ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open Third-Round Notes and Interviews

Chella Choi
Photo Credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Chella Choi of South Korea practices on the driving range after completing her round during day three of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open at The Victoria Golf Club on February 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.

ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
The Victoria Golf Club
Victoria, Australia
Third-Round Notes and Interviews
February 15, 2014

Chella Choi -13, Rolex Rankings No. 28
Minjee Lee -13, Rolex Rankings No. 214
Suzann Pettersen -10, Rolex Rankings No. 2

Chella Choi has been on the verge of claiming her first career LPGA Tour victory and after a course record 10-under 62 on Saturday, tomorrow could be the day the South Korean makes her first trip to the winner’s circle. Choi will head into tomorrow’s final-round of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open tied atop the leaderboard with amateur Minjee Lee at 13-under-par.

Choi began the day in a tie for 38th but the personal best round which included two eagles, seven birdies, and one bogey quickly allowed her to climb the leaderboard. While struggling with her irons and putting in the first two rounds, the 23-year-old only needed 25 putts on the day everyone refers to as “moving day”.

“I miss a short iron last couple of days, yesterday and today, so I just try focus on just my short iron because if I have a lot of chance short iron, make a lot of birdie chance right, but I got a lot of miss yesterday, so I just practice after round yesterday,” said Choi. “So my pace much better and my putting is much better than before.”

Choi began her third round with a birdie at the par-4 first but cooled off until an eagle at the par-5 eighth and birdie at the par-5 ninth moved her 4-under for the day. After a birdie at the par-4 12th and bogey at the par-4 13th the charge up the leaderboard wound soon ensue for Choi.

Ending her round in commanding fashion, Choi boarded the birdie train and reeled off four consecutive birdies beginning at the par-3 14th before closing out the day with an eagle at the short par-5 18th.

“I don't know why, I don't know why I played 10-under today, it's just amazing LAUG,” said Choi. “I made two eagles today, so first time, so yeah.”

Australian amateur Minjee Lee has played with the poise of an LPGA Tour veteran as she fired a third-round 4-under 68 to grab a share of the lead. The 17-year-old carded five birdies and one bogey including back-to-back birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 to head into tomorrow’s final round tied atop the leaderboard.

A win tomorrow would make Lee the fourth youngest winner in LPGA Tour history at 17 years, 8 months, and 19 days.

  • Lydia Ko, 2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open (72-hole event) at 15 years, 4 months, 2 days *
  • Lydia Ko, 2013 CN Canadian Women’s Open (72-hole event) at 16 years, 4 months, 1 day  * 
  • Lexi Thompson, 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic (72-hole event) at 16 years, 7 months, 8 days
  • Marlene Hagge, 1952 Sarasota Open (18-hole event) at 18 years, 14 days
  • Marlene Hagge, 1952 Bakersfield Open (18-hole event) at 18 years, 2 months, 15 days

* not a member of the LPGA

While the Aussie has the opportunity to win an LPGA Tour event in front of her home country, she surprisingly admits to feeling no pressure.

“No, not really, I just play,” said Lee of the lack of pressure. “I think it kind of lightens it up a little bit because I'm smiling all the time.  I have a good chat with my coach.”

Crazy superstitions… Saturday is known as “moving day” as players attempt to get in position to win a tournament on Sunday. During today’s third-round, Chella Choi took full advantage of moving day and fired a course record 10-under 62 to grab a share of the lead.

While the South Korean carded two eagles and only needed 25 putts en route to carding her lowest score in a tournament, Choi credited the impressive day to a different breakfast routine.

During the first two days of competition Choi ate breakfast at the host hotel and washed it all down with a glass of milk. The difference maker on Saturday however was eating breakfast at the golf course accompanied by a glass of orange juice. 

“I try but not same because yesterday I at the hotel at tournament here,” said Choi, “but today is 10 o’clock so ate at the golf course.  I think in here dining is much better, right LAUG.”

“Some fruit and milk, but I not drink milk today,” added Choi, “so I try orange juice today LAUG so I try same tomorrow.”

In position to record her first-career LPGA Tour victory, when asked if she would keep her pre-round routine the same tomorrow the answer was quick and simple, “yes”.

Eagles for a good cause… Twelve total eagles were made today, Chella Choi (-13) on par-5 8th and par-5 18th, Lydia Ko (-11) on par-5 17th, Perrine Delacour (-8) on par-5 8th, Karrie Webb (-8) on par-5 8th, Diana Luna (-6) on par-5 8th, Su-Hyun On (-7) on par-5 18th, Breanna Elliott (E) on par-5 18th, Becky Morgan (-3) on par-4 1st, Caroline Masson (-7) on par-5 9th, Sarah Kemp (-6) on par-5 8th, Paula Creamer (-6) on par-5 8th.

With 12 eagles recorded today, $12,000 was raised for the Wounded Warrior Project®. A total of 15 eagles were made during the weekend of the season-opening Pure-Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic bringing the total amount raised or the Wounded Warrior Project®., $27,000.

Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends is a season-long charity program that will be tied into the Race to the CME Globe. Each Saturday and Sunday at LPGA tournaments, CME Group will donate $1,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® for each eagle that is recorded. This amount will increase to $5,000 for each eagle during the weekend of the CME Group Tour Championship and a formal check will be presented to the Wounded Warrior Project® during the trophy ceremony at the CME Group Tour Championship. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.

Quotable… This week Suzann Pettersen has the opportunity to overtake the No. 1 position in the Rolex Rankings for the first-time in 44 weeks. The Norwegian found herself 1-stroke off the lead heading into the third-round of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open but after an even-par 72, she will head into tomorrow’s final round two-strokes off the lead.

While Pettersen has some ground to make up, she remains optimistic as she goes after her first LPGA Tour victory of the year.

“Yeah, I started out pretty good,” said Pettersen of her third round. “I was hitting the ball good to start out with then I wanted to bomb a driver so hard I got out of rhythm a little bit. There’s still another day to go, I didn’t quite make as many putts as I did the other day but I’m just very glad there’s another day tomorrow.”

Chella Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 28

THE MODERATOR:  Great to see you.
CHELLA CHOI:  Good to see you.

THE MODERATOR:  Seven birdies, two eagles, that was some kind of round.
CHELLA CHOI:   Yeah, really, really good round hey LAUG?

THE MODERATOR: Excellent, the best.
CHELLA CHOI:  Yeah, I think so LAUG.

THE MODERATOR: I read that your last lowest round was 63, so is this the lowest round that you've ever had in competition?
CHELLA CHOI:   Yeah.

THE MODERATOR: 62?
CHELLA CHOI:  Yeah, this is my best score today.

THE MODERATOR: When you woke up this morning did you think this is going to be a great day?
CHELLA CHOI:   I don't know, I just eat cereal and bread, so I try the same tomorrow LAUG.

Q.  Your previous best score, 63, where was that?
THE MODEDRATOR: What golf course?
CHELLA CHOI:  Manulife in Canada, Ontario, two years ago.

Q. Are you a streaky player, do you get hot and have these days where you just can't miss?
CHELLA CHOI:  I miss a short iron last couple of days, yesterday and today, so I just try focus on just my short iron because if I have a lot of chance short iron, make a lot of birdie chance right, but I got a lot of miss yesterday, so I just practice after round yesterday.  So my pace much better and my putting is much better than before.

Q.  You are equal eighth today.  What changed, did you feel like you were going to ever miss the cut?
CHELLA CHOI:  I just concentrating on the moment and my stroke and I made a putt LAUG so I don't know why LAUG.

Q.  What do you normally have for breakfast?
CHELLA CHOI:   Some fruit and milk, but I not drink milk today, so I try orange juice today LAUG so I try same tomorrow.

Q.  Are you normally superstitious?  Do you follow routines, like you say, to produce the same result?
CHELLA CHOI:  I'm sorry.

THE MODERATOR: Do you do the same thing every day, like a routine?
CHELLA CHOI:  I try but not same because yesterday I at the hotel at tournament here, but today is 10 o’clock so ate at the golf course.  I think in here dining is much better, right LAUG.

THE MODERATOR: You eat at the golf course tomorrow again?
CHELLA CHOI:  Yes, same.

Q.  There are obviously a lot of awesome Korean golfers, who's your inspiration and do you have someone who's your hero out here?
CHELLA CHOI:  Se-Ri Pak, but she not play here.  When I starting golf, I watch her play but Karrie is same, so I play with Karrie last week, so yeah.

Q.  You said that you played with Karrie last week, did you learn anything from playing with her?
CHELLA CHOI:  I play with her last week and last year too, but last year she won, so she really hit farther than me and her putting is so good.  So I learn with Karrie playing.

Q.  You haven't won on the LPGA Tour yet, have you?  What would it mean to you tomorrow to stand up and get that?
CHELLA CHOI:  I try enjoy playing and just focus on one shot and one shot and just putting.  I think if I hit a - if I just always hit the green, I have a lot of birdie chance.  So I just focus on just my shot, before shot and shot.

Q. Do you realiZe how famous these courses are around the world?
CHELLA CHOI:  I like this golf course shape because beside the green, bunker is so hard.  I like this golf course.

Q.  The course record, you've got the course record on one of the renowned courses of the world.
CHELLA CHOI:   I don't know why, I don't know why I played 10-under today, it's just amazing LAUG.  I made two eagle today, so first time, so yeah.

Q.  First time two eagles in a round?
CHELLA CHOI:   Yeah, so I'm so excited this week.

THE MODERATOR: Is your Dad excited at the prospect…
CHELLA CHOI:   I think so.

THE MODERATOR: …of him retiring?
CHELLA CHOI:  Ah-ha.

Q. Just tell us how you started your golf?  How old were you and was it a case of going to the driving range with your parents?
CHELLA CHOI:  I started 10 and I watch Se-Ri Pak play because she is really, really hero in Korea, 1998.  So I think if I practice every day one hour I can stay in Se-Ri Pak LAUG.  So I started, but like so hard, before 10 years ago I practice in Seoul, just 100 yard driving range and no putting green and no chipping green.  So I want to learn and I want to study golf, so I move 16 years ago, came US, so I made with Mike Bender, so yeah.
           
THE MODERATOR:  That's where it started.  You live in Jacksonville?
CHELLA CHOI:    Yes.

 

Minjee Lee, Rolex Rankings No. 214

THE MODERATOR: Another fantastic round of golf, can you keep it going tomorrow?
MINJEE LEE: I hope so LAUG.

THE MODERATOR:  We're all looking forward to that. Was it as easy today as it was yesterday?
MINJEE LEE:  I think today was similar conditions but yeah, we were playing in twos so it was pretty quick.  I was on a mission kind of today LAUG.

THE MODERATOR: Did you feel that you left any shots out there today, any birdies?
MINJEE LEE: Yeah, on the front nine I hit a couple of really good putts but they just didn't drop.  Hopefully tomorrow I will LAUG.

THE MODERATOR: You're looking forward to tomorrow?
MINJEE LEE: Yeah, yep, I'm really excited.

Q.   What was your mission?
MINJEE LEE:   Well obviously to make as many birdies as possible but just keep it in play and just keep hitting good shots and getting it close so I can hole the putt, because they weren't really going in.  I'm happy with 4-under, yeah; I'm stoked with 4-under really.

Q. Yesterday it was said to me after your round you just looked like you were playing in a chook run at your club in Perth.
MINJEE LEE: Probably, I don't know, I'm pretty cruisy on the golf course.  I don't really show much emotion, smiling all the time; yeah.

Q.  Do you feel it inside though, the pressure?
MINJEE LEE:  Not really.  No, not really, I just play.  I think it kind of lightens it up a little bit because I'm smiling all the time.  I have a good chat with my coach.

Q.  Tomorrow you're in the last group - I'm not trying to put pressure on you, but do you wake up differently?
MINJEE LEE:  No, I'll just wake up, eat, come to the golf course and play LAUG.

Q.  Just another around.
MINJEE LEE: Just another round.

Q.  You looked on the 16th that you weren't happy with your tee shot there but you rolled in a really nice putt. You've shown that a few times this week.
MINJEE LEE: Is that a par 3?

Q.  Yeah, that one.
MINJEE LEE: Okay.  No, I had a good club but I just leaned a little bit right, but I holed my putt so it cancels it out.

Q.  You scrambled several times really well this week when you have made that rare error, haven't you?
MINJEE LEE: Yeah, yep.  I think when I was off the green, they were in the bunkers, I think I played them pretty good and just covered when I had to.

Q.  Did you learn anything from your experience last week that you will take into the final day?
MINJEE LEE:  Not really, it was just - it's just another round.  Yeah, I'm sure there will be a little nerves on the tee, but other than that.

Q.  Will you have any extra friends or family come and visit or are they all still back in Perth?
MINJEE LEE: My Mum and Gran's here with me, so that's all I really need.  My friends over here, hopefully they come out and support me but other than that, just everyone else has been really good.

Q.  Has your Gran always been a big supporter of your golf?
MINJEE LEE: Yeah, she just supports me in whatever, so yeah she always travels and she comes over to Perth all the time.

THE MODERATOR:  Can you ever remember being nervous at any tournament at all?
MINJEE LEE: I’m sure everyone gets nervous on the first tee, but yeah, just try to…

THE MODERATOR: Does that just go away after you've hit the first shot and you're walking down the fairway?  Do you feel then I'm into it now or does sit sometimes last longer than the first hole?
MINJEE LEE: I think the last couple of holes, it's not something that you can control really, it's just when you kind of settle down.  It just always varies.

Q.  Have you had anything odd happen to you social media-wise or people noticing you that hadn't known you before in the last couple of weeks?
MINJEE LEE:   Yeah, I guess so, like Twitter and stuff, but I don't really know how to use it yet.  I’m getting around that.  Just like the volunteers and people around watching, they're just like, oh well done and things like that; so it's been really good.

Q.  Nice to be recognised?
MINJEE LEE: Yeah and also because it's great support.  You can't really go wrong with that.

Q.  MinJee, can I ask you about Karrie Webb's influence on you.  I know that you're a member of her scholarship squad and I think maybe went over to the States to stay with her or something.
MINJEE LEE: Yep.

Q.  That influence, has she been a bit inspirational to you and has she been helpful to you?
MINJEE LEE: Yeah, we got to stay with her during the US Open, last year I think, year or two.  She's been really great.   I think she really inspires a lot of young golfers and she's a great role model for us; so yeah.

KATHIE SHEARER: Are you more at ease this week than you were last week or it's just the same, in this position you're in?
MINJEE LEE: I'm just really excited, I think because once you've been in this situation once you're like, I think I can do it again, so I'm glad it's this week.

Q.  MinJee, tomorrow going out as the current leader, you talked about hitting the greens and not making any mistakes.  Do you set out a specific game plan for each hole with your caddy at the start of the round?
MINJEE LEE: Yes, it's been like that since I started.  We always have a plan and how we want to hit, like where we want to hit it and where it's going to roll to and all that kind of stuff.  But, yeah, just stick with what I've been doing all week and it will be good I guess LAUG.

Q.  That won't change tomorrow, perhaps being more conservative or being more aggressive; it will just be exactly the same?
MINJEE LEE: Yep, I think the game plan is always the same.  It's been working so far, so why change it?

THE MODERATOR: Will you go out to dinner with your Nan and your Mum tonight?
MINJEE LEE: I think they've already prepared something; so just at home.

 

Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 2

Q. Was it a frustrating day out there today?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  Yeah, I started out pretty good. I was hitting the ball good to start out with then I wanted to bomb a driver so hard I got out of rhythm a little bit. There’s still another day to go, I didn’t quite make as many putts as I did the other day but I’m just very glad there’s another day tomorrow.

Q.   How are you feeling about the golf course?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  This course is very playable – there were a couple of really interesting lies out there today like the bunker on 18. Just not quite my day, a few bad errors but it’s decent.”

 

Topics: Choi, Chella, ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, Notes and Interviews, Pettersen, Suzann