Portland Classic Presented by
Cambia Health Solutions
Columbia Edgewater Country Club
August 28, 2014
Rolex Rankings No. 25 I.K. Kim (-7)
Rolex Rankings No. 155 Amelia Lewis (-6)
Rolex Rankings No. 221 Jennifer Song (-6)
Rolex Rankings No. 10 Anna Nordqvist (-5)
Rolex Rankings No. 203 Laura Diaz (-5)
Rolex Rankings No. 148 Juli Inkster (-4)
Rolex Rankings No. 240 Jeong Jang (-2)
Three-time LPGA Tour winner I.K. Kim shot a bogey-free 65 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Portland Classic Presented by Cambia Health Solutions. Kim, who went off in the final group of the day, used a string of four consecutive birdies on the back nine to record her lowest round of the season by two shots. She leads Americans Amelia Lewis and Jennifer Song, who both recorded bogey-free rounds of 6-under 66, by one shot.
“Like you said, I played well in Canada,” said Kim. “But the putting was a little bit -- a little disappointed, but yeah, today I hit the ball well and made some putts coming down. This is really good golf course. You have to hit the good shots and also make putts. There's a couple of tricky pins, but I was able to manage.”
Kim has had two top-10 finishes in Portland, both coming at Pumpkin Ridge and leads after the first round for only the second time in her career and first time since 2011.
Jennifer Song and Amelia Lewis posted rounds of 66 in the morning wave and Kim said she paid no attention to the leaderboard before heading out in the final group of the day at 2:40 pm PT.
“Seems like every week it's like 66, 65,” said Kim. “So I didn't really thought about scoring that much. With this golf course you just gotta play your game, and then you get rewarded.”
Kim won on the Ladies European Tour earlier this season but hasn’t recorded an LPGA Tour win since her 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational victory.
Defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 4 Suzann Pettersen shot 1-under 71 and sits six shots back in a tie for 39th. Local amateur qualifier and Beaverton native Gigi Stoll had three birdies and two bogeys to match Pettersen with a 71.
Jennifer Song approached the 9th hole – her last of the day – at 5-under-par and hit a drive right down the middle. With an iron in her hand, she blocked the approach in, leaving it just off the fringe with 50-60 feet to the hole.
She drained it, pushing her into a tie at the top of the leaderboard after the morning wave.
“Well, I wasn’t expecting to make it,” Song said. “I knew it was going to be a fast putt, so I just told myself to get the pace right and just get it near the proximity of the hole, and it just went in. I just lucked out.”
The 6-under-par 66 ties her career low score and 6-under is her lowest score to par in her four-year career.
“I had a wonderful day today. I was making a lot of putts out there, and then my short game was sharp, so I didn’t have a lot of long birdie putts. Most of them were tap-ins,” Song said. “I just played great today.”
At 85th on the money list, Song knows the next three weeks are critical to earning her way into the six-week Asian swing, which are limited field events, and for getting into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which only the top-72 on the Race to the CME Globe points list will earn entry into.
“It’s pretty important, but when I came out here, I try not to think about it, because if I think about like trying to get in the Asia events, it’s thinking about the future,” Song said. “So just trying to play my own game out there and just be in my zone and take it one day at a time.”
TAKE IT EASY
Fifth-year Tour member Alison Walshe will be quick to admit that her game has been struggling in recent past and has made only two cuts in her last nine starts. Walshe decided to go old school this week in Portland and in two different ways. It’s seemed to have paid off.
Walshe worked with her college coach from University of Arizona, Michael Haywood, in the beginning of the week and looked a still photos from her college days in Tuscon.
“To be honest, and we kind of had a little epiphany about something I’ve changed, and we kind of went back to what was working then, which I don’t know why I ever kind of went away from it,” said Walshe. “We kind of grinded the first two days, and I just had to trust it, and I did. And actually hit some really good shots, so it was kind of refreshing.”
Walshe, who says she’s not into watching video of her swing, looked at still shots and specifically at her grip.
“We really looked at pictures. I’m not one to hugely look at video, but we noticed my grip was really strong in college, and I almost have a borderline really weak grip now, which trying to get to a spot, it’s pretty hard for that position,” said Walshe.
Walshe was also treated to a concert on Wednesday night at the Moda Center in downtown Portland and enjoyed a three-hour set of the Eagles.
“Rob Neal (tournament director) hooked up Pat Hurst as a past champion, and I don’t know his connection there, but Pat was nice enough to invite me because she knows I’m a good Eagles fan, and a few of us went, and it was my third time seeing them. And it was awesome.”
Walshe said she’s seen the band perform twice in Boston and luckily got to sleep in a little bit on Thursday.
“I was a little stressed out,” said Walshe. “Yeah, no, I took it easy. I got some rest. I slept in, but I don’t know, I had a fun night.”
ENJOYING THE RIDE
Laura Diaz has four Solheim Cup appearances, two career wins, and 57 top-10s to her credit during her 15-year career thus far. Therefore, finishing outside of the top-100 on the money list the last three years was difficult to say the least. Combine that with two kids under the age of nine, and Diaz wasn’t sure she wanted to continue to play at the professional level and seriously considered walking away. After consulting with a sports psychologist, she ultimately decided to tee it up for another season.
Her reward? The best year of her career possibly since 2008 – her last Solheim Cup appearance – and easily her best year since 2010.
She’s currently 79th on the money list with $97,436, but after missing five cuts in a row in April and May, Diaz has played her best golf in years. She was the co-leader heading into the final round at the Marathon Classic Presented by Owens Corning & O-I but faded to a T18. Still, she’s made the cut in six of her last eight events, including three top-25 finishes in that stretch. She continued the turnaround on Thursday, firing a 5-under 67 to open here in Portland.
“I’ve really just been working on staying really present and trying to enjoy myself out here. The last four years have been rough and just not enjoyable,” Diaz said. “I’m trying to really just embrace what’s going on, and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to play on the LPGA Tour, and I think that sometimes you get to a point where you’re like, I’m not playing good enough, and then you’re miserable, instead of hundreds of thousands of people would love to do what I do, and sometimes it’s really hard to put that in perspective, so I’m working really hard to do that.”
She was terrific on the way in on Thursday, making consecutive birdies on her 15th through 17th holes - Nos. 6 – 8 - and draining a crucial eight-foot par putt on the final hole, No. 9.
“I had a lot of opportunities all day, but they were breaking away at the hole or just missing,” Diaz said. “So I got one to drop on 3, I think, and then it kind, you know, opened up a little bit.”
Whether it’s Friday or Sunday, Jeong Jang and Hee Won Han, two members of the first generation of Korean golfers on the LPGA Tour, will call it quits when their final round at the Portland Classic Presented by Cambia Health Solutions is complete.
The 34-year-old Jang and 36-year-old Han have played the LPGA Tour since 2000 and 2001, respectively, paving the way for many more Korean players to follow suit.
Jang, to her credit, has two wins and 71 top-10s and $6,654,278 in career earnings as she walks away from the game. Her first win came at the 2005 Women’s British Open and she followed suit with another win in 2006 at the Wegmans LPGA. However, she has had three surgeries on her right wrist since then for ligament and tendon damage, which just makes it too difficult and painful for her to give the practice time required to compete at the highest level anymore. That combined with the birth of her two-year-old daughter Sam in October of 2011 leave no question in her mind that this is the time to walk away.
“I think it’s just time to retire. Perfect timing. Just feels that way. My heart’s going that way,” Jang said. “It’s not just one thing.”
Han walks away with six career wins, 65 top-10s and $7,061,987 in career earnings. She, like Jang, is a mother of a seven-year old son Dale, and had been discussing retirement with Jang.
“It was decided almost together,” Jang said. “We talk about, because you know, she’s the only one out here with the kids of the Korean players. So we talked a lot and we share with the kids’ stuff. But we talk a lot. It’s just too tough.”
Both will surely be missed out on the LPGA Tour by their competitors and fans alike.
“They opened the door for us, and now there’s more Asian players coming into the Tour,” I.K. Kim said. “I really wish the best for them, and you know, they have had amazing careers, and they have beautiful kids and families.”
ROOKIES IN THE HUNT
Four LPGA Tour rookies got off to good starts on Thursday and are within three shots of the lead after 18 holes. Emma
Jandel (67), Paula Reto (67), Xi Yu Lin (68), Jennifer Kirby (68) are first-year players competing for the first victories. They’ll try to become the third rookie to win in 2014 and join Lydia Ko (Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic & Marathon Classic) and Mirim Lee (Meijer LPGA Classic) as newcomers to win this year.
Natalie Sheary was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard…Irene Coe withdrew during the first round due to a back injury...Mo Martin withdrew prior to the first round on Wednesday citing a thumb injury.
Q. Great round. How did you feel? You played pretty well in Canada, but coming in did you feel something was going to click this week?
I.K. KIM: Yeah. Like you said, I played well in Canada. But the putting was a little bit -- a little disappointed, but yeah, today I hit the ball well and made some putts coming down.
This is really good golf course. You have to hit the good shots and also make putts. There's a couple of tricky pins, but I was able to manage.
Q. Overall very pleased?
I.K. KIM: Yes. Solid round, yeah.
Q. Happy? You've been taking time off. What have you been doing? What's been on the schedule for you?
I.K. KIM: I don't know. I don't feel I've taken that much off. But yeah, I took a few weeks off International Crown. I played an event in Korea, and then yeah, just take some family time and catching up with friends and stuff.
Q. So you went back to Korea?
I.K. KIM: Yeah.
Q. What did that mean to get a win in England? Was it England?
I.K. KIM: Yes. I really enjoyed it, you know. It's always nice to win a tournament, and I also played very well on that week. So very pleased, and yeah, my game's feeling good. Just need to keep playing.
Q. Just keep going with it.
I.K. KIM: Yes.
Q. Talk about the birdie streak on the Back 9. Were you just in the zone?
Q. What was going on there?
I.K. KIM: Yeah, I had a good birdie on par-5, on 10. It was a makeable putt, but it was -- a lot of putts were in the tree's shadow. The shade was always on, so it was hard to read the putts on the Back 9. But yeah, next few putts, like 10 -- 11 was kind of bonus. Downhill putt so it was kind of bonus. Good birdies coming in.
And there is couple of tricky holes coming down the stretch, so I'm very pleased how I finished.
Q. How much did you have expectations coming into the round seeing there was two 66s put up? Did you think there was going to be lower scores in the afternoon?
I.K. KIM: Seems like every week it's like 66, 65. So I didn't really thought about scoring that much. With this golf course you just gotta play your game, and then you get rewarded.
Q. How about conditions? Greens were okay?
I.K. KIM: They were faster than last week, and yeah, it's really in good condition.
Q. Hee-Won and Jeong Jang are retiring. The first generation kind of Korean golfers. What do they mean to the tour and what did they mean to you, kind of growing up?
I.K. KIM: You know, this is my 8th year on the tour, and I played with JJ and Hee-Won the rest of my career until this point. And it's so nice to be with like how you say, especially we are foreigner, which I feel very comfortable living in America, but we are from Korea. So it's nice to have somebody always together, you know, even though we are traveling.
So they opened the door for us, and now there's more Asian players coming in to the tour. I don't know. I really wish the best for them, and you know, they have amazing career and they have beautiful kids and families.
Q. All right. Run me through the 66.
AMELIA LEWIS: No bogeys today, so that makes it a little easier. Hit a lot of greens. When I made some mistakes, I got up-and-down and just recovered really nicely and pretty smooth day.
Q. How bad did you want that last one?
AMELIA LEWIS: Really, really bad. It was close, too. I just had to hit it a little bit harder, but three more days.
Q. How good is it to come out here and start like this?
AMELIA LEWIS: It's important for sure. Makes the next couple of days a little easier, get a head start, and you realize the course has a lot of birdie opportunities, so it's going to be available the next couple days.
Q. You started the year out on kind of a boom, then went through a little slide and it looks like you're kind of getting it back now. Is that accurate?
AMELIA LEWIS: Yeah. I started really well, had a Top 10 in Australia, and was working on my swing a little bit and tweaking a few things and now it's coming back and it's working out. So it's going to be a good end of the year.
Q. What were you working on?
AMELIA LEWIS: Just getting to a good position in my swing, trying to get more distance and better posture.
Q. What's the key out there as far as scoring goes?
AMELIA LEWIS: Make your putts. I mean the greens are pretty easy to hit, and they are very fast, and just get the speed, actually line with the speed and it's easy.
Q. Some of those fairways are pretty tight out there, though, aren't they?
AMELIA LEWIS: They are, yeah, but the rough isn't too bad and the bunkers aren't too bad either. I missed a few fairways today, but you can still get birdies.
Q. Pretty manageable?
AMELIA LEWIS: Yeah. Definitely.
Q. What's the number going to take here, do you think, after playing today?
AMELIA LEWIS: To win.
Q. Suzann was at 20 last year. Is that attainable again?
AMELIA LEWIS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, for sure. Maybe a little deeper, but 20 is probably around the number.
Q. So you're thinking to win this thing it might take three or four rounds like today?
AMELIA LEWIS: Yeah. The course is really nice. I would say about 21.
Q. That would be your estimate?
AMELIA LEWIS: Yeah.
Q. Perfect. What's the strategy for tomorrow?
AMELIA LEWIS: Do the same thing, just be patient, have fun and get some birdies.
Q. How big is this week going into the Asian events? You could potentially get into the Asian events if you have a good week here. Is that something y'all think about coming into this week?
AMELIA LEWIS: I mean yeah, I mean I'm in a good position right now. I'm in most of them.
And I'm just more thinking about getting ready for Evian, last major of the year, and getting warmed up and ready for that.
Q. Great round today, especially the way you finished, huh?
JENNIFER SONG: Yes. I had a wonderful day today. I was making a lot of putts out there, and then my short game was pretty sharp, so I didn't have a lot of long birdie putts. Most of them were tap-ins. So I just played great today.
Q. How big is that the way you finished draining that long putt there just off the green?
JENNIFER SONG: Well, I wasn't expecting to make it. I knew it was going to be a fast putt, so I just told myself to get the pace right and just get it near the proximity of the hole, and it just went in. I just lucked out.
Q. How important is this week for trying to get into the Asia events?
JENNIFER SONG: It's pretty important, but when I came out here, I try not to think about it, because if I think about like trying to get in the Asia events, it's thinking about the future. So just trying to play my own game out there and just be in my zone and take it one day at a time.
Q. What's the key on this golf course out there?
JENNIFER SONG: I think it's important to get it on the fairway first, because there's a lot of tree lines on the side, so you have to be on the fairway so that you have a good attack angle at the green. The greens are pretty small.
So I think tee shot and making GIRs, that's pretty important out here. And obviously putting is very important.
Q. If you end up having the lead going into tomorrow, what would be your strategy? What's your thought process?
JENNIFER SONG: Just same thing as today. Nothing special, just think one shot at a time, trying to get it on the fairway, and if I get it on the fairway, I'll try to get it on the green, then when I get it on the green, I'll look at the options where I need to putt and pick my line and just putt over it.
Q. Suzann won at 20 under here last year. Do you think about how low -- I mean is this a course that you think people can go that low again this year?
JENNIFER SONG: I think it's pretty reasonable score. There is a lot of great golfers out there, so I'm definitely expecting low numbers.
Q. So very nice round.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Thank you.
Q. You're coming in on a roll.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Uh-huh.
Q. How good did you feel coming into this week, and it's the fourth straight week? Felt good?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I mean I hit the ball really well the last two weeks, just haven't really been able to make a lot of putts. There were highlights last week where I hit the ball better than I have all year. Just couldn't seem to make any putts.
Today felt off with some shots, but you know, really battled and made a couple of good putts just to stay in it. So I'm very happy and proud of myself for just staying patient and letting the hard work pay off.
Q. Any changes to the putter? Any just keeping things the same?
ANNA NORDQVIST: No. I mean I've been rolling the putts very well. They just haven't been able to go in, and you know, last week I hit a lot of lips and framed a lot of edges. It just comes to the point where I think you gotta stay patient, and that's what I felt like I had that attitude, I had it coming into this week, because it got to me a little bit last week, and I have to pay for that, pay back for that.
So overall, you know, you just gotta keep your best foot forward every day and just try to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully it will pay off.
Q. Have you gotten a lot better with just dealing with the lip-outs and things like that just knowing that they'll fall, working on your patience?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah. I think at times, you know, I can emotional up-and-down, but working very hard on the mental side helped me stay in a good positive state of mind. I had a really good putt on 17 that didn't go in. I just didn't really let that affect me. I hit a good putt, just didn't go in.
It's definitely helped me to stay positive.
Q. Have you felt in this stretch, Justine this whole season, have things been almost sort of automatic for you in terms of ball striking and just your game, that things aren't going to fall out of place? Do you think things are just sticking well together?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah. It's been a really long year, and I felt like I'm working very hard, and for me it's just a lot about managing my energy and managing my time. I'm probably one of the more hard-working people, players. And I tend to want to practice a lot.
Q. Over do it.
ANNA NORDQVIST: But I know what I should do during my practice, so it's just a matter of sticking to the plan.
Felt I was a little off after Arkansas and the British Open, but then the last two weeks have been really good for me.
Q. Regrouped. Most consistent you've felt in your career do you think at this point just because you've been having Top 10, Top 10, runner up, third with your wins?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I'd say the last three years have been very consistent. I think in 2012 I had 12 Top 10s or, you know, even -- I would say the last three years has been very consistent inside of top 15. So you know, I'm very happy where my game's at, so it's just a matter of staying patient and --
Q. Keep it going. You're somewhat long and accurate both off the tee. Do you think that suits well for this course? There's a lot of narrow tee shots.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah. You definitely have to place yourself in good spots off the tee. Greens are firming up, and it's a big advantage hitting off the fairways trying to control the distance coming into the pins.
But it's a fun course.
Q. Everybody likes it. Eagle on 7. Run us through that.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I hit a good drive. It was quite a bit into the wind. I had a 3-wood into the green, just came up short and made, I don't know, a 40-footer.
Q. Okay. 40-footer right off the green. You were right on the edge.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah.
Q. Stamina wise, fourth week in a row, have you done that many times in your career or were you kind of nervous about, oh, fourth week in a row or were you like I feel good, let's do it?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Last year I did a stretch with five weeks in a row starting with Solheim, ending with Evian, and it was probably not a very good decision. So I promised myself I wasn't going to do five in a row.
Q. But you can handle four?
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah. So you know, I didn't want to miss Michigan tournament. I didn't want to miss this tournament here in Portland because I have very good memories from here.
So you know, for me I've just had a lot of fun these last couple weeks. It's been great tournaments, and it's hard to say no.
LAURA DIAZ: I had a couple one-putts.
Q. Three in a row there, 6 through 8?
LAURA DIAZ: Yeah, I guess so. Didn't really think about it. Yeah, I had a lot of opportunities all day, but they were breaking away at the hole or just missing.
So I got one to drop on 3, I think, and then it kind of, you know, opened up a little bit.
Q. How big was that to save par on the final hole?
LAURA DIAZ: Oh, it's great. I mean I always like to get the lowest number that I can. And I struggled a little with that tee shot. So getting it up-and-down always makes me feel better.
Q. You've been playing some really good golf recently. What do you attribute that to?
LAURA DIAZ: I've really just been working on staying really present and trying to enjoy myself out there. The last four years have been rough, and just not enjoyable.
And I'm trying to really just embrace what's going on, and I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to play on the LPGA Tour, and I think that sometimes you get to a point where you're like, I'm not playing good enough, and then you're miserable, instead of hundreds of thousands of people would love to do what I do, and sometimes it's really hard to put that in perspective, so I'm working really hard to do that.
Q. Gotta be pretty pleased with 68 today.
JULI INKSTER: Yeah. I played really well. I drove the ball good, putted pretty good. Yeah, I was happy.
Q. 15 years after the big win here, what would it mean to win here?
JULI INKSTER: Well, I got a long way to go, but to win anywhere would mean a great deal, especially I'm not playing that much anymore. It feels good to get out here and play.
Q. I was going to say, you're not playing much anymore, but great finish at the Open, great finish here. Does that give you any thought of playing more at all?
JULI INKSTER: No. I just like what I'm doing now. It's a great balance for me. Yeah, it's good.
Q. How much do you get to practice, doing Golf Channel?
JULI INKSTER: Well, it's hard. I feel like I got two jobs. But done with Golf Channel this year, so I've been able to practice a little bit more.
Q. Does watching it give you any different sense out there do you think?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, watching it really helps. You just realize how good these girls are, and they don't make any mistakes, so you've just gotta plod away.
Q. What's your strategy going into tomorrow?
JULI INKSTER: Keep doing the same thing I'm doing. I hit the ball pretty good, putted pretty good. Didn't really make any mental mistakes, so that was nice.
Q. Is it tougher out there in the afternoon with the poa annua?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah. The greens are bumpy.
But I mean the course is in great shape. You know, it's firm, and you just gotta play for that.
Q. Heard you're retiring.
JEONG JANG: Yes.
Q. Why so?
JEONG JANG: I just think it's just time to retire. Perfect timing.
Q. Why do you think it's perfect timing now?
JEONG JANG: I don't know. Just feels that way. My heart's going that way.
Q. How much of this decision comes down to the difficulties of raising a family on the road? I know you have "Sam's mom" on the back of your hat.
JEONG JANG: Yeah.
Q. Obviously she's your priority.
JEONG JANG: But it's not just one thing. It's my wrist. My wrist is not healthy. I had a wrist surgery done. So it's just from my just wrist problem, injury like before. Just can't practice as much as before.
Just I think I just can't practice as much as all the girls. So I'm just thinking it's time.
Q. Too tough to compete out here if you can't practice?
JEONG JANG: Yeah. You know, all the players getting so good. You know, all the young kids, and you know, they hit so far.
Q. Right. Any plans for a second career? What will you do after this?
JEONG JANG: Actually I just want to rest a few months at least. Just don't think about not going anywhere. And I don't want to pack. I want to just be mom, be wife, being just daughter. And just stay home, just relax and not really think about it.
Q. Wasn't your husband caddying for you for a while?
JEONG JANG: Two years.
Q. What's he doing now?
JEONG JANG: He just go back to work and he was teaching golf.
JEONG JANG: And he used to be pro golfer. He retired since that. He's been teaching, and he's going to go work, back to work.
Q. Will you all stay in Orlando?
JEONG JANG: Yeah. We will stay in Orlando.
Q. What do you want your legacy to be leaving? What do you want people to remember you for out here?
JEONG JANG: I don't know.
Q. I mean you were one of the first Korean players to win out here and started kind of a lot of --
JEONG JANG: Yeah, first generation like Se Ri and me and Hee-Won and Kimmie and Grace. I just don't know, I never think about it. But just something good think about me.
Q. Hee-Won is retiring as well this week as well. I don't know if you knew that.
JEONG JANG: Of course I knew that. It was decided almost together.
Q. You did?
JEONG JANG: Yeah.
Q. Did you all talk about that much?
JEONG JANG: We talk about, because you know, she's the only one out here with the kids, the Korean players. So we talked a lot and we share with the kids' stuff. But we talk about a lot. It's just too tough.
Q. Do you want to make the cut this week? I mean is that a goal?
JEONG JANG: Of course. Of course. You know, I'm not just kidding. To see if I can. I want to play Sunday in the last group. I want to try, but of course I want to make cut.
Q. Any second thoughts golf wise if you did do that? Would you be like, oh --
JEONG JANG: You know, last group would be good, but I want to say I want to just finish with Top 10. That would be nice.