Sybase Match Play Championship First-Round Notes and Interviews

Sybase Match Play Championship
Hamilton Farm Golf Club
Gladstone, NJ
First-round notes and interviews
May 17, 2012

Natalie Gulbis, Rolex Rankings No. 79
Jodi Ewart, Rolex Rankings No. 210
Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1

Long day…Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng had her hands full during Thursday's first round match against Jeong Jang. After Tseng got off to an early 4 up lead thru six holes it look as if the number one seed would have an early path into the second round.

Jang was determined to put up a fight and that is just what she did. Jang, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour clawed her way back to get the match to even thru 15 holes. Tseng then pared 16 to take a 1 up lead and after the two tied 17, the match was forced to 18. 

As the duo walked down the 18th hole, an audience that included many LPGA players began to form to see what would unfold. The duo exchanged pars on the par-5 18th and Tseng punched her ticket to Friday's second round.

"I just can't believe I played until 18 holes today," said Tseng. "I mean, it was lots of pressure at the end, and we almost go to a playoff on No. 1."

Despite needing all 18 holes to advance, Tseng admitted she played solid on Thursday despite a few putts not dropping.

"I played very well today, actually," said Tseng. "I hit it good today, driving, hitting lots of good shots, but I just can't putt. I didn't make anything, and I only make one birdie from three feet on No. 2 and that's it.  It's a tough day for me today and I feel I'm pretty lucky to win a match today. Hopefully tomorrow it's another new day and hopefully tomorrow I'll drop more putts."

Early Exit. It's been a long season for Rolex Rankings No. 3 Suzann Pettersen. Although she has consistently placed in the top-25 in each tournament so far, she has only broken into the top-10 twice with a solo sixth place at LPGA LOTTE Championship and tie for 10th at the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup.  

Coming back to Hamilton Farm Golf Club as defending champ may have given Pettersen the confidence she needed to burst through her slump, but falling short to No. 62 seed Jodi Ewart wasn't exactly what she had in mind. She just wasn't on her A-game.

"I just played awful from the fairway to the green," Pettersen said. "I missed more greens today than I have all year.  Putted pretty good, kept me in it. I had a pretty good shot into 11 and it kind of turned around for her. I hit a perfect shot and it spun off completely. I made two bogeys in a row. I just wasn't on today, to be honest."

The Comeback Kid… On the scoreboard, Natalie Gulbis' 1 up victory over Mika Miyazato at the Sybase Match Play Championship on Thursday might seem routine. But the scorecard reveals it was the best comeback of the day at the season's only match play event. Gulbis was 4 down through 10 holes before mounting a massive charge, winning six of the last eight holes to defeat Miyazato. "Last year I actually had Suzann Pettersen 4-down and she came back and beat me in the first round. So I had the reverse, and, you know, with match play you just don't give up until you run out of holes and it's just a fun mentality," she said. Gulbis has two top-10 finishes in her last three events including a tie for eighth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Upset City. Many are in shock as several top-seeded players were knocked off the bracket today. A few of these matches include Jodi Ewart's 3&1 victory over defending Sybase Match Play champ Suzann Pettersen, Jennifer Johnson's 3&1 win over Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome's 2&1 loss to Ryann O'Toole and Mariajo Uribe taking out Ai Miyazato on the last hole.

Although Creamer has an impressive match-play record after finishing with a tie for fifth at last year's event and competing on her fourth Solheim Cup team in 2011, she shrugs off her loss and gives credit to her opponent.

"That's sports, that's golf," Creamer said. "Match-play is a funny game. Jennifer started off so strong, I was playing fine, I was three down and I got it squared off on the turn. She made a good birdie on 10 and then I birdied 11. It was just kind of a battle. It's unfortunate for me but she played well so I can't take that from her. I wish I would have put more pressure on her coming down the stretch but that's the way match-play is."

Tune in as Lexi prepares for prom. Lexi Thompson will be live on Fox and Friends at 7:50 a.m. on Friday with prom date United States Marine Corps wounded warrior and Purple Heart recipient Lance Corporal Mark Scott. E! Entertainment News will be airing segments on Friday and Monday covering the prom which will take place at Coral Gables High School. Lexi extended an invitation to America's servicemen (ages 18-20) to upload a story why they should be chosen to be her prom date. More than 100 young men shared their stories, which are available on her Facebook page: Lexi wanted to share her prom with a member of the armed forces, as she has a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for them. Mark Scott is a 20-year-old Marine Active Reservist living in the Chicago area. He works for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce helping veterans and their spouses find employment.

Gates for the Sybase Match Play Championship will open at 11:00 a.m.

Natalie Gulbis, Rolex Rankings No. 79

MODERATOR:  All right.  I'd like to welcome Natalie Gulbis into the interview room.  Thank you for coming in, Natalie.  You had a 1‑up victory today over Mika Miyazato.  At one point in time you were 4‑down.  Where do you think the momentum started to change?
NATALIE GULBIS:  I was 4‑down after the 9th hole, actually had to make birdie to stay at 4‑down and not go to 5‑down.  And Mika played really well on the front nine and I knew I would have to make some birdies on the back nine, and I think when you get to being that far down, you really get to play more aggressive and don't really have anything to lose, and I was able to get a couple holes momentum back and it just continued to carry on from there.  And I was hitting it fine on the front nine, so I wasn't as concerned.  I was just trying to make birdies and just try to stay in it for as long as I could.

MODERATOR:  This one has to make you feel good going into the rest of the week.  Are you pretty excited about it?
NATALIE GULBIS:  It is.  It's always nice.  Every match you want to win, and it's so much different when you're playing at a professional level in match play because anybody really can beat anyone every day, and players can actually beat you.

When you're an amateur, you feel like when you lose matches, sometimes you beat yourself.  But when you have the best players in the world, it's whoever plays better on that particular day.

MODERATOR:  You've been playing really well as of late.  Do you think everything is just kind of starting to click, or is there one specific thing that you think is really improved?
NATALIE GULBIS:  Everything's just continuing to get better and just working hard on my golf game and still have plenty of work ahead of me.  This is a pretty important time of the year, so just a lot of hard work and hopefully it continues to get better and better.

MODERATOR:  Match play is a completely different animal than stroke play.  Do you prefer match play or do you prefer stroke play?
NATALIE GULBIS:  I love match play.  We don't get to play a lot of match play on Tour.  We have this event and then we also have the Solheim Cup are the two events we get to play match play.  It's just a completely different thing.  It's head to head.  You get to really see a lot of good shots and good, just fun ‑ every match is always exciting.  If you're out there and you're watching the event, it's always intense and anything can happen at any time.  So I think that's what makes match play so fun and it's the most competitive, I think, you get unless you're down the stretch, so you get that same sort of adrenaline rush like you do on Sunday if you have a chance to win, but you get that every single match.

Q.  You're a veteran, which is hard to say.
NATALIE GULBIS:  11 years.

Q.  Does that help when you get 4‑down just to stay in the moment and come back?
NATALIE GULBIS:  It does.  My caddy and I had talked about it actually going into No. 9.  I was 4‑down and I thought if I birdied No. 9, I would surely win a hole back, and I birdied No. 9.  She birdied No. 9, too.  You just want to keep making birdies and keep staying in there.  Last year I actually had Suzann Pettersen 4‑down, and she came back and beat me in the first round.  So I had the reverse, and, you know, with match play you just don't give up until you run out of holes and it's just a fun mentality.  And this match was really fun today and they're all pretty exciting.  You'll see throughout the day and week, every match is pretty exciting.

Q.  Do you find yourself having to intentionally play more aggressively when you start a match because of the nature of what match play is?
NATALIE GULBIS:  Yes, especially on the holes that are birdie holes.  I have a pretty good idea which holes are birdie holes and you expect the best players in the world to birdie those holes, and you also know some other holes and pins you can't be aggressive if you have a 4‑iron or a rescue into.  But if you have a mid iron, you have to be looking at making birdie because you always are assuming that the other player ‑‑ especially a couple times today I got to go second.  So the player that hit before me, when she only had 15 feet, you don't want to hit to the center of the green, you have to be able to match it.

Q.  On 9, did she birdie first or did you birdie first?
NATALIE GULBIS:  She chipped in and I had about a 10‑footer for birdie.

Q.  And on 18 you were 1‑up and she gets the hole back on 17.  Did you kind of have to regroup before 18, or what was your mindset when you got set to tee off there?
NATALIE GULBIS:  Good.  I won quite a few holes on the back nine and made a string of birdies, so I knew I was hitting it well.  I just walked to the 18th tee and thought if I birdie 18, that will just keep me ‑ continue to keep me in the match and that was my goal going into the last hole.  And I had a pretty ‑‑ not an easy, but I had a possible birdie putt on 17 and hit a good putt and misread it, and she ended up making it on 17.  And then on 18 I was just trying to make birdie, and she made par and I made birdie.

Q.  When she came up, she spun back off the green ‑‑

Q.  ‑‑ with her shot in.
NATALIE GULBIS:  I got to learn from that because before she hit the shot, I was talking about with my ‑‑ with Dave, my caddy, that we were talking about whether or not we should land it on the pin or hit past it and spin back, and after she hit past it and spun back, I played a different shot.

Q.  What did you have in there?
NATALIE GULBIS:  I had 55 yards.  But from the fairway we were going to hit a rescue, but he wanted to see what her shot was going to do going in, so I actually hit a 3‑wood instead of taking that 70‑yard shot because I knew I would get to hit last in hopes to see what we ended up seeing.  So a little bit of course management helped there.

Q.  You mentioned last year when you lost to Suzann.  Did you learn anything from that last year?  Did that play into your head at all at any point today when you were down?
NATALIE GULBIS:  It definitely plays in your head.  I played well last year in the first round and was equally frustrated and just confused that I had gotten beaten in the first round, because I knew I was playing Suzann Pettersen, who's a top player, and I felt like I had played well that particular day and I got beat, and she came back and beat me.  Although I was pleased with how I played, it's frustrating when you get beat when you feel like you're playing well because the week's over.  And I definitely was excited to play this event again.  Because of where I was seeded, I actually thought I might have a chance to play Suzann in the first round again.

Q.  On the last hole, five feet, six feet?
NATALIE GULBIS:  Yeah, about five feet.

Q.  The other thing is she got relief.  What was ‑‑ 
NATALIE GULBIS:  Oh, because of the conditions, we had some weather earlier in the week, there was lift, clean and place, but it was first cut and in.  So around the greens there's a fringe and then there's a first cut and there's the rough, and a couple greens there's some different mower lines.  She wanted to be sure that she could get relief from one mower line onto a shorter mower line, and I had actually asked a similar question a couple holes before.  When you have a different ‑ a little bit of a different rule setup for that day, it's just always safe to get an official in there just to double confirm.

Q.  The other thing, we were watching you as you walked up to your pitch on 18.  Were you limping or is there ‑‑
NATALIE GULBIS:  I don't know, not on purpose.  No, definitely not.  I have to work on my walk this afternoon.

Q.  Is there a point when you're down when you have to ‑‑ when you start that going aggressive, is it 3‑down, 4‑down, 2‑down?  I mean, is there a point where you just have to go?
NATALIE GULBIS:  First hole.  I hit the ball well on the range so I had every plan to play aggressive, and even though I was 4‑down, she was making putts actually outside of me from a lot of different ‑‑ of the holes that she had won, and then I bogeyed a par 5 and she had made a couple longer putts.  So yeah, I stayed aggressive and tried to continue to stay aggressive, just trying to make birdies where you can on the holes that would give ‑‑ would give that up.

Q.  Natalie, how has your caddy helped you this year, and did he do anything in particular that he said or did today that helped you in the comeback?
NATALIE GULBIS:  Yeah, when we got ‑‑ when I got to 3‑down, he said, "Well, the good news is that you have 13 holes left," and that's all that he said.  And I knew what he meant, which was you do still have 13 holes left, anything can happen.  That's a lot of golf holes at the professional level that you can win and try to make a comeback on, and that's something that stuck out in my mind from today that he said that was very positive and it was just a reality statement, not a, "C'mon, you can do it," or "Hit this drive in the fairway," but it was that there was a lot of opportunity out there to win holes back.

Q.  Two questions.  Saw you yesterday on Golf Channel on the range and you were working on some stuff.  Was it a work in process early?  Was there some things that were going right or going wrong early that you were able to get a hold of in the second half of the round to go on your run?  And secondly, do you know anything about your second round going against Amy Yang?
NATALIE GULBIS:  I do not know a lot about Amy Yang.  I know she hits the ball along way.  I played with her a couple times and I don't know a whole lot about her game.

And as far as what I worked on yesterday, yeah, I'm usually working on the same things and they were the same things that I had to work on this morning on the range, and I do know that she shot ‑‑ or Mika shot 32 on the front nine, so that's a good score, and if I wasn't shooting 31, I was going to be down after the front nine.

Q.  Natalie, I have a question.  You're going to The Weather Channel on Monday.  Can you just talk about that and how excited you are to go?
NATALIE GULBIS:  I'm very excited.  I got asked to go on The Weather Channel a couple days ago.  I've met Al Roker before and he's very, very nice.  It's great to hear that he's a fan of the LPGA and a fan of golf, and I'm looking forward to meeting him and just seeing The Weather Channel, seeing how it all works.  I want to see how they put it together.  I think we're going to do a little putting clinic on Monday morning here in New York.

Jodi Ewart, Rolex Rankings No. 210

MODERATOR:  All right.  I'd like to welcome Jodi Ewart into the interview room.  Jodi, great win, knocked off defending champion Suzann Pettersen.  Can you just tell me a little bit how you feel?
JODI EWART:  I mean, I feel great.  I started off really slow, I was 2‑down after 2, so I didn't get off to the greatest of starts.  But then when we both parred No. 3, it settled me down a little bit, and then I birdied 4.  So I just hit the ball really good with my irons and off the tee as well, so I'm just really happy with my game right now and I'm really excited to play tomorrow.

MODERATOR:  Match play is a completely different dynamic than stroke play.  Do you have any specific game plan going into match play?
JODI EWART:  I try and focus on my own game.  If you get caught up in the other person's game, that's why they usually have you under control.  So that's what I tried to do today, go out and focus on every shot at a time.  But match play is such a different game than stroke play.  That's the beauty of it, anything can happen.

MODERATOR:  You started out on your professional golf career on the Symetra Tour.  Can you just tell me how big a part that played in your game and developing as a professional golfer?
JODI EWART:  Oh, yeah definitely.  To play one and a half years on the Symetra Tour, obviously I would have liked to have come straight out here from college, but I really think it helped me develop as a professional.  You know, it taught me a lot about myself and a lot about my golf game and where I needed to improve.  So yeah, it's a big part of where I am right now.

MODERATOR:  All right.  I know you're getting married soon.

MODERATOR:  Is wedding planning kind of taking up a lot of your time.
JODI EWART:  No, actually my fiance has done most of the planning because I'm not really at home that much.  We're slowly getting there.  It's in January, so we've got pretty much most of the major things organized.  It can be a little bit stressful at times.

Q.  Can you talk about the birdies?  I think it was 4, 5, 12, 13, 16 and 17?
JODI EWART:  Yeah, I mean, 4, I holed a pretty long putt for birdie.  I actually ‑‑ Suzann was on a similar line to me, so I read the putt quite well from hers.  Then on 5 I stuck it pretty close, maybe six or seven feet.  I only just dropped, I forget, where was my other one, middle of the round?  12 ‑‑ I can't remember this course very well, I've only played it a couple times.  Yeah, well, 12 I didn't have to putt, she conceded the hole to me.  At 13 I had a really great shot, maybe 15 feet past the hole and it spun down to like less than a foot.  And then 16 I just ‑‑ I played really aggressive and hit it three feet maybe and holed a good putt there, too.

Q.  Can you talk about she narrowed the deficit to one down, I think, going to 16?  
JODI EWART:  Yeah, I holed a really good par putt on 15.  I think if I missed that, it would have been a little bit of a different story, so it was really a clutch putt.  And that pin position was really attackable and I just decided to go with an easy 8‑iron and fire straight at it.

Q.  (Inaudible)
JODI EWART:  About 10 feet.

Q.  What were your thoughts even before the match going up against the player ‑‑ the No. 3 seed and the defending champion.  What was just your mental approach going into the match?
JODI EWART:  Well, I mean, on paper I'm not supposed to win at all, so there's no pressure on me.  I just went out there and played really fearless golf because I was attacking pins.  With match play, you really have to concentrate on your own game and try not to get caught up in what your opponent's doing.  I didn't really watch what she was doing that much.  I didn't watch where she hit a tee shot and where she hit her approach shot, so I just tried to limit the pressure on myself and tried not to put too much pressure on myself.

Q.  Was there a point in the match where obviously you're up and it's hard not to get ahead of yourself and say, "I'm winning here," and try to stay within yourself?
JODI EWART:  Definitely.  Like around 14 and 15, you know, I think I was up 2 going down 4 and I did start to get a little bit ahead of myself and I 3‑putted 14.  So I just told myself, get some good deep breaths in and just focus on the next hole and each shot at a time.

Q.  You were down ‑‑ you dropped the first two holes.  What was your mindset at that point?  I mean, you come in as a big underdog and all of a sudden you're down?
JODI EWART:  Right.  I wanted to get off to a really good start and that didn't really happen that well.  Yeah, after 2 I was like, I am going to get absolutely thrashed.  So then when we both parred No. 3, it just really calmed me down, and obviously on No. 4 I holed that really good birdie putt, and after that I was just really steady and I managed to just focus on myself and really concentrate on my own game.

Q.  What did you hit into 16, what club?
JODI EWART:  An easy 8.

Q.  Was that inside two feet?
JODI EWART:  It was like three feet.

Q.  You mentioned that you didn't feel any pressure going into today.  Do you like that?  When you saw who you drew, did you like that, I don't really have to think, I can just go out and play?
JODI EWART:  Right.  I didn't feel any pressure apart from the pressure I put on myself.  I was really excited to be able to prove myself as a golfer, you know, taking the world No. 3 on.  This was my opportunity to show people what I can do and what my golf game is like.  So yeah, I was so excited to play today.

Q.  Jodi, would you say this is the biggest win of your career, and where does it rank in terms of satisfying moments?  I know it's just the first round.
JODI EWART:  Yeah.  I played a lot of match play in my time, a lot of ‑‑ you know, in Europe we played a lot of match play as amateurs and I've won big games, big matches; I've lost matches.  But this is probably the biggest match play match that I've ever won.  Obviously, you know, I'm playing world No. 3 and it was probably the most mentally draining match I've ever gone through.  You have to focus every second.  Even when you're walking down the fairway, you really have to be focused.  I mean, getting to the LPGA through Q School, that was a pretty big moment, but this definitely ranks up there.

Q.  How do you think that previous match play experience kind of prepared you for this moment also?
JODI EWART:  Definitely.  I know Suzann, she's from Norway, so she's played a lot of match play as well, and obviously she won last year.  It definitely ‑‑ I haven't played match play in a pretty long time, probably since the U.S. Am back in 2009, so I was a little bit nervous coming into this, but I love match play.  It's just a great game.

Q.  She conceded at 17.  What were your emotions when you kind of finally realized that it was over?
JODI EWART:  I was kind of surprised that she conceded that putt just because I had 3‑putted on 14 and then almost 3‑putted on 15, so I was a little bit shocked.  But I was just like, oh, I can stop thinking now.  Mentally, I just felt like I was just really happy.

Q.  This is going to sound odd, but when you are the 62nd seed, what are your plans for the week?  I know everybody wants to win, but do you kind of have a realistic expectation how things are supposed to go?  I mean, do you pack for the whole week?
JODI EWART:  Yeah, with match play you have to take each match at a time.  It's not like stroke play where you can plan for the whole week, at least the first two rounds.  I was just focused on this one game.  It's going to be the toughest game, especially since she's defending champion, so all I've been focused on is today.

Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1

MODERATOR:  All right.  I'd like to welcome Yani Tseng into the interview room.  Yani, thanks for coming in.  You had a 1‑up victory today, but you had to think after you got to 3‑up that you were going to end things a little early.  What kind of went through your mind after you got to 3‑up and kind of where did the momentum change?
YANI TSENG:  First, I just can't believe I played until 18 holes today.  I mean, it was lots of pressure at the end, and we almost go to a playoff on No. 1.  I played very well today, actually.  I hit it good today, driving, hitting lots of good shots, but I just can't putt.  I didn't make anything, and I only make one birdie from three feet on No. 2 and that's it.  It's a tough day for me today and I feel I'm pretty lucky to win a match today.  Hopefully tomorrow it's another new day and hopefully tomorrow I'll drop more putts.

MODERATOR:  I don't know if you noticed it, but when you were walking up to 18 all the players kind of stopped to watch your entire hole.  That kind of has to feel good to be that respected by your peers out here.
YANI TSENG:  They would probably be surprised.  I'm walking on 18, but I wasn't thinking about that much because I'm focused on winning a game, winning a match, but I did see some player was stopped and watching us, but it was great.  I mean, I haven't ‑‑ I had fun today and tomorrow it's just a new day.

Q.  How long was her putt on 18?  And in your mind, did you think she was going to make that and you were going to have to go to 1?
YANI TSENG:  Yeah, I think she was going to make that.  I think it's about five‑ to six‑footer.  I expect she's going to make that.  I was surprised that she missed.  I almost ready walked to No. 1.  So that's why I said I'm pretty lucky that she didn't make that.  And I missed my putt, I'm not even close to make it.  Mine was like seven‑footer, eight‑footer.

Q.  Yani, you mentioned a tough day for you.  Can you elaborate on which part of it was tough for you?
YANI TSENG:  My putting.  Like I say, I made lots of good shots today.  I leave myself lots of birdie chance, but it's really tough for me because I didn't make anything.  It was very frustrating there.  It was very stressful because I think I'm trying too hard and try to make some change and just didn't work it out.  The speed of the green was very fast when we play on the back nine, and the speed control, it wasn't very good, too.  So my putting, it's ‑‑ when you play the match play, you need to get some ‑‑ you need to drop some putts to win a match.

Q.  When you look at the scoreboard from today, Suzann lost, you went to 18, Na Yeon Choi was, I think, even through 16, Paula Creamer is losing, Brittany Lincicome is losing.  Is that just the way match play is?
YANI TSENG:  Yeah, it's not an easy course to play.  I mean, top 64, that means we're the best.  Top 64, that's why we play here.  So, I mean, you cannot expect the first one is going to be easy to win.  You still need to try your best, give your hundred percent effort in every match. 

Like match play, sometimes you just need a little luck because sometimes you might play good today but you still lose, or you might play bad and you still win.  And maybe tomorrow will be another different day.  So match play is just kind of focused on every shot, you do the best that you can, and I think that's why, I mean, some of the players that just didn't play well today.  I didn't play very well today, so I get really lucky, still win a match.

Q.  Yani, I know you've been working with Dave on your putting.  Are you guys going through some changes with your putting?  Is that why it was a little inconsistent today?  Just talk about what you guys have been working on.
YANI TSENG:  No, actually I see him after ‑‑ before Hawaii, and so I haven't seen him for a month so I think that's why my putting is off.  So I'll call him tonight to figure out what can I do for tomorrow.  I think the way we change, the way we think, I think it's very positive.


Topics: Sybase Match Play Championship, Gulbis, Natalie, Ewart Shadoff, Jodi, Pettersen, Suzann, Notes and Interviews [+]