Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club
Shima-Shi, Mie, Japan
First-Round Notes and Interviews
November 8, 2013
Shiho Oyama -4, Rolex Rankings No. 81 (JLPGA)
Brittany Lincicome -3, Rolex Rankings No. 38
Pernilla Lindberg -3, Rolex Rankings No. 113
Chella Choi -3, Rolex Rankings No. 32
Stacy Lewis -1, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Five LPGA Tour members sit one shot off the lead after the opening round of the Mizuno Classic at the Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club. Floridian Brittany Lincicome, Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg and South Koreans Jiyai Shin, Chella Choi and Hee-Wan Han sit in a tie for second along with four JLPGA members at 3-under 69, trailing first-round leader and Japan native Shiho Oyama.
Oyama, who is a 13-year member of the JLPGA with 12 tournament wins, carded six birdies and two bogeys to finish at 4-under 68 on Friday. Despite battling neck pains early in the week, Oyama surprised herself with the solid opening round and hopes the pain continues to subside throughout the weekend.
“It was really great being able to play with Brittany Lang again,” said Oyama through an interpreter. “This week I’m not actually aiming for the win though, I’m just looking forward in playing with the U.S. LPGA players and hopefully my neck won’t get any worse than now.”
Lincicome got off to a hot start with an eagle on the par-5 first hole, sinking a 15-foot putt after carrying the green on her second shot.
“It was actually pretty funny because I was looking at the leaderboard before I teed off,” said Lincicome. “I don’t usually look at the leaderboard but I caught a glimpse of it when I was walking to the tee and it said the leader was at 2-under. I was like, all I’ve got to do is eagle No. 1.
“So I got to the first tee and I actually had a great drive. My second shot was going right at the pin but I was trying to hit it right of the bunker. It carried the bunker and goes on the green. Then I get up there and it was a straight, downhill, super severe putt. So I was thinking just lag it up there, hit it close, birdie is still a great score. Then I ended up making the putt for eagle.”
A five-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Lincicome immediately followed with her first blemish of the day with a bogey on the second hole. She went on the record four birdies and two bogeys to sit in a nine-way tie for second.
Wind crept into the area in the afternoon making for tougher course conditions but it seemed to play in Lindberg’s favor as she carded four birdies and one bogey to take a share of second place. She says learning to play through the wind will be the key to keeping a low score this week.
“If it keeps staying windy like this, you have to take advantage of some of the par-5s and the shorter par-4s when you have a wedge in your hand,” said Lindberg, who is seeking her first LPGA Tour victory. “If the wind calms down a little bit it’s all going to come down to a putting competition out there. So just keep dropping putts.”
Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis didn’t get off to the start she expected at the Mizuno Classic, carding two birdies and one bogey to sit in a tie for 20th. But the defending champion, who came from seven-strokes behind to seal the win in 2012, says she’s still in the hunt as she seeks her first successful title defense of her career.
“It was kind of up and down,” said Lewis of her round. “I probably could have played a lot better but I think it could have been worse. I played really tough through a lot of cross winds and I just hung in there all day. I knew scores weren’t going to be low and I just needed to hang in there and try my best. But I definitely kept myself in the tournament and that was the goal.”
A win for Dad… South Korean Chella Choi has a pact with her dad that he cannot retire carrying her bag until she notches her first LPGA Tour victory. While she’s been close on numerous occasions, leading the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic and the Wegmans LPGA Championship this year, she says she’s more than ready for her breakthrough win.
“I think last winter I worked really hard, so my condition is better than last year,” said Choi. “Last year at Mizuno Classic I was a bit tired because long trip and I played every tournament. But now I think my condition is better.”
Earlier this week, Choi’s father was rushed to the hospital after suffering severe stomach pains. Choi said she nearly withdrew from the Mizuno Classic.
“Wednesday morning on pro-am day he say he was sick,” said Choi. “I don’t know why, but I just went with my other caddy to the pro-am. My father got in ambulance and I didn’t know that. So like I tell my father, I don’t want to play this week so we go home to Korea and hospital. But my father say, no I’m good. His condition is better than before. So he still my caddy.”
She put herself in perfect position for her first-career win with a 3-under 69 during the first round on Friday. She says she aims to win for her father this week.
“Doctor say he’s ok, just be careful,” said Choi. “We will work together this week and next week and CME. I don’t know, this week if I won, he retires, done.”
Shiho Oyama, Rolex Rankings No. 81 (JLPGA)
Q. How was your first round?
SHIHO OYAMA: It was really great being able to play with Brittany again. This week I’m not actually aiming for the win though, I’m just looking forward in playing with the U.S. LPGA players and hopefully my neck won’t get any worse than now.”
Q. How is your neck doing?
SHIHO OYAMA: I been having this neck ache that’s been affecting my golf recently but yesterday I had some massage and needle massage and the pain is gradually fading. I also went to Jinmyou shrine near by the hotel and apparently that shrine is known as a shrine that if a lady wishes for one thing, it will come true. So I decided to wish that my neck ache will go away and hopefully I can play well tomorrow.
Q. If you win this event, will you play for the US Tour?
SHIHO OYAMA: Well, I did and still look up to US Tour but to be honest, I’ve been through many injuries and I’m now 36 so, I try not to think about it as much anymore. I’d rather focus on myself getting into top-25 on the money ranking and compete in the LPGA Tour Championship RICOH Cup.
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Q. How was your round?
STACY LEWIS: It was kind of up and down. I probably could have played a lot better but I think it could have been worse. I played really tough through a lot of cross winds and I just hung in there all day.
Q. Is there anything you were unhappy about?
STACY LEWIS: I didn’t hit the ball probably as good as I would have liked today. My distance in putting wasn’t very good either. I have things I need to improve on. I made a lot of putts to save par, which is a good thing and I’m going to take that into tomorrow.
Q. You’ve come back here to defend your title. What is the Mizuno Classic like to you?
STACY LEWIS: I mean this is one of my favorite events. Last year made it really special winning her and clinching Player of the Year at the same time. It’s definitely going to be a pretty special place to me. It’s a golf course I feel comfortable on. I like coming here and I’m excited to be here.
Q. Maybe not the start you wanted. But you see the leaderboard is pretty tight, could be anyone’s tournament tomorrow. What’s going to be key for you to get things going tomorrow?
STACY LEWIS: People who played earlier definitely had an advantage. I think it was about our sixth holes when the wind started to blow. I knew scores weren’t going to be low and I just needed to hang in there and try my best. But I definitely kept myself in the tournament and that was the goal.
Brittany Lincicome, Rolex Rankings No. 38
Q. Started out with an eagle. Great start, tell me how that went down?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: It was great. It was actually pretty funny because I was looking at the leaderboard before I teed off. I don’t usually look at the leaderboard but I caught a glimpse of it when I was walking to the tee and it said the leader was at 2-under. I was like, all I’ve got to do is eagle No. 1. So I got to the first tee and I actually had a great drive. My second shot was going right at the pin but I was trying to hit it right of the bunker. It carried the bunker and goes on the green. Then I get up there and it was a straight, downhill, super severe putt. So I was thinking just lag it up there, hit it close, birdie is still a great score. Then I ended up making the putt for eagle.
Q. How long was the putt?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: It was probably 15 feet. Not too far.
Q. Talk about the rest of the round. Couple pars, couple birdies, couple bogeys.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I hit a really bad drive on No. 2 but got away with it. I hit the wrong club out of the fairway and came up short and ended up making the silliest bogey ever. Holes 2 through 6 were really tough driving holes for me for some reason. They’re all dead straight and look super narrow. There’s trouble just far enough, like the trees if you kind of hit it outside the fairways where I was hitting it. So kind of the first couple holes were just kind of scared swings, which is kind of disappointing because I felt like I hit the ball really well the past few days.
I’ve been working on my putting really hard the last couple of days. So I putted really, really well today. I didn’t have any crazy putts they were all within like 5-feet.
Q. Last time you played here was in 2010, you tied for fifth. It’s been a while since you’ve played here. Do you feel like that kind of came back to you when you started playing this week?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: You know I started playing on Tuesday when I got here and I didn’t remember any hole on the front nine. Then I got to the back-nine on Wednesday during the pro-am and I was like, wow all these look familiar I remember every hole. It was just crazy that I don’t remember any hole on the front.
Q. Everyone has been saying the back-nine has played a bit more difficult that the front. Perhaps that’s the reason you remember those holes?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Oh my gosh, for me it’s 100% the opposite. The front-nine, for me, I want to get through it as fast as I possibly can because I feel like every hole is super narrow for me. On the back-nine is wide open and I can hit it anywhere.
Q. Your last victory came in 2011 in Canada. Past two season you’ve gotten close with a couple top-10 finishes. Talk about what these past two years have looked like for you. Have you had any big changes in your game?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I don’t know really what it is. I’ve been dating a guy for the last year, so maybe that. I’ve been a little distracted, I’m not sure. I tried taking some lesson again this past off-season and I was trying to change clubs and coach stuff. Then it wasn’t really working so I said, ok enough is enough after the Singapore stretch. I just went to play my game, I’m a field player any way I’ll figure it out. It just kind of really hasn’t happen. Like today, I drove really bad but I putted really well. Tomorrow I’ll probably drive really well and putt really bad. They just aren’t going together for some reason.
I have a different caddy on the bag this week, so maybe Missy can give my some insight of keeping me calm and give me some confidence. I always say that I’m the world’s worst chipper, and she said to me, you wouldn’t be on Tour if you were the world’s worst chipper. So she’s been giving me that confidence that I need. I haven’t done much in the past two years so I think at this point it’s just a confidence thing right now.
Q. What sparked the caddy change?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Well it’s a really long story, but long story short, my caddy doesn’t like to travel overseas. She didn’t come to France. I didn’t have a choice I had to change.
Q. Well, you’re in great position, just one-shot off the lead. What’s going to be key for you to keep it going through the weekend?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Definitely driving it better tomorrow. Maybe I’ll practice that this afternoon. I don’t know what my problem is, the driver is my favorite club in my bag. So it’s just I need to swing more with confidence, and maybe my putting sticks around. I should be on top of the leaderboard come Sunday.
Pernilla Lindberg, Rolex Rankings No. 113
Q. Four birdies, one bogey, you’re sitting just one-shot off the lead. Tell me what was working well for you out there today.
PERNILLA LINDBERG: Well I only missed one fairway all day. I know the fairways here are pretty generous but still I was driving it really good today. I was never in any trouble, I didn’t miss many greens either and I think I took advantage of a couple of the reachable par-5s. That helped. It was not a very stressful day. Hitting a lot of fairways helps and I was putting it really good too. Even when I had to save a few up-and-downs I did, thanks to good putting.
Q. It seems like the back-nine is playing a bit more difficult than the front. Not a lot of low scores coming in, not many birdies dropping in the back.
PERNILLA LINDBERG: I agree, the two nines are quite different. The front-nine is where you want to take advantage of the course. It’s pretty straightforward, and actually today when I started there was hardly any wind on the front. It kind of picked up when I made it to the back-nine.
The back-nine is just a little hillier. A lot of the greens are up high, so it’s kind of hard to see the greens and trust the numbers. I think just the wind and a couple longer holes in the back I think you really have more chances on the front-nine.
Q. This is your first time playing in Japan. What were your initial thoughts on the course, the fans, and just being in Japan.
PERNILLA LINDBERG: Today, I was actually surprised how many fans are actually out there. I didn’t know how the crowds would be. They are great fans, too. They clap, they support you if you make a birdie they make a big thing out of it. So it’s really fun to play in front of them. It’s a really well-run tournament. On the back-nine today there were a lot of TV cameras, so it’s fun to see. And the weather couldn’t have been any nicer today.
Q. One round down, two more to go. You’re one shot off the lead. What’s going to be key to scoring low for the rest of the weekend?
PERNILLA LINDBERG: It all depends on the conditions. If it keeps staying windy like this, you have to take advantage of some of the par-5s and the shorter par-4s when you have a wedge in your hand. If the wind calms down a little bit it’s all going to come down to a putting competition out there. So just keep dropping putts.
Chella Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 32
Q. Great round today. Four birdies, one bogey, just one shot off the lead. Talk about your round.
CHELLA CHOI: I play good today. Like my shot is really good. That course is like a lot of times five or six iron. I hit that really good today. I really worked hard last week in Korea. I worked out and practice. My conditions are really good this week other than before Korea. I think this week my condition is really good.
Q. You’ve had a decent stretch the past five tournaments. You’ve finished no worse than a tie for 12th. You’ve had a good season with six top-10 finishes, still looking for that breakthrough win. But still a great season.
CHELLA CHOI: I think last winter I worked really hard, so my condition is better than last year. Last year at Mizuno Classic I was a big tired because long trip and I played every tournament. But now I think my condition is better than March and April.
Q. Would you say you’re getting a little impatient for that breakthrough win? I know we were talking earlier this season and you were saying you were ready.
CHELLA CHOI: Yea, my goal is to get my first LPGA win. I have three more tournaments. This tournament is good for me because not a lot of players come. Good chance here. I try to do my best these last two days.
Q. At Wegmans you were saying you weren’t going to let your dad retire from being your caddy until you got your first win.
CHELLA CHOI: Yea, before every tournament he say, ok just this tournament. I retire after this tournament. So I say, ok I try this week.
Q. I heard got sick earlier this week.
CHELLA CHOI: Oh yes, Wednesday morning on pro-am day he say he was sick. I don’t know why, but I just went with my other caddy to the pro-am. My father got in ambulance and I didn’t know that. So like I tell my father, I don’t want to play this week so we go home to Korea and hospital. But my father say, no I’m good. His condition is better than before. So he still my caddy.
Q. So will he go home to Korea to get checked out before going to the Lorena Ochoa Invitational?
CHELLA CHOI: Doctor say he’s ok, just be careful. We will work together this week and next week and CME. I don’t know, this week if I won, he retires, done.