LPGA Pre-Tournament Notes

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Honda PTT LPGA Thailand

Siam Country Club, Old Course

Chonburi, Thailand

Feb. 16, 2010

Pre-tournament notes and interviews

They’re back! The world’s best female professional golfers are back inside the ropes this week at the season-opening Honda PTT LPGA Thailand.  2009 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Jiyai Shin continues her pursuit of World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa in the Rolex Rankings as the season begins outside Bangkok, Thailand.  Ochoa, the defending champ of this season’s inaugural event, returns from a busy offseason that included a December marriage to now-husband, Andres Conesa.  The 28-year-old boasts four consecutive Rolex Player of the Year awards and Vare Trophies.  Shin, a six-time winner on Tour, was one stroke short of besting Ochoa for 2009 Player of the Year honors at the end of last year.

This week, 49 of the top 50 from the 2009 LPGA Official Money list are in town to chase the $195,000 first-place ransom.  Joining them will be several exemptions, including heralded amateur turned LPGA rookie Amanda Blumenherst, who will make her debut as a member on Thursday.  Straight-hitting Swede Anna Nordqvist, the defending champ of the LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans and LPGA Tour Championship Presented by Rolex, will look to add to her win total after an outstanding rookie campaign last season.

Other top names in the field this week include Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Na Yeon Choi, one of just three multiple winners on Tour last season.

Return to the Old Course. Just over an hour outside Bangkok, the Old Course at Siam County Club once again plays host to the LPGA.  In 2007, Suzann Pettersen eagled the final hole of the Old Course to defeat Laura Davies by one stroke to earn her fifth and final win of the season.  Pettersen, Davies and Paula Creamer, who finished three strokes back in third place, are all in this year’s field.  The Norwegian’s winning tally of 21-under-par 267 was the low 72-hole winning score in 2007.

Pettersen’s offseason focus on improving her fitness and nutrition should come in handy this week with temperatures expected to hover in the mid-90’s with high humidity.  Lorena Ochoa, no stranger to heat in her native Mexico, will attempt to defend the first of three titles this season at the Honda PTT LPGA Thailnd.  Last year, she won the event by three shots over Hee Young Park.  Creamer again finished third.  The LPGA’s history in Thailand dates back to 2006, when Hee Won Han won the inaugural event.

Year     Winner                         Course                                                 Winning Score

2006     Hee-Won Han                Amata Spring Country Club                     202 (-14)

2007     Suzann Pettersen          Siam Country Club, Old Course               267 (-21)

2009     Lorena Ochoa                Siam Country Club, Plantation Course     274 (-14)

MIKE SCANLAN:  Ladies, welcome to the season-opening Honda PTT LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club.  Lorena, you’re the defending champion this year and Paula, you’ve had quite a bit of success here in the past.  Michelle, you’re a newcomer to this event and there is certainly excitement around your arrival in Thailand.

Lorena, we’ll start with you.  You were busy this offseason with your wedding.  Tell us how life has been for you.

LORENA OCHOA:  Hello, everybody.  For sure, it’s good to be back.  It was a very nice tournament last year and I have good memories.  The trip and the week here are very nice.  So much support.  Hopefully we will see many fans on the weekend.  My offseason was good.  First, the wedding then practice.  I’m living in Mexico City, which is a change for me.  Practicing with some jackets and rain pants because the weather has not been the best.  It’s nice to be here in the warm weather.  I can’t wait to get the year started.

Q. Paula, you’ve played well here in the past.  Last season was a tough one for you.  How fulfilling would it be to start this year on the right foot here in Thailand?

PAULA CREAMER:  I feel really good, probably the best I’ve felt in a long time.  The doctors said it would be a year-and-a-half to two years to recover so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, in a sense.  I’m very, very happy to be back in Thailand.  They treat us so well here and it’s a great place to start the year off.

Q. Michelle, your first time here in Thailand.  Tell us what it’s been like and how excited you are.

MICHELLE WIE:  I’m excited to be in a really warm place.  It’s my first trip to Thailand.  It’s so beautiful here.  The people are really welcoming and the hospitality is the best.  I’m just excited to start playing.

Q. Talk about the amount of talent on Tour and the fact that there are so many players vying to be the dominant one on Tour.

PAULA CREAMER:  Lorena is the number one player in the world and there are so many people that want to be in that spot.  She knows that.  People are coming after her.  Annika had a huge impact on changing women’s golf.  It keeps getting deeper and deeper.  Week in and week out there isn’t just one player all the time.

MICHELLE WIE:  During the offseason, all we think about is catching Lorena and being number one.  I have such great respect for Lorena.  You’re always going for the top.  A lot of great players out there and it’s tough, that’s why we work so hard.

LORENA OCHOA:  I think for sure every year it gets harder.  The rookies this year and other players are trying to prove themselves.  In the offseason it is important to get your rhythm for the year.  We are all here and we all want to win.  It should be a fun year.

Q. The LPGA has some momentum right now with a new commissioner, 25 events in some great countries and some new sponsor announcements in the last few weeks.  Can you talk about that?

LORENA OCHOA:  For sure, we are all happy with the new commissioner.  It’s good to hear the good news of new tournaments.  We’re going in the right direction.  As players, we want to get together and help as much as we can.  I will be there to support the tournaments in my case.

PAULA CREAMER:  I think it’s a great thing to start the year with more and more events.  Everyone was worried about the schedule.  We’re getting more tournament in Asia, which is a wonderful place for the golf market, but we’re also trying to get them in the United States.  Our new commissioner has a great head on his shoulders.  His vision for our Tour is where it should be.  We have so many wonderful players and great people on Tour.  We should have more and more events.

MICHELLE WIE:  I agree with both.  It’s great to gain tournaments.  I also think it’s awesome that our Tour is becoming so global.  It takes us to great places like Thailand.  It’s great for golf to be global.  We are gaining tournaments in Asia and the U.S.  I’ve talked to Mike Whan and he’s awesome.  He sends e-mails to us and keeps in touch.  He wants to know what we’re thinking as players.  There are new sponsors coming up and tournaments are gaining attention.

Q. Lorena, can you talk about the two courses here and are you disappointed that they changed to the Old Course since you won at the Plantation Course?

LORENA OCHOA:  I’m not disappointed that they changed, but I was surprised because I found out when I got here (laughter).  I like this course better in a way because of the trees.  They shape the course.  There are enough bunkers.  The greens are about the same with the slopes.  The same kind of golf.  You need to hit the ball good and put the ball in the right place.  I’m feeling good.  Ready for tomorrow.

Q.  Paula, you came so close the last two times.  Is the third time lucky?

PAULA CREAMER:  The third time is a charm.  I hope so.  I like this course a lot.  You have to be precise with your irons and that’s one of my strengths.  It’s in great shape and the greens are rolling really well.  You can be so creative around them.  I like to be able to hit different golf shots.  Hopefully the third time is a charm.

Q. Without choosing each other or yourself, can you pick one player who might win or challenge a bit this year?

LORENA OCHOA:  I never think of names.  I just try to concentrate on my game.  If you do your best, you’ll be in good shape.  It’s impossible to pick one.  The competition is too tough.

PAULA CREAMER:  That’s too much of a question.  I can only control how I practice.  It’s how I play the golf course each day.

MICHELLE WIE:  Same thing (laughter).

Q. Michelle, they say the hardest win is the first win.  Did you learn anything?

MICHELLE WIE:  It was pretty cool.  Everything just worked out for me.  Hopefully the second one will be easier, but I’m sure it will be just as hard, just as challenging.  It was a lot of pressure, but it felt so rewarding that I did it.

Q. Michelle, can you talk about your offseason and what you worked on?

MICHELLE WIE: My offseason was great.  Took a couple weeks off, went to Korea to see my family.  Then I went back home (to Hawaii) and it was the best trip ever.  I was home for a week-and-a-half.  Got to hang out with my best friends, go to the beach everyday.  Then I went back to school.  It’s been rainy and I’m taking 20 units.  The offseason has been great.  I’ve been working really hard.  I’m just excited to play now.  Practicing gets boring after awhile.

Q. Michelle, how is your ankle?

MICHELLE WIE:  It’s all better now.  I went to the doctor after Houston and had a nice, fat boot on it for awhile.  The three weeks after Dubia, not practicing, helped a lot.  It’s better.