have to fall back on your short game, and I think golf comes down to putting a lot. Just to know that I can make a putt or get up to it confidently and just put a good stroke on it is huge, especially in majors.
Q. You talked about the history, wanting to win here because of the history and everything. You're 19; how did you find out about the history? Is that just osmosis being around here?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, well, I've played in this tournament even since I was an amateur. I mean, obviously you learn facts throughout every year playing in this tournament. It does have so much history behind it, and like I said, it has been an honor to play at this tournament so many years and only being 19, and to win it is even the biggest honor ever.
Q. Did you have a backup dry outfit, identical outfit ready to go in case you won today?
LEXI THOMPSON: Apparently not because I'm soaked right now.
Q. That's the same outfit?
LEXI THOMPSON: It's the same one.
Q. It looks dry.
LEXI THOMPSON: Thanks.
Q. This is one time being all wet is fantastic, right?
LEXI THOMPSON: Oh, yeah, definitely.
THE MODERATOR: Lexi, that celebration that was on the 18th green, before you even got the jump in, to have Stacy Lewis and Austin Ernst and your family there to greet you, what was that moment like, and all the players on Twitter congratulating you, what's that like to get that recognition from your peers who were there to celebrate with you and appreciate what you've done?
LEXI THOMPSON: It means a lot to me to have a few close friends like Austin Ernst and Stacy to come up to me and congratulate me on the last hole. It means a lot coming from fellow players and competitors. It's such a competitive field out here, but really off the golf course there's a few good friends that we just hang out and have fun.
Q. Just tell me about this feeling of what it's like to finally be a major champion.
LEXI THOMPSON: It's a great feeling. This is what I've worked so hard for. This was one of my goals coming into the year, to win a major. I've always seen myself winning a Kraft Nabisco. It's such a huge honor with all the history behind the tournament. It's just a dream come true.
Q. You talked a lot about working on your putting. Front nine today only 13 putts that you needed to get off to such a hot start. What difference has this made for you, this change?
LEXI THOMPSON: It's a huge difference, just knowing that I'm a great putter and I just get up to the putt confidently. I think putting is all about confidence, and I've worked on it extremely hard, and just seeing the ball go in is a huge confidence builder for me.
Q. Only one bogey over your last 55 holes here. That's pretty impressive. How were you able to be just so consistent?
LEXI THOMPSON: I would say just driving the ball pretty well here. You have to hit it in the fairway, and if you miss it, just miss it small. I think just staying into it mentally. When I had a bad hole, I'd just fight right back with it, or if I hit a bad shot just know that I can get it up‑and‑down or get it on the green from where I was at.
Q. Everybody was talking today about this pairing of you and Michelle. What was that pairing like, to get so much hype for it and have so many people out here?
LEXI THOMPSON: It was great. Playing with Michelle, it's always a lot of fun. She bombs it, and she has a great personality, so it's a lot of fun out there. We had amazing fans, such a huge amount of fans out there, so it's great to see just how much the game of golf is growing.
Q. You played well, but she was just too much today?
MICHELLE WIE: She played amazing today. She played probably the best I've ever seen her play. She hit the ball so well. She made everything. It was just hard to catch up to her all day today, but I'm really happy for her. I'm really proud of her. She really played well today, and I thought I played okay, too. I think it just got to a point where I just tried to force it. I think I needed to really come back with a lot of birdies, and I think it got to a point where I just tried too hard.
But I'm just proud of myself for how the week went, and I think she did amazing today. That's really what happened.
Q. In hindsight today would you have hit more drivers now that you can look back on it?
MICHELLE WIE: You know, I think I stuck with my game plan, and I think it was the right play. Who knows. In hindsight you would do something here or do something there, make a putt there. That's the way golf is. I just couldn't get anything going today. I gave myself a lot of chances, but just couldn't get the speed right today, so I just kind of struggled with that all day.
Q. You had that one opportunity I believe it was at 14 where you had a six‑footer, I believe, for birdie. Was that particularly disappointing that that came up short?
MICHELLE WIE: Well, I thought that putt was like really quick. I just remembered that putt from last year was really quick. After I hit it ‑‑ yeah, what can you do. I just hit it short.
Q. What will you take away from this week?
MICHELLE WIE: You know, it was a lot of fun playing in contention, being in the final group. It was nice to be in the final group at Kraft again. I think it's a sign. I think I'm getting close. I think I can get a lot of confidence from this week. I think I'm improving and improving, and I think getting second at a major, I think it means that I'm close, and I'm really proud of myself, and I'm really excited for the upcoming events. There's four more majors left this year, and I'm just really proud of myself, and I just want to keep improving a little bit every day.
Q. We're here with Minjee Lee, the leading amateur today, playing in your first Kraft Nabisco. What was it like for you?
MINJEE LEE: It was such a great week. I had a great time, like just the atmosphere and having the crowds, and it was just really good. I haven't experienced this before, so it was really good.
Q. Take us through your round today. What was working for you and what wasn't?
MINJEE LEE: Well, I started really like shaky. I hit it over here on the first hole, and I was like, oh, okay, it's going to be a good day. Well, doubled the first, and I birdied the second, but bogeyed the third. It just evened out.
Yeah, I birdied the ninth, so it was like, okay, I'm coming back. That was good, and then I made a couple birdies coming in, so just finished with even. Just pretty steady.
Q. Touching on International Crown, those teams have been set, players have been set. What does it mean to you to be able to play in that tournament, especially with someone like Karrie Webb?
MINJEE LEE: Well, it's the first time they're playing this kind of tournament, and I think it'll be great fun. It will be great for the Tour and just great to have just everyone there competing against the best pretty much. I think it'll be a great experience for me, and yeah, I'll just have good fun out there.
Q. Karrie Webb is your leader. Can you talk about what it would mean to play with her specifically?
MINJEE LEE: Well, she's been great to us so far. Like she's given us as much advice as we want, and she answered our questions whenever we need. Yeah, it's just a great pleasure to play with her, and it's a good honor, I think.
Q. And other than someone like Karrie Webb from your home country, is there anybody else out here on Tour that you were looking forward to meeting or watching?
MINJEE LEE: I really wanted to play with Suzann, but she didn't play this week unfortunately. But I did get to see her at the Aussie Open.
Q. And why Suzann?
MINJEE LEE: Oh, I don't know. Just when I watched TV and stuff, she's always been like my favorite. I think she's just really determined, and we can see that definitely. Just her game is great.