Honda LPGA Thailand Wednesday Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews

Untitled Document Honda LPGA Thailand
Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course
Chonburi, Thailand
Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews
February 19, 2014

Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Lydia Ko, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Pornanong Phatlum, Rolex Rankings No. 30
Ariya Jutanugarn, Rolex Rankings No. 34
Moriya Jutanugarn, Rolex Rankings No. 81


This week the LPGA Tour makes its first stop in Asia for the eighth staging of the Honda LPGA Thailand in Chonburi, Thailand. The event will feature a star-studded field of 70 players competing for a $1.5 million purse at the Siam Country Club.

All 10 of the top-10 players in the Rolex Rankings will be in action this week as No. 1 Inbee Park will make her 2014 LPGA Tour debut. The reigning Rolex Player of the Year is also defending champion this week and will have six titles to defend this week.

Four’s a crowd: The top-four female golfers in the world came together for a pre-tournament press conference at Siam Country Club on Wednesday and gave a snap shot of the exciting world-class talent that will be competing in Thailand this week. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, No. 3 Stacy Lewis and No. 4 Lydia Ko will be making their first appearance together in 2014.

The foursome, who has a combined 33 LPGA Tour wins, made it clear that they’re embracing the friendly competition at the top of the women’s game.

“We've had some great rivalries between a bunch of girls,” said Pettersen. “I think the level of the LPGA gets better and better. To see girls like Lydia that are so young and so competitive at such an early age, it's very impressive.”

“I guess I'm oldest out of these four, so I guess it's good for us to have players that keep us on our tippy toes, that makes you work just a little bit harder,” Pettersen added. “It's fun to be a part of the pack like that. Just shows what this game is all about. I think we all make each other better.”


Hard to top: No. 1 Inbee Park knows it will be a tough task to top her 2013 campaign that included six victories and three major wins. The 25-year old says that she reformed her pre-season goals that she normally has to improve on the season prior and said she’s concentrating on having a good time on the golf course. When’s she’s happy, she says she’ll she the results she wants.

“Every new season I think about do better than last year,” said Park. “That's usually my goal. Obviously it's going to be very tough to beat last year. So this tournament too. It's going to be tough to beat my last year's record.

“I'm going to have tough weeks, but I think just being a happier person and not to thinking so much about results and just thinking about what I can do, what I can control,” said Park. “I think my game is in good shape. But I feel comfortable coming here and seeing everyone here. Yeah, I feel good.”

Park played in events in Asia following the conclusion of the LPGA Tour season and said taking off the first two events on the 2014 schedule was a much needed break. The South Korean made the most of her time in Australia aside from training and played the tourist role from time to time.

“I did paddle boarding first time ever,” said Park. “I swam with the dolphins. Seen kangaroos and koalas. It was different. That was any second time being in Australia.”

Broken record: Stacy Lewis has been the face of consistency on the LPGA Tour over the past year and seems like a broken record talking about finishing in the top-10 week in and week out. But the Texan is nowhere close to being sick of racking up top-10 finishes and being in the hunt for wins every event. She recorded her 12th consecutive top-10 after finishing in a tie for sixth last week in Australia and last saw herself outside the top-10 was last June at the U.S. Women’s Open when she finished T42.

“I've really just kind of carried over since the end of last year,” said Lewis. “I didn't really want to take a break and just kind of kept the momentum going. Two top 10s to start year, I've been right there in both tournaments. Just a few more putts at the end of the day and I'm right where I need to be. My game is really close to where I want it.”

Lewis admits she likes to see her streak extended every week.

“You know, I'm excited I've kept my top 10 streak going, which has been fun,” said Lewis. “Look forward to the week and give myself another chance to win.”

Countdown to Baltimore: Stacy Lewis said the cutoff for teams to be set for International Crown has crept up and says she’s looking forward to see how the teams shape out and matchups to be set.

“I think it's kind of crept up on everybody quicker than we thought,” said Lewis. “Kraft is only four tournaments away, which kind of crazy to think. We've all kind of started watching the standings more. We haven't talked about who would play with who because we don't know who the team will be.”

The top-ranked American knows it will be fierce competition at Caves Valley Country Club outside of Baltimore and says the Thai contingent will be a force.

Just excited to see how the format plays out more than anything,” said Lewis. “Playing the other countries, Thailand is going to be a very solid team and very hard to beat, so it's going to be fun.”

All four players currently ranked to make the team for Thailand are in this week’s field and have a long history. The youthful group have known each other for about 10 years and consider each other very good friends off the course. In addition to Lewis, many will be picking the Thai group as dark horses in the inaugural event.

“I think, because you know more like we close, like all of us, so it's going to be like easy to like talk and make the decisions,” said Ariya Jutanugarn.


Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Lydia Ko, Rolex Rankings No. 4


MODERATOR: I would like to welcome you to a very special press conference today. We don't get to do this all that often. We have the top four players in the world. To my immediate left we have No. 3, Stacy Lewis; No. 1, Inbee Park, No. 2, Suzann Pettersen, and No. 4, Lydia Ko.

Inbee, defending champion. How are you feeling this week? This is your first start of the 2014 season. Took a lot of time off; training in Australia. How excited are you to get started?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I finish off the season quite late last year, middle of December, so I wanted to give myself a good break before I start the season.

About five weeks in Australia. I thought I needed some time off after last year's season. I did some training and had a lot of fun. I did physical training and I did golf training. I had a good time and I feel good about coming this week and feel excited.

MODERATOR: Anything in the off season exciting? We haven't seen or talked to you. Some people take vacation. Anything we should be aware of that was a little off the cuff?
INBEE PARK: I did paddle boarding first time ever. I swim with the dolphins. Seen kangaroos and koalas. It was different. That was any second time being in Australia.

Q. So you played a little bit of the tourist role?
INBEE PARK: Yeah.

Q. Stacy, two Top 10s in your first two starts. Making me sound like a broken record. Talk about your strong start this year and how you feel coming into Thailand continuing your strong play.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I've really just kind of carried over since the end of last year. I didn't really want to take a break and just kind of kept the momentum going.

Two Top 10s to start year, I've been right there in both tournaments. Just a few more putts at the end of the day and I'm right where I need to be. My game is really close to where I want it.

You know, I'm excited I've kept my top 10 streak going, which has been fun. Look forward to week and give myself another chance to win.

MODERATOR: Suzann, talk about having the four of you on this stage and the first time this season to have you all in the field. Competition is at its absolute highest. You're the one that says this is what we strive for. Talk about having you all guys in the field, you three paired together on Thursday, Lydia with Lexi and Ariya, another big grouping. Talk about that competition among you four.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: We've had some great rivalries between a bunch of girls. I think the level of the LPGA gets better and better. To see girls like Lydia that are so young and so competitive at such an early age, it's very impressive.

I guess I'm oldest out of these four, so I guess it's good for us to have players that keep us on our tippy toes, that makes you work just a little bit harder. It's fun to be a part of the pack like that. Just shows what this game is all about.

I think we all make each other better.

MODERATOR: Any trash talk in the first round?
STACY LEWIS:
Well, they like to do this a lot, so this is not the first time the three of us have been paired together.

MODERATOR: That's true. Any rookie initiation for Lydia? You guys have been on tour for a while. Up and comer, have you put her in her place at all?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:
I think she has a better record than all of us together.

MODERATOR: No hazing, though?
STACY LEWIS:
No, we're pretty nice.

MODERATOR: Lydia, Thursday you're paired with Ariya and Lexi. Talk about being in such a well known group. Ariya obviously being the hometown favorite here.
LYDIA KO:
Yeah, I think we'll have quite a low combined age. (Laughter.)

STACY LEWIS: Rub it in.

LYDIA KO: Yeah, I think it's going to be really fun. They're such great players, so I'm happy. Yeah, 's going to be a good day.

MODERATOR: Suzann, you won in Thailand before. Talk about this course and this event.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:
Well, this has been a fantastic venue for the LPGA for years now. Honda has been very supportive of the ladies golf. It's great to see the new young hai players come through all the programs they have had I would say over the last then 10 years I would say almost.
First time I came here it was probably six or seven. I think this course is one of the better ones we play. The conditions this year is the best yeah I've ever seen. The greens with as fast as what we play on all year. Never seen them this good.
So it's going to be quite a week. I'm excited to be back. It's always great support here, and I think this is a great start for us.

Q. Lydia, you're a very experienced player, but this season is your first full season as a professional. Do you find any extra pressure being a professional than when you are an amateur?
LYDIA KO:
I thought there would be much more pressure, but I played the last couple tournaments now showing good results and kind of gave myself better confidence. Been playing good golf.

Yeah, I think there is a little bit more pressure. I've been trying to concentrate on my golf and my game rather than anything else.

Q. Lydia, have you got any pressure being Rookie of the Year?
LYDIA KO:
Yeah, just going to take one tournament at a time. There are so many other great rookies. I just got to concentrate on my game. I can't control another player.

MODERATOR: Did you think about Player of the Year at all? Obviously Rookie of the Year was the goal for you. Have you thought about Player of the Year? Got a good start in that race as well.
LYDIA KO:
No, I think that hasn’t crossed my mind. So it's too early to kind of think about that now.

Q. Lydia, with the change of clubs, you’ve seen a few extra yards have you?
LYDIA KO:
I think with the irons been going couple yards longer. I hit my driver at the (indiscernible) really good, so nothing's really changed. I think everything else is pretty much similar.

Q. Seamless transition?
LYDIA KO:
Yeah, it's been really good. It's not a huge change compared to what I'm using. So I don't think it's a huge change.

Q. And do you have to wait until you’re 20 to get eye surgery? You’re getting them fixed?
LYDIA KO:
I hope so. I want to get rid of these.
STACY LEWIS: You don't recognize her without them.
LYDIA KO: You kind of don't want your eyes getting worse after the surgery.
STACY LEWIS: They have to stop changing.
LYDIA KO: So if I get them done and they're getting worse...
STACY LEWIS: She's not old enough yet. That's the problem. (Laughter.)

Q. Suzann, on the subject of getting a bit more length, everyone was talking in Melbourne about your length off the tee. Can you quantify how much length you gained in the off season?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:
I just think the driver, felt like I always had more in the tank with the driver. So it's probably an average 15 yards longer, I would say.

But it's more the way the hit it. A little bit of a change of attack angle and a little different shaft. So I actually have a better ball flight. So I tried to get that over the winter.

Not like the driver I had was awful. It's always nice when you feel like you can out in one extra (indiscernible) when you really need it.

Finally, at age 32 I found a great driver. Never too late. (Laughter.)

Q. Will you guys be trying to reach No. 15 off the tee?
STACY LEWIS:
You can get it on there pretty easy.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Yeah, 250, piece of cake.

Q. So not going to layup?
STACY LEWIS:
I think it depends on where the pin is and wind and all that.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I hope they move it up.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think it would be good from there.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: It's a pretty tough green. It's definitely one of those holes where you could give it a go.

Q. They're talking about moving the tee up on 18 as well.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:
I've never seen the tee where it is.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, the back tee is hard, I think.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I don't think it's a great hole from the back. I think it's a much better hole where it was.

I hit a pretty good drive today and...

STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I think the back tee is a three shot hole. Takes some of the drama out of it. The tee gets moved up a couple times during the week at least, I think.

MODERATOR: Here in Thailand the International Crown is a huge deal. For the Americans, you guys are very clogged at the top. Angela and I think Jess and Lizette were the three out. Talk about that event. Time is kind of ticking on who makes the team. Have you talked about the event on the American side? How excited you are about it?
STACY LEWIS:
I think it's kind of crept up on everybody quicker than we thought. Kraft is only four tournaments away, which kind of crazy to think. We've all kind of started watching the standings more. We haven't talked about who would play with who because we don't know who the team will be.

I'm excited. I think Lexi is pretty much a lock. She's going to be there. I'm excited to have her. I played Solheim with her and we played best ball together really well. I'm going to like having her there.

Just excited to see how the format plays out more than anything. Playing the other countries, Thailand is going to be a very solid team and very hard to beat, so it's going to be fun.

MODERATOR: Inbee, you guys are almost the ones with the targets on your back, top ranked South Korea. Talk about strategy between you four.
INBEE PARK:
Yeah, I mean, we didn't talk about it just yet, but I am sure everyone is thinking about International Crown. We play each other a lot of times since we were so young, and especially we played a lot in Korean Japan Cup last few years. So I think we're used to playing with each other. We all feel comfortable.

I think one thing we need to do is not to put too much pressure on ourselves thinking we're going to win. Thinking maybe we will get close.

MODERATOR: Talk about the season coming in. Did you do any goal setting? Expectations? Are you going to try to block that out and keep the goals to yourself?
INBEE PARK:
Every new season I think about do better than last year. That's usually my goal. Obviously it's going to be very tough to beat last year.

So this tournament too. It's going to be tough to beat my last year's record.

I'm going to have tough weeks, but I think just being a happier person and not to thinking so much about results and just thinking about what I can do, what I can control.

So yeah, I think my game is in good shape. But I feel comfortable coming here and seeing everyone here. Yeah, I feel good.



Pornanong Phatlum, Rolex Rankings No. 30
Ariya Jutanugarn, Rolex Rankings No. 34
Moriya Jutanugarn, Rolex Rankings No. 81


MODERATOR: Moriya, I'll start with you. How do you feel to be playing in Thailand, back in your home country, playing in your second LPGA event in Thailand?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN:
Actually last year was pretty exciting because my first time turning pro and playing in my home country. Also this year is pretty exciting.

MODERATOR a little less pressure now that you've been here and played it?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN:
Yeah, a little bit, because you know more. I mean, you kind of like learn on LPGA last year, like rookie years, and getting like used to it.

So, yeah, everything is just like feel like more a little bit used to it and better.

MODERATOR: So you're more comfortable.
MORIYA JUTANUGARN:
Yeah.

MODERATOR a little bit. Rookie of the Year last year. Congrats.
MORIYA JUTANUGARN:
Thank you.

MODERATOR: Did anybody celebrate with you or congratulate you when you came back home?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN:
Yeah, actually I doing my off season one month in Thailand and we do some celebrate. Also we do New Year's celebrate. I never have that for four, five years, so it's pretty good.

MODERATOR: What did you do to celebrate?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN:
We went to Laos. Just three days over there. It's really fun because I never been there. It was fun.

MODERATOR: Pornanong, for you, you're the most experienced out of these three on tour. You had a really solid year last year many. Played really well.
PORNANONG PHATLUM:
Yep.

MODERATOR: Have you set any goals playing wise this season?
PORNANONG PHATLUM:
Yeah, I have my goal this year, and I wish I can make top 10.

MODERATOR: So top 10 on the Money List?
PORNANONG PHATLUM:
Yeah, but I don't want to pressure myself have.

MODERATOR: Pressure off. That would be nice. Where did you spend your off season?
PORNANONG PHATLUM:
We celebrate New Year with big family.

MODERATOR: So back to Thailand and been here since?
PORNANONG PHATLUM:
Yes.

MODERATOR: And Ariya, you played very well here last year.
ARIYA JUTANUGARN:
Okay.

MODERATOR: You did. Had a tough finish. Have you tried as much as you could to put that behind you? And playing in front of massive crowds you guys get, such a support system here, what are you doing for this week to move on and have another good week?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN:
Just come back from like surgery so take like nine month off, so it's hard to come back. Just really want have fun this week and do my best.

MODERATOR: How hard was it not being able to play? Give us a timeline of having the surgery. How long did you not swing a club for?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN:
I think six months, and after six months half swing and putting, chipping.

MODERATOR: And you've never had an injury like that before?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN:
Never.

MODERATOR: How hard was it to sit back? Was it nice to have a break or hard?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN:
It's hard. You feel like very nice I can have a break and can do everything I want to do I never do before. It's fun, but still like boring. Nothing to do. Cannot play golf. So fitness, rehab, that's it.

MODERATOR: Now let’s talk about the International Crown. I'll start with you. How long have you guys known each other?
PORNANONG PHATLUM:
We know long time.

ARIYA JUTANUGARN: Ten years. I know her but she not know me. Actually we know each other kind of like on news or something. Because she was turning pro early, so we like see...

MODERATOR: So you watched her turn pro and you kind of aspired to be her?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN:
Yeah.

MODERATOR: Obviously you get questions about the Crown all the time and you guys are being picked to be the dark horses to win. Have you talked about who will play with each other, any of that stuff?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN:
You know what, it's really exciting to answer about like the Crown International, I mean answer the question, because a lot people ask me like, How will they do, and I'm like, You know what? I'm not sure.

Yeah, like we just four of us in the team, and we just like one day I just sit down and talk with my sister, and it's like, Who going to be a captain? Just like thinking about that. Maybe her.

MODERATOR: You don't need a captain, but you can chose one if you want.
MORIYA JUTANUGARN:
Nothing just like talk. I think it's pretty fun because we going to sit down like four of us and kind of like mix up what you going to do.

MODERATOR: And you guys all get along very well. No cattiness. You think that will help because you're all so laid back? You're carefree. Don't get too nervous or caught up with anything. You're very friendly. You think that will help?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN:
Yeah, I think, because you know more like we close, like all of us, so it's going to be like easy to like talk and make the decisions.

But everybody kind of like, You do it, and it's like, Yeah, you. Something like that.

MODERATOR: Okay. I get it. So this week you're all very familiar with this course. What do you think about the conditions? What's the key to playing well?
ARIYA JUTANUGARN:
I think the key is going to be approach shot and putting. The fairway is not really narrow and the course is not really long, so just play, hit it. I think the putting and the approach shot going to be key.

Q. You played in Thailand in December and virtually won the Ladies Thailand Open. Do you think winning the open helped?
PORNANONG PHATLUM:
Yeah, I think I got experience and my game improved.

Q. The question is, girls, do you think you got time your schedules to come back here in December and play with your friend here in the Thailand Ladies Open?
ARIYA:
Asian Tour?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: Same week in Japan?

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Honda LPGA Thailand