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LPGA Shifts to South Korea


The LPGA Tour is continuing its swing through the Far East. The circuit has traveled from Kuala Lumpur and last week's Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia to Incheon, South Korea, for the Hana Bank Championship. The $1.8 million, 54-hole tournament gets underway Friday at Sky 72 Golf Club's Ocean Course.

Inbee Park won at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, beating defending champion and fellow South Korean Na Yeon Choi by two strokes for her second title of the year.

Choi was among several players who met with reporters on Monday when the Tour arrived at Incheon. Also in the group were Cristie Kerr, Hee Young Park, Suzann Pettersen, Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie.

No. 1-ranked Tseng will be seeking to defend her title in the Hana Bank Championship. If successful, it'll be the Taiwanese player's fourth victory of the year.

Here's what the group had to say about the tournament, their chances this week and the golf course during their session with the media.

MODERATOR: We have South Korean natives Hee Young Park and Na Yeon Choi, a two time winner here; Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No.1 and defending champion; Cristie Kerr, 14 time LPGA winner; Michelle Wie, two time LPGA winner; and Suzann Pettersen, last but not least, eight time LPGA champion. We'll start off with Yani, defending champion. You've defended a title successfully already this year back in Thailand. What are some challenges being the defending champion coming into this week?

YANI TSENG: I am always very happy to be back here and have so many family here supporting, my mom and my sister is going to be here this week, too, so I feel like I'm ready for my game. I was a little struggling last week, but I think I'm kind of back to how I played before. And I love this golf course, and I always play good here, so very looking forward to Friday.

MODERATOR: You saw your coach Gary Gilchrist last week. What were you working on specifically in between rounds, during practice rounds, anything in your game that you were concentrating on?

YANI TSENG: We don't work much, just a couple drills and mostly on the mental part. Two weeks ago when I was in Taiwan I just called to see if he can be in Malaysia for me, so he came and made me feel very happy and very comfortable that he's there supporting me and watching me, every part of my game. And so I think it helps a lot. So I played much better last week, and especially the weekend. I wish it will continue this week.

MODERATOR: You've probably played the best at this course, a runner up, two wins. What do you like most about this course and just this event in general?

NA YEON CHOI: I did pretty much good the last two weeks, so my confidence has been really high. And so that's why I cannot wait to do the game right now. And of course compared to the last two weeks, the temperature changed a lot, but if we prepare well, and I think we can win with a good score.

MODERATOR: Cristie, we'll move on to you. You're one of the players at the attendance of the Hana Bank announcement for the extension of the event. Talk about your partnership, how long you've been involved and kind of what they mean to this Tour and showcasing this Tour as a whole.

CRISTIE KERR: Well, I've been with Hana Bank KEB for almost a year now, and it's been a great partnership. After the first Asian swing of events, I came over to Korea and did a couple days for them and was able to visit the Hana Bank headquarters and visit the fans and see the people that really make Hana Bank a great company. I know they just merged or are merging with KEB now. So I'm honored to be a part of the team and look forward to having a good tournament.

MODERATOR: Cristie, you're one of the veterans out of this group. Talk about kind of how this Tour has evolved, not only in South Korea but in Asia as a whole in terms of you guys coming back years ago and until now, just the fan acceptance and how well this Tour is supporting you.

CRISTIE KERR: It's funny, I guess I am one of the veterans, but I just turned 35 last week, and I still feel really young. But it's getting younger and younger on Tour every year, and there's so many great players, especially from Asia, and Korea is no exception. It seems like a Korean is contending for a win every week now, and it's just pretty amazing how good they are, and it's becoming harder and harder to win. We have to step up our game and just keep working hard.

MODERATOR: We'll move down to Michelle. A lot of people know about your Korean Heritage, fluent in Korean. Do you like coming to this event and do players maybe sometimes designate you as Tour translator?

MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, I'm very proud of my Korean Heritage. I really feel that I'm proud to be Korean, and I'm back into Korea one year later, that's today. So I'm really glad to be here again in one year of time, and I can find so many delicious foods that I can eat. I really want to introduce really good Korean cuisine to my friends and of course the kung num (phon.), I would like to introduce the kung num (phon.), as well, so I'm really glad to be here again.

MODERATOR: You've been vocal about some of the things you've been trying to improve on this season. Going into the last stretch, five events left, anything specific that you've been really trying to work on to close out the season on a strong note?

MICHELLE WIE: I kept working on my skill and my practice, and I'm kind of feeling that I'm improving little by little every game, so for this championship I would like to show what I can do best to my Korean fans.

MODERATOR: Hee Young, you got your first career win last season, final event. How has this year played out? Are you putting more pressure on yourself knowing you can break into that winner's circle and you really want that second win?

HEE YOUNG PARK: I'm kind of a little late to get my first win, but every year my score is getting better and better, so I'm pretty much confident about what I'm doing, especially for this year towards the second half of this year, my confidence is getting greater and greater and higher and higher, so I hope I can give a really good use to my fans here in Korea, as well, and it would be even greater if I got my second win in this championship because Hana Bank is my sponsor.

MODERATOR: Suzann, you had some spurts of brilliance late last week. What are some things you're going to try to eliminate that held you back in the third and fourth round, maybe some inconsistency and mistakes that you're going to try to cut back on this week?

SUZANN PETTERSEN: I actually felt pretty good. Last week was a good week in a lot of ways. I started to see some good low scores again. It's kind of been a while. And just got to kind and try and keep that consistency, stay really aggressive. That's of the time that's when I score my best. It's kind of a fine line, but I feel pretty good about my game. I'm excited about these next events to come starting in Korea. I feel last week was a good warm up. I won here in the past, but it's been a while, so it would be nice to maybe try and be there on Sunday.

MODERATOR: It's reasonably cooler here this week, it's probably going to be more difficult to prepare for the heat, but any specific preparations that you guys have made? Obviously you have your warm gear on, but anything to deal with the cooler conditions this week?

SUZANN PETTERSEN: Well, I'm from the north pole, so this is pretty warm for me. No, this is actually quite nice. I think it's supposed to be like this all week. Obviously coming from last week the changes are quite drastic, but I think we're all prepared and knowing what we were coming to. We were not expecting super-hot weather, so I think we're all prepared and packed for these types of conditions. The fans and crowds are great, so I think we'll have a good frame for a good tournament.

Q. The last event that got finished yesterday, you didn't do very well in the last round, so what's your impression? What is the missing point that you think, and how do you evaluate your competitor Inbee Park because she came out the winner of the championship?

NA YEON CHOI: As for the last championship, I feel I did pretty much well and good on the first day, second day and third day, but on the last day I didn't get nervous, but I didn't feel I played my game, so that's one of my missing points. But of course Inbee, she is one of my really close friends and she won, so that's why I really congratulate her winning. Even though I lost this game, there will be a next game, the other game coming up, and I will play against Inbee Park and the other players, so I need to work on my practice and skills.

And of course Inbee is really my close friend, so I really feel good to congratulate her on her winning compared to any other players. I had a few conversations with her recently, and I could feel that her confidence level was high. That's merely based on her improvement of her score and skills. She's got really great long distance, and her putting skill has been really great since she was young. Right now she greatly improved her shot skill, so that's why with such a combination she could lower her score as low as she can. So we need to work really hard.

Q. Yani, your score is not as good as before, so you have been doing self analysis. What is the reason for the higher scores compared to your prior scores, and what kind of effort are you doing to get out of that?

YANI TSENG: Last three months I have been learning a lot from everything, so I mean, it's kind of very tough because when you play best and you kind of struggle for three, four months, it's very difficult. But now I kind of feel like I just want to enjoy my life and enjoy every part of my golf because this is a game I love since when I was young. This couple months I've been feeling so much better on the golf course. I feel I'm happier and enjoy life more instead of trying to worry about world No.1 or winning the tournament. I mean, I just want to go out there and have fun with everybody else and try to make birdie every hole, and if not, go to the next tournament and try to play well, and we still have more tournaments and next year to come. I think this is just part of real life when you go out and you have to go down and maybe you go up again. I can always be stronger and tougher when I'm coming back.

Q. Yani, you have been on this golf course before, so which hole do you think is the most difficult one, the most challenging one?

YANI TSENG: I mean, I don't feel any more that it's tougher, like there are some holes I can try to make birdie. I just want to hit on the fairway and give more chances to hit on the green and make some more birdies. I think I can make lots of birdies on this golf course, so I just have to be patient because there seems to be a couple holes that the fairways are narrow and the greens are a little firm, so you just have to be careful.

Q. So my question to Yani, if you remember well last week, on holes 13 to 14 you had (inaudible) score, so do you have a strategy that you're going to do this year?

YANI TSENG: No, they just told me it's out of bounds on the right this year, so I can only hit on the fairway. It's a three shot hole, No.13. And 15, last year they did move the tee to the front so you can drive on the green, so hopefully they do the same thing again this year. I know last year it was a big crowd and I was with Na Yeon and I had lots of fun. So we're looking for a big crowd again this year.

NA YEON CHOI: We are going to the Ocean Course this time, and all the 18 holes on this Ocean Course are all difficult, but last year we got the great weather and good weather, so that's why we could lower the score. That's why we had a good score. And as for the last day in this last event, especially on hole No.15, we got 260 yards to go to the front, so that was totally unexpected. Actually hole 15 is a par 4 hole, but it got shorter, so that's why Yani made hers on, and I did a bunker shot, so that's why I lost the game, because we are just one shot gap. As for the last event, hole No.15 was such a determining hole for us. This game has been on for like four years so far, but the 16 yards getting shorter is the first time, so that's why we didn't prepare for that and we didn't know what to do. But as for this year, all the holes will be determining holes, and we need to concentrate more and more. I believe holes 15, 16, 17 and 18 will be the most difficult ones which can determine the winner.

MODERATOR: We'd like to thank the players for joining us. Good luck to all of you this week.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.