Wegmans LPGA Championship
Monroe Golf Club
Pittsford, New York
Tuesday Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews
August 12, 2014
Lydia Ko, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Mo Martin and Lexi Thompson, 2014 Major Champions
Azahara Munoz, Carlota Ciganda and Belen Mozo, International Crown Champion Team Spain
The Wegmans LPGA Championship returns to one of the best cities in the country for golf this week for the 60th edition of the second-longest running event on the schedule - the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
This is the 38th time Rochester has hosted the LPGA and fifth time the city has been home to the LPGA Championship. For the first time, Monroe Golf Club - a historic Donald Ross layout - will provide the type of championship test reserved for a major championship.
The Wegmans LPGA Championship has a Who’s Who of women’s golf winner’s list and should provide another exciting championship.
AN AMERICAN SWEEP?
The American players in the field this week will be trying to not only win the fourth major of the year but to add their names next to three fellow Americans for the first time since 1992. That was the last time Americans have swept the first four majors when Dottie Pepper, Patty Sheehan, Betsy King and Sherri Steinhauer won all four majors of the season. Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie and Mo Martin picked up the first three titles of 2014 with two more to play: this week’s LPGA Championship and The Evian Championship.
“I believe it would be more of momentum, just here in America and for golf here and for the younger players,” said Mo Martin. “I just know for me personally, one of the greatest joys I get is having an influence in people’s lives and learning stories.”
The American resurgence of winners on Tour has been a storyline all season with 11 titles being claimed by the United States out of the first 18 events on the schedule. Martin believes the new platform the players from the United States have reached gives them more influence not only on the golf course but off of it too. Martin recalled an interaction with some fans in Toledo the week after her major win that made her realize her impact on others.“In Toledo I had these two little girls that started following me, and I talked to their parents, and they said, you know, it’s been so special to meet you and to hear your story and to see you because our little girls are petite in stature,” said Martin. “People tell them all the time, you can’t play sports. So I actually taught the older girl the word hogwash, and so I said, next time somebody tells you you’re too small to do something, you message me, and I said, you know that that’s hogwash. She said, okay, okay.
“So just to make those little influences and to be in a position to have a positive impact far beyond what we know, that’s an honor that I know none of us take lightly.”
Lexi Thompson agreed with Martin that a 4-0 record for Americans in majors would give a boost to the game, but said she won’t be thinking about the feat when playing this week.
“That would be huge,” said Thompson. “I mean, that would be great for women’s golf in general, but I think we’re all just trying not to really think about that going into the week, putting extra pressure on ourselves. We’re just going to go out there and try our best like we do every week out here and see what the outcome is.”
NO I IN TEAM BUT THERE IS IN WIN
Each member of the Spanish International Crown team had a sense of confidence heading into the match play competition that they had a very good chance at winning the inaugural event. The group known for their fiery demeanor and close-knit bond showed that team chemistry and the will to play for one another trumped talent on paper.
Belen Mozo said playing team events brings something out of her on the course that an individual stroke- play event never could.
“Definitely I played some good golf the week of the International Crown, and I’m still playing really good golf, but I don’t think I, especially myself, I cannot get that pumped playing for myself,” said Mozo. “I think that week was just you would never see me go crazy, fist pumping, if I’m leading this week. I mean, I’ll be really excited, but I would not be screaming. I would not have anyone to look for and cheer.
“I don’t think it’s as good and as fun when you play as a team as individual,” Mozo added. “Don’t get me wrong, I mean, I will be super excited as well and very motivated, but it’s not the same, I guess, passion when you play as a team.”
Azahara Munoz (2012 Sybase Matchplay Championship) and Beatriz Recari (2010 CVS/Pharmacy LPGA Chal- lenge, 2013 Kia Classic and 2013 Marathon Classic) are two of only three Spanish women to win on the LPGA Tour and Recari’s three career victories are the most by a Spaniard. Marta Figueras-Dotti was the first at the 1994 Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open and they’re still trying to break into the winner’s circle at a major championship.
Munoz said the support they give one another in team events is something she misses out on the big stage on Tour.
“I think one of the things we like is, when we play together, we really help each other,” said Munoz. “That’s why we’ve always been so successful as an amateur and like last week in the International Crown. I think one thing we need to learn is that, when we play as individuals, we are not that good. I don’t want to say we’re not that good mentally, but it’s almost like, top ten is good. We don’t have the fight.”
Munoz said the Spanish players need to find a way to translate the emotion and drive they have in team events and thinks it’s only a matter of time before Spain will have a women’s major champion.
“It’s like Belen said, when we play for each other, we really have the passion. Like I went out there on Sunday, and I mean, I’m not losing. Like at least I have that attitude,” said Munoz. “But I think we really need to take that attitude into this event to be able to be the first ones to win a major. You know, obviously, we need to learn from that, but we really need to take it up. I’ve been thinking about it.”
They’re well aware of the attitude they need to bring onto golf’s biggest stage, and don’t be surprised to see Spanish flags at the top of the leaderboard at Monroe Golf Club this week.
“Coming to this event, I don’t see why we shouldn’t have that attitude either,” Munoz added. “I think, if we learn from that, we could definitely win a major. We need to learn from that and have that attitude out here.”
Michelle Wie is not the only 2014 major champion battling finger issues these days. RICOH Women’s British Open champ Mo Martin is battling a sore thumb that forced her to withdraw from the Meijer LPGA Classic last week in Grand Rapids, Mich. The first-time winner took four days off to rest the ailing thumb but said she’s swinging with pain on every shot. X-rays showed no structural damage but some ligament damage. The ever optimistic Martin said things are looking up though.
“It’s getting better. It’s in the process of healing right now,” said Martin. “So I’ve seen some improvement just in the last few days. It’s looking hopeful.”
Martin will be making her first major start since clinching the Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale and said the past few weeks have been an example of how things change after winning a major.
“It’s been a whirlwind. Things have changed. For one, I’m doing press conferences. That wasn’t happening before,” said Martin. “So I’m adjusting my time really, a lot more time commitment. So interviews. The first two weeks we had off after Toledo, I was doing multiple interviews a day. So that was great exposure for me.”
Martin headed home to Southern California during her off week after the Marathon Classic in Toledo and checked off some items off her bucket list. She knows having the ‘major champion’ label has its perks too.
“It’s just really trying to get my time and my preparation like it was before, but I’ve been able to do some fun things like put a roof on my grandpa’s ranch and threw out the first pitch at the Dodgers game,” said Martin. “So I’m adjusting to post Major life.”
KO-PING WITH MAJOR PRESSURE
A year ago at this event, Lydia Ko knew the question coming before it was asked: “When are you going to turn pro?” reporters asked every time a camera was placed in front of her after winning twice as an amateur. It’s easy to forget Ko’s even a rookie on the LPGA Tour this season after she won twice on the LPGA Tour as an amateur, and she’s looked like anything but a rookie this year with eight top-10s and two victories.
Now, she has a chance to foray into a realm never seen before in women’s golf as a win would push her to No. 1 in the world - as long as Stacy Lewis doesn’t finish solo second - before her 18th birthday. But she’s not paying attention to that.
“I didn’t really realize until you mentioned it, but to me I think winning would be great, but that’s in a couple days time. I’m just going to take it day by day,” Ko said. “If it goes my way, great, and then I become world No. 1, it’s even better. But I’m not going to think about it. I’m just going to try and enjoy it and try to think of it as a normal, another LPGA event.”
Ko’s best finish in a major is runner-up at the 2013 Evian Championships, the week before she turned pro, but her best finish this season as a professional in a major is a tie for 15th at the U.S. Women’s Open. Majors unquestionably feel different, and Ko says she’s been guilty in the past of not treating it like a normal week.
“To me, I didn’t perform that well when I thought, ‘Oh my god, it’s a major. You need to play,’’ so I’m going to try to think of it as just another tournament, and hopefully I’ll hit some good shots and roll in some good putts,” she said.
The Spanish quartet of Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari, Carlota Ciganda and Belen Mozo made history in Owings Mills, Md. when they won the inaugural International Crown at Caves Valley Golf Club outside of Baltimore late last month.
Munoz, Ciganda and Mozo met with media members on Tuesday at Monroe Golf Club to recap the emotional victory for Spain. Ciganda was the only player to return home to their homeland and said while the reception at the airport was not exactly of the Beatles caliber, the reaction from friends, family and media alike was very positive.
“It was amazing. Everyone was saying congrats, not only my home course, but in Madrid, the Federation,” said Ciganda. “Everyone was very happy, and everyone watched it on TV. I think it was really good for the golf in Spain because all the girls saw it. I think it’s going to grow up. It’s just an amazing feeling winning with your friends. I’m very, very happy. I can’t wait for the next one.”
Munoz said the media requests from back home came in high numbers. She said her and her teammates made headlines and were featured on the front page of the top sports newspaper in the country, something women’s golf rarely does.
“It’s been incredible. I did so many interviews the next few days,” said Munoz. “It’s going to sound bad, but I was almost overwhelmed by how many people wanted an interview back home. I don’t know if they know, but we made the front page in one of the biggest sports newspaper, which is huge. Golf would never make it. Not even the guys make it. It’s always soccer. They do something, even if they’re not in season or whatever, they’ll be on the front page. So that was pretty big for us, and it’s been amazing.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Definitely the Minion ride. I’ve got Minion all over my golf bag. I’ve got a head cover, a little key ring, and even my tee bag is full of Minions. It was definitely my favorite.”
- Lydia Ko on her favorite ride at Universal Studios
Lydia Ko, Rolex Rankings No. 2
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody, to the pressroom here at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. A great pleasure to have the No. 2 ranked playing in the Rolex Women's World Rankings, Lydia Ko is here. A rookie season, officially, that feels anything but a rookie season. Let's get your thoughts on your year thus far and then we'll segue in and talk a little bit about the golf course.
LYDIA KO: I know. It's been seven, eight months, and I think I've aged more than I normally have in that period of time.
No, I've enjoyed my time on the Tour. The time has gone really fast. A lot of tournaments, over half has gone by, and I can't really believe it. I wouldn't have imagined myself to be playing full‑time on the Tour the same time last year.
THE MODERATOR: When you say the year has gone by fast, obviously we know how many months have gone by. Has it been fast for you mentally, the tournaments just keep coming so quickly? Have you been able to relax? How has that been for you, what type of adjustment?
LYDIA KO: Well, like every week, the week itself, it feels like it goes slow, like day by day we've got practice rounds, pro‑ams, and you're kind of into the tournament. But when I look back, I've already played this many tournaments. In that kind of sense, at the time I think having fun has made it much easier, especially when I've got three or four weeks in a row, the second and the third weeks kind of go faster because you kind of get in on a Monday and start doing proper practice on Tuesday.
THE MODERATOR: Do you feel like the schedule as you've laid it out thus far has been good for you?
LYDIA KO: I think we've balanced it out pretty well. I haven't overdone myself, and I've had plenty of rest in the off weeks. I really enjoyed my two weeks off after my win in San Francisco and also after Toledo. I think schedule‑wise, I've been trying to balance it out, and I have some rest and go do some fun things.
THE MODERATOR: The potential fallout from this week, I say fallout, it could be great for you; you've had a terrific season already with two wins and eight top 10s, but this week if you were to win, you could move to No. 1 in the rankings. How much have you thought about that?
LYDIA KO: I didn't really realize until you just mentioned it, but to me I think winning would be great, but that's in a couple days' time, and I'm just going to take it day by day. If it goes my way, great, and then I become world No. 1, it's even better. But I'm not going to think about it. I'm just going to try and enjoy it and try to think of it as a normal, another LPGA event.
THE MODERATOR: What's been the most positive thing for you, biggest learning experience this year in your rookie season?
LYDIA KO: Biggest thing, I think just being like what it's like to be a Tour player, what it's like to, I guess, get away from wherever you're living. You're out here full‑time, you're out with sponsors and other players. I guess it's pretty much a full‑time job in that sense, and to kind of enjoy it at the same time and try to balance it out, I mean, yeah, I think that's the biggest thing for me. Just being able to learn how to balance things and learn that perspective of being a Tour player.
THE MODERATOR: Has the business aspect of having your name on your bag and logos on your hat and shirt, et cetera, has the business aspect of being a professional golfer been at times difficult for you, the pro‑ams and the sponsors and that aspect of it?
LYDIA KO: I think all of that, it just comes with being a Tour player. I actually enjoy playing pro‑ams. You get to meet different people from different sponsors, and along the way ‑‑ I think it's a cool experience. You get to meet people that you don't normally get to interact with, these business people, and to do that during golf, that's a total different experience.
Q. Outside of golf, what's the coolest thing you've done this year as a Tour player?
LYDIA KO: I went to Universal Studios in my off week a couple weeks ago with Amy Yang, Vicky Hurst and Sue Kim. We had some fun. I'm not really good with rides, so we had to go to the studios where it was a lot of the motion simulators, but it was cool. We knocked out like a normal teenager doing some things on a spring break.
Q. Did anyone recognize you girls?
LYDIA KO: No, but I put a photo of us up on Instagram, and people said, we saw you guys, and are you in Singapore Universal Studios and everything. No, we're in the States still. But yeah, nobody went up and said hi, but we got some comments that they did see us there.
Q. Favorite ride was what at Universal Studios?
LYDIA KO: Definitely the Minion ride. I've got Minion all over my golf bag. I've got a head cover, a little key ring, and even my tee bag is full of Minions. It was definitely my favorite.
Q. No issues with motion sickness or anything like that? You're really good with roller coasters and every kind of thing?
LYDIA KO: Like some of the stuff I'm okay at. I'm worse with roller coasters and that kind of thing, so I stayed away from that one. But to my surprise, the Simpsons ride was where we kind of felt sick, and we just had lunch before that.
Q. Talk about this golf course, what stands out about it for you.
LYDIA KO: It kind of in a way feels similar to Locust Hill with the rough being similar, but it kind of feels the same, but then it kind of feels like a totally different course. Here, especially with it being a little wet today, I had to hit a lot of hybrids, and for the first time I actually hit an iron on hole 7, and that was my 6‑iron.
I think the course is playing I guess a little on the longer side, especially for it being wet after the rain today.
Q. You have a number of majors under your belt that you've gone through, you've felt the experience. Have you felt some extra anticipation coming into this now that you are No. 2?
LYDIA KO: You know, I mean, it's been a really great experience playing these different types of majors. I was fortunate enough to play this major last year, and I really had fun playing the Wegmans LPGA Classic. I mean, every major is different in its own way, and it's always exciting because we all prepare for all the majors.
To me I didn't perform that well when I thought, oh, my God, it's a major, you need to play well. So I'm going to try to think of it as just another tournament, and hopefully I'll hit some good shots and roll in some good putts.
Q. Did you feel like you put too much pressure on yourself at Pinehurst? Was that part of the deal?
LYDIA KO: I think apart from the last nine of the first day, I played really solid rounds at the U.S. Open, and I really had fun. In the end I think I finished tied for 15th or something, and that's my second best finish at a major. At a course like that, I was pretty happy with the way I finished. At the end of the day, we always go, oh, I wish I'd have done this better and this better, but overall experience I really enjoyed, and I think I played pretty good.
Q. You mentioned playing here last year. You were playing an as amateur, playing for no money. Can you fathom what's happened in the last year? Can you put into words what's happened for you in the last year since you were here last year?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, like even at that time I was asked when are you going to turn pro. That was probably one of the big questions that I got asked pretty much every time a camera was up in my face. Since then I guess I turned pro, and I'm playing full‑time on the Tour.
Yeah, it's been a pretty surreal moment. I can't believe already a year has gone by since then.
Q. Did you get advice from several people before this year began, and if so, is there anything that stood out to you that you've kind of carried through this rookie season that you've kept reminding yourself, I need to do this, I promised myself I would do this my rookie year?
LYDIA KO: I think a lot of people told me to balance it out, never overdo it. There's 33 events this year, and I don't need to play all of them. They wanted me to kind of balance everything out so that I had fun on the Tour and I could, I guess, play for a longer period of time. That's why golf is so great, that you can play when you're 40, 50, et cetera.
I think that was the biggest advice, and that's how we've been managing my schedule, so that I wouldn't overdo it, but at the same time get enough experience.
Q. Can you talk about what your relationship has been like with David over the last year and how that's been working with him, David Leadbetter?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, it's just been really good, I guess. We've been changing a little bit of the swing, but it's been very minor changes. To me it's been a really good change, and I've been working hard with Sean and David. I've been looking at my swing, and I like how it's becoming. I mean, I can never say I'm going to end up having a perfect swing. I try to have my rhythm and then make it a little better.
Yeah, it's been going good, and they're here this week, and they can help me with little things. Yeah, I've really enjoyed working with Sean and David.
Q. Have you already achieved whatever goal it was you set out for yourself this year?
LYDIA KO: Yeah. I didn't really have a position or a ranking goal. My biggest thing was just to have fun on the Tour and also learn what it is about the Tour and learn more about the Tour, learn about the sponsors and the players. I think that was one of the biggest things for me, and I think that's the most important thing in a rookie year. Playing well and performing well is great, but there are some other aspects to it, and I've been having fun and learning things along the way. It's been good.
Q. Two majors left, including this week, and several big events overseas in Asia, many more on the schedule. This year will be an ultimate success for you if you accomplish what the rest of the way?
LYDIA KO: I haven't really thought about it, but I think it would be an achievement, it would be a success if I just keep enjoying it and go out there every week feeling fresh and feeling ready and feeling prepared that I'll be able to hold the trophy at the end of each week.
Mo Martin and Lexi Thompson, 2014 Major Champions
KRAIG KANN: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the media center here at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Great to be joined by two of the Major Champions this year on the LPGA tour.
Full disclosure. We expected to have Michelle Wie here as well and make this three Americans and three Major winners, but we do have these two and quite a year for both of you. Great to have Lexi Thompson and Mo Martin as well.
Let's get some thoughts, before we dive into the specifics of your Major wins and where you are, looking forward to potentially winning the big award at the end of the year for Major performance.
Thoughts on this golf course. I'll start with you, Lexi. First impression and what you thought as you played it.
LEXI THOMPSON: I got to play it for the first time yesterday. It's in perfect shape for us. It's a great layout. I got to hit driver pretty much on every hole.
I don't lay out much, but it's a great layout overall. I think it will be really great for spectators to watch. Hopefully, we'll get a lot of people out here.
KRAIG KANN: Did you immediately think advantage Lexi Thompson?
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, hitting driver on every hole thing I liked, but I think it's just for anybody that hits it pretty straight. I'm sure they'll let the rough grow up even deeper throughout the week.
So just keep it straight. That's usually what a Major Championship implies.
KRAIG KANN: How about you, Mo? What are your thoughts on the golf course?
MO MARTIN: I have actually only seen the front nine. I sprained my thumb last week. So haven't been hitting many golf balls. I actually walked the front nine yesterday, hit a few chips and putts.
I thought very similar things. It's in superb condition, and the layout looks fantastic. So I haven't seen the back side, but I'm really looking forward to it. It's beautiful.
KRAIG KANN: So the immediate follow‑up is how's your thumb?
MO MARTIN: It's getting better. It's in the process of healing right now. So I've seen some improvement just in the last few days. It's looking hopeful.
KRAIG KANN: Treatment, what have you been doing? Can you hit shots out of this rough without pain?
MO MARTIN: No, I haven't hit any shot without pain. So I think I'm just going to have to deal with that for a little bit.
It's been X‑Rayed so bone structure is healthy. That's very positive. Structurally, nothing serious. Ligament is just we've got some damage there. Just heat, ice, more ice, and rest when I can.
KRAIG KANN: One more from me to each of you. 1999, the last time the first three Majors in the LPGA were won by American players. It's been since 1992 that all Americans won all of the Majors.
So far it's been a great year for the U.S. of A. Specific thoughts on your Major Championship and your year thus far, Lexi?
LEXI THOMPSON: My thoughts on my year?
KRAIG KANN: Yours, only yours.
LEXI THOMPSON: I think it's gone pretty well so far. Obviously, Kraft Nabisco win made a huge change in my confidence level.
That was just an amazing week overall.
I was very relaxed and had a lot of fun that week. I always imagined myself jumping into Poppie's Pond, and that was just a dream come true to have my family there jumping in with me.
It's been a great year. I've just been trying to take the positives out of every tournament and keep on working to improve on my game because it's always an ongoing process out here.
KRAIG KANN: I would like to know specifically from you what it felt like, not when it happened, but in the weeks since, because I know it was a dream come true that day. Your speech was remarkable. How you gathered yourself and were so composed was, frankly, amazing, but what's it been like since for you?
MO MARTIN: It's been a whirlwind. Things have changed. For one, I'm doing press conferences. That wasn't happening before. So I'm adjusting my time really, a lot more time commitment. So interviews. The first two weeks we had off after Toledo, I was doing multiple interviews a day. So that was great exposure for me.
It's just really trying to get my time and my preparation like it was before, but I've been able to do some fun things like put a roof on my grandpa's ranch and threw out the first pitch at the Dodgers game. So I'm adjusting to post‑Major life.
KRAIG KANN: It's been fun to watch you handle things.
Q. How did you injure the thumb?
MO MARTIN: I'm not quite sure. You can get a strain from overuse, and I'm pretty sure that's what it was. Just in thinking back, the ground is firm at the British, and it started hurting in Toledo on Sunday the last day. I remember hitting a few shots and going ouch.
I took about four or five days off after that, and then when I came back, it was actually quite painful. So it didn't swing a lot, and it didn't really improve going into last week. I did what I could, but even going into Thursday to Friday, it was getting worse for me. So I just wanted to make sure I wasn't doing any more permanent damage.
It's a ligament issue. I'm not quite sure how it happened. It's just overuse.
Q. You have such a supportive family and so many close friends with the Go Mo buttons. Did you have a party of any sort at any point back at the ranch?
MO MARTIN: When I landed at LAX, I kind of thought my mom had something up her sleeve. When I came down the escalator ‑‑ I don't know how many people have been to LAX. I came down to baggage claim, and I had five, six of my friends. They all made signs.
My mom was up until 3:00 in the morning making little Go Mo signs. They started screaming, and I was really embarrassed. I was like shh. They made a big stink out of it, and we had a couple of nice dinners.
But, no, nothing out of the ordinary, but that's perfect for us.
Q. When have you played like a full round? When's the last time you played a full round of golf with the thumb?
MO MARTIN: Last Thursday in Michigan. That was the last full round. I started warming up on Friday, and it was worse than it was. So then I took the next four days off hitting, and my coach, Ian Triggs, is here this week.
I hit some balls today. I hit for probably 15, 20 minutes. It still hurts, but I see some improvement.
Q. You mentioned in your bio that your dad was a major influence. Is there something there that you can share with us? What ‑‑ how does he influence you?
MO MARTIN: Well, we couldn't afford lessons when I first started, and he really wanted ‑‑ he knew what a beautiful game golf is and that I could play it until I stop walking. Because we couldn't afford it, he picked up Hogan's Five Lessons and taught us from that book. He ripped the pages out, and they were all over the walls.
So I mean, that's ‑‑ he started ‑‑ he gave me a very solid foundation and really started me in this game.
Q. What would it mean if you guys did ‑‑ if Americans did sweep the Majors? What would you think if an American wins the fifth and last Major and you do sweep for the first time since '92?
KRAIG KANN: Start with you, Lexi, on that.
LEXI THOMPSON: That would be huge. I mean, that would be great for women's golf in general, but I think we're all just trying not to really think about that going into the week, putting extra pressure on ourselves.
We're just going to go out there and try our best like we do every week out here and see what the outcome is.
MO MARTIN: I think it's really fun for America to watch, and I'm very proud to be American. I think the greatest thing about this tour is the diversity. So I think that adds so much to it.
Q. Lexi, can you talk about this course compared to Locust Hill, where you guys were for so long. What are the most important aspects when you're coming onto a new course as far as getting used to it in a short amount of time?
LEXI THOMPSON: Being the first year for it, it's everybody's first look. So there's not really any advantage for anybody.
I think Locust Hill was a little bit tighter, and the rough was probably a good amount thicker, but we did get some rain every time in the beginning of that week. So it grew up pretty flush, and it was hard to get out.
It's kind of like the same layout, maybe just a little wider and not as tree lined. But it is an amazing layout and really good for a Major Championship.
MO MARTIN: I've only seen the front nine, but I would agree, again, with Lexi. It is wider off the tee box, and it's set up longer. From what I hear, it's close to 6,800. So that's definitely longer than we played at Locust Hill.
KRAIG KANN: Back to each of you and your personal journey to that first Major Championship. For each of you, it's a completely different story. A lot happened for you and has happened for you at a very young age. It's taken you a little bit longer. I think both stories are remarkable. Could you share a little personal thoughts about your own journey and quest to be where you are right now on the LPGA. Start with you, Lexi, because a lot happened at a young age and was public in that way.
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, I started playing when I was 5. I grew up on a golf course, two older brothers that play. Just the game just grew on me. I grew up watching my brothers play and always competing against them and trying to beat them.
I always knew this was what I wanted to do. Once I made a decision to play golf at like age 10 or 11 and take out other sports, I knew I wanted to do this.
I did online schooling. I turned pro at 15. I wanted to follow my dreams and be out on the LPGA. I've set a lot of goals on the way, but it's always just trying to improve on my game, and I think that's always a process.
But it's been quite a journey. There's been ups and downs, but the ups are just so much better because you go through those struggles, and it just makes the wins or just the successes along the way so much better.
Q. Did you feel the enormity of a Major Championship compared to the other victories you've had? Was that difficult for you to adjust to or something you prepared for mentally?
LEXI THOMPSON: You mean getting that win?
KRAIG KANN: Getting that Major victory and how perhaps that's changed everything about your existence out here.
LEXI THOMPSON: Well, I mean, I don't think of myself any differently. I just get announced differently on the 1st tee as a Major champion, which is nice.
I don't ‑‑ I guess I have a lot more fans, getting that win, but I'm doing what I love, and I'm going into every week just trying my best.
Getting that win under my belt has helped me out so much with my confidence, just relaxing me for the other events after that. I'm a little bit more relaxed on the 1st tee and just knowing I can pull the shots under that kind of pressure helped me out.
KRAIG KANN: When it comes to confidence, Mo, I don't think we could say anything but it's probably soared, 99th in the world up to 26th. It's not like, if you looked at your resume, the top tens are flowing in by the week, and then this happens. What's it really been like? How much self‑conversation have you had about it all?
MO MARTIN: I think for me it's just a huge experience that I can draw upon going into the future and going forward. I mean, it's huge, and it was a big success.
To finish the way I did and to play very strongly on a difficult Sunday golf course and conditions, and then I played very well the week after. So just really drawing upon those experiences, that's really what I'm taking forward.
Q. Lexi, following up, being in the final group on Sunday at Kraft and then being in that playoff at the International Crown, those are really high pressure situations. What specifically do you kind of learn in those situations?
LEXI THOMPSON: I've gone through a few tournaments where Sundays haven't gone so well for me, being on the top of the leaderboard, and I think those experiences helped me out so much. I got fast at those days, and I learned so much, just slowing everything down.
Going into Kraft Nabisco week that Sunday, playing with Michelle, overall I just learned so much going into that Sunday, I knew what I needed to change. How I need to slow down by routine or just walking to my next shots helped me out so much.
That Sunday at Kraft definitely helped me for the playoff at International Crown. I wasn't expecting to be in that playoff, but I was warmed up ready to go, and I was pretty fired up about it.
Q. The follow‑up is the International Crown, in that playoff, you hit two really good shots. The second was really close to being a brilliant shot and yet you got a bad break on it. I wondered, how long did it take you to kind of get over how that ended?
LEXI THOMPSON: Yeah, that shot was probably the best 4 iron I've ever hit in my life. It was just kind of that in between yardage where you're about two yards off, but I couldn't hit the next club up or it would have been long, and that's dead to that pin.
So I hit exactly the shot I wanted to. I ended up getting in a divot once I got up there. I thought a putt was the best idea.
But it happens. It was tough to get through. I definitely was pretty emotional on that green, but I don't know who wouldn't be playing for their country and being part of a team like that. It was such a huge honor to play for my country, put red, white, and blue on, and represent.
Q. What are the biggest challenges playing a Major Championship on a course that you may have only played twice? How much does experience help? Or is it overrated? How much is it comfortable with the sight lines, or is it overrated? What are the biggest challenges playing a Major Championship on a course you don't know?
LEXI THOMPSON: I would say the biggest challenge is not knowing the exact spots to hit it sometimes. Only getting two looks at the golf course, sometimes you just ‑‑ you don't learn too much like you would if you had a week to practice on that golf course.
But it's the same for everybody. It's the first year for the event here at Monroe Golf Club. Everybody is going into it with the same amount of experience. We're just going to try to do our best out there and learn as each shot goes.
MO MARTIN: There's just a certain amount of subtleties that you have to learn on the go. Also, we had some rain today, but how does the course drain? Does it stay soft? Does it stay soft for long? Also, the predominant winds. Do the winds get tricky?
Little stuff like that we all don't know yet. So we're all just going to be learning this week, and that's going to be the challenge.
Q. Forgetting trying to sweep Majors, the Americans trying to sweep Majors, for just a second, and just the overall growth of the game and the role that the success of American golfers like yourself and Stacy Lewis and Michelle have had this season in particular. Can you kind of sense what role that's having on the growth of the game in this country right now?
MO MARTIN: I believe it would be more of momentum, just here in America and for golf here and for the younger players.
I just know for me personally, one of the greatest joys I get is having an influence in people's lives and learning stories. In Toledo I had these two little girls that started following me, and I talked to their parents, and they said, you know, it's been so special to meet you and to hear your story and to see you because our little girls are petite in stature. People tell them all the time, you can't play sports.
So I actually taught the older girl the word hogwash, and so I said, next time somebody tells you you're too small to do something, you message me, and I said, you know that that's hogwash. She said, okay, okay.
So just to make those little influences and to be in a position to have a positive impact far beyond what we know, that's an honor that I know none of us take lightly.
LEXI THOMPSON: I would definitely have to agree with Mo. Even since I turned pro in 2010, the tour has gotten so much better just with the fan base, social media, and the amount of tournaments we've added to our schedule. It's just been huge. I mean, it's getting better and better as the years I've been out here.
Like Mo said, just to be an influence on little girls or boys out here. Even older men and women say, I want to be like you when I grow up. I mean, it's just ‑‑ it's a great feeling to know that people look up to you and just enjoy watching you play.
I think that's why we love to be out here playing in front of our fans and do what we love. That's why our Tour is amazing.
KRAIG KANN: Mo, if I could ask a follow‑up on that. You joked around a couple of minutes ago about the fact you're now doing press conferences. The victory for you ‑‑ you've always been one of the most popular players in women's golf and with the players out here, very well‑respected by everyone that covers the game and plays alongside you. You're in a different rent district now. So this opportunity for you seems like it's a little different. Maybe it comes a little bit out of nowhere, not that you didn't think it could happen. How do you take that? And what do you expect or hope to gain from it and use that platform?
MO MARTIN: I'm really adjusting to this new post‑Major status. As Lexi said earlier, you get a different announcing on the tee box, and that's really fun.
But there are so many causes that are close to my heart, and I just ‑‑ going forward in the very near future, I'm going to have the monetary means to do something about it and to make even more of an impact. So I'm going to have to sit down and seriously figure out where I want to put my energies and efforts. It's really nice to have more of an opportunity to do that.
Q. Is the phone ringing much more? Are you having to spend more time away from the golf course thinking about these things? Is it massively different?
MO MARTIN: Maybe that's what happened to my thumb, the text messages I still have not returned to everybody and the e‑mails. So apologies to the people I've not gotten back to.
No, I still have Facebook I haven't even opened because the icon says something incredible. So I haven't even opened it.
Q. If we had Michelle here, Mo, you'd be sandwiched between two 6‑foot players with power games. Can you talk about just your journey, in terms of your game, of trying to tackle courses from a very different perspective? Was there a point in your career where you were really worried about getting more distance or more power? Or have you just always kind of thought you'll get there as the game that you came with?
MO MARTIN: As a junior ‑‑ I guess it's quite a coincidence now that I look back on it. But Paul Runyan was based in Pasadena, and I was able to meet with him a couple of times. He was a very small man, and he had an extremely successful career at a time when the long hitters were dominating, and he had some epic matches where he just used his strength to his advantage and played the golf course.
I think that's another beautiful part of the game. For players like Lexi and Michelle and a couple other long players out here, there's some holes that they can overpower, and they can definitely take lines that I can't. I just approach the golf course a little bit differently, and I capitalize on my accuracy and my short game. It's an awesome game that you can play it so many different ways.
Q. To Lexi, I'm sure you get asked this a lot. But Lydia Ko and the success she's having at such a young age. You're familiar with success as a teenager. What do you make of what she's been able to do already?
LEXI THOMPSON: I've gotten to play with Lydia quite a bit. Three years ago, I played with her in Australia, and I knew she was going to be very successful once I was playing with her. She's very consistent.
She has a great attitude on the golf course. Even when she's playing bad, she has the same attitude. I think that's a great quality in a player, not to get too upset and very, very low key.
I think she's going to be a very successful player in the future. Obviously, what she's doing now, it's going to continue because she's a very hard worker and consistent game.
KRAIG KANN: Two Majors left, including this one, the Rolex ANNIKA Major award hangs in the balance at year's end. One of the stipulations of this award, per Annika, for sure, is you have to have won a Major. That obviously puts you two in the mix. What would it mean to have that award at the end of the year come Sunday at the Evian Championship? We'll start with you. I'm sure that wasn't even a thought at the beginning of the year.
MO MARTIN: Still processing. It's a very prestigious award, and I would be very honored to have that. In the meantime, we've got a lot of golf yet, and every day we start back at zero. So just focus on the days to come.
LEXI THOMPSON: Same. It would be an honor to have my name on that award or to receive that award. I've always looked up to Annika. She's been a huge role model to me.
Like Mo said, just take one tournament at a time, one shot at a time basically. We're not really focusing on that. We're trying to do our best, and we'll see how it ends up at the end of the year.
Azahara Munoz, Carlota Ciganda and Belen Mozo, International Crown Champion Team Spain
KRAIG KANN: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the Wegmans LPGA Championship. My name is Kraig Kann. I'm joined on this stage this afternoon by three members of the victorious International Crown team, who played for Spain.
We figured we'd bring them in this afternoon not only to talk about this golf course and this major but also kind of the way things have gone since that great event for you all. So Carlota Ciganda to my left, Belen Mozo, and Azahara Munoz.
Let's start with the most recent, which is this Major Championship and this golf course. I assume you've been out there. Let's get some thoughts. Let's start with you, Carlota.
CARLOTA CIGANDA: I just played ten holes. I really like the course. I like it better than last year because I feel the fairways are a bit wider, and then the greens are a bit smaller, but the course is in great shape. I think it's going to be a very nice week.
KRAIG KANN: Very big test. Your thoughts, Belen?
BELEN MOZO: I agree with Carlota. I think it's ‑‑ not a better course. I just like it better than last year. I got a little dizzy last year with those narrow fairways.
It's still a great challenge, this golf course, because you have really short par 5s that you can make eagles and birdies, but then you have very challenging long par 3s with really crazy greens. I think being smart on those par 3s is going to be the key for this week.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I love the golf course. I love the way the golf course is off the tee. I'm normally pretty straight, but I'm way more straighter when the fairways are wider. So I love that.
It's playing pretty firm. Hopefully, we don't get much rain. I love how it's playing right now. I really like the second shots. You have to be pretty precise. You don't want to be long. Sometimes you can short side yourself.
It's going to be a great test. The golf course is in amazing shape. We're in for a treat this weekend.
KRAIG KANN: Fourth of five Majors on the schedule. Can you give us a sense ‑‑ we'll go back this way before we go International Crown ‑‑ of where you are this year. Is this the point of the year where you kind of struggle to keep yourself going? Are you tired, or do you feel good mentally at this point?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I feel better now. The last month, month and a half, I was a little tired mentally. Now I feel much better. After Canada, I'm going to take a two‑week break to make sure I finish the year strong. We've been playing a lot of tournaments, and we don't have any breaks. It's only a week off, which doesn't really feel like any time off at all.
I'm really excited for this tournament, for Evian as well, and then for the rest of the year in Asia.
KRAIG KANN: Belen, this is your fourth year on tour and one of your best to this point with a couple of top ten finishes. You seem to be peaking. Your game seems to be really good right now.
BELEN MOZO: Yes, exactly. As you said, this is my best year so far. I just can't allow myself to get tired mentally or physically. I just think this is the year to go all in and then from there keep getting the momentum.
So I am playing a lot of tournaments, and I'm going to keep a few finishing up. I just think having tournaments is a great opportunity. So I'm just very happy.
KRAIG KANN: How about you, Carlota?
CARLOTA CIGANDA: I feel very powerful right now.
KRAIG KANN: Very powerful?
CARLOTA CIGANDA: Powerful, yeah. After winning the International Crown, it was great motivation to keep practicing and keep playing. So very happy to play here this week and keep playing tournaments during the year.
KRAIG KANN: Let's talk International Crown a little bit. You were actually just in Spain, is that correct?
CARLOTA CIGANDA: Yes.
KRAIG KANN: So tell me, and for all of you, what has it been like since you all walked away wearing those crowns on Sunday in Baltimore? What was it like at home for you?
CARLOTA CIGANDA: It was amazing. Everyone was saying congrats, not only my home course, but in Madrid, the Federation ^^. Everyone was very happy, and everyone watched it on TV.
I think it was really good for the golf in Spain because all the girls saw it. I think it's going to grow up. It's just an amazing feeling winning with your friends. I'm very, very happy. I can't wait for the next one.
KRAIG KANN: So you got off the plane. People stopped you immediately, lots of autographs, big media. What was that like for you?
BELEN MOZO: We're not Japan.
CARLOTA CIGANDA: That doesn't happen.
KRAIG KANN: Didn't happen?
CARLOTA CIGANDA: No. On my home course, congrats, well done, we saw you on TV. It's not like Japan, Korea, or here in the States.
KRAIG KANN: So we have some work to do in Spain?
CARLOTA CIGANDA: A lot of work, yeah.
KRAIG KANN: Belen, your thoughts on what it's been like for you since the victory?
BELEN MOZO: I stayed in Florida. I didn't get the chance to go to Spain, but I wouldn't be stopped in the airport either.
I think it's great. I think even every tournament, even last week, you get all the volunteers, every single volunteer followed the International Crown. They all saw it. We had such an incredible coverage from the media. That was huge.
I mean, people from everywhere not expected are saying congrats, we were rooting for Spain, which is obvious after the United States lost.
I think it was huge. I think it was just because of the coverage the Golf Channel did for us. It was very big.
KRAIG KANN: Aza, I don't know if you need any more exposure now. Your commercial was on, I think, 300 or 400 times during the PGA Championship. But what's it been like for you?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: It's been incredible. I did so many interviews the next few days. It's going to sound bad, but I was almost overwhelmed by how many people wanted an interview back home.
I don't know if they know, but we made the front page in one of the biggest sports newspaper, which is huge. Golf would never make it. Not even the guys make it. It's always soccer. They do something, even if they're not in season or whatever, they'll be on the front page. So that was pretty big for us, and it's been amazing.
Now it's finally sinked in. I'm just so proud of having won the tournament with these girls.
Q. For all three of you, playing on that pressurized stage at the International Crown as a team, can it translate in any way as an individual? How much confidence did you get out of what you did at that International Crown that could carry over onto another big stage like this week's LPGA Championship?
KRAIG KANN: Let's go to you first, Belen, because you really had a shining moment that week, I think.
BELEN MOZO: I don't know what to say. I thought about it. It's something that you think about it. You don't just keep this momentum going.
Definitely I played some good golf the week of the International Crown, and I'm still playing really good golf, but I don't think I, especially myself, I cannot get that pumped playing for myself. I think that week was just ‑‑ you would never see me go crazy, fist pumping, if I'm leading this week. I mean, I'll be really excited, but I would not be screaming. I would not have anyone to look for and cheer.
I don't think it's as good and as fun when you play as a team as individual. Don't get me wrong, I mean, I will be super excited as well and very motivated, but it's not the same, I guess, passion when you play as a team.
Q. Aza, you've got one win on the LPGA, but you've had six top tens this year, clearly a player who people recognize and know. What did that event perhaps do for you? I know you're trying to take your career to the next level so you can do so many interviews and be overwhelmed even more.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I love those events. Every time I play Solheim, the next few events, I play really well. I think that helped me. My putting seems to work in those events when it's match play and things like that. Last week I didn't hit the ball well, but my putting is for sure much better.
I think in the past it has helped me with Solheim. So hopefully it's given me a little confidence.
Q. Carlota, how about your confidence? If we include Solheim Cup, for you specifically, you are 6‑1‑0 over the International Crown and the Solheim Cup. That's really impressive. You're trying to take your career to the next level as well. How can that help you?
CARLOTA CIGANDA: I think it really helps because, as I said, you are more ‑‑ with more confidence. Also, I feel my putting is better. I love to play much better when I'm playing here as an individual and not as a team. Your game feels more confident, and I just can't wait to start playing.
It's not the same as playing as a team because, when you play with your friends and for Spain, your country, it's something different because we all feel it because we did it when we were young.
Still goes you're playing a Major Championship, so you want to play your best. We are very lucky to play on this beautiful golf course. So we can't wait to start playing.
KRAIG KANN: You three were 6‑0 on the weekend combined. Let's take a question.
Q. Aza, could you talk about your teammates, but now how much do you push each other to become the first Spaniard to win a Major, women's Major.
KRAIG KANN: Aza?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: How do we push each other?
Q. Do you think you do push each other to become the first Spaniard to win a Major?
KRAIG KANN: To become the first Spaniard to win a Major? Do you all push each other? Is that something you all talk about and encourage each other?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I think one of the things we like is, when we play together, we really help each other. That's why we've always been so successful as an amateur and like last week in the International Crown.
I think one thing we need to learn is that, when we play as individuals, we are not that good ‑‑ I don't want to say we're not that good mentally, but it's almost like, top ten is good. We don't have the fight.
It's like Belen said, when we play for each other, we really have the passion. Like I went out there on Sunday, and I mean, I'm not losing. Like at least I have that attitude.
But I think we really need to take that attitude into this event to be able to be the first ones to win a Major. You know, obviously, we need to learn from that, but we really need to take it up. I've been thinking about it.
Like Carlota went out to the 1st tee on Sunday, and I saw Belen, she's going to kill her, like you could see it. Like there's no way she's not winning. Not just not winning, but she's going to win by a lot.
Coming to this event, I don't see why we shouldn't have that attitude either. I think, if we learn from that, we could definitely win a Major. We need to learn from that and have that attitude out here.
KRAIG KANN: Just following that up. How big would it be to follow up the International Crown with a Spanish woman winning a Major?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: It would be huge. I think we've already been making a pretty big impact back home in Spain. Obviously, everybody was saying how we won the World Championship. It was pretty big.
I think we definitely need to follow up with something so people don't forget about it. So that would be huge for us.
KRAIG KANN: Belen, thoughts on that?
BELEN MOZO: I think she spoke really well. Yeah, same thing. About the first question or the second?
KRAIG KANN: About Randall's follow-up on the Majors and trying to carry that momentum into being the first Spaniard to win a Major in women's golf.
BELEN MOZO: I couldn't agree more. It's something that kills me because I cannot find the answer why we don't work that well in comparison to other players individually.
Like we ‑‑ I don't know how to say it. As a team ‑‑
AZAHARA MUNOZ: We showed up to the International Crown, and we knew we could win it.
BELEN MOZO: Yes.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: Like we had no doubt. Like not trying to be cocky, but it's something, when we play with other people, I don't know why we feel more comfortable. I don't know what it is. But then if you tell me, any of you going to win this week? Then I'll be like, ooh, I don't know.
BELEN MOZO: We cannot be that cocky. It's like ‑‑ I don't know.
AZAHARA MUNOZ: I guess it's because we grew up always playing as a team, always traveling with teammates, and having that support makes us feel comfortable. We just need to learn how to be that comfortable just on our own.
KRAIG KANN: By the way 20‑8‑4 combined in international professional match play between the Crown and Solheim for you three, which is really strong. Any other questions from the media here?
Let me leave you with this ‑‑ because I know Aza told me we were 20 minutes and done. I just want to let you guys know that. There has been a time constraint put on this press conference.
How big is it right now on the LPGA, given the number of top players playing good golf, knowing there are two Majors left and an award being handed out at the end for the Rolex ANNIKA award? How good a time is this right now for the LPGA with the stars? Aza?
AZAHARA MUNOZ: It's amazing. I think everything is going on for us. We're getting more tournaments, bigger purses. People are busy watching us more and following us more.
Every year you always think it's hard to get better, but for sure this year it's really hard to get better. Michelle's won. Lexi's won. Stacy's on fire. All those things really help us.
I think it's only going to get better. The best of the field, it's only getting better. There's so many players any week that could win a tournament.
I think it's really exciting we have so many good events coming in now. This tournament, the Canadian Open is pretty big, and then Evian. It's a pretty big mark before we go to Asia. I think it's going to be pretty good.
KRAIG KANN: Belen?
BELEN MOZO: I agree. It's getting better and better with the PGA of America joining with the KP&G next year for these tournaments. We are getting better and better, and we're going to get still better and better.
It's very exciting for us because we are good, and so people are getting to know that, and they're getting excited, and we want to be part of it. That's pretty cool.
KRAIG KANN: Carlota?
CARLOTA CIGANDA: I couldn't agree more with them. To play here, I feel very lucky to be part of the LPGA, and I think our team is doing a great job to find more sponsors, to find more tournaments. It's getting better every day.
So I think we are very lucky. We need to just take advantage, play golf, and have fun here.