Features


  • Oh Teacher, My Teacher…
    Words By: Timothy Constantine Low Photography: Terry Wright Professional golfer turned TV personality… sounds familiar? We pit F

  • Duncan wins Caddy of the Year & we have a battle of the caddies
    The HSBC Caddy of the Year award, presented each year at the HSBC Women’s Champions, has been won by Michelle Wie’s caddy, Dun

  • PARK CROWNED CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS AFTER ANOTHER FLAWLESS DISPLAY AT SENTOSA
    Record crowds at Sentosa witnessed world no. 2 Inbee Park crowned ‘Champion of Champions’ following a flawless victory in the

  • Carlota Ciganda’s new 3-Wood works for her
    Q: 66; you were awesome today. A: Thank you, I had a very good day. I’m very happy with my score. Yeah, I feel very comfort

  • Inbee Park – Approaching round 3 with confidence
    Q: So today you had another solid round and you’re in a very good position.  A: Yeah, it was a good round. I had a bogey

  • Jenny Shin’s ups and down at HSBC Women’s Championship 2015
    Q: Do you mind talking very quickly through your round? You birdied the fifth? A: I did. It was a good putt. That hole, the fifth

  • Jessica Korda back in game
    Q: Great round today. Got yourself right back into the tournament with a 5‑under. What was the difference from yesterday to toda

  • Lydia Ko’s Bright Side
    Q: General overall thoughts about the round. A: It was one of the craziest rounds in my life, and I don’t think I should go

  • Azahara focusing on Serapong Course, Sentosa Golf Club
    Q: 7‑under is a fantastic round. What was the difference from yesterday to today? A: Both days I actually played pretty good. Y

  • Anna Norqvist has a twin?
    Q: You have to be pretty pleased after that round today, don’t you? A: Yeah, it was solid. I hit a lot of greens. Had a lot

  • Lydia Ko is in control
    Q: We thought you were tired when you got here after a couple big weeks, but you certainly bounded back with a great round today.

  • Suzann Pettersen: Anticipate & Expect
    Q: Great round, you started off with a bogey on the second and then you got it really going? A: Yeah, there are a lot of birdies

  • So Yeon Ryu: The Next Round
    The putting was not enough good compared to long game, so I missed quite a lot of eight feet, ten feet putts, disappointing part.

  • Azahara ready for the final round
    Q: Great start today, talk me through a bit how it went you slowed. A: I still played pretty good. The putts weren’t droppi

  • Inbee Park on the way to claim back her rank
    Q: Inbee, you just keep playing great. You’ve been so consistent, it’s amazing. A: I played another solid day today.

  • Stacey Lewis’ Six Birdies
    Q: Six birdies today, you must be really happy. A: Yeah, pretty pleased. The middle of the round, couldn’t quite get anythin

  • Yani Tseng Atop the Leaderboard
    Q: Well, you showed us what was happening last week when you tied for second, but we’re going to get that smile off your fac

  • Former HSBC Women’s Champion: Angela Stanford
    Q: You’re a former champion here, so you do know what it takes to get around this event more than anything. I know we’

  • A round with our local qualifier, Sock Hwee, Koh
    Q: First round, HSBC Women’s Champions 2015. Talk us through your round. How was it out there? A: It was okay. I chipped it

  • Inbee Park taking on the game
    Q: Very solid opening round here in Singapore, where you really started to find some good form. A: Yeah, I had a really good roun

  • Lexi Thompson’s Hole-in-One Experience
    Q: How does it feel, it’s not easy out there, it’s tough conditions, and all of a sudden you have a hole‑in‑one. D

  • Lydia Ko: Dealing with the heat and creating birdie opportunities
    Q: Talk about starting with a 4‑under par 68? A: LYDIA KO: Yeah, started off well with a birdie. Whenever I have a birdie on th

  • The Ups and Downs at Getting Back to the Top
    Q: Inbee, three tournaments so far, two Top‑10s, business as usual for you. Are you pleased with your start thus far? A: I didn

  • Mind Games on a World Stage
    Q: Maybe you can just tell us a little bit about your expectations for this week, and what you feel about the status and condition

  • Get in the world of Lydia Ko
    Q: You’ve won two consecutive tournaments in a row and you’re taking the golf world by storm. You’re the world

  • LIVE @ HSBC Women’s Champions 2015
         

  • Revenge at Sentosa
    Revenge is a 7-letter word best served cold.  This year, revenge and perhaps some retribution should be at the very forefront of

  • JONAS BLIXT
    We’re in The Locker Room at Aberdeen’s Gamola Golf, which, it transpires, isn’t a locker room at all. No, this is actually t

  • La Dolce Vita
    WORDS BY: RYAN CURTIS PHOTOGRAPHED BY: STEVE READ Golf Punk talks to Italian superstar Matteo Manaserro about his passions. Wha

  • Cover Story Lexi Thompson
    WORDS TIM SOUTHWELLINTERVIEW TIM SOUTHWELL & MARK PADGETTPHOTOGRAPHY CHRIS MCENIRY PRODUCTION KIM MCENIRY/OVERFLOW PRODUCTIONS
Oh Teacher, My Teacher…

Words By: Timothy Constantine Low

Photography: Terry Wright

Professional golfer turned TV personality… sounds familiar? We pit Fox Sports golf’s Timmy Low, against The Golf Channel’s Annabel Rolley and this is what we get…

Standing on a practice tee some 9,000 miles away from where she was born, Annabel Rolley has never felt more at home. Such is the life of this unlikely golf guru, whose journey across the globe has been unlikely as it is inspiring.

Born and raised in Brisbane, Annabel’s first love was tennis. Having competed at a high level through her childhood and teenage years, she represented her high school and state in tournaments across the country. But when she decided that she wasn’t going to pursue a career in tennis, her parents introduced her to the great game of golf—albeit it by accident.

”When my brother expressed interest in picking it up, my dad took him down to the range of Royal Queensland, and I just tagged along,” she reminisces fondly. “He wasn’t great but I discovered I could hit the ball pretty well… and I was hooked!”

It didn’t take long for Annabel’s parents to recognise her natural talent and see golf as a viable career option, even before she did. “They saw a natural career path for me through golf, whether it was through teaching or playing, but the idea of TV never really crossed our minds back then.”

[By the way, if you’re worried about the brother, don’t be. Having been humbled by golf, he dedicated his life to a slightly less noble pursuit—medicine. He is now a successful doctor in Australia who plays sporadically when he gets the chance. Of course, he’s not much better than he was when his little sister completely outshone him that first day at Royal Queensland—a point Annabel made clear she wanted included in this article.] 

The journey from prodigy to professional was not without its hurdles. Fast forward a couple of years and you would find Annabel asleep in a lecture hall at the University Of Queensland, unenthusiastically pursuing a degree in property economics. Dreading the thought of a future working behind a desk in a dreary office, she sat down one day with her parents and explained that she wanted to make a career out of something she felt passionately about. It was an inspired idea, but there were two minor problems: she was just 18 years old, and her handicap index was 40 (where a gross score of 112 gets you a net of even par!). Needless to say, a future in the world of professional golf seemed murky at best .

But the Rolleys came up with a plan. With the support of her parents, Annabel withdrew from university to concentrate on developing her golf game full time.

“The plan was to take a year off to see how good I could become. It was fairly obvious that I possessed a natural ability to hit a golf ball, but I wanted to see how far I could take my game.” The family decided that they would give it a year, after which they would reassess Annabel’s progress.

Not surprisingly, the precocious Aussie jumped straight into action, playing every day and registering for as many competitions as possible (on average, 2 to 3 per week). The results were encouraging; in just 12 months Annabel slashed her handicap from 40 to 2. Along the way she enjoyed some nice perks, including a meeting with Ian Triggs, the legendary swing coach to Charlie Earp and Karrie Webb. As her profile grew, so too did her reputation. Highly respected and seasoned professionals told her she should consider making a living as a professional golfer. After her year-long litmus test there was no doubt in Annabel’s mind that she had made the right decision: a professional golf career was what she wanted.

However, the life as a touring professional is demanding and unrelenting. After a few years bouncing between events on the Australian tournament circuit, Annabel decided that life as a touring pro was not for her.

“I was never really fully invested in playing,” she says looking back. “I’ve always worked, had fingers in different pies and never really had the opportunity to focus 100% on golf. It’s something I hope I get the opportunity to pursue in the near future but it’s just hard right now juggling TV and teaching and playing as well.” With her playing ambitions put on the back burner for the time being, Annabel had the opportunity to fully immerse herself in her true calling – coaching golf.

“In just 12 months she slashed her handicap from 40 to 2. Along the way she met the likes of the legendary Charlie Earp and Karrie Webb’s swing coach Ian Triggs. The highly respected seasoned professionals told her she definitely could consider making a living as a professional golfer.”

 

Great coaches in any sport must demonstrate remarkable aptitude and effective communication. They must make the complex seem simple. For Annabel, her teaching philosophies are simple, timeless, and effective—all traits she credits to her father.

“I took up the game later than most, my father was the one that taught me how to play, by reading books himself.”

 Annabel’s father is the furthest thing from a golf professional. In fact, he’s a gynecologist by trade. But he managed to build her foundation in the most effective way possible, through mastering the basic fundamentals first.

“If a gynecologist could teach me how to play golf just through making sure I had a good basic set of skills, then I figured I could do it too,” she jokes.

“I learned very quickly, and in the process I discovered that solid basics and fundamentals are the essence of good instruction regardless of what sport you’re learning.”

With teaching implements firmly in hand, Annabel then deployed her ferocious work ethic in order to put herself on the map. Her first teaching position was at Donald Trump’s prestigious Trump National Golf Club in Westchester, New York.  Without realising it, Annabel’s journey to the golf mainstream was about to begin.

 

From coach to celebrity…

“Golf Channel have been incredible to have given me a whole new avenue to showcase my knowledge and for people to reach out to me as well... that’s something I’m really excited about!”

To hear Annabel tell it, you would think her success was just a bit of blind luck. “It was really a case of being in the right place at the right time,” she says humbly. “I just happened to be watching Michael Breed’s show on the Golf Channel one day at work and thought to myself - maybe there’s a role for me somewhere there...” In all fairness, the stunning blonde Aussie is far easier on the eyes than the fast talking, hyperactive Breed!

 “At the end of 2011, I decided to start writing to everybody in the TV industry.” Annabel wrote to anyone relevant she could find on Linked In, it didn’t matter if they were in America or halfway around the world, if they had anything to do with TV, she wrote to them.

After receiving several interested responses, Annabel met with the head of Fox Sports Australia in Sydney at the tail end of 2011 during a visit back Down Under. “We chatted for awhile and at the end of it all he asked me to come in the next day to do a screen test,” she recalls A few months later, Fox Sports Australia’s had a new addition for “The Golf Show” – Brisbane’s own Annabel Rolley!

 Annabel created her own opportunity with Fox Sports, but she wasn’t done yet. After landing her big break, she enrolled at NIDA (The Australian National Institute of Dramatic Art) to help her prepare for a career under the bright lights.

 “At NIDA, I really discovered how much I loved being in front of a camera and, thankfully, the people at NIDA also thought I was very good at it as well!” Annabel added skills to her fast-growing experience.

 “I was very fortunate that it turned out to be such a smooth and seamless process. There are obviously stories of how people try for years to get themselves on TV to no avail so I consider myself very lucky that my journey seemed almost instantaneous.” 

There is’s an old saying that goes, “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” Through hard work, and clearly Annabel found herself in the right place at the right time, but when her opportune moment presented itself, she was definitely ready to take it by the horns.

Annabel’s path to her current home at Golf Channel took a few more years, but eventually she found herself as the host of “Lesson Tee Live”, the network’s live interactive training show.. There, viewers send in questions and swing videos via social media, and Annabel provides analysis ‘live’ during the show. The show’s fast-paced and interactive style makes it one of the network’s most engaging instructional offerings.

 “Social media is definitely a powerful tool these days. It’s how our generation communicates, and it’s very forward thinking of the Golf Channel to incorporate it into the show,” she explains. “It’s a very special way of interacting with the viewers for us and I’m sure they get a buzz when their tweets or their swings get featured on air!”

A self described “frustrated actress,” the natural born performer would be just as happy talking to a tree as she would a student on the range. “I’m a people person, no doubt about it, but I seem to take it to a whole new level of energy and excitement when the camera starts rolling!” she says.

 “The really cool part about TV is that I get to reach a huge audience just by talking into a camera, and through the integration of social media into the show, they can talk back!” she exclaims excitedly. “I’m always really excited about helping people get better, and now I can help so many more people through the medium of television, that’s the really cool thing about my job.”

For Annabel, however, it is more than just fixing golfers’ swings. She takes great pride in being able to help improve their quality of life through golf. “Golf may be a hobby to some and a job to others, but it’s definitely something that can impact their lives profoundly. If I can help them improve a little bit by shaving a few shots off their score or even simply getting them to have a little more fun out there then it makes everything worth it for me.”

Of course, there are as many different swings as there are golfers in the world—some considerably more comical than others. A good instructor must deal with what he or she is given. But are there moments when a teacher sees a swing so outrageous that the office literally stops to gawk at its idiosyncrasies?

“Well to me golf swings are like faces. Each one has their own unique features. Even though there are some swings that resemble a snake falling out of a tree, my job is to just take what I can work with and help them find the sweet spot on their club!” Her enthusiasm for correcting even the ugliest of swings seems genuine and almost perverse. “I actually enjoy seeing all different kinds of swings. In fact I love how wild some swings can be and still work... the wilder the better I say!”

Beyond her budding teaching career, Annabel has been very excited about developing new ways to incorporate social media into the golf experience. Twitter followers (@AnnabelRolley) can find access to a wealth of information and instruction; everything from fitness to fashion, equipment to nutrition, to golf courses and travel, the possibilities are endless.

“Golf Channel have been incredible to have given me a whole new avenue to showcase my knowledge and for people to reach out to me as well... that’s something I’m really excited about!”

 

The Fairer Side…

“I really think women need to be embraced by clubs. The clubs should definitely take some responsibility in this area,” she says when discussing how to grow interest in golf among women. “Clubs should start getting creative with ways to make women feel more welcome and part of the community”. Women are highly social creatures. Perhaps clubs can find a way to integrate a round of golf with a popular social experience, like an afternoon tea for example.”

 “I think the LPGA Tour has a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to help generate a buzz among the women of the world. They have a great bunch of players on the tour and I’d really like to see them hyped up a little more. That way you’d get a whole throng of young girls looking up to these fantastic role models, wanting to be just like their idols.” The LPGA Tour has opened up its season with a series of events in Asia in the last few years and gallery sizes are growing with each event, so surely good news for us golf fans in the region.

 

Loving Asia...

“You can’t beat a nice hot bowl of Tom Yum and we certainly don’t get enough of that out here in Florida!” 

With the Asian golf market continuing to grow, more events in the Far East are certainly the way forward for the sport. It doesn’t hurt that Annabel lists Asia as one of the places she’d love to visit more often. “I absolutely love coming to Asia. Every city is so different and each culture is as vibrant as the last!” she exclaims. “If I had to pick a favourite country through, it’d have to be Thailand; Phuket to be exact.” Truth be told, Annabel just wants to retrace the steps of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Richard, in the Danny Boyle adventure/drama film, “The Beach/” [However, she also made clear that she’s not trading in her Orlando Bloom posters for the Oscar-less DiCaprio anytime soon!]

 “I also love Asia because the food there is just how I like it... Spicy!” The Thais clearly have the rest of us covered when it comes to food that packs a punch, so it should be no surprise it’s Annabel’s favourite cuisine as well. “I love everything about Thai food, the fragrance, the freshness and of course the spiciness of it all! You can’t beat a nice hot bowl of Tom Yum and we certainly don’t get enough of that out here in Florida!”

Annabel Rolley, one of the sweetest and most pleasant people you’ll ever have the opportunity to have a conversation with. Her passion for the game and love of helping others is palpable. She is a true people person and she clearly possesses the right tools to help anyone she crosses paths with. It’s no wonder her fan base is growing with each airing of “Lesson Tee Live,” and every time she steps onto a practice range. The landscape of golf instruction has never been the same since the dawn of social media and this Brisbane Bombshell is primed and ready to take the art of instruction to exciting new places.

You can catch Annabel Rolley on a new adventure in The Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” as she transitions from “Lesson Tee Live”.

Also catch our very own Tim Low on Fox Sports covering live golf tournaments all over the world. 

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Duncan wins Caddy of the Year & we have a battle of the caddies

The HSBC Caddy of the Year award, presented each year at the HSBC Women’s Champions, has been won by Michelle Wie’s caddy, Duncan French. The award, which was voted for by both caddies and players, was presented this morning prior to the duo’s Round 4 tee off at Sentosa Golf Club.

A former scratch handicapper, French has been Wie's caddie since they teamed up for the Founders Cup tournament in Phoenix in March 2013. The pair have since put together some promising results, including a first major at last year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, that have seen Wie rise to World No. 6 in the Rolex World Rankings.

Testament to the credibility of the award, the last flight of the day will feature not only the world’s top three ranked players, but also the last three winners of the awards. Jason Hamiton, who was then caddying for Yani Tseng was the winner in 2012 and now caddying for Lydia Ko; Travis Wilson, caddying for Stacy Lewis won in 2013; and Brad Beecher, on Inbee Park’s bag, won 2014. Thus the battle for honours at this year’s tournament extends beyond the players to the bagmen as well.

All three caddies will be wearing special bibs for the climax of the HSBC Women’s Champions 2015, along with this year’s winner French.

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PARK CROWNED CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS AFTER ANOTHER FLAWLESS DISPLAY AT SENTOSA

Record crowds at Sentosa witnessed world no. 2 Inbee Park crowned ‘Champion of Champions’ following a flawless victory in the HSBC Women’s Champions 2015. The South Korean shot a round of 2-under par 70 to win the title, two shots clear of second placed Lydia Ko.

The result saw Park complete a fourth consecutive bogey-free round to finish 15-under par and claim the winner’s cheque of US$ 210,000. Speaking after her victory, a delighted Park said, “It feels great. I thought Singapore wasn't the place that I could win a tournament. Every year has just been really hard to me but last year was the first year I actually had a good finish and that gave me a lot of confidence.

“This week was just incredible. I don't think I can even believe myself that I didn't make any bogeys for 72 holes. If I was afraid of the bogeys, I'd probably make bogeys but I thought, whatever happens, it's just meant to be. I just tried to focus on my game and not think about so many other things.”

Speaking about a bet she made with her father that would see her make US$ 500 for every birdie, but pay out double for each bogey, Park added: “I just took the bet, and it ended up really nicely! It gave me extra motivation I guess. It's so fun and gave me something else to concentrate on. It's good to have a family here and they are a big energy for me.”

For world no. 1 Lydia Ko, it just wasn’t to be. After what was a slow start by her standards, the world no.1 brought herself right back into contention in Rounds 2 and 3, but wasn’t able to reproduce the magic that saw her claim back to back victories prior to her arrival in Singapore.

Playing an aggressive round on the testing Serapong course, Ko carded three bogeys and five birdies to match Park’s 2-under score of 70. But the 17 year old bares all the hall-marks of a true champion. Despite the result, the 17 year old managed a smile as she came off course

before signing autographs and posing for pictures with the hordes of fans assembled by the 18th.

Speaking after her round, Ko said, “I started out well on my front nine, shooting 3-under through my first seven holes. Just things didn’t go well from 8 to 13 – I just lost three shots. On this course, it's not that hard to lose shots. There are some lip-outs and there are so many close ones. But I finished well with a birdie on 18.

“I had a great stretch of three weeks and I would have never imagined to have one second place and two wins. So it's great. This is my best finish here in Singapore, so I'm really looking forward to coming back next year.”

World no. 3 and 2013 champion Stacy Lewis wasn’t so lucky. The Texan landed a ball in a palm tree on the 10th, necessitating a drop, and a wayward third shot on the 18th in the water hazard saw her drop another, finishing in third place, four shots behind the champion.

Tied in fourth place were Shanshan Feng (China), So Yeon Ryu (South Korea) and Azahara Munoz (Spain). All three players were in consistent form all week, finishing at 10-under par.

Reflecting on another successful tournament at Sentosa, Guy Kinnings, Global Head of Golf, IMG, the tournament promoter, said, "It was an outstanding performance from Inbee Park today in what was a dream final three-ball for the tournament. Record crowds have enjoyed four fantastic days of world-class golf and lots more besides in the HSBC Interactive Village. Our congratulations go to HSBC for all they have done to make this event such a success, and our thanks to all our tournament partners, the LPGA, Sentosa Golf Club and all the fans.”

Local qualifier Koh Sock Hwee recorded her best yet round of 3-over par 75 in Round 4 showing continual improvement over the four days. The 25 year old will take a great deal from the experience. Speaking after her final round, Koh said, “There are a lot of positives to take out of this week. I went out there today to enjoy the whole experience and I had fun. The course is in superb condition, so the more you play the more you get used to it.

"I was expecting a little more from myself, because I know I can do better. I'll learn from the mistakes that I've made and improve. I was very lucky to play with a lot of players, so I got to witness the strength of each player, compare it with my own game to find out where I can improve and do better. Hopefully one day I'll be like one of them playing at this event as one of the top 20 in the world."

Speaking on behalf of the staging venue, Low Teo Ping, President of Sentosa Golf Club, added, "We offer our congratulations to Inbee Park on a very fine victory. Four bogey free rounds on one of the most testing championship courses in Asia is a score worthy of a true champion and we look forward to seeing her back again at Sentosa. Once again it has been a pleasure to welcome the players from the LPGA Tour to our club as well as the thousands of spectators that have made their way through the gates over the last four days. We have witnessed four days of first class sporting action and some wonderful entertainment.”

As the next chapter in the illustrious history of the HSBC Women’s Champions draws to a close, Singapore has another true champion.

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Carlota Ciganda’s new 3-Wood works for her

Q: 66; you were awesome today.

A: Thank you, I had a very good day. I'm very happy with my score. Yeah, I feel very comfortable out there on the course and had a great playing with Stacy and Hee Young Park. I really like this course, and I'm playing good, so I'm really looking forward for the weekend.

 

Q: You hit the ball massive distances, but you control it so well. But is that sometimes your problem with inconsistency, is the control?

A: Yeah, yeah, that's very true. I hit it far but sometimes I can hit it everywhere. So I'm hitting the ball good this week. I change my 3‑wood this year and I'm very happy with that.

So I'm really looking forward to keep playing tomorrow and Sunday and we'll see what happens.

 

Q: You're looking still for your first win and you had one on the LET, you're looking for your first win but do you feel like the season, the experience of being on the LPGA for a while, do you think you're ready?

A: Yeah, I think I'm ready and I think it helps being here a few years. So last year, I finished playing really good in the LPGA and LET. I'm confident, I'm happy, so I'm going to try my best. And if I win, good; and if I don't win, I just want to keep learning and just keep playing.

 

Q: We're in beautiful Singapore, so not all the time is spent on the golf course. What have you been doing when you're not here?

A: In Singapore, we went yesterday for dinner to the Marina Square and then I went to the old town, and it's very nice, great people, great food, and the course, everything, the sponsor, I really like this place and I just want to say thank you to everyone for hosting the event.

 

Q: I understand you play very well when your father is around, and your father is here. Tell us why.

A: He's been a really good influence to me my whole life, and yeah, when he comes, he's very positive and when I'm playing good, he's always telling me to have fun out there, to enjoy playing golf. I think that's the main thing.

 

Q: Does he feel nervous when he watches you play?

A: He's very used to it, because he's been traveling with me quite a bit and following me at tournaments, so he's used to it. He loves the sport and he knows that we can win or lose.

 

Q: You are in a great position, possibly to win your first LPGA title. How are you feeling right now?

A: I'm feeling good. I'm feeling confident and happy, hitting the ball good. I'm happy with my caddie. My dad is here, my uncle and other friends. We are having a great time outside the golf course and I think that's also very important to enjoy yourself when you're not on the golf course.

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Inbee Park – Approaching round 3 with confidence

Q: So today you had another solid round and you're in a very good position. 

A: Yeah, it was a good round. I had a bogey‑free round today, so overall, everything tee‑to‑green was perfect today, as well.

Just on the greens, until No. 1 to 13, I missed about nine, ten opportunities. I hit the ball great today. It could have been a much better day. I had more opportunities than yesterday but just didn't hole as many.

But I was lucky enough to hole the last three out of six holes, so I think i thought today was going to end with just no birdies. Nothing wanted to drop today.

It could have been a better day but I'm really satisfied the way I finished, especially bogey through two days is a great result.

 

Q: And the back nine seems to be very kind to you.

A: And the front nine is the tougher nine obviously. But the back nine, there is a lot of birdie chances out there.

And yeah, it seems like my putter wants to drop on the back nine, and hopefully tomorrow, a little bit different. I want to play a little better on the front nine. I had three, four opportunities today but I wasn't able to make them. So, yeah, hopefully I can make up for it on the front nine tomorrow.

 

Q: Have you ever won a tournament with no bogeys?

A: No, I've never done that before.

 

Q: 54 holes?

A: I think ‑‑ I'm not sure what's exact, my record is. I think for two rounds, I've definitely done it. But maybe third round, I'm not sure.

 

Q: Is that the most pleasing thing about your round today?

A: Yeah, I didn't make much mistakes. Obviously I had a lot of opportunities, but being able to do a bogey‑free round on this golf course I think is very good. It's a tough golf course and there is a lot of troubles out there.

Yeah, that just tells me how the ball‑striking is very good, so that gives me a lot of confidence going into the next two days.

 

Q: Was it just about keeping pace with everyone?

A: Yeah, I'm surprised with the scores, because last year the winning score was 10‑under par and this year it's so much better.

Every week we go and play, it feels like every year is just getting better and better. You've just got to improve yourself every year, and I don't know, I can't see much of a difference in conditions, but I they just everybody is playing well, and I think I need to play well the next two days to win.

 

Q: At the start of the week you said your putter has to get hot. Is it getting hot?

A: It was hot yesterday, but definitely was but today was definitely not the hot day. I holed good putts coming down the stretch. Yeah, hopefully good momentum for tomorrow.

 

Q: You birdied 18 yesterday ‑‑ good momentum ‑‑

A: Yeah, I think birdieing 18 is very important for the next day. Usually it gives me a good confidence going into tomorrow, and yeah, 18 is a birdie hole and par is a disappointment. The front nine, I wasn't able to make birdies on the par 5s, or any of those ‑‑ I made one birdie for two days.

 

Q: 13 straight pars to start the day, you must have been asking yourself when the birdie was going to come?

A: But it wasn't going to come all day because in 13 holes, I had so many opportunities. I had like ten shots that was within ten feet but just not making any putts. I was disappointed but I really tried to be patient. I thought at some point, one was going to drop, and I dropped three at the end. So it was a good day but just, you know, it could have been much better.

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Jenny Shin’s ups and down at HSBC Women’s Championship 2015

Q: Do you mind talking very quickly through your round? You birdied the fifth?

A: I did. It was a good putt. That hole, the fifth hole, the tee shot, you need to hit straight and I did do that; and I wanted to keep it left of the hole and I did. Made the putt.

Next hole, I hit in the bunker but hit a great shot out of the bunker, and then seventh, I chipped it to about 2 1/2 feet and made that for birdie.

And then the eighth, I hit it too 15 feet and made that, as well. It was a pretty easy putt straight up into the hill.

 

Q: So putting was good today?

 A: Yeah, putting was good today. But it seems like I 3‑putt at least once a round out here. I feel like my putting saved me and killed me at the same time. It's been like that since Australia. If I could just focus and not miss any 5‑footers, that would be great.

On 18, I missed a 4‑footer birdie putt, and I missed the 2‑footer coming back. Miss‑read all those putts. I did that yesterday, miss‑read a lot of my 5‑footers. It's tough with the grain, and the slope. I've gotten used to it already but some of the holes, it's still a little bit confusing.

 

Q: You're in a great place, considering you've got this on your mind?

A: Right. I feel like I shot 5‑over today but I still ended up with 2‑under par. The double on the 15th killed me.

 

Q: But you're still left well‑placed for the weekend.

A: Right, three strokes behind, two days left, so I'm not worried too much about it. Just do what I did today ask yesterday, and focus a little bit more.

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Jessica Korda back in game

Q: Great round today. Got yourself right back into the tournament with a 5‑under. What was the difference from yesterday to today?

 A: Just I think a little bit more of a solid play and made some putts, which was nice.

 

Q: The scoring has not been so phenomenal for the rest of the girls, so why do you think it worked for you?

A: It's a little bit windier, tougher conditions obviously. I got out there this morning, which I think the greens were a little bit nicer and not as stomped on. We were the last group yesterday, so obviously give and take some.

 

Q: Are you particularly keen on playing in the wind or do you find it not a problem for you?

A: Either way, it's fine. I like the tougher conditions. I think it makes you think a little more about the golf course. I don't know, I guess being a longer player, the tougher conditions are more favourable to me.

 

Q: Difference from yesterday to today, putting, driving?

A: Just putts were falling. It's one of those things that sometimes you hit good shots, good putts and they just don't drop and today they were. So hopefully they continue for the rest of the week.

 

Q: What was the lengths of the putts?

A: They were all quite long. I think I only had like one or two tap‑ins. They were all 20, 25 feet.

 

Q: Was there any hole that you think, wow, a particular hole where there was a long one?

A: It was on the back nine. It was on 16. 16 was quite a long one, left‑to‑right kind of swinger, which I was like, whoa, yeah, that looks good.

 

Q: How long was that one?

A: Probably 30 feet.

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Lydia Ko’s Bright Side

Q: General overall thoughts about the round.

A: It was one of the craziest rounds in my life, and I don't think I should go too much in details about it (laughs).

 

Q: So you walk away feeling, dissatisfied?

A: No, with all the weird things that happened, 2‑under is pretty good (laughing).

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Azahara focusing on Serapong Course, Sentosa Golf Club

Q: 7‑under is a fantastic round. What was the difference from yesterday to today?

A: Both days I actually played pretty good. Yesterday I miss a few short putts that today I didn't, and I still made a few nice 15‑, 20‑footers.

So you know, I think that was just the difference, and I still hit so many good shots, but it's kind of hard to control the spin on these greens. So hitting a good shot, it went over, but I ended up making nice par saves I guess. So it was overall, it was a really easy day of golf.

 

Q: Continuing where you left off from last year, because obviously this course suits you. What is it about the course that suits you so well?

A: I don't know, I think sometimes when courses are wide open and stuff, I have a hard time focusing. And I think this golf course, every tee shot on every shot into the greens, even though the greens are huge, they are all set up in little ‑‑ like the green might be 45 yards long, but it's really only 15. So I think that really helps me focus a little more.

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Anna Norqvist has a twin?

Q: You have to be pretty pleased after that round today, don't you?

A: Yeah, it was solid. I hit a lot of greens. Had a lot of good putts that didn't go in, so it was just a matter of staying patient. Hit a great shot out of the bunker on 15 to about I think nine feet and made that one for birdie and then birdied 16.

So those felt nice. But I had some good putts there that didn't go in. So pretty happy with my finish there. But it's been solid. Last week was solid and this week's been pretty solid, so I file like I'm playing pretty good golf. Just a matter of staying patient.

 

Q: Last year you had a hot start, and like you said you're playing well; is this something you think is going to continue on?

A: I hope so. Last week, I felt like I hit it as goods I've done that long time. On Sunday I couldn't make any putts, so I left Thailand disappointed.

Just feel like I'm giving myself some good opportunities out there. The greens are firm. It's been a little bit of wind today, so it's hard to really get close to some of the pins. But it's the same for everyone and I think that makes it more challenging and you've got to hit good shots to make birdies.

 

Q: Right now you're sitting three strokes off the lead, your approach heading into tomorrow, do you even know yet?

A: I really have nothing to lose. Just try to putt a good round out there today and give myself a chance tomorrow. That's all I can do. You know, there's a lot of good players up there and it seems like everyone is playing pretty solid, so it's going to require a good one tomorrow.

 

Q: Last question regarding your twin today, Danielle Kang. Did you guys plan this or was it a surprise on the first tee?

A: We had this outing with TaylorMade‑Adidas on Monday, and I was freaking out if we were wearing the same thing, and we weren't. And then we said ‑‑ we were joking and said, hey, if we get paired this week, we should totally do it.

I had a feeling we might get paired when I saw the scoreboard yesterday. And so I told her, you get the turquoise outfit, and she said, yeah, I do, and then I didn't hear back from her.

I said, whatever, I'll put it on. This morning, sure enough, she had it. Yeah, it was planned, but it's all about having fun and Adidas is such a great sponsor and we love the clothes and wear the same golf bags, too, so couldn't be more twins.

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Lydia Ko is in control

Q: We thought you were tired when you got here after a couple big weeks, but you certainly bounded back with a great round today.

A: Started off well with a 4‑under the first day and yesterday was kind of a crazy day and today I hung on and made a couple good birdies along the way.

 

Q: Those birdies really came around the turn, as well, when they sort of needed to kick start to get you going.

A: Yeah, I was playing good the first couple holes, but then I left a couple out there with those birdie opportunities on 7, and yeah, I had a really good chance on 10, just tried to give myself many opportunities.

 

Q: Playing conditions were a little better today. The breeze was up and it wasn't quite as hot which would have made it more comfortable, as well.

A: Yeah, I think the temperature was much better, but with the breeze being up, it's obviously a little tougher to go for some of the pins.

 

Q: Do you think the position you're in, you're only one behind at this point in time, hopefully make it three in a row?

A: Yeah, that would be I guess a dream three weeks, but I'm just going to try my best. The girls are playing good golf and it's a tough course. Just one shot can cost you a couple.

 

Q: Do you just feel ‑‑ when we watched you play, you just looked so calm and in control all the time. Are there ever any nerves because you never look like it?

A: Yeah, I'm definitely nervous. I think most nervous on the first tee and especially coming up on 18.

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Suzann Pettersen: Anticipate & Expect

Q: Great round, you started off with a bogey on the second and then you got it really going?

A: Yeah, there are a lot of birdies out there, if you hit a good tee shot, you will leave yourself a lot of good looks. The greens are so pure. So if you get it going, you can really ‑‑ I feel like you can really go low here.

Jet to putt one round together where you feel like everything clicks, but it's getting there slowly but surely.

 

Q: Do you feel you're reading the greens really well and it's all coming together or you've been hitting it great almost all week?

A: It's all getting better day‑by‑day and really just trying to be patient. Just go out there tomorrow and enjoy.

 

Q: And for tomorrow, what do you think, you're obviously going to have to shoot a low score with Inbee on 12?

A: Yeah, would you have to. You're playing against the best person in the world and you have to anticipate them to go out and shoot a low number as well.

 

Q: What sort of score do you think is out there at the moment?

A: I think you can probably shoot 7‑ , 8‑under if you get the par 5s going.

 

Q: And the wind to you hasn't been a factor?

A: It's been the same every day. It switches about now. So people who is an hour ahead of me probably had downwind on 18 and people now have into the wind. So it's pretty consistent. It's been consistent for three days.

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So Yeon Ryu: The Next Round

The putting was not enough good compared to long game, so I missed quite a lot of eight feet, ten feet putts, disappointing part. But we still have one more round, so we'll see.

 

Q: Conditions seemed a bit more bearable today and cooler?

A: Yeah, today was a bit cooler. At the same time, the breeze was a bit strong. The thing; breeze is not really coming from one side. The breeze keeps coming around so it's very hard judging where it comes from and how strong it is, so that was the hard part today. But still, my long game was really great, so I'm really happy.

 

Q: You did very well today and you're a few shots back going into the final round. Do you still feel like you're in contention?

A: Well, so far, I'm four back from the leader. Golf, anything can happen, so I want to keep it focused tomorrow. So you know, I think four shots is not really like big, big.

I'm going to practice putting a bit more and bring my A Game tomorrow.

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Azahara ready for the final round

Q: Great start today, talk me through a bit how it went you slowed.

A: I still played pretty good. The putts weren't dropping. I still hit pretty good putts, especially 17 and 18, I wanted to make one birdie and one just went over the edge. I'm playing really well, and it's just hard sometimes to get the right yardages. If you start having just like half‑shots into the greens, it's really hard to control the spin.

But overall, I felt really good out there, and I didn't make as many putts as the last couple days, but hopefully I'll go now to fit a few putts and we'll figure it out.

 

Q: And the wind didn't affect you yesterday?

A: It was windy but it didn't really affect me; I cannot blame that. I cannot give an excuse for that.

 

Q: Where did you lie last year?

A: I was in the last group going into the final round, maybe a couple back, something like that, three back.

 

Q: Do you quite like the thought of going into the final round tomorrow not actually in the final group and then you can just sneak up?

A: To be honest I wish I was leading by seven.

 

Q: Well, if you can't lead by seven ‑‑

A: The closer you are to the lead, the better. I'm playing really well. I'm right there, four back, and still 18 holes on this golf course, anything can happen.

 

Q: And you know this golf course really well.

A: Yeah, I real will I like it. It sets up well for me so hopefully I drop a few tomorrow and hopefully I get it going from the beginning.

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Inbee Park on the way to claim back her rank

Q: Inbee, you just keep playing great. You've been so consistent, it's amazing.

A: I played another solid day today. I played really good out there. I gave myself a lot of opportunities, and I didn't make all of them, but I was able to handle myself out there being patient out there and no bogeys out there is a really great result.

Yeah, I hit a lot of shots really close and probably could have made a couple two, three more. But still have tomorrow, and yeah, hopefully my putter works tomorrow.

 

Q: Taking last Sunday into account, this is your fourth round without a bogey on the card. So you must be really thrilled how well you're keeping it together.

A: Yeah, I think it's because I play aggressively. I'm not afraid of bogeys. I can make bogeys out there but I've just got to make more birdies. I mean, same thing tomorrow, I'm not going to think about no bogeys and how many holes. I'm just going to play same as what I did for the last three holes, and I'm not afraid of defeat. So just go out there and play tomorrow.

 

Q: We are all a bit excited, not sure if you're aware but tomorrow we have No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 in the world playing together. That is going to be some day.

A: I think it's going to be a really fun day tomorrow. It's a great leaderboard and everybody, all the fans are looking forward to seeing our play tomorrow, and having a two‑shot lead over No. 1 and No. 3 is a great result.

Hopefully I can keep my lead till the end, and, yeah, just keep playing great.

 

Q: How much do you want that No. 1 Rolex Ranking back?

A: It's just, you know, I want it, I just know I want it, but I'm just not going to push myself too hard to get something. I mean, it's not something ‑‑ it's something that if you push for, it's just hard to get. Just a couple of wins and playing great golf, and it's going to come, so I'm just going to not rush anything and just play good golf.

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Stacey Lewis’ Six Birdies

Q: Six birdies today, you must be really happy.

A: Yeah, pretty pleased. The middle of the round, couldn't quite get anything going, so I was just happy with the way I stayed patient. Made a nice putt on 15 and then made a couple good ones coming in.

 

Q: Now we now you're always in the mix and you're such a strong player but tomorrow, we have an awful lot to be excited about. The world No. 1, 2 and 3 look like they will be going out together. That should be fun.

A: It will. It will be great fun. It's great for the fans and for our tour. This leaderboard all week has been unbelievable. Just a ton of really good players up in the mix, and you know, this golf course, we have got to be careful about what's going on ahead of us, because it's easy to post a number and kind of sit back and see what happens.

 

Q: Conditions not too bad today, a little bit of breeze around, a lot of cloud cover, so it was actually pretty comfortable out there?

A: Yeah, it was. Golf course didn't play any easier. This golf course is tough. There's a lot of tough hole locations, especially coming in. So hopefully we have some good weather again tomorrow and see some good golf like we did today.

 

Q: This is a really tough golf course with the greens, they are massive, but you putted your socks off today, didn't you.

A: Yeah, you've got to on this golf course but they are rolling so pure that you can make some bombs. That's the fun part of this golf course is that if you get some putts started on line, they will just go in.

For us, it's great to play. We don't get greens like this every week on Tour and we love coming here.

 

Q: Would you prefer to be playing with the other two, or would you prefer to be separated?

A: The final group on a Sunday is where you want to be, so no matter ‑‑ doesn't matter who is in the group. This is the position I want to be in tomorrow.

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Yani Tseng Atop the Leaderboard

Q: Well, you showed us what was happening last week when you tied for second, but we're going to get that smile off your face after today?

A: Yeah, I'm very happy about my round today. I played very confident out there. But I think it really takes time because some of the holes are really tough out there and it's good to finish with par.

I feel like there's a couple decisions I back out and make a change, and I feel it was great. I really started trusting myself and enjoy to play golf again and enjoy it again.

 

Q: How does it feel to be sitting atop a leaderboard again?

A: Oh, it's fun. It's so much fun. Like I tell my friends, my parents on the website, they don't have to scroll down to see my name. They can just see right on top the first page (laughter).

I was very happy the way I change, and like you said, back to smile again and really play golf out there.

 

Q: Watching you over the last three weeks, you're back to the Yani where you're getting on with it and not thinking all the time and overthinking and nervous. You're just out there and you're ready to go and you're back to what you were?

A: Actually I was pretty nervous out there. I turned and it was a good motivation. I feel like I missed the excitement and I'm hitting longer ‑‑ it's just so much more fun, golf.

And like you said, I'm not thinking about anything out there, or I'm thinking it's very positive. I kind of avoid myself to what pulls me off, so it's easier for me to self‑talk and stay positive.

 

Q: This must really, really excite you for this season. You must be really looking forward to going into it now?

A: Yeah, it's a marathon. It's not a sprint. So I want to play one shot at a time, like today, I finished with 6‑under. I don't know how many birdies I made, so that's how I need to feel out there. And today and tomorrow is another new day and very exciting out there and try to not think too much on Sunday.

 

Q: Tell us about your round, eight birdies, one bogey. Do you feel like you could have done better?

A: Actually there was seven birdies out there and I missed one hole. But I played with really confidence out there. There's some shots that really takes time to think about because the wind is kind of swirling a little bit. Actually I'm very happy to not rush and focus on one shot at a time and play confidence golf and play not scary golf. I really enjoy out there, really enjoy.

 

Q: Last week I asked you what was the one thing you needed to do out there in order to play good golf, and you said, patience, that word, patience, has come up again today.

A: Yeah, it is. I had lots of birdie chance out there and I tried to stay patient and there's some shots that there's tough holes out there and I just tried to save par and I don't worry about play smart out there and be patient. If I make birdie I'm happy. If not, I go to the next hole and still focus on my one shot at a time.

 

Q: Confidence has played a big part in the great start you've had to the season. Compared to this time last year, where would you rate confidence at the moment?

A: I don't remember. I don't think it was high. This year, I guess I change new trainer, new coach and I start working on mental more and more, and I feel like awareness myself, how I'm positioned right now, it actually helps me a lot, too.

And self‑talk is one of the biggest things out there, because like I say, I tried to be patient and if I don't tell myself to be patient, it's hard to be patient. I'm very, very happy. I'm happy that I'm playing the golf again. It's not thinking or I'm working out there.

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Former HSBC Women’s Champion: Angela Stanford

Q: You're a former champion here, so you do know what it takes to get around this event more than anything. I know we're playing a different course this time but it's a big occasion, this tournament.

A: Yeah, it's one of my favourites. I love coming to Singapore. I've always said that. HSBC has been very good to us, and it's just a great week. They take good care of us, and it's just a great event on our schedule.

 

Q: Now last year, you were going to tone down your playing schedule just a little bit. That sort of semi‑retirement didn't seem to last too long, and why would it.

A: Well, I'm being more careful about how many times I go overseas. I think just traveling across big bodies of water starts to wear on your body a little bit. I've cut back in that respect, and it's helped a little about it, so I feel more refreshed.

I didn't play Australia. Just keeping it to two this time instead of three. So I feel a lot more refreshed this week than I have in the past.

 

 

Q: The heat can be pretty oppressive and it's very humid out there. How do you find playing in these conditions?

A: Finding the older I get, the more I like it. The body doesn't tighten up. Our first event it was cold in Florida, so I'm finding, especially being from Texas, I'm okay with the heat.

 

 

Q: Bogey‑free today. That must really thrill you.

A: I struggled last week, just trying to putt some things together and had a good last day, and it was nice to see some of the results this week or this first day. So it was fun. But I know we have three more days.

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A round with our local qualifier, Sock Hwee, Koh

Q: First round, HSBC Women's Champions 2015. Talk us through your round. How was it out there?

A: It was okay. I chipped it all right. Struggled a little bit on the back nine in between but apart from that I felt like I handled myself really well.

First hole, once I teed up the ball, I was really nervous. Before that warming up and everything, I felt I was all right. But once I tee off, nerves really got into me. But I hit a good shot down the fairway, so everything was nice. After I put the 12th, I think everything just settled me down, so I had quite a good ‑‑ I mean, decent start and then I doubled the 15th, and then made some birdies.

So I felt like I did all right. Just messed up a few holes on the back nine, but I feel good.

 

Q: And carding 7‑over. Plan for tomorrow?

A: Just keep going. I don't think I'll change my game plan. I just want to focus on each shot at a time. Even today, I think when I was up there, I just focus on where I wanted to hit it and everything. Not really thinking much about the scores, just keep going. It's like a marathon, just keep going.

 

Q: And you're out there with Anna Nordqvist and So Yeon Ryu; how was your pairing?

A: It was nice, actually like really friendly. So I had a few chats here and there along the way. I like my draw. I enjoyed myself out there.

 

Q: Still very much early days, but what are your initial takings from competing in a tournament like this with the elite field that you're up against?

A: The scores are quite low out there today. I guess today the wind is not really up. I mean, I see a couple of good scores, and, I don't know, I just want to focus on my own game and not think too much about the end result.

 

Q: Enjoying the experience?

A: Absolutely.

 

Q: Any target score?

A: I'm not really focusing on it. Like I say all day, I just want to go out and focus on hit be every shot, every hole. I had some bad holes out there but I just move on, just keep going. There's really nothing I can do, so I just want to play my own game.

 

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Inbee Park taking on the game

Q: Very solid opening round here in Singapore, where you really started to find some good form.

A: Yeah, I had a really good round last week, the last day in Thailand. I felt like my putter was coming back a little bit better.

Today was a really good day. I had a bogey‑free round, especially on this golf course, this golf course is a very challenging golf course and I was able to manage myself with a bogey‑free round which I'm really proud of. Yeah, I feel very good, a lot more comfortable over the putter.

 

Q: You played a very strategic game because the front nine is harder, and the back nine, you really kicked into gear on the back nine.

A: I started on the front nine, and the front nine, it was the tougher nine to play. I didn't play too aggressively on the front nine. I made a couple birdies on the par 5s but I didn't ‑‑ I wasn't able to do what I wanted to do. But I was able to make a birdie on No. 9 and that kind of got me started on doing things.

The back nine was a great nine. I holed a lot of putts on the back nine, hit great shots. Yeah, if I can play the back nine like that, it's going to be a good week.

 

Q: The greens here are very big and hole locations are 35 paces on. You really have to trust your yardage and your caddie.

A: Yeah, I think you have to trust your caddie. These are big greens and you have to pace yourself really well on the greens. Yeah, it's a tough green to read, as well. It's very grainy greens, and I hit a lot of shots close today. I think today's pins are one of the easiest pins we're going to get all week, so it's good that I took advantage of that.

 

Q: You shot 6‑under today, a very consistent round of golf; even through eight, you birdied the ninth and then just kicked into gear after that.

A: Yeah, the front nine is a tougher nine on the Serapong Golf Course. I didn't play too aggressively on the front nine, but the back nine I had a lot of shots. I hit a lot of shots close and I was able to hole a lot of putts on the back nine, which we have to take advantage of. Yeah, it was a good round, bogey‑free round, a very solid round, and I putted very good today, so I'm very happy with that.

 

Q: The last time I spoke to you, you said that was something you were working on. Is it where you want it to be at the moment?

A: If I can putt like today every day, yeah, that's definitely where I wanted to be. I've always been up‑and‑down and I had a couple of good days of putting and a couple of bad days of putting, so if I can even that out a little bit, it's going to be good putting. Yeah, I feel like it's coming back slowly.

 

Q: Tell us about the conditions out there, very, very hot and humid; does it bother you?

A: We played in hot weather last week. This week, today, I teed off in the second group off, very early, so I think it wasn't as hot as now, so I took a little advantage of that, as well. It's hot but everybody expects to be hot in Singapore and we play hot.

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Lexi Thompson’s Hole-in-One Experience

Q: How does it feel, it's not easy out there, it's tough conditions, and all of a sudden you have a hole‑in‑one. Does it just put you in a whole different mind‑set?

A: It definitely does. It was extremely hot out there, not much wind. The course is in great shape for us this week. But I played pretty steady the whole day. Didn't really get anything going until that hole but it's definitely a big confidence booster. I was just waiting for a few birdies but the hole‑in‑one helped out a lot.

 

Q: Did you feel like it was going in? And we're just watching the vision of it now, but pretty exciting. At what stage did you know it had gone in?

A: When it rolled in. It was going on line the whole way. I hit a low controlled 7‑iron from 150. It was looking good the whole way, so I was just waiting for it to drop. I let go of my club. I don't even know what I did honestly.

 

Q: Now this is not your first hole in one. You've had five, and two in competition.

A: Yes, I've had two in competition. I had my other one in Ohio in the LPGA event. So it was quite the experience. I think I high‑fived everybody on that hole. So I mean, there's no feeling like that. Just spur of the moment, drop the club, do whatever, yell, who knows.

 

Q: It's such a highlight, however, you have had a really good round of 69, so you're well and truly in the mix.

A: Yeah, like I said before, I played a pretty steady round. Was just waiting for a few putts to drop. Overall played pretty steady. The hole‑in‑one helped me to get a few under overall.

 

Q: I don't think there's anything steady about your golf, it's all‑or‑nothing and it's so exciting. You get that driver really out there and you really don't care, do you.

A: I mean, I definitely want to bomb it a lot on this golf course. Probably on a few holes I shouldn't. But take aggressive lines, and driver is the most comfortable club I have in my bag right now. Just pick the line and commit to it and that's all I'm doing right now. 

 

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Lydia Ko: Dealing with the heat and creating birdie opportunities

Q: Talk about starting with a 4‑under par 68?

A: LYDIA KO: Yeah, started off well with a birdie. Whenever I have a birdie on the first hole, I kind of wonder what kind of day it will be. But ended up being pretty good, and I think it's my best score around this course.

 

Q: How are you feeling at the moment? Some serious golf the last few weeks, you win the Australian Open; go home to New Zealand and win the New Zealand Open, and now you're back up here. Are you tired at all?

A: Yeah, I'm tired. A little bit jet‑lagged because of the long flight. But I've been trying to pace myself, go nine holes and do the least amount of practise. I think just this week, the heat is definitely going to get to me, so I'm just going to try and cool down.

 

Q: How do you cope with that, because it is really, really stinging out there. How do you control the heat yourself?

A: When we are spoiled with such great weather last week, so to come to such heat, it's tough. But with my cool towel, go under the umbrella and try to have icy cold water every hole.

 

Q: You put yourself in birdie range so often, and you give yourself every opportunity. That's the real strength of your game.

A: Yeah, I tried to give myself as many opportunities. Like even today, I felt good with the putter. It was close if it didn't go in. That's always a position I want to be in.

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The Ups and Downs at Getting Back to the Top

Q: Inbee, three tournaments so far, two Top‑10s, business as usual for you. Are you pleased with your start thus far?

A: I didn't play that bad. I mean, first tournament, I was a little bit rusty and didn't play as well as I want to. But the next two tournaments have been good. I had some up‑and‑downs, but especially last week, I had some bad rounds and good rounds.

But I feel like I'm warmed up now, and it's not that bad of a start. I mean, I started last couple seasons really good by winning the first tournament and finishing second in the first tournament last two years, but compared to that, it's a little bit slower start.

But there's so many tournaments to play and there's about 25 more or so to play. So looking forward to it. I had a really good putting day on the last round in Thailand, so hopefully I can keep that going this week.

 

Q: What were your goals coming into this year?

A: My main goal was winning the British Open. That would be my dream until I retire, until I get that win.

Hopefully many wins will be nice. But obviously I let Lydia have my No. 1 spot earlier this year. So if I can capture that back at some point, that will be a very good goal to have.

But I'm just trying to have fun out here and it's not ‑‑ not worried about so many numbers or so many stats or things like that. I think enjoying is the most important thing I need to worry about.

 

Q: You mentioned the No. 1 spot. Is it for you a lot less pressure being in the No. 2 position and getting to come out here and not have everyone chasing you?

INBEE PARK: I think so. I've been in the No. 1 spot and No. 2 spot before, and it's a lot more relaxing position I would guess. You don't have as much pressure as No. 1, and I mean, people probably expect a little bit less from you being in the No. 1 spot.

But I'm trying to play the same game when I was No. 1, and I've experienced that before and I feel like I'm mature and I feel like I'm ready for the position. So I'm just going to go out and just play my game and just see in this case capture that back.

 

Q: You participated in the HSBC fashion show. Did you have fun with it, and what do you think of it?

A: I really liked the outfit. The dress was beautiful. A lot of people said it was really good.

It's something different to golf. We are always in the heat and wear our golf shoes and we don't get to wear heels or get to do what women get to do. Like sometimes, if you get to do something different, I think it's just so much fun, and if you can make people laugh, if you can make people smile, I think, what can you do better.

 

Q: Thursday is International Women's Day. I don't know whether you knew that.

A: International Women's Day.

 

Q: What does it mean to you and, and what do you think it should mean to people from apart obviously it's about women.

A: International Women's Day, it's actually the first time I ever heard of it. I think maybe a good day for women and good day for women to participate in any sports or anything.

I think it's a day for women, so we do whatever we want, everything is forgiven and just, yeah, I think that's it.

 

Q: I don't know whether you know but there's a stretch of holes, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 which is called the Dragon's Tooth, because it's a Dragon's Tooth in the bunker ‑‑ the general manager's idea. I think it's quite an interesting stretch of holes because you have that difficult third and fourth, the par 5, long par 4. Do you think that's a make‑or‑break? Are you careful around that? Can you just talk us through that?

A: Yeah, I think so. My 3 to 7 is definitely one of the toughest hole on the golf course and there's definitely a lot of hazard that comes into play. You have to be careful.

If you hit good tee shots, you can make birdies; but if you don't hit good tee shots, you can make big numbers there. So I mean, I would be happy with pars there. I mean, except for the par 5, I think the par 5, you definitely have a chance for a birdie, but then other holes is quite tough hole, especially No. 6.

No. 6 is quite a tough hole and I still am not decided what to do with my tee shot whether I go left side, right side, short of the bunker. There's so many options.

I think that's why this golf course is so much fun. You can play around in so many ways. You can do so many things on this golf course and I think it's one much the toughest golf courses we play. It's in great condition. I played Monday and it was a little bit slower, the greens, but I played today and it was quick. So I think it's in good shape to play.

 

Q: Can you talk about your British Open aspirations?

A: Yeah, I'm already looking forward to playing the British Open and we're playing in Turnberry this year, but it's going to be a very memorable place to go. I think last year, I did really good in the British Open and ended up finishing fourth. But I really had a good chance at a win. So if I can do something similar to that last year, it will be nice.

Every British Open I've played the last couple years, I had so much pressure on myself. So this year my main goal would be getting the pressure off a little bit and just playing like a normal tournament, which is going to be hard. But I'm going to try to just stay the same.

 

Q: Do you like links golf?

A: I do. I do like the links golf course style. I like the wind. I like the challenge there. So yeah, hopefully I can do ‑‑ hold the trophy there.

 

Q: You had green speeds last week of up to 14 I think on the Stimpmeter. Is it easier to come to somewhere like this where it's a little bit slower to adjust to?

A: Well, it's a very grainy green, so when it gets slower, I think it gets tougher, because it breaks a lot more than what you think. But the greens are a little bit quicker; it breaks a little bit less, it gets less grainy. So I rather prefer less grainy greens because I'm not the best putter on grainy greens.

So I would like it to be fast, but I mean, last week it with a grainy greens but it was fast, fast enough to take the grain out of play a little bit. It is getting similar to that, this golf course. So I think I can put similar to last eagle.

 

Q: Do you notice any other changes to the course from last year?

A: I think that they are quite similar condition to last year. I think all the greens, I think it was a little bit slower, but it's pretty much the same as last year now.

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Mind Games on a World Stage

Q: Maybe you can just tell us a little bit about your expectations for this week, and what you feel about the status and condition of the golf course?

JING YAN: I think the course is in really good condition as always. It's always played really tough, as you've seen every year watching the tournament. It's good to get to play it this year, and I'm really thankful to HSBC for inviting me to play in this tournament, because it's just a really great opportunity on a world stage, and hopefully I'll just be able to play my own game, take it one shot at a time and post a good result out there.

 

Q: Do you have in your mind an idea of the kind of scores that you are looking to shoot? Is even par your target?

JING YAN: Not really. I think it's not that I really put a target in my mind. Just try to play the best I can every shot, so try not to limit myself.

SOCK HWEE: Like Jennifer said, the course is in great shape. I practised here but don't get to practice on tournament ready condition. The greens are rolling really well, really fast, really firm. It's in great shape.

For myself, expectations‑wise, a lot of people are saying, of course, qualifier always finish last but just haven't been giving it a lot of thought. Just want to go out there and enjoy myself and feel plea the best I can.

Like Jennifer said, I don't think it's a number you want to putt on your receive. You just go out there, grind a number and if you're playing well, just go with the flow.

It's a tough course, but just feeling comfortable on the course itself, it's‑lot more of a mental itchy think. You just feel comfortable standing up on the tee. I think it's more like a mental, you're just more comfortable being out there. You know you've played this course many times.

JING YAN: And also, just all the family and friends.

 

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Get in the world of Lydia Ko

Q: You've won two consecutive tournaments in a row and you're taking the golf world by storm. You're the world youngest No. 1 player at 17‑year‑old; has it sunk in yet what you've accomplished so far?

A: I don't think so. Just become world No. 1, hearing it, it's pretty exciting stuff. But when I'm out there, I'm not really thinking about it. It's always been my dream and hopefully I can become one of the world's greatest female golfers, and I'm right there. Obviously I have a lot of things to work on still and you know, it's an exciting time.

 

Q: Two straight tournaments, would you say that you're playing your best golf right now?

A: I still feel like I've got a little bits to improve. Every course is different, so it's really hard to say, my game is perfect, because every course plays different and coming from the Australian Open going to the New Zealand Open, I was totally confused because the whole setup is different.

Here, I guess just more so that I've played well at the New Zealand Open in Clearwater, and I know that I can score well and that give me a lot of confidence going into those weeks.

 

Q: Yesterday we had Michelle Wie in here and she was asked about you, and she said it's not a surprise you're No. 1; that you're the most solid, well rounded golfer out here on Tour and that you have a good head on your shoulders. To you, what is it like to know how well respected you are by your fellow players.

A: It's awesome, because they are all my idols and just going back to two, three years ago, I saw them on TV and magazines and I'm like, man, hopefully one day I can come out there and playing alongside them.

And Michelle has been one of my idols. And to play alongside her tomorrow, it's exciting. You know, just be able to hang around them, do the fashion show like yesterday, it's really cool.

 

Q: Well, you just mentioned the fashion show and HSBC put on a great fashion show yesterday. How much fun was it for you? I know you blew the crowd a little kiss at the end.

A: The whole process of it, I was really nervous, because, I mean, when am I ever going to walk down a runway, first of all. And I didn't do any proper rehearsals; so, okay, I didn't know what strike to pose. So we were in two groups, and I was trying to like practice, and Jessica Korda tried to help me out ‑‑ her and fashion is just one thing.

But it was fun, and I got more time to talk to the girls. We had some sushi in the middle, and yeah, it was fun. I liked the whole process.

 

Q: You've won in Australia, and New Zealand so far this year. Coming from the Asia‑Pacific region itself, do you find yourself more motivated? Do you want to win in these competitions more?

A: Actually I haven't had that many opportunities playing in Asia. The most I've played was really during the Asian Swing last year, and I had so much fun. The crowds are great and just people in Asia, they are so intrigued and they love the LPGA.

So yeah, it's always fun when the people there are also excited as much as you are, and I mean, because New Zealand, it's Asia Pacific, I played the Queen Sirikit Cup here a couple years ago. It's always great when you know that it's not home but there's always home support to back you up.

 

Q: You mentioned the Queen Sirikit Cup. I wanted to ask you about that. That was at Tanah Merah, and you were actually beaten there by Kim Hyo‑Joo; what do you recall about that, and can you just tell us your first impressions of Sentosa?

A: Yeah, even at that time I had glasses, and the moment I opened the door and went out, my glasses just fogged up straightaway.

I was like, man, obviously this is like going to freeze (ph) the whole time. At that time, I really didn't know what to expect of Singapore, but I heard so many great things about it, and you know, I had so much fun. The whole team, we went on the Singapore Choir at night and we got to see the whole view of Singapore, and I found that they were one of the great memories here.

Just then, it was good, it's individual and team; so you get you don't great to play that many team events. So it was really cool to compete for New Zealand also.

 

Q: What are your thoughts on Sentosa? Is it the first time you have seen this course?

A: No, I came here last year, and obviously the course I played before is definitely different to here. I learn found this course very difficult. You've really got to position yourself well, and the fairways are narrow, but you can get on the wrong side, and might as well, as if you're in the rough.

So you need to position yourself well. So I think the drive, having a good tee shot is one of the big keys here.

 

Q: I know that Bob Charles came to watch you a couple years ago in New Zealand. Has he turned up since?

A: I actually went and saw him in Christchurch last week. So I got to see Sir Bob. And the Cricket World Cup is going on, so he had that on and we were watching, and New Zealand won that day. It was very exciting.

Yeah, I just got to see him and obviously he's legendary in what he's done for the game of golf is amazing, and especially in New Zealand. So I got to see his trophy room. It was really inspiring, his Arnold Palmer Award, Byron Nelson award, all these trophies everything, it was really cool.

 

Q: Did he have any tips for you?

A: We kind of just had a conversation. He said, how are you, having fun and everything like that. He said, "Oh, do you have jet sponsor now?"

I was like, "No, but I have a jet‑lag drink sponsor." (Laughter) so I had that when I came over. So I think that's definitely helping me with my jet‑lag.

 

Q: I asked this to Inbee. It's International Women's Day on Thursday. Is that important for you? Does the world need an International Women's Day? Does it need an International Men's Day? How do you feel about it?

A: I didn't even know there was one. Obviously there are extra days I didn't know.

Yeah, I mean, it's great, you can just see by the field here and the tournaments we play and just the LPGA overall, we've got ‑‑ it's not only a couple countries. There are so many varieties of countries and so many different types of players.

So, yeah, international is great, and we are here at an international event in Singapore. Yeah, I think it should be fun. It's the first day, so it's a good way to kick it off.

 

Q: Going back to yesterday, why did you choose a Korean university, rather than, say, an American one or living in America now?

A: Well, first of all, the university is called Korea University. So just that name, Korea; and my background is Korean. Everybody can see that. There's lots of pliers out here on the Tour that have done that route, too. So I thought it's a good way.

Yeah, I just wanted to kind of connect with Korea, too, and obviously there are a multiple reasons, and I could have gone to University of New Zealand, and in the States there are so many great universities. But I ended up going to Korea University, and I'm proud to be there, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be a tough journey, study and playing golf at the same time.

 

Q: I was just going ask you, your expectations for this week, are you actually here expecting to win this tournament?

A: I have had such a great last two weeks, so obviously there's expectation. You're world No. 1 and a lot of people think you should win every week because you are, but that's really not the case.

Hopefully I'm going to keep myself cool. I think that's a big thing here. You can be make good golf and then just the heat gets to you and start making a couple mistakes. I think I'm going to keep myself cool, try and have some fun. I know that there are some birdie opportunities, but there are some really tough holes out there, so try and balance everything out.

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LIVE @ HSBC Women’s Champions 2015

 

 

 

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Revenge at Sentosa

Revenge is a 7-letter word best served cold. 

This year, revenge and perhaps some retribution should be at the very forefront of Azahara Munoz’s mind when she returns to Sentosa Golf Club for the HSBC Women’s Champions in March. Who can forget that heartbreaking,snaking 75-foot putt from Paula Creamer that sent the Spanish belle to the depths of bewilderment. 

For those who needs reminding, Aza and Paula finish the tournament at 10-under-par and headed straight for playoffs on the par 5 18th. At the second attempt, the Pink Panther sank what was probably the most ridiculous putt of her life for eagle and victory.

Munoz was left musing at that fateful for she would remain winless for the rest of 2014 although she did return T2 again later in her next event at the JTBC Founders Cup; and then T4 at the Wegmans LPGA Championship followed by 4th the following week at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open. Perhaps she's be able to keep up a streak of wins this year starting from the HSBC Women's Champions?

Often referred to as ‘Asia’s Major’, the event has seen plenty of ‘head to heads’ over the years where key rivalries have come to the fore over four rounds of the no-cut competition.

Tanah Merah Country Club hosted the first five editions from 2008 to 2012. Mexican Lorena Ochoa effortlessly blasted the field away in the inaugural edition when she won by 11 strokes over great rival Annika Sorenstam. Jiyai Shin, who started the final round in 2009 five strokes back, battled the odds, and a determined Katherine Hull, to win by two. A year later it was another Asian win with Japanese Ai Miyazato prevailing by two shots over Cristie Kerr in a close topsy turvy clash over the final round. Karrie Webb then edged out Japanese Chie Arimura and former world number one Taiwanese Yani Tseng to take the title in 2011.

In the final year at Tanah Merah Country Club, a real battle ensued with both the elements and a four-player sudden death playoff. The final round was delayed for around 90 minutes due to lightning and when play resumed Americans Angela Stanford and Katie Futcher as well as South Korean Jenny Shin were the only three left out on the course on the final hole. Na Yeon Choi and Shanshan Feng were already tied for the cllubhouse lead and waiting to see if they need to head back out the course. They did, and with Stanford and Shin to make a fourball at that!

What began as a four-player, sudden-death payoff was reduced to a three after Shanshan Feng three-putted the first playoff hole. On the second hole, Na Yeon Choi dropped out after missing a four-foot putt. On the third hole, Jenny Shin lipped out from three feet and Angela Stanford made a four-foot putt that touched most of the cup before falling in for the longest wait to a win in this championship. 

When the event moved to Sentosa Golf Club in 2013 – the year after the final Barclays Singapore Open – it was another American, Stacy Lewis, who overcame nerves, Na Yeon Choi and some unstable putting, to win the title – the Korean then world no. 2 had, for the second year in a row, in two different courses, settled for second place. She's got some axes to grind. 

However, good old-fashioned key rivalries and clashes have always been around in both men’s and women’s professional golf since the dark ages, whether it’s player versus player, player versus their own demons, golf courses, crowds, tours, management or other key personalities involved in the game.

Stacy Lewis didn’t just have to deal with local favourite Shanshan Feng’s miraculous shot on the 18th during the 2013 Reignwood LPGA Classic at Beijing’s Pine Valley Golf Club; she's struggled with the crowds throughout the event. Leading by a stroke over Feng, Lewis ended up losing and later on took to twitter to rag the spectators’ behavior during the tournament. The ensuing backlash came fast and furious and within a few hours, she deleted her tweets and threatened to cancel her account. It still stands till this day however. 

There are also battles fought behind the scenes. One famous longstanding stoush has involved Martha Burk who was widely known for a disagreement beginning in 2002 with Augusta National Golf Club over their non-admission of female members. In 2012, the club extended membership to two women. 

While golf is usually viewed as an individual sport, there have been many great team rivalries over the years. Fans may remember the 1994 Solheim Cup when Dottie Pepper cheered a Laura Davies missed putt back which, 4 years later prompted European team captain Annika Sorenstam four years later to draw Pepper's face on a punching bag for her teammates.

So while players have competed strongly against each other over the years of the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, they've also had to battle the heat, lightning and rain, which have been a regular occurrence, shaved greens, tropical grasses, and noisy smartphone and camera obsessive crowds. While hopefully some of those will be erased this year, the US$1.4 million question begets: if revenge can be tasted, who amongst the many unavenged, will carry forth that golden cup and with whose blood will it be filled.  

 

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JONAS BLIXT

We’re in The Locker Room at Aberdeen’s Gamola Golf, which, it transpires, isn’t a locker room at all. No, this is actually the Granite City’s ‘Premier Sports Bar/Restaurant’ which, mercifully, means there’s nobody wondering around with just towels on to cover their modesty. Well, not yet there isn’t. Still, we’re here for a Cobra-Puma day and, more specifically, we’re here to talk to Swedish PGA Tour star Jonas Blixt who’s here to play in the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen.

Jonas Blixt. Now there’s a name. It’s like that of a fiendish Bond villain, sat in his high-backed leather armchair in a mountain hideaway, stroking a sinister white cat: ‘Ah, Mr Tunnicliff, I’ve been expecting you…” The truth, though, is that Jonas Blixt is nothing like a Bond villain. For one, he’s far too nice and, secondly, he’s only 30 and Bond villains tend to have all that pent-up frustration in middle-age when rather than have an affair with their secretary or buy a Harley Davidson and a pair of leather trousers, they simply launch a flawed attempt to take over the world instead. 

Intriguingly, the name ‘Blixt’ actually means ‘lightning bolt’ in Swedish and it’s one that fits him perfectly. Off the course, he’s affable, approachable and entirely charming. On the course, he’s prone to sudden, unexpected sparks of crackling brilliance. Perhaps that’s the reason he’s managed to adapt so well to life in golf’s elite, especially after the uncertainty of life on the feeder tours. Yes, when Blixt strikes, you certainly know about it.

To date, Blixt has only played in six majors but he’s already got a tie for second, a fourth, a 26th and a 35th to show for his efforts so far. It’s the kind of eye-catching record that’s already marked him out as a future major winner and given that Swedish golfers have never won one (not in the men’s game at least) he could well be the man to break the duck. But we shouldn’t be surprised, not really. After all, this is the player who won in in his just his 19th start on the PGA Tour, winning the 2012 Frys.com Open by making 49 of 50 putts inside 10 feet during the last three rounds to bag his maiden win and the $900,000 first prize. 

It wasn’t long before he was at it again. The following July he shot another four rounds in the 60s to claim an even bigger title, the Greenbrier Classic, before making the cut and finishing in a tie for 26th in his major debut at the Open Championship at Muirfield. A month later, meanwhile, he finished fourth at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, a tournament that also saw him land his tee shot at the 18th on Saturday land in the back pocket of a pensioner. It was some shot. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “I wonder what the percentage is on that?”

 Suddenly, after years of toil on the Web.Com Tour, Blixt had arrived in professional golf like a brick through a window. And yet, it wasn’t meant to be like this. Though his dad, Hans Ove, took him out to play golf from the age of eight ­– they played a marathon 27 holes the first time he set foot on a course – Jonas’s heart was always set on becoming an ice hockey player. “[In Sweden] Soccer is the most popular sport, and then ice hockey. Golf is like the third-most popular sport over there,” he says. “If you’re a guy, you want to play hockey... The tough guys play hockey, you know, the guys with no teeth.”

By the age of 18, however, Blixt had to concede that he had neither the talent nor the physique to make any kind of living in the game. “I was a defender but I never really got big enough or good enough to play ice hockey.” So it was that, then, that Blixt suddenly got serious about his golf. Soon, Blixt would win a golf scholarship at Florida State University (FSU), a school that boasted golf alumni including major winners such as Paul Azinger, Jeff Sluman and Hubert Green and in his time on the golf team he managed to continue the school’s fine tradition winning four collegiate events, leading FSU to their first ever Conference title and making the All-American team of 2009.

It wasn’t all golf though. Alongside his team-mate and buddy, the Norwegian Torstein Naevestad, Blixt partied almost as hard as he played. "I had a lot of fun there,” he would recall later. “I'm just glad I'm still alive." But the heady mix of fast living and fast food soon took its toll on the pair’s waistlines. Drastic measures were required so the two made a bet. They would both give up drinking sodas for a year and whoever gave in first would have to ride The Kraken roller coaster at Orlando’s Sea World for two hours straight as their punishment.

Initially, the new diet seemed to be working. Both men began shedding the pounds and both refused to buckle. But it was only when Blixt’s form began to desert him that he kicked the sparking water into the rough and went back to the cola. The result? He finished second at the Web.com Tour event at the Price Cutter Charity Championship and his game came back to him.

But it also meant, of course, that he lost his bet with Naevestad and while Blixt tried to buy his way out of the forfeit, his friend was determined to see him suffer. The Kraken was calling. “You would have to censor how I felt, it was awful,” he recalls. “Two hours on that thing and you don’t feel very well. One of the guys puked on me so I had to get out and clean up so I had a ten-minute break but then I had to get back in again.”

Blixt would turn professional in 2008, shortly after leading Europe to a 14-10 win in the Palmer Cup, the Ryder Cup style contest between US collegiate golfers and their European counterparts. The following year, he would play more than 20 events on what was then the Nationwide Tour, winning $120,000, but it would be a couple of years of graft and struggle before he finally broke through to the PGA Tour itself as he finished 5th in the 2011 Nationwide Tour rankings.

From that moment on, though, it was as though Jonas Blixt had finally found his place in the sport. Though his form was patchy in the early part of his rookie year, he finished the campaign like a bullet train, taking third at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and then, just a week later, taking his first PGA Tour title by shooting four rounds in the 60s at the Frys.com Open.

But while the victories at the Frys.com and, then, at The Greenbrier the following year have given Blixt a ready-made reputation in the game, it was his efforts in this year’s Masters that really made people sit up and notice, not least the European Ryder Cup skipper, Paul McGinley. A tie for second place on the back of four sub-par rounds and just three shots adrift of the winner Bubba Watson, propelled the young Swede onto an entirely new plane and, inevitably, it meant that his name was soon being mooted as a possible Ryder Cup player for the 2014 contest at Gleneagles.

Indeed, throughout the qualification process, Blixt appeared nailed-on to win a place in Paul McGinley’s team. Not only did he join the European Tour for 2014 to try and help his chances but he even got measured up for the team suits during the PGA Championship at Wentworth in May. But like an X-Factor contestant who makes it to the judges’ houses only to be told to sling their hook, Blixt missed out, finishing 23rd on the World Points List and 22nd on the European list. Later, when the wild cards went to Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher, Blixt’s “lifelong dream” of teeing it up at the Ryder Cup was over – for now.

What made it worse was that McGinley had long been making all the right noises about his possible inclusion in his team, speaking to the Swede on regular occasions about the contest, as Blixt recalls. "He said, 'If you need any advice, if you need any help, please give me a call”. At the Masters in April, meanwhile, the European skipper had been fulsome in his praise for the Swede’s efforts, suggesting that he was precisely the kind of player he needed in his ranks. “It's clear that he's a man for the big occasion. This guy has got a lot of heart and a lot of game,” said McGinley. “Certainly he's good enough for the Ryder Cup team." 

It wasn’t to be. Mind you, it didn’t help that he forgot Paul McGinley’s name when talking about his Ryder Cup chances after that runners-up spot at Augusta. Still, Jonas Blixt has time on his side. He’s only 30, after all, and given that most golfers don’t reach their prime until their mid-30s, he could, theoretically, still play in five or six Ryder Cups. Providing he stays off the sodas, obviously…

 

JONAS BLIXT SHORTCUTS

Q: What was your first car?

A: Ford Mustang

 

Q: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

A: Neither. Actually, I think I do have a Rolling Stones tape but I don’t really listen to groups that much.

 

Q: What makes you cry?

A: Nothing. Grown men don’t cry.

 

Q: Could you kill your own dinner?

A: Well, when I was five I caught a fish and had to kill that so yeah, I guess I can kill my own dinner.

 

Q: If you had a time machine would you go backwards or forwards?

A: I’d go backwards to a calmer time.

 

Q: Would you bungee jump?

A: No, I don’t have the guts to do it – and I’ve seen it go wrong.

 

Q: Have you ever been in a bar fight?

A: Yes but it was outside the bar. There was a guy hitting on my girlfriend when I wasn’t there so one of my buddies took care of him. Then his buddies jumped on my friend and I had to help him out. It was kind of fun. I had to do a fair bit of fighting when I played hockey so…

 

Q: What would you think if you met yourself at a party?

A: I would walk the other way. I would probably hate me.

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La Dolce Vita

WORDS BY: RYAN CURTIS

PHOTOGRAPHED BY: STEVE READ

Golf Punk talks to Italian superstar Matteo Manaserro about his passions. What goes through your head when you win a huge golf event as a 20-year old? Seve, football and how golf can be made more accessible. 

Matteo Manassero has just turned 21, he is devilishly handsome and is talking to us from Wentworth, the home of the greatest moment of his life, winning the BMW PGA Championships and a cheeky €791,660. And to top it all off the youngest ever winner on the European Tour is now starring in a Bond-style shoot for the Golf Punk front cover - and looking like an absolute natural. Life is good.

The kid from Verona is chirpy, as well he should be, as we sit down for a chat at HQ. And the obvious place to start at the scene of such a triumph is by winding the clock back a year to that 18th green where he secured his biggest win to date, winning a playoff against Simon Khan and Marc Warren at the fourth extra playoff hole.

I thought, I’ve done it, I’ve done something special. “You just live the moment - you look at the people, you look at how many are there. I was extremely happy but it was a calm happiness because I was so tired after what had been a long day. I just went for a little fist pump in the end.

“It was a great moment. I’d had an incredible amount of fun throughout the whole week, it was a week that had everything. Typical of Wentworth we we had good weather, we had bad weather on the Friday.

“In general the week was probably the best of my life. This is a really special place for me, it was before winning and even more so after last year. The way it came in a pla yoff was really something.”

We hear that ones so young are exempt from pressure, they don’t feel it, but Matteo was open enough to admit how he felt and how he harnesses the emotions when the going gets tough.

“I felt under pressure but relaxed. I didnt have any fear of missing a shot because my body was doing what it needed to do, it wasn’t under any fear, it wasn’t tense. My hands were shaking which is normal but my body was still going where it needed to. I enjoy that, it’s lovely.

“You never know whether you are going to finish second or win so the tension you can really enjoy. Thinking back is wonderful.

Quickfire
Funniest person on tour?
Jason Dufner - He is the funniest and most interesting person on tour definitely. He has always got that sad and thinking face but actually he comes out with some amazing stuff. I find him hilarious.

Who plays you in a movie?
Christian Bale. I don’t look like him but I like him as an actor.

Who is the tightest?
A few come from Scotland. No, I’m just joking. I can’t really thinkof any Scottish tight guys.Miguel is careful with his money, he spends it on Ferraris,paintings and cigars, but then he is careful with his money.There is a few guys trust me. This is a question you can ask the caddies, they will give you a list!

Worst/strangest crowd shout?
I hit a 265 yards 3-wood to four feet a guy shouted ‘useful’. As if he has hit that shot many times and it was and it is useful to
have it in the bag. That was in Tucson, Arizona.

Spare time?
I just chill out, stay with friends that live close by. Go out with them, watch football, sometimes play some tennis or a little
football match. I used to play football when I was a kid, I don’t play enough to keep what little skills I have up. I’m alright, I understand the
game so I can be quicker thinking than some others. The best part of my game was staying with my opponents, guarding them, making my presence felt.

Italian or British?
Women? Italian
Food? Italian
Football? Italian
Swearing? This is a tough one, you have some really good swear words. Go for a half.
Music? English music is great but I have a few Italian artists I listen to, one is kind of pop rock, he is really good, he is called Ligabue. And English I listen to a bit of everything, that’s why this one is probably English because I listen to more. (Italy 3 - 1 Britain)

“My nerves were high. I knew I was going to do my part but you never know what your opponent is going to do, that is the toughest situation. On the 18th hole at Wentworth anything could happen. You can hit two really good shots and end up with a bogey. But I managed to, under those nerves, and under that pressure, to always put it in play. I’d done my bit.

“The relief was after I hit the first putt from 30 feet or just a little more maybe. To put it really close, I had two putts from about a foot to win the PGA at Wentworth.”

Given the Latin connections it is unsurprising that Matteo’s idol is Seve and you could see his eyes light up as he talked positively about how the legend influenced him, rather than the sad passing.

“He has always been my idol, for his charisma, his own personal way of doing things different from everyone else. He really distinguished himself. I never liked the guys who looked like everybody else, although they were extremely successful in golf. He was different, he was Seve, everybody recognised him with that.

“He played with a lot of fantasy. It is Latin flair but it was his flair.”

And speaking of Latin connections he is good friends with compatriot Francesco Molinari who helped him to settle as a rookie, one that had not yet completely mastered English as a 17-year old.

“He was really nice to welcome me to the tour and help me get to know people and ma ke me comfortable. The first year I needed someone who spok e Italian. I was too youngto make friends away from Italian connections but bothMolinari brothers helped.

“He (Francesco) looks like a very quiet and calm guy but I personally think he is really funny, it is a bit of English humour, he is getting influenced from living in London.”

During their spare time they enjoy watching the football where Matteo will support his beloved AC MIlan, Francesco follows Inter Milan and Edoardo Molinari supports Juventus ensuring some interesting evenings in hotels and clubhouses across the globe. He speaks passionately about his love for the game and AC Milan, which is probably the one part of his life that isn’t going swimmingly at the moment.

“It is not very good, it wasn’t very good last season and it will probably not be very good next season. We (AC Milan) are probably in the same situation as a lot of Manchester United fans. In transition. We should hang out and cry together.

“I was 10 when I fell in love with Milan and that was 02/03 when Shevchenko was playing really well. Between 2005 and 2007 with Ancelotti we were extremely good. In 2007 we won the Champions League although previously there was the Liverpool game which wasn’t a good memory. At that time though we were the team to beat.

“As for nationally Italy are standing in the same situation as England. A few good players and a lot of average players. They are not two top teams but with a bit of Italian luck, good defense, fast breaks they can probably reach the semi finals at the World Cup, that would be an amazing achievement.” And we couldn’t leave any discussion on Italian football without asking about the incredible beards, with in particular
the beautiful facial hair of Andrea Pirlo.

“I think Pirlo has it all, good feet, good hair and a good beard. We are hard to beat on style us Italians.

“If you were a footballer you would want to be Pirlo for his style. He seems like he lives in his own world, and then he goes out on the football pitch and he is just outstanding.”

Another passion of Manny’s is making golf more accessible to the masses and he hopes he can help in his native Italy when we
pose the question.

“I know the answer in Italy, I can think some countries where it has already been done but you need public courses where people can turn up and rent there. Then day after day they can do that until they pick up golf and one day they can maybe
afford a private club.

“England does it, France are doing it, we can see this where there are a lot of French players. That is the way to bring people
to the course and bring families to the golf course.

“I hope I can help. It is not only about me but I can help.” Currently ranked 59 in the world you would be hard pushed
to find people in the game who don’t think that will go up, so expect to see, and hear, a lot more of the young superstar. His personality is infectious, and has a confidence and assuredness that belies his years without ever appearing arrogant.

So basically he is set to be hugely popular and massively successful, living the dream on tours both in Europe and stateside.

It would make you sick if he wasn’t such a nice gu y so all you can really do is say good luck to the lad and watch the story unfold from the comfort of your armchair or behind the ropes.

RANDOMS
HARDEST GUY ON BOTH TOURS AND WHO WOULD WIN ?
On the European side I’m leaving myself out. I think Larrazabal could be tough in a fight, he gets really angry. He can be quick, he can be a nasty fighter. I think Larrazabal would be up for a fight. US I would pick JB Holmes, he will be tough to bring down.

Who would win? 10 CHICKEN-SIZED BEARS VERSUS 10 BEAR - SIZED CHIC KENS IN A FIGHT ?
The chickens for sure, they can be really nasty, they can run at you and be nasty and if they are big it is even more so. Little bears are nice, they are like puppets.

and finally... will there ever be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark?
No. A shark will always be faster than any human.

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Cover Story Lexi Thompson

WORDS TIM SOUTHWELL
INTERVIEW TIM SOUTHWELL & MARK PADGETT
PHOTOGRAPHY CHRIS MCENIRY PRODUCTION KIM MCENIRY/OVERFLOW PRODUCTIONS/GOLFPUNK

Blimey. You turn you back for five minutes and little Lexi Thompson, the child golf prodigy sensation. With a major already under her belt, the only thing left for a perfect 2014 was to give GolfPunk a call and suggest we get together and put the world straight. Sexi Thompson, we salute you!

Lexi Thompson’s first appearance at a major championship was a complete disaster. She shot 86-82 at the US Open in 2007 and missed the cut by a country mile. Most golfers would have figured that, maybe, just maybe, they weren’t that good after all. Most golfers would have felt so humiliated they would refuse to pick up a golf club ever again. Most golfers, however, don’t qualify for their fi rst US Open aged 12 years and four months.

In fact, most golfers don’t qualify for their second US Open aged 13 (2008) or their third aged 14 (2009). Lexi Thompson did. She even made the cut in 2009, fi nishing 34th. She was 14 years old, for Seve’s sake!

In 2010, still an amateur, Lexi was undefeated in the Curtis Cup, winning four matches and halving another. She turned pro the following week and signed sponsorship deals with Cobra Puma Golf and Red Bull. Those guys are no fools.

“Will she even make the cut?” “Will she be able to handle the pressure?” “Will she start crying when things go wrong?!” All these hysterical doubts and questions were shot down before they had even taken fl ight. Earlier this year Lexi won the Kraft Nabisco at Mission Hills. After a an astonishing second round 64, Lexi shot 69 on Saturday and went into the fi nal day tied with Michelle Wie. Lexi burned up the front nine building a fi ve shot lead. Her 68 gave her a three-stroke victory and Lexi was crowned a major champion aged 19 years, one month and 27 days. Thankfully she didn’t have to ask any questions about being the youngest ever Major winner as Morgan Presell had already nailed that one a couple of years earlier. Following her major triumph, Lexi received 91 million impressions in 48 hours. Lexi Thompson was now a superstar. The only thing left for Lexi to achieve was a cover shoot in GolfPunk. Call us old fashioned, but we’re real suckers for a charming, beautiful, successful golf starlet so we gladly obliged…

So Lexi, welcome to GolfPunk, how’s the shot going?

The photo shoot is going great. We’ve done a few different shots that I’m not used to, but I’ve seen some of the pictures and they look amazing. I’m really excited to see them in GolfPunk.”

Does it ever get annoying that people refer to you as ‘that amazing girl who played the US Open aged 12?

“Ha ha … it doesn’t really get annoying but I do hear that a lot, it just comes with the territory of having achieved that when I was 12. Bit I’m not the youngest any more! It’s the 11-year-old Lucy Li now. Records are made to be broken and I’m glad that I was part of a record. It was never a pressure or anything anyway. I mean, playing sport for a living, getting up and practicing on the range and travelling the world playing tournaments the best courses against the best fields… it doesn’t get better than that.”

Turning pro at a young age must have had certain
pressures and expectations?

“It did but I just went out there and tried to ignore all of the stuff that was going on about me being so young turning pro and everything. I just focused on my own expectations and tried to play well in every tournament. I wanted to win obviously but I just set my own goals and didn’t listen to anyone else, because if you listen to other people it’ll just set you off track.”

Are you ahead of schedule regarding majors?

“It’s hard to say because, growing up, I’ve always set my goals pretty high, I’ve always played in older age divisions and in tournaments beyond what my actual age group. Going into 2014 my goal was to establish credibility and win majors, so I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone so far. But there’s nowhere to go but up from here so I’m going to keep setting my goals higher and higher and practice even harder.

“Career-wise I’d say winning tournaments and majors obviously and getting into the Hall Of Fame has always been a goal for me. Outside of golf I’d like to be known as a humble person and always great to my fans, always stick around after my round, good or bad, to sign every autograph and hang for pictures and everything. You have to realize, no matter how tired you are after playing a round of golf that these people have taken time out of their lives to come and watch you play and they support you whether you shot 67 or 80. You have to show them that you’re there for them too.”

When did you realize you were destined for greatness?

“Are you serious? (Laughs). Well, I realized I wanted to be on the LPGA Tour when I was at the 2007 US Open. That’s when it really hit me that this is where I wanted to be and play against those great players. I knew I’d have to work my butt off over the next few years to get there but that was the moment I realized what I wanted to do.”

How did you find it on tour? Is there a lot of infighting or does everyone get along?

“It is a very competitive field out there on the LPGA but for the most part we all get along. We’re all normal people off the golf course. Even when
we’re out playing we still have conversations between shots and it’s pretty loose, but it’s a lot more quiet on Sundays, that’s for sure.”

The British Open was brutal this year at Birkdale (Lexi finished tied 54th, the low point being a 10 at the first hole in the second round). Do you enjoy links golf?

“Yeah I do enjoy it. I just played my fourth British Open and it’s so different to Florida golf. With links golf you have to be really imaginative, manufacture different shots, you have to bounce a lot more shots… it’s really interesting, I love the challenge. The weather is a challenge. Usually it’s really windy and often quite cold, sometimes raining…. Or all at once! (laughs). You have to pack for every condition because you really don’t know what you’re going to get from day to day, even from morning to afternoon! With the ground so firm ball in there, often taking a little less club and working the ball up onto the green with a lower trajectory. Mainly it’s just pacing the ball in the right spots. Being from Florida I’m used to just getting the yardage, pulling the right club and landing the ball right on that yardage, you’re never playing a shot and anticipating bounce and roll out.”

Do you have a tip for the GolfPunk readers on how to play links?

“I would say you have to play much lower shots on the links, especially when the wind coming straight at you. I would say grip down half an inch to an inch, narrow your stance a bit, play the ball more middle to back in your stance and just keep a little more controlled swing so you can control that ball fl ight. Mainly you just want to focus on a yardage where you want the ball to land, rather than aiming straight for the green or flag because all the undulations and everything will make the ball behave differently.” 

You’re about to jump in the hot tub for the next picture, have you done anything like this before?
“Yeah, (laughs) this is going to be a bit of a different shot for me but all the others have come out great so I’m looking forward to this one. The
photographer seems to know what he’s doing!

Looks can be deceiving Lexi, only joking. Now you’ve been through a lot of the shoot do you feel better about it? This is new ground for you…

“Yeah, well I got to see the different shots straight after we’ve done them with every outfit I had so it’s been great. The pics look great, it’s actually
quite inspiring.”

Talking of inspiration, who has been your main
inspiration so far?

“Growing up, both my brothers have been a big inspiration for me. My oldest brother Nick (Just so you know, Nick is a PGA Tour player, fi nished 77th in the Fed Ex last year - Ed), I’ve always tried to follow in his footsteps and he’s always there for me. Other than that I’d have to say Nancy Lopez and Tiger Woods. What those two have done for the game is incredible and Nancy, how she always is with her fans, she’s been such a huge role model for women’s golf.”

What is it specifi cally you like about them?

“With Nancy it’s the way she carries herself, she was my captain in the Junior Solheim Cup and she was like a mom for me that week. I’ve always been impressed by how she spends so much time with her fans signing autographs, having pictures taken. Watching her made me realise it’s not only how we perform on the golf course, it’s how we get back to our fans and the people who look up to us.”

Lexi made her Solheim Cup debut at the age of 18 in the controversial 2013 matches at which Europe famously won 18-10 to retain the trophy.
Thankfully she didn’t have to answer any questions about being the ‘youngest blah-blah-blah’, as Charley Hull was also debuting aged 17. After two defeats in the Fourballs (partnering Stacey Lewis Friday then Paula Creamer on Saturday), Lexi’s singles performance was won of the few USA high points on Sunday, beating Caroline Masson 4&3 to break her Solheim Cup duck.

 

How big a deal was the Solheim Cup for you?

“It was very big. In the few years running up to 2013’s Solheim Cup that was my number one goal. Any time you can represent your country, I mean there’s nothing like it, it’s truly he highest honour you can have. I loved every minute of it; there was so much adrenalin. I was more pumped up than any other time on that first tee shot. Every time the crowd went quiet I got so nervous and it seemed like I was standing over that first shot forever, so I kept trying to get them going and they responded brilliantly. To have those people cheering for you is the best feeling.”

What’s the main difference in the level of pressure in a Solheim Cup compared to a major?

“There’s a lot of pressure in a Solheim Cup, I mean you’re not just dealing with yourself but you’re representing your country as part of a team that’s either been selected or qualifi ed as the best players out there to represent your country, so it’s a very rarefi ed pressure. Majors are extremely pressurized also and super intense but the Solheim Cup actually helped me out a lot because every you have to make every putt and every tee shot you have to hit the fairway. The next few tournaments after the Solheim I was so relaxed, I felt like I could pull off any shot because I’d done it at the Solheim.

 Do you have to personally like someone to be inspired by them?

“Laughs. I guess you kind of have to like them, I don’t think you have to meet them or anything but you probably have to like how they are personally not just their sport.”

What are the two best tips you have been given?

“Number one is definitely to have fun on the golf course no matter how you play, there is always something worse you could be doing! I was
always told that you should keep your head up no matter what, don’t get too hard on yourself and always remember that golf is fun. If I had a
bad tournament it was just onto the next one, no dwelling on the bad stuff. Positive attitude. Number two is making your practice productive. There’s no point just going to the range pounding balls without a structure to what you’re doing. All that will happen is, sure you will loosen up a bit, but you’re probably just reinforcing the mistakes you already have in your game. You have to practice in a productive way, get something specific out of it so you walk away from the practice area thinking ‘I got something out of that’.”

Is there someone you don’t like right now?

“Yeah (laughs), pretty much everyone I’m playing against! No just kidding, of course you want to beat all your foes on the golf course but it’s
not like I don’t like them… it’s funny because, no matter how friendly you are with some of the girls - and I’ve got lots of good friends on tour and
have grown up playing against them – it’s really easy to switch that off when you’re competing against them. As soon as I’m on that fi rst tee I’m
in the zone.”

What’s been your biggest mistake?

“Wow, there are plenty of mistake you make through your life that you wish you could go back and do over but whenever it’s happened, whether
in life generally or golf I’ve learned from it and that’s helped get me to where I am today, I don’t like to dwell on past mistakes.”

Well, looking through Lexi’s brief but stellar career, it looks like mistakes are pretty hard to come by. She may want to reconsider how she took on the first at Birkdale in the second round this year but, hey, that only makes Lexi more like us, prone to the occasional moment of fallibility. We’ve all shot plenty of 10s in our time but the crucial difference is that 65s and 67s have been harder to come by for us mere mortals.

It’s helpful that Lexi doesn’t mind talking about the odd dodgy moment and her humility is quite frankly touching. When I ask her who would play her in a movie, she answers ‘Cameron Diaz or Katherine Heigl’, but not because they are good looking (which of course they and Lexi are), but because they ‘have a good sense of humour’ and seem ‘pretty laid back’.

When I ask her what’s the best chat up line she’s ever had she laughs like a maniac and gives me a classic. You can pretty much talk to Lexi about anything and she’ll give it her best shot. She’s grown up now and is comfortable talking about just about anything. She’s no longer the cute golf prodigy we all ‘Cooed’ and ‘Aaah’d’ about back in 2007. Lexi Thompson is a woman on a mission, driven by an innate desire to be the best she can be as a golfer and a person. Her checklist may look something like this…

Be youngest to qualify for US Open – ❏
Win Curtis Cup - ❏
Turn pro - ❏
Win a major - ❏
Be nice to fans - ❏
Do GolfPunk cover - ❏
Win the Solheim Cup for USA – watch this space…

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