CME Group Titleholders First Round Notes and Interviews

Sandra Gal
Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Sandra Gal of Germany smiles after a birdie putt on the 8th hole during the first round of the CME Group Titleholders at Tiburon Golf Club on November 21, 2013 in Naples, Florida.

CME Group Titleholders
Tiburón Golf Club
Naples, Florida
First-Round Notes and Interviews
November 21, 2013

Sandra Gal, Rolex Rankings No. 52
Lexi Thompson, Rolex Rankings No. 10
Anna Nordqvist, Rolex Rankings No. 25
Lydia Ko, Rolex Rankings No. 5

Germany’s Sandra Gal fired an 8-under 64 to tie the tournament record and take the first-round lead at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Gal carded nine birdies and one bogey to take  a one-shot lead over Canadian Rebecca Lee-Bentham and a two-shot lead over a group of three which includes China’s Shanshan Feng, American Lexi Thompson and Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist. 

Gal teed off on No. 10 at the Tiburón Golf Club and got off to a hot start, carding birdies on the first six holes. Her only bogey of the day came on the par- 3 5th hole but immediately recovered with a birdie on the par-5 6th to pull her into a four-way tie for the lead with three holes left to play. Gal closed out her round with birdies on the final two holes to give her the solo lead.

The 28-year-old said she entered the week with more aggression than she’s had all year, deciding to pull out all the stops for the season finale.       

“Well, I thought this tournament was a little different than the other ones, so I thought I'm just going to be really aggressive and just go for everything because really all you want to do is win here,” said Gal. “Any other place it doesn't really matter that much.  So that's kind of the mindset I had and I think that really helped me and I just kept rolling in putts.  Started with six in a row, so that was kind of fun.”

Lee-Bentham nearly mirrored Gal’s scorecard during the first-round, carding six birdies before making the turn and a lone bogey on the par-4 second hole. Two more birdies on Nos. 4 and 9 pulled her out of a tie for second at 6-under to sit just one shot behind Gal.

The duo takes the final tee-time with Nordqvist in Friday’s second-round, a group that Lee-Bentham was hoping to play with as she made her final putt of the day.

“I guess just continue doing what I'm doing,” said Lee-Bentham of tomorrow’s second round. “It's very easy to overthink it.  If I just play like I did today, I'd be fine.  I don't have too many expectations, just to go out and have fun.  And I'm glad I'm playing hopefully with Sandra because she's a really, really nice player.

“I played with her at the Evian and she's just such a sweet girl.  I actually was thinking about it, I was like if I make this putt, I might be able to play with her, so yeah.”

Nordqvist took the lead early on in the first-round after carding eight birdies and two bogeys while Feng and Thompson crept up the leaderboard later in the afternoon. Feng carded two bogeys, seven birdies and an eagle while Thompson carded a bogey-free round to sit at 6-under with Nordqvist.

Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park (-4, T7), No. 2 Suzann Pettersen (E, T40) and Stacy Lewis (-1, T30) were grouped in the featured pairing of the day and finished all across the leaderboard. Lydia Ko shot 1-under 70 in her professional debut and sits seven shots off the lead in a tie for 30th.

Panic mode: Second-year LPGA Tour member Rebecca Lee-Bentham did not have any good vibes prior to her first round of the CME Group Titleholders and definitely did not anticipate shooting her career-low round at Tiburon Golf Club. She said some struggles with her swing put her into somewhat of a mental stir this morning.

To be honest, like these past couple weeks I haven't been hitting it too well,” said Lee-Bentham. “This morning I was kind of in a panic mode, like I didn't think this round was actually going to be this good.  I feel like the day just went my way, ended up hitting it fine, ball went wherever I wanted it to and my putting was on today so that made all the difference.”

The Canadian recorded eight birdies and one bogey at Tiburon Golf Club en route to her career-low round of 65. She said the final few swings during her pre-round practice routine were what made the difference.

“I guess I just haven't been hitting it the way I wanted to the last couple weeks and going into this round I wanted to be more confident in my shots, so I've been trying to figure it out, but I guess I was just insecure kind of with my swing,” said Lee-Bentham. “I think my final few shots on the range before I went out, I just told myself think about tempo and rhythm and not to overthink everything.  I think that's what helped me.”

Lee-Bentham trails first-round leader Sandra Gal by one shot and said playing with the German was a very comfortable place for her. She played with Gal at The Evian Championship where she had her career-best finish of tied for 11th and where she qualified for the CME Group Titleholders. The duo will play in the final group in Friday’s second round alongside Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist.

“I'm glad I'm playing hopefully with Sandra because she's a really, really nice player,” said Lee-Bentham. “I played with her at the Evian and she's just such a sweet girl.  I actually was thinking about it, I was like if I make this putt, I might be able to play with her.”

A familiar spot… Seeing her name at the top of the leaderboard is not a foreign feeling for Anna Nordqvist. She’s led a round in quite a few events this season but has yet to close out with a win, leaving the Swede hungry to end a five-year winless drought.   

“I feel I've been playing pretty solid golf probably since the U.S. Open this year, just haven't really got any results going, so it's been a little bit disappointing,” said Nordqvist. “I just try to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully it will pay off.  Had a pretty good go in Korea, didn't finish very good the last couple holes.  I feel like I'm doing a lot of good stuff, just haven't really ‑‑ maybe had one or two so‑so rounds in those other tournaments.  Out here the competition is really tough and you've got to have four solid ones, so I'm just missing that last one.”

Searching for her first victory since her rookie year in 2008, Nordqvist says the CME Group Titleholders would be the perfect place to put four good rounds together and finish off the year in a similar fashion to her rookie season: a win at the final event.  

“Obviously I work towards winning and that's why I'm out here for, so it would be a great way to end the season,” said Nordqvist. “I'm just trying to put my best foot forward every day and learn from my mistakes and keep working at it.  It seems like a lot of pieces are falling into place, so I can't wait to put it all together.”

Family Affair… Thursday’s first-round of the CME Group Titleholders looked as if it could have been a Thompson family reunion as Lexi Thompson’s family members filled the gallery to cheer on the two-time LPGA Tour winner.

“My mom, my dad, my dad's parents, my mom's mom, my mom's brother, Nick's actually coming in tomorrow,” said Thompson of her family members in attendance on Thursday, “and I have my agents here, and I have a few ‑‑ my godparents are coming in and a few members from my golf course are coming in.”

While the majority of Thompson’s family remained outside the ropes, she had a familiar face on the bag during the opening round. Thompson’s brother, Curtis, returned to the Sunshine State this week from Louisiana State University (LSU) to step-in as caddie during the 6-under 66 opening-round.

“We read a lot of good putts today,” said Thompson. “We were off on a few, but he is a great green reader.  Giving me the confidence over the shots when I say I'm going to hit this shot, hit a little draw in, he was like yeah, that's perfect.  That's really all you need out there is that little confidence boost going into a shot.”

The duo worked together to climb near the top of the leaderboard as Thompson focuses in on notching her third victory this season. The 18-year-old has had a memorable sophomore season and is beaming with confidence at this week’s $700,000 season-ending event.

“Yeah, I definitely have a good amount of confidence coming off of last week, but I knew my game was close coming into the final stretch going over to Asia, but I'm just continuing to work hard and I have to be patient with my game,” said Thompson. “I knew it was close.”

Of Note… The top trio on the LPGA Tour played together and within four shots of each other: Inbee Park (-4), Stacy Lewis (-1) and Suzann Pettersen (E)… Sandra Gal tied the tournament record 8-under 64, which was set by Na Yeon Choi during the second round at the 2012 event which she won.

Tweet of the Day: “16 YO Lydia Ko breaks par in first round as pro, an accomplishment in itself considering whirlwind week she's having. #rawtalent” - @KellyThilmanGC

Sandra Gal, Rolex Rankings No. 52

Q.  What a fantastic round of golf you played today, great start.  What was going through your mind when you started a round like that?
SANDRA GAL:  Well, I thought this tournament was a little different than the other ones, so I thought I'm just going to be really aggressive and just go for everything because really all you want to do is win here.  Any other place it doesn't really matter that much.  So that's kind of the mindset I had and I think that really helped me and I just kept rolling in putts.  Started with six in a row, so that was kind of fun.

Q.  It really was awesome to watch.  And you went a bit stale in the middle but you picked up again on those last couple holes.  What turned around for you on those last two?
SANDRA GAL:  I just kept trying to get in the same mindset that I was at the beginning.  I think I just slowed down a bit in the middle, hit a couple good shots but it just got away from me, the greens kept being a little more firm than in the beginning.  At the end I just thought keep being aggressive, keep going at the pin and roll a couple in and it happened, so it was good.

Q.  Your coach, Gary Gilchrist, is here with you this week.  What kind of input has he given you to play this course?  Was there anything specific that he gave you to help you out here?
SANDRA GAL:  We just worked on ball striking and keeping it simple.  I've been shaping shots a lot and I've been doing it on the range just to kind of warm up.  So staying away from everything that's technical and just really my warmup today, I was just draw, fade, draw, fade, and that's what it felt like on the course as well, especially with those tucked pins, so I think that was a big advantage.

Q.  That's awesome.  Very well done this week and thank you very much, keep it going.
Q.  You're still using those Gator wedges?
SANDRA GAL:  I am, yeah.

Q.  Have you always been this aggressive?  Have you ever taken this aggressive approach throughout the year?
SANDRA GAL:  No, I have not.  I mean, I do occasionally but usually it's been more keeping it in the fairway for me and this week I just changed my strategy a bit and it worked out.

Q.  That driver that you had in the bag, did that kind of give you the aggressive mindset do you think?
SANDRA GAL:  It did, yes.  It's an X2 Hot Callaway and it just came out.  I just hit a couple of drives I think Wednesday in the pro‑am and put it in the bag and it was great.

Q.  How many times did you get to use it today?
SANDRA GAL:  Oh, I think I hit maybe two or three fairway woods off the tee and the rest was all drives.

Q.  How does it feel to get off to the start that you did?  It was amazing the way that you started.  How did it feel to have things rolling the way that it was?
SANDRA GAL:  It was a lot of fun.  I kept enjoying it and just wanted to see how many I can do in a row.  The 7th one was actually right on line and just left it a little bit short, but it was just a blast.

Q.  And then the finish, to get those two, you were tied for the lead and then you knocked those last two in to take a two‑stroke lead.  What was working for you at the end of your round?
SANDRA GAL:  I just, you know, actually since those six in a row I kept reminding myself to be in the same mindset, to do the same things I did in the beginning, and at the end I just got a little bit of momentum back.

Q.  How much would it mean to you to win this tournament.  Obviously you have the huge purse and you have the best players in the world that all had great seasons here, but what would it mean to you to keep this lead and win the tournament?
SANDRA GAL:  You know, it would be wonderful.  It would be a great way to finish the season.  But it's the first day.  I just want to keep enjoying it out here.  It's the last tournament we have this year and I think I'm just really lucky to be here and to be doing what I do.  You know, I can't do anything but enjoy it and see what happens Sunday.

Q.  Do you think that kind of spirit that you said it's the end of the year, I'm going to put it all out there, that that's going to be a huge advantage for you?
SANDRA GAL:  Yeah, but I think everyone's in the same mindset.  Everyone's looking forward to the off season and this is a bonus to be here, so I think everyone is really enjoying it.  It's beautiful out here.

Q.  You're 8‑under, 64 ties the tournament record.  Are you aware of that?
SANDRA GAL:  No.

Q.  Are you aware that you just tied the tournament record?  What an amazing way to start out this tournament.
SANDRA GAL:  Thank you.  No, I wasn't aware of it.  Out there you're just trying to be your best and see what happens at the end.  I didn't know that, but it's a nice thing.

Q.  Is there a saying ‑‑ do you say to yourself be aggressive before every hole, or is there a phrase you have before, because it sounds like you kept reminding yourself of it?
SANDRA GAL:  I wouldn't say it's a phrase, it's more like a positive feeling or a positive attitude about the shot that you're going to hit.  You know, you just want to go for it and enjoy it, you know, not be afraid of making mistakes.

Q.  And have you ever had a stretch where, at any level, where you had six birdies in a row?
SANDRA GAL:  I'm not sure.  Five might have been the max so I think I topped that today.

Q.  How do you keep that going?  How do you keep that aggressive approach and make sure that you're not making any mistakes now that you have the lead at the same time?
SANDRA GAL:  Well, I think you have to accept that you're going to make mistakes, so that's what I get the next few days, just do the same thing and be aggressive.  I decided today, once you accept that you might hit in the water, hit it in the bushes, but just go for it, usually it turns out better.

Q.  Have any Gators ‑‑ are any Gators following you here today?
SANDRA GAL:  I heard a couple German people and I'm sure there's lots of Gators.  They might not be that flamboyant today.
                                             
Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Rolex Rankings No. 213

Q.  7‑under, that puts you in 2nd place right now.  Just talk about the day and what was working well for you.
REBECCA LEE-BENTHAM:  To be honest, like these past couple weeks I haven't been hitting it too well.  This morning I was kind of in a panic mode, like I didn't think this round was actually going to be this good.  Yeah, I feel like the day just went my way, ended up hitting it fine, ball went wherever I wanted it to and my putting was on today so that made all the difference.

Q.  What happened before the round that made you panic?
REBECCA LEE-BENTHAM:  I guess I just haven't been hitting it the way I wanted to the last couple weeks and going into this round I wanted to be more confident in my shots, so I've been trying to figure it out, but I guess I was just insecure kind of with my swing.  I think my final few shots on the range before I went out, I just told myself think about tempo and rhythm and not to overthink everything.  I think that's what helped me, yeah.

Q.  At what point during the round did you feel like you were really picking up momentum and things were just dropping and everything was just working for you?
REBECCA LEE-BENTHAM:  I birdied the 1st hole, 2nd hole, I guess that's ‑‑ when I had the two birdies, I was like, hey, just keep thinking about rhythm and that will help, so that's what I did all day.

Q.  Getting off to a fast start and a good start, that just kind of helped you?
REBECCA LEE-BENTHAM:  Gave me a cushion and helped me stay calm.

Q.  Awesome.  What's your mindset heading into tomorrow?
REBECCA LEE-BENTHAM:  I guess just continue doing what I'm doing.  It's very easy to overthink it.  If I just play like I did today, I'd be fine.  I don't have too many expectations, just to go out and have fun.  And I'm glad I'm playing hopefully with Sandra because she's a really, really nice player.

Q.  Have you played with Sandra before?
REBECCA LEE-BENTHAM:  I played with her at the Evian and she's just such a sweet girl.  I actually was thinking about it, I was like if I make this putt, I might be able to play with her, so yeah.

 

Lexi Thompson, Rolex Rankings No. 10

Q.  The youth clinics, the pro‑ams, is there anything ‑‑ is one thing any more important than the other in your view?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Well, I think pro‑ams are very important during the week, pro‑am parties.  I've gone to every one this year. I think they're very important because they're all the sponsors of the events or up and coming sponsors of the event and it is very important to, you know, have a good round with them or have dinner with them.  I mean, you know, for the most part they're great people and they're a lot of fun to hang out with, so it's the least we can do, and we have a good time out on the golf course and they enjoy it.

Q.  How much does it help that you had the pictures that you can identify titles with pictures now, because I guess they put pictures in your lockers now.  Profiles.
LEXI THOMPSON:  Oh, yeah, that comes really handy because, I mean, you can put a picture with the face and name so it does help out a lot and you get all the information about the event and about the sponsors, so it's good to have that.

Q.  Going back to Twitter, get some guys proposing?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Proposing?  Not many lately.  They've asked if I had a boyfriend.

Q.  I guess first things first, right?
LEXI THOMPSON:  I know, right?  No, they're great.  They're saying it jokingly but they're a lot of fun, I get a good laugh out of it.

Q.  Any big plans for the off season?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Off season?  Just going to visit my brother at LSU.  I might go to Universal with my best friend, go on some roller coasters and have some fun.  But really just hanging out with my family for the holidays.  I really enjoy that.  There's nothing like that, just hanging out.

Q.  That's quality time.
LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, exactly.

Q.  (Inaudible.
LEXI THOMPSON:  My mom, my dad, my dad's parents, my mom's mom, my mom's brother, Nick's actually coming in tomorrow and I have my agents here, and I have a few ‑‑ my godparents are coming in and a few members from my golf course are coming in.

Q.  An entourage. 
LEXI THOMPSON:  I know, it's awesome.

Q.  How much of a high do you think you're playing off of now just coming off of last week?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, I definitely have a good amount of confidence coming off of last week, but I knew my game was close coming into the final stretch going over to Asia, but I'm just continuing to work hard and I have to be patient with my game.  I knew it was close.

Q.  I know we talked in Asia and you said number two is so hard to get, waiting for that number two, and number three just kind of followed.  Do you think that second win just opened the floodgates?  Do you think that was what you really needed to start get things really going?
LEXI THOMPSON:  I think it definitely helped.  Getting that second win was pretty hard, it took me about a year and a half to get it.  A lot of hard work, working hard on my short game and putting and getting more consistent, getting good finishes, taking advantage of leading into a final round when I could.

Q.  When was the last time Curtis caddied for you?
LEXI THOMPSON:  The CVS Charity Classic this year, he caddied for me there.

Q.  How's that relationship?  Easy?
LEXI THOMPSON:  We get along really well.  The few years before he went to college, you know, we got really close.  We know each other so well and he's always been there for me throughout my life, both my brothers have.

Q.  Can you kind of elaborate a little bit more on one of the comments you made about committing to lines, because was it something that you weren't having faith in before but you have more faith in it now?
LEXI THOMPSON:  I think just before I wasn't really picking out my target.  I was more just, you know, I'll just aim there and hopefully hit it there.  But now I'm picking out really small targets like little trees or little gaps and just committing to it, not just a wide fairway and hit it anywhere.

Q.  Is that a sign that you're really confident in where you can put a ball now that you say, okay, I can shoot for that and come pretty close?
LEXI THOMPSON:  I think it's more in just getting myself to be confident over a shot and just knowing I can do it.  I just say all right, aim there, hit a little draw in and just commit to it and that's pretty much all I say before every shot.

Q.  Any particular place Curtis especially helped, a certain putt he read or anything like that?
LEXI THOMPSON:  We read a lot of good putts today.  We were off on a few, but he is a great green reader.  Giving me the confidence over the shots when I say I'm going to hit this shot, hit a little draw in, he was like yeah, that's perfect.  That's really all you need out there is that little confidence boost going into a shot.

Q.  Stacy came in the other day and I asked her about you guys battling down the stretch in Mexico and just your relationship being teammates in Solheim and we quoted her as saying you're the best ball striker on Tour.  Hearing that from Stacy, is that something that you take extreme pride in coming in from the No. 1 ranked American?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, obviously that's an amazing comment coming from Stacy Lewis.  She's an amazing player obviously with what she's done in her career, and she's a great ball striker, too, and an amazing putter.  Anytime you're put up against her in the final round you know you have to shoot way under because you know she can go on a birdie run any time.

Q.  How much confidence does that give you coming down the stretch?  It's not like you won by 4 like in Malaysia where you kind of blew everybody out, but battling someone like Stacy, making putts down the stretch?  I mean, you say it gives you confidence, but really how much did that change your mindset just knowing being put in that position you can come out on top?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, it gave me a lot of confidence, especially the putt on the last hole, that gave me a lot of confidence.  Making a putt under that kind of pressure, that's always what you want.  That's why Solheim Cup had helped me out so much, you know, pulling off those shots under pressure and when you need to, I think that's what gave me the most confidence.

Q.  With the way that you're playing right now, do you wish this season would keep going for another tournament or two now that you're in a rhythm?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Maybe another tournament, not too many.  Yeah, I'm ready for my season to be over, but I'm happy that it's ending with the Titleholders, this is one of the best events ever.

Q.  How many followers do you have on Twitter?
LEXI THOMPSON:  I just got 47,000.

Q.  You're probably the Phil Mickelson of this Tour in signing autographs.  Do you respond a lot to Twitter, tweets?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, I do, I try to respond to as many as I can, twitter followers and fans out here.  I'll sign every autograph just to show myself giving back to my fans coming out here to watch me or on Twitter supporting me.  It's the least I can do and show my support.

Anna Nordqvist, Rolex Rankings No. 25

MODERATOR:  I would like to welcome our current leader here at the CME Group Titleholders, Anna Nordqvist, into the interview room.  Anna, a solid round, eight birdies, two bogeys.  Just talk about the day, what an awesome way to start out the season‑ending event.
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I mean, I'm excited to be back in Florida, it's one of two tournaments I can actually drive to.  I live in Orlando, so obviously nice to be able to go home on Monday after Mexico to get a little bit of energy. 

And I played really solid today.  I think I hit 16 greens and pretty much every fairway, so it was good.  I had a good touch on the greens and felt like you've got to stay pretty aggressive out there because there's quite a few longer holes but there's quite a few birdie opportunities, too.  I felt like I took advantage of a lot of them.  Bad break on 18 but I managed to save bogey, so I'm happy with that.

MODERATOR:  What happened on 18?  I know maybe you took a drop.  Just tell us what happened there.
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I was in between two clubs, 8‑iron and 7‑iron.  It was 150 to the hole, so I got a little cute with a 7‑iron and it carried to the left and it hit the lip and rolled through the bunker into the water.  So not really that bad of a shot, but obviously I had to take a penalty.  I hit a really good lob shot to about four feet and made a great putt for bogey there.  Good way to end the day.

MODERATOR:  This is kind of a familiar spot for you taking the early lead at multiple tournaments this year.  I know a couple weeks ago in Korea you were leading the first two rounds, still managed to end with a solid Top 10.  Talk about maybe what you've learned being in this position early on and what it's going to take to carry that lead through Sunday.
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I feel I've been playing pretty solid golf probably since the U.S. Open this year, just haven't really got any results going, so it's been a little bit disappointing.  I just try to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully it will pay off.  Had a pretty good go in Korea, didn't finish very good the last couple holes.  I feel like I'm doing a lot of good stuff, just haven't really ‑‑ maybe had one or two so‑so rounds in those other tournaments.  Out here the competition is really tough and you've got to have four solid ones, so I'm just missing that last one.

MODERATOR:  Silently been a pretty good year for you, though.  You haven't missed a single cut, five Top 10s.  Just talk about this season.  And we're at the last event, just talk about this year and how pleased you are with how well you're playing.
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I mean, I'm pretty frustrated with the results.  I have five Top 10s and I don't know how many Top 10 to 15, it's got to be another 10 at least.  Obviously I work towards winning and that's why I'm out here for, so it would be a great way to end the season.  I'm just trying to put my best foot forward every day and learn from my mistakes and keep working at it.  It seems like a lot of pieces are falling into place, so I can't wait to put it all together.

Q.  You won the final event of the LPGA season not so long ago.  Do you just like to finish your years with exclamation points?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I mean, it's been a long year.  I'm definitely ready for a break.  I'm not counting down the days, but it's been a really long year, especially with the Solheim Cup.  Like the Tour championship we played in Texas the year I won, obviously great memories from that, just nice to come home to Florida.  It would definitely, you know, give me a little bit of a momentum, what seems like I've been lacking this year.  It would be a great addition and a great way to go into the off season.

Q.  Routines are a big thing with players.  As you've tried to figure out what maybe you can do differently on days three and four, have you thought about either alternating your rituals or things you do?  Have you kind of gone over, okay, what can I do differently to maybe change my success in the later rounds?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I mean, I always try to find ways to get better.  Last year it seems like my first rounds were a little bit off and I seem to have finished really good on the weekends, but this year it seems I've been pretty hot off the start and last year I was doing everything I could to try to figure out how to start well.  It doesn't feel like I've been playing that bad over the weekends, just a bad hole or so and not really getting any momentum.  I'm just not trying to do anything different.  I have a great team around me, I have a great caddie out there, so just try to do the best we can and not make any changes from Thursday to Friday or Friday to Saturday or Saturday to Sunday.

Q.  Not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but if you were to win this week, you would make more money than you've made all year.
ANNA NORDQVIST:  That would definitely be a good week.

Q.  I was just curious if you like that idea with kind of a stupid question.
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Of course I like that idea.

Q.  What does that add to kind of the season finale that it's such a massive first prize?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I think it's really cool that we have, you know, like every tournament, you know, it's three players qualifying.  And I think the LPGA, you know, it just makes it a little more exciting.  I know there's a lot of players fighting at the end just to make this tournament.  I think it's pretty cool that they make it special that it's the final event and it's probably the highest purse for the winner.  I think it's great and just makes it more exciting and makes you stay in it to the end.

Q.  Secondly, what do you think of the greens?  Do you find them easy to putt or do you find them subtle or what?  It seems like if you make some, you're going to make more, and if you don't, the hole shrinks on you a little bit.
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I feel the greens are a little bit slower than what they look like.  I've been putting, like at Lake Nona they've been having really fast greens these last couple weeks, so I've been kind of getting used to that.  It's just a matter of getting enough speed on the putts because if you don't, like the grain will take it and you will miss them low.

Q.  You have a European on the verge of becoming number one and just wanted to ask you, since the Solheim Cup, you guys have won the last two now, has there been a lot of bonding among the Europeans?  What's been the reaction among your group?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I think even going into the Solheim Cup this year everyone was excited.  We had quite a few younger girls with Charley, we had Carlota, with Caroline, we had Beatriz.  We all played golf in Europe growing up together or even at college, so it never seems that ‑‑ like, we always knew each other.  We had great like team chemistry going into the week.  Even after, you know, I think we met up, most of us, the week after, you know, just kind of look back at the week.  It was my third Solheim Cup and definitely the most fun I've had because we just seemed to get along so well.  Obviously winning on U.S. soil kind of made us all very excited.

Q.  Since you brought up Lake Nona, a minute ago, I'm just curious, have you ever seen any of Ian Poulter's Ferraris or does he just keep them in his garage and look at them?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I have not.

Q.  You had a run of birdies from 6 through 8 there.  Is that what got your round going, or was it another hole or another shot or anything?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I mean, I got off to a pretty good start, hit it to probably three feet on 1 and 3‑putted No. 2, and hit a great shot into No. 4, the one over water to about four, five feet.  But definitely making a couple birdies before the turn was a key.

Q.  I noticed that you were playing with your fellow Swedish golfers out there, Caroline Hedwall and Pernilla Lindberg.  How fun was it opening that first round with them?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Obviously Caroline and I have great memories from Solheim Cup and I don't think I've played with her ever since, so it's always nice to be able to talk Swedish.  You can say things that your caddie won't understand.  It's always nice.  I know Caroline very well and Pernilla's been out here for a couple years, too.  It seems exciting and I wasn't too surprised with everything coming up with the International Crown that we were paired together this week.

Q.  (Inaudible)
ANNA NORDQVIST:  No, I was close yesterday.

Q.  Anna, I noticed obviously you hit that great shot after the drop on 18 to get out of there with a bogey and you hit that great bunker shot at 9.  When you did get into trouble today, it seemed like you were able to get out of it for the most part.  How much did that help you today?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I mean, I think it was huge because on 9, you know, I just came off three straight birdies.  I hit a 4‑iron in there and it seemed to get caught in the bunker then.  Obviously it kind of keeps your momentum going.  Then I birdied 10, and then on 17 I lipped out for birdie so it would have been tough to finish par, par double there, so it was great to hit a really good recovery shot there and make the putt.

Lydia Ko, Rolex Rankings No. 5

Q.  You guys talked a little bit about when she made her pro debut?
LYDIA KO:  Yeah, we were talking about when she first turned pro and when Jess first turned pro, and I think they were saying when it was Jess's first LPGA pro tournament, Michelle played with her as well.  So yeah, it was a coincidence, but yeah, I had really lots of fun today.

Q.  Where did you have that little conversation?
LYDIA KO:  I've got no idea, today was pretty hectic.  I tried not to think too much about it and stay calm.

Q.  Did the day go by fast for you or did you feel like it was slower?
LYDIA KO:  Just normal.  It didn't feel too odd or special or slow or whatever today.  That actually surprised me, I thought I would be much more nervous.  And actually one of the good things was I actually wasn't thinking about any money or related stuff, I just tried to play my game, which was obviously very helpful.

Q.  What do you think was the difference in the back nine from the front nine?
LYDIA KO:  I think score wise people were playing much better on the back nine.  I think there are more opportunities there.  You know, I just made a double on 3 and then bogey on 7 and that didn't make things, you know, too well.  But I think my birdie on 8 kind of got my day going and I was pretty comfortable.

Q.  Did you pull that shot, your second shot on 3?  Did you hit it fat?
LYDIA KO:  Today I saw that, especially with my driver, my ball flight was going from right to left, so that one was a pull draw, but lucky it was a playable shot.  I didn't play well from there, I think the recovery shots...

Q.  Did the slight click of the branch on your backswing, did that just kind of throw you a little bit?
LYDIA KO:  I think so, but I took my divot too deep inside ‑‑ off the hay because it was up, I didn't get the ball probably contact‑wise.

Q.  What were you trying to do?
LYDIA KO:  I was trying to hook it but I think I was a bit too ambitious.  A 7 iron down the right side would have given me more than an opportunity to make up and down for par.

Q.  Those are hard shots, the long sand or coquina shots, whatever they are.
LYDIA KO:  It's quite confusing because it's not like proper sand sand, so if I was in that fairway bunker I would say don't take the sand too much because it's hard enough.  It feels like I can hit it normally but it's quite hard to control.  I guess playing out of there more times I'll be able to learn it, but hopefully I won't be able to be in there.

Q.  You told Karen that it doesn't do you any good to be angry, that on 7 you're putting for birdie and you end up with that 3‑putt.  So like what are you thinking?  Obviously you turned it around on 8, but what are you ‑‑
LYDIA KO:  I think it was just a silly mistake.  I don't think it was because I was angry.  I have a tendency to kind of jam the putt in with the short ones.  I think I tried to do that, but on a slight downhill slope was just too much.

Q.  As you're going through this, did you ‑‑ you were at plus 3 but you talked about yet you were still calm.  How do you think you were able to stay calm when there was a lot going on out there?
LYDIA KO:  Just my birdie on 8 definitely helped.  It kind of came in from the back of the hole, which was quite interesting, I thought I had missed it.  I gave myself opportunities, and par is sometimes good and all I can do is just set up birdie putts and then some will go in and some won't.

Q.  Is this your first no‑cut tournament?
LYDIA KO:  No.

Q.  On the LPGA?
LYDIA KO:  Oh, on the LPGA?  Is Thailand no cut?

Q.  Those are the fun ones.

Q.  Lydia, have you changed your mind on schooling at all?  Are you still looking at doing what Michelle did and going to college in some way, shape or form while you play?
LYDIA KO:  Yeah, I want to go to college.  I don't know where I will.  I might go to Korea, but I might go to the States.  Coaches all around the world, I can only talk to them from January of next year.  It's coming soon.  And I've got one more year of high school, so it's quite hard to make the decision right now.

Q.  How's your second round going to be as a professional?
LYDIA KO:  I think it will be much better.

 

 

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, CME Group Tour Championship, Gal, Sandra