LPGA LOTTE Championship Third Round Notes and Interviews

LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf
Ko Olina Golf Club
Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii
Third-round Notes and Interviews
April 19, 2013

Suzann Pettersen -14, Rolex Rankings No. 6
Hee Kyung Seo -13, Rolex Rankings No. 33
Ai Miyazato -11, Rolex Rankings No. 9
Lizette Salas -9, Rolex Rankings No. 37


Friday’s Third-round Recap

Rolex Rankings No. 6 Suzann Pettersen will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf after shooting a 4-under 68 in Friday’s third round. Pettersen got off to a hot start in her round, making birdies on her first three holes, and managed to hold steady in her round by playing the back nine in 1-under, as other players caught fire on ‘Moving Day’ when the Hawaii winds died down at Ko Olina Golf Club.

“I found a few little keys yesterday on the range, just to tighten up the swing a fraction after two days in the wind, and I came up the back pretty good,” Pettersen said. “Birdied the first three and just really tried to keep feeding the ball to the hole and trying to stay aggressive.  I had one three‑putt, and other than that I played pretty solid.  It's definitely on the challenging side out here.”

One player who put pressure on Pettersen during Friday’s third round was 2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Hee Kyung Seo. The 26-year-old tied for the low round of the day with a 6-under 66 and currently sits one shot back of Pettersen.

Also chasing not far behind is defending champion Ai Miyazato, who sits three shots back at 11-under-par after shooting a third-round 70. Miyazato won this event by four shots last year at 12-under, but so far the scores have proven to be lower as showcased by a total of 47 players currently sitting under par.

“I think the greens are definitely softer than last year,” Miyazato said. “I think that makes a big difference.  I remember it was really tough to make an adjustment with the iron shots last year.  Definitely the greens are softer, so you can be a little bit more aggressive than last year, so I think that makes them a little bit more lower this year.”

Stacy Lewis, who is looking to regain her No. 1 ranking after losing it to Inbee Park on Monday, has put herself within reach of taking back the top spot and even perhaps winning the tournament as well. Lewis currently sits in a tie for fifth at 9-under-par while Park is one shot behind her at 8-under. There are a number of scenarios that could unfold on Sunday but with Park’s strong play this week, it appears that Lewis will likely have to finish third or better with Park finishing fifth or lower to truly have a shot at regaining No. 1.

A few of the up-and-coming Americans also made their presence felt. Jessica Korda, 20, tied Seo for the low round of the day with a 66 to move to 8-under for the tournament and University of Southern California alum Lizette Salas fired a 5-under 67 to move into a tie for fifth at 9-under-par.

Of course there will be plenty of intrigue on the course for Saturday’s final round if the winds can stay a little calmer like they were on Friday. It leaves open the possibility of many golfers playing their way into contention for the title.

“There's too many good players to start stepping on the brake,” Pettersen said. “But I really hope that they will set up the course in a fun way tomorrow, make the par‑5s reachable.  I love seeing us being able to reach the par‑5s and tuck the pins.  It makes it exciting; it could be for the good and for the bad.  But let us have some risk‑reward. 

“I hope they'll make it a little bit more playful tomorrow, just mix it up, and yeah, just let us go low.”

Best is yet to come? Suzann Pettersen (@suzannpettersen) turned 32 on the Sunday of the Kraft Nabisco Championship’s final round two weeks ago. On a Tour where the average age of the field seems to be getting younger and younger, Pettersen now jokingly refers to herself as one of the veterans on Tour.

But that doesn’t mean that she’s ready to step aside for those other players. In fact, it might seem like Pettersen is just now starting to put together some of the best golf of her career.

“I really feel like I have the best ahead of me still, and I've been able to be a part of a lot and achieve a lot, probably more than I ‑‑ in the reality I would ever dream of,” Pettersen said. “But still, I mean, I wouldn't be here if I wouldn't feel like I had more to give and more to go after.  Yeah, hopefully the 30s will be better than the 20s, and I'll be very happy.”

Master motivator? Hee Kyung Seo spent last Sunday watching the final round of the Masters in Hawaii. But Seo didn’t just enjoy watching Adam Scott pull off the victory over Angel Cabrera in the playoff, the third-year LPGA Tour pro actually picked up some tips from the two competitors that she has used this week to help improve her own play on the course.

“My caddie Dean eron always said to me that the shorter routine helps a lot to make more good shots or good putts, but I always struggled when I got to the ball, it was hard to make a shot,” said Seo, who shot a 6-under 66 on Friday. “But from last week Masters I could see Angel and Adam just didn't think about anything on the ball, just hit and waited for the result.  So I just tried to do that, not think about the bad things or the results and other things but just swing it and feel it, and it helped a lot, I think.”

Besides her quicker routine helping her shoot lower scores, Seo has another reason to smile this week. Her fiancé, Kung Hoon Kook, proposed last December but the two haven’t had much time together recently. Seo said it’s been almost two months they spent apart but he is here in Hawaii with her this week and it’s made a positive impact.

“He is just always trying to make me happy,” said Seo. “He's a really positive man, so if I think about negative things or I get depressed a little bit he tries to make me happy and always trying to make me feel really good.  It's a little hard to be away from him; it's not easy to travel without him.  But I think sometimes it's good to be separated too laug.”

Switching it up: Lizette Salas (@LizetteSalas5) has used a belly putter for nearly two years. It dates back to when she put the belly putter in her bag for the second stage of LPGA Qualifying School in 2011.

But this week, Salas decided to make what might seem to some to be a drastic change to some people, changing back to a short putter during Tuesday’s pro-am. For a player that has already recorded three top-10 finishes this year and is coming off a successful rookie campaign in 2012 in which she finished third in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race, wouldn’t it seem crazy to make that kind of switch?

“Everyone was telling me you're putting really good with the belly, and I said, yeah, but I think it needs a break,” Salas said. “I was very restricted.  I needed to be more free, I needed to visualize better.  It's the same stroke, just not anchored.  It felt good, and I just picked it up from the TaylorMade rep, and it fit perfectly, and I said I think I might keep it.  So I played it in the pro‑am, and yeah, it's been working great.”

Salas also said that she took some important lessons from a very difficult final round at the Kraft Nabisco Championship two weeks ago. Playing in the final group at the Kraft, Salas shot a 7-over 79 to finish in a tie for 25th.

“I learned how to really grind, and being here in Hawai'i with the wind you really have to grind, and yesterday I ground it out for 1‑under par, which is a phenomenal score,” Salas said. “I learned how to stay patient.  I learned that a bad round doesn't define who you are as a player.  Even after shooting 79 I came back with 69.  That's the type of player I am.  I bounce back.  Yeah, it was a terrible score at Kraft and bad timing, but it's just one of those days, and I learned how to forget about it.”

Quotable…”I won in China, played very good.  Obviously it was very nice to get that win under my belt.  But I'm just very happy.  I feel like I'm easy on myself, I'm enjoying myself on the course.  I have a great caddie that I get along with out there and who's kind of a great asset to my game.  Yeah, I can't really ask for more.” – Suzann Pettersen on the difference in her great play so far early in the season

Tweet of the Day: “Huge shout out to the FBI, Boston law enforcement and soldiers. So thankful for your keeping us safe and for your service and bravery.” -- @JennieLeeGolf (Jennie Lee)

Of Note…Angela Stanford recorded her first career LPGA hole-in-one on Friday, holing out from 164 yards with an 8-iron on the par-3 4th hole…Rolex Rankings No. 4 Na Yeon Choi shot a 5-under 67 and sits in a tie for 15th at 5-under-par.

 

SUZANN PETTERSEN, Rolex Rankings No. 6
AI MIYAZATO, Rolex Rankings No. 9 

THE MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome our current leader Suzann Pettersen into the interview room and also Ai Miyazato.  You both put together some solid golf.  Suzann, 4‑under, one shot lead heading into Sunday.  Take me through your day out there and what was really working well for you today?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I found a few little keys yesterday on the range, just to tighten up the swing a fraction after two days in the wind, and I came up the back pretty good.  Birdied the first three and just really tried to keep feeding the ball to the hole and trying to stay aggressive.  I had one three‑putt, and other than that I played pretty solid.  It's definitely on the challenging side out here.  It's one thing if we have a flat‑out straight yardage, but if you're in between clubs, in between yardages, you've just got to pick the right clubs to the right locations.  It's fun out there.  I hope it stays like this tomorrow.  It's nice playing with Ai, always a very solid player tee to green, and yeah.

THE MODERATOR:  Ai, take me through your round.  I know it was a slow start and you couldn't get much going early on but still able to put together a solid round and keep yourself up there.
AI MIYAZATO:  Yeah, it was definitely a slow start, a slower start than Suzann.  She had a good start and I was kind of impatient.  But it wasn't that bad.  I had a good feeling, and I just kept making the putts.  It's not bad to do that because of this wind.
But after 10 I said to myself, you know, there you go, it's going to come, and I felt a good feeling after that.  Overall I played really well.  I hit the ball well, and my putting was good, and it was a very consistent round.

THE MODERATOR:  Suzann, talk about that hot start.  When you birdie the first three holes are you thinking really low or with the conditions did you think you had to go really low today?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I was thinking in the 50s for sure.  (Laughter.)
You know what, I hit good shots, good putts.  Been putting good all week, and really not trying to force anything, just let it come to me.  I felt like I maybe left a few out there, but still, like Ai says, par is not a bad score around here.  If you mix in a few birdies here and there, it really helps.  Just really glad I managed to stay with it and kind of finish up.  I'm still today again under 30 putts, which for me is pretty good.  Yeah, just looking forward to tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR:  If you look at the conditions tomorrow which I think are supposed to be pretty similar to what they were today, what are going to be the biggest keys to whoever is going to be able to come out of this with a victory?  What will someone have to do to win this tournament?
AI MIYAZATO:  Well, you know, I think just playing really simple.  I know it's going to be really tough out there, but if you don't think too much then you'll be fine, I think.  There's a number and there's the green, there's the cup.  It's just trying to play simple out there.  I know my game really well and I know what I need to do, just keep making birdies and try and catch up to Suzann tomorrow.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Good luck.
AI MIYAZATO:  Thanks.  It's going to be a fun day tomorrow.

Q.  Suzann, have you hit a shot this week that wasn't pretty much exactly what you were looking for?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I think a few.  Depends what your handicap is, but I'm playing off scratch.  I mean, there's certain shots, but I think the most important key for me is to really try and stay patient, play the course to what it gives us, to where the pin is, where you want to come in from.  I got a bit greedy on a couple of locations today and kind of got screwed and I was kind of out of position because they were protected pins, and then you've got to play the putt.
But other than that, yeah, golf is not a game of perfection, it's just whatever it gives you there and then.  I think Ai is a very good example of just doing that.

Q.  When you won, you won at 12‑under and nobody else was better than 8.  Why are the scores that much lower?  Is that just because of course conditions or is there more to it?
AI MIYAZATO:  I think the greens are definitely softer than last year.  I think that makes a big difference.  I remember it was really tough to make an adjustment with the iron shots last year.
Definitely the greens are softer, so you can be a little bit more aggressive than last year, so I think that makes them a little bit more lower this year.

Q.  Suzann, the last time you had four rounds in the 60s you won.  Do you think that's something you'll have to aim for tomorrow or just kind of take it and see how it goes?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I mean, you would have to go out and shoot a good number tomorrow.  There's so many good players in this field.  I mean, even today with the conditions there's a few 66s on the board, a few 67s, I think Jessica Korda shot another 66.  There's too many good players to start stepping on the brake.  But I really hope that they will set up the course in a fun way tomorrow, make the par‑5s reachable.  I love seeing us being able to reach the par‑5s and tuck the pins.  It makes it exciting; it could be for the good and for the bad.  But let us have some risk‑reward.  I just think today's pin location at 13, it sets up fantastic if you can actually get there in two.  You'd probably see some tap‑in eagles, you can see some narrowly getting up to the top and then coming back down.
But it's just ‑‑ I find it personally boring when you hit driver, 3‑wood, wedge, driver, 3‑wood, wedge on back‑to‑back par‑5s when you know the wind is where it is.  I hope they'll make it a little bit more playful tomorrow, just mix it up, and yeah, just let us go low.

Q.  Suzann, you won in China, had a great finish at Kraft.  Sometimes we talked about kind of getting off to slower starts, but you've had a few really good finishes.  How do you feel about your game right now and do you feel like it's coming together earlier this year than perhaps it has in previous years?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Well, as I look back, I think everything I did early on was pretty good.  I could never ask to have felt any better with my game than what I did at Kraft.  I had one sloppy round, and that took me pretty much out of it.  But other than that I thought everything leading up to it, I decided to play ‑‑ get a few more rounds in and under my belt, and it was easy to adjust and kind of do the preparation the week prior to Kraft.
I won in China, played very good.  Obviously it was very nice to get that win under my belt.  But I'm just very happy.  I feel like I'm easy on myself, I'm enjoying myself on the course.  I have a great caddie that I get along with out there and who's kind of a great asset to my game.  Yeah, I can't really ask for more.

Q.  They were talking in the booth today about sometimes golfers usually don't play their best golf until they reach their 30s. Agree?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, I actually agree.  I still think I have the best ahead of me.  I really feel like I have the best ahead of me still, and I've been able to be a part of a lot and achieve a lot, probably more than I ‑‑ in the reality I would ever dream of.  But still, I mean, I wouldn't be here if I wouldn't feel like I had more to give and more to go after.  Yeah, hopefully the 30s will be better than the 20s, and I'll be very happy.

 

HEE KYUNG SEO, Rolex Rankings No. 33

THE MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Hee Kyung Seo into the interview room.  Congratulations, a fabulous round today.  You put yourself within one shot of the leader, Suzann Pettersen.  Take me through the day out there.  You had some tremendous chip shots that you hit, holed out and made some big putts.
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Yeah, the shot making was good, too, and I had lots of great birdie opportunities and great chances to make it, and then obviously it was really windy, but I think I got a little used to about wind from yesterday, so it wasn't that hard for me.  But I just picked my target and then waited for it to happen.  I just tried to do my own thing, not think about results of other players or scores, just try to think my thing that I worked on last few weeks, and it's getting better and better and I've got more confidence in that.

THE MODERATOR:  I was talking to your caddie, and he said that you got a little motivation from watching the Masters and that you picked up a little tidbit.  What did you pick up from watching Angel and Adam during that round?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Dean always said to me that the shorter routine helps a lot to make more good shots or good putts, but I always struggled when I got to the ball, it was hard to make a shot.  But from last week Masters I could see Angel and Adam just didn't think about anything on the ball, just hit and waited for the result.  So I just tried to do that, not think about the bad things or the results and other things but just swing it and feel it, and it helped a lot, I think.

THE MODERATOR:  When you pick up that pace and you're not standing over the ball thinking, it really can help your game quite a bit.
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Uh‑huh.

THE MODERATOR:  Overall how your game has been feeling, what do you think has been the difference this week compared to some of the other weeks?  Did you figure out something in your game or is there something you've been working on?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  I've changed a lot the last few months, to December, but I didn't change my swing or anything but try to be consistent on my swing and rhythm.  So I think I'm a little ‑‑ getting something from work on that rhythm things and using my big muscles instead of picking my hands and thinking about all the negative things.
And I worked on short putts a lot last week, and then it's little ‑‑ I think a lot helping me to get through the ball instead of thinking of pushing or pulling.  That short putt helps me a lot more long putts, too, because I don't worry about short putts anymore, so I think I can go more aggressive on the ball.

THE MODERATOR:  I know you've got some exciting things happening to you personally, that you got engaged last December, and I also heard your fiancé is here and you haven't been together in six weeks or two months or something like that.
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Yeah, absolutely.
THE MODERATOR:  How much has it helped having him here this week and getting engaged and looking forward to another phase in your life?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Well, it's Hawai'i, so it's really good to be here with him, and also my mom is here so we are having fun and not thinking about golf after a round.  He is just always trying to make me happy.  He's a really positive man, so if I think about negative things or I get depressed a little bit he tries to make me happy and always trying to make me feel really good.  It's a little hard to be away from him; it's not easy to travel without him.  But I think sometimes it's good to be separated.

THE MODERATOR:  Can you give us his name and the spelling of his name?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Yeah, his name is Kung Hoon Kook.

Q.  Was there something that happened early today that got your round going for you?  Was there one shot or one putt that you made that really got things working?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  I started a little hard on the first hole.  I didn't make the fairway and it was in the bunker and I didn't make another fairway.  So it was a little hard for me to make a par.  And the second hole, there was a shower, so it was hard to make a second shot, but I hit a really good second shot and then made a birdie, and then I got a little motivation.

Q.  Overall what did you do best today?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Best, just I think I really focused on the shots.  I shot not thinking about results.  I didn't even look up at the leaderboard and I didn't recognize that I'm hitting like 5‑ or 6‑under until the 18th hole.  Yeah, I just really focused on the ball, yeah.

Q.  How did you feel about the eagle that you had?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Yeah, I was talking to Dean on the second shot earlier, do I have to go to the flag or right side of green.  It was not that hard chip shot, but I didn't expect that I would make that.  But yeah, I hit it really good, and I picked the right spot and I hit it to the spot and it just went in.

Q.  This golf course with these conditions, which are probably going to be similar tomorrow, what's the most critical thing you need to do tomorrow?
HEE KYUNG SEO:  Just the same as the last three days, just pick the target and hit to the target and wait until it happens and just waiting and be patient.  And the greens are not that firm or fast, so I think we will tend to pick the green direction because Dean and I struggled some shots to pick the direction of the wind so I didn't make the green.  So tomorrow I think it's really important to pick the direction of the wind.

 

LIZETTE SALAS, Rolex Rankings No. 37

Q. First off, just great round.  Take me through the day and what was really working well for you?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Well, I made a big change on Tuesday.  I went back to the short putter.  It was a good decision.  I felt good about it, and that's what was really working for me today as I was making putts.  I had five birdies on the front nine and just kept giving myself opportunities and really just wasn't in trouble today.  And that's what kept the momentum going.
I'm visualizing a lot better.  I'm just having more fun, and just 5‑under par is a great score here with this wind, and I was texting my swing instructor, like how do I get the ball low, because I have a high ball flight, so I was just trying to get the ball low and out of trouble.
The 2nd hole was very intimidating, so after I birdied that one it gave me a lot of confidence to attack the hole today.

Q.  What made you make the decision to change the putter this week?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Everyone was telling me you're putting really good with the belly, and I said, yeah, but I think it needs a break.  I was very restricted.  I needed to be more free, I needed to visualize better.  It's the same stroke, just not anchored.  It felt good, and I just picked it up from the TaylorMade rep, and it fit perfectly, and I said I think I might keep it.  So I played it in the pro‑am, and yeah, it's been working great.

Q.  How long had you been using the belly putter before this?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Since second stage of Q‑school, so almost two years.  Yeah, it's a very long time, and I had a lot of success with it.  You know, it was one of those decisions where I just felt comfortable, and it's time for a change.  You know, everyone told me I was a good putter even before I used the belly, so I just had to believe it, and it's been working great.

Q.  Take me through ‑‑ we all know at Kraft you put yourself in contention and had a rough Sunday, but usually that's when you learn the biggest lessons are days like that.  What have you taken from that Sunday until now as you're right back up at the top of the leaderboard?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Yeah, I learned a lot.  I learned how to really grind, and being here in Hawai'i with the wind you really have to grind, and yesterday I ground it out for 1‑under par, which is a phenomenal score.  I learned how to stay patient.  I learned that a bad round doesn't define who you are as a player.  I wrote in a blog, even after shooting 79 I came back with 69.  That's the type of player I am.  I bounce back.  Yeah, it was a terrible score at Kraft and bad timing, but it's just one of those days, and I learned how to forget about it.  I let the clubs stay in the car for a couple of days.  I didn't pick them up until Thursday and just relaxed, and I knew I was better than that, and it's definitely showing here.

Q.  Overall your confidence level in terms of getting up there now.  You've been starting to play really well and seeing your name up towards the top of the leaderboard.  Is there a comfort level that comes with that the more experience you get?
LIZETTE SALAS:  Yeah, definitely, I'm getting a lot more comfortable seeing my name up at the top of the leaderboard, and that's what Nancy Lopez has been teaching me is to look at the leaderboard and to really study it and to figure out what I need to do.  You know, today it was just fun.  I just started seeing the ball go in the hole a lot more, and confident putting stroke.  Yeah, it's awfully nice to see my name up on the leaderboard so consistently this year.  But you never know with this wind what will happen tomorrow.  Just got to stay patient and not get too ahead of myself tomorrow.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, LPGA Lotte Championship, Pettersen, Suzann, Miyazato, Ai, Salas, Lizette, Seo, Hee Kyung [+]