Linda Wessberg, Gwladys Nocera, Sophie Walker, Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen and Valentine Derrey comment on their first rounds on the Sandbelt Trails Course, Mission Hills Haikou, Hainan, China, during the 2013 World Ladies Championship in China.
First round interviews from the World Ladies Championship
Sandbelt Trails Course, Mission Hills Haikou, Hainan, China.
Thursday 7th March 2013
LINDA WESSBERG (Sweden)
Linda, great opening round at 5-under 67 today. Talk us through the highlights?
LINDA WESSBERG: Wow, it is really hard to remember the holes for this course. I think I made birdie on number 2. I also had birdies on 8 and 9. It was a pretty short par-5. I almost chipped in for eagle, but it was a pretty good and easy birdie. I made a good birdie on the next par-3. I didn’t have any bogeys today, so it was a simple round. I made birdie on 14 and 15 as well. 14 was a pretty short putt downhill and on 15, I actually held it from outside the green.
How do you like the golf course?
LINDA WESSBERG: I really like it, it is really different last year. The fairways are wider and the greens are rolling very well this week. I think it is a great golf course. It is nice to have some room here in the beginning of the year and make some errors. So it’s nice.
Could you tell the Chinese media some interesting facts about yourself? Things that they might not know about you.
LINDA WESSBERG: I have been a professional player for about 10 years now I think it is. I played college golf at Oklahoma State University. I studied Economics for four years. I love all kinds of sports. I watch soccer and ice hockey as often as I can when I am home. I had a horse for 5 years until I was 15, so I wasn’t really into golf until I was that age. My dad was a professional soccer player and I guess that is why I like the sport. My boyfriend is a hockey player, so we are sort of a sports family.
What do you think you did the best today? What part of your game was the best?
LINDA WESSBERG: I was actually putting myself in very good positions off the tee, so it was pretty handy to attack the pins. As I told you on the way up here, I hit some really good shots that I didn’t really get rewarded for because I pitched it too close to the pin. I also putted really well, so it was a pretty easy day.
What’s your plan for the rest of the day?
LINDA WESSBERG: I’m going to have lunch now. I had a late tee time. Then I might just go hit a few balls, putt a little bit, relax and watch a movie maybe and stretch a little bit.
How are the conditions out there today and what do you wish the weather will be like for the rest of the tournament?
LINDA WESSBERG: Today was really nice I think it is starting to warm up a little bit. I think the course will dry out as the day goes on. You know, I grew up at Ireland and I can take the wind if it comes to me. Today I enjoyed the wind. The wind does affect a little bit but not too much.
It’s getting pretty warm now, will it affect your game?
LINDA WESSBERG: No. I am from Sweden and we have cold weather now but I really like when it’s warmer, so that’s ok.
You have made 5 under par today; do you think any players who are still playing in the field will surpass your score?
LINDA WESSBERG: Of course, there are a lot of good players in this field and the course set up is very well. If you putt well and the green are holding really well even I tee off late this morning. So I think there will be somebody coming up.
What’s your game plan today?
LINDA WESSBERG: I was just trying to put myself in a good position of the tee so I can attack the greens or the pins. The greens are a bit tricky and you have to hit on the right side of the pin, but I tried to hit the drive well so I can do that. I was planning from the start of the hole.
There are a lot of variety in the length of the par 4s and par 5s, did you bring your own caddie here or use the local caddie?
LINDA WESSBERG: This week I brought my own caddie, he is my boyfriend actually. He plays a little bit but more into hockey, as he retired from hockey he would play more. His name is Peter.
Gwladys Nocera (France) 67 (-5)
Gwladys that was a fantastic start to the tournament, five under par at 67 today, with no bogeys. Can you just describe your round for us?
I can say I hit the ball pretty good. I didn’t miss the fairways so obviously that helps in this course. I didn’t miss many greens either. When I had some not so good shots I still wasn’t that far away from the pin. I missed a couple of shots putts on the front nine for birdies but I made some good ones to set some pars and then I finished with a good birdie on 17th and a long putt, like a 15 metre putt on 18th to make it an eagle. Now I am pretty happy with the way I am hitting the ball, so it’s good.
Can you talk more about the eagle? What clubs did you hit?
Driver, 3-wood. I was pin high but on the left side of the flag and I made the putt.
How does it feel when you finish your round on a high like that?
GWLADYS NOCERA: It always feels really good. There are days when I finish with a bad hole the frustration gets to you but of course when you finish like that it is even better.
A good day ahead now? What will you do for the rest of the day?
I’m going to hit a few balls and make sure I fix a thing or two. Maybe go to the gym a little bit and then go for a massage.
Do you enjoy the spa and massage services at the Mission Hills?
I haven’t gone yet this time. I went last year and I really enjoyed it. It is really good, I went to the hotels outside and it was really good. I really like it.
What is your goal that you have set for the tournament this week?
It is difficult to say, but I have started this season pretty well in Australia and I am hitting the ball good and more also patient on the golf course. I am in better shape this year than I was last year and I guess I hope for the best. This is a very strong field and I don’t want to think so much, I just want to play my best and I have hopes to do really good.
Can you tell us about the condition of the golf course? Do you like the golf course?
The golf course is really good and it is in very good condition. I think you have to hit the drive pretty good to start off and there are a lot of bunkers. You need to be on the fairways to start with. The greens are very tricky so sometimes it is better to be far away from the pin but on the right side than be close to the pin but on the wrong side. So you need to work really well with your caddie and work the course and know exactly where to place. So it can be tricky at times.
Sophie Walker (England) 67 (-5)
What was the key?
I had no bogeys today. I hit fairways, greens and holed a few putts.
You didn’t have a three-putt today and that was important.
The greens are very difficult and we don’t normally have greens like this in Europe, so they take a bit of getting used to. They are very undulating so that’s why it’s key not to have a three-putt.
How have you prepared?
I’ve been down in Australia for the Australian summer because the weather was bad in England and it’s finally come together this week. My aim for the season is the same as everybody else: to try and win an event.
What do you think you need to do to win?
I think rounds like today: limit your mistakes and try not to have any three-putts and take your chances. Today’s round was pretty impressive. If I can do that again then I’m sure I’ll be close but I’ll take every round as it comes and try and eliminate the mistakes.
Does this golf course remind you of any others?
I can’t say it does, really. This place is quite magical and I’ve never been anywhere like it so no and that’s a good thing, because it’s a very good golf course. It’s not like anything I’ve ever played before but I’d love to play it every day.
Laura Davies had an eagle this morning. Is this a course that suits her?
This course really suits her because its wet and she can hit it far and she has great imagination around the greens, which you need on this golf course.
What are the strengths of your game?
I normally drive the ball quite nicely off the tee and my irons are pretty solid. This week if my irons keep going well and I give myself some birdie chances then I should be alright.
Is this one of the strongest fields that you play in?
Yes, it is a strong field especially with Suzann here. She doesn’t play in too many events and when she does it’s great that she’s here. I played in this event last year and it’s already grown from last year. I just think it can keep growing and growing and hopefully it will be the strongest field that we play in all year.
What do you think about Haikou in China?
We all love coming to Mission Hills. It’s probably the best hotel we stay in all year, the golf course is excellent. This is my ninth week away from home so I am ready to go home but the ninth week, it’s pretty good staying at Mission Hills. When we come to China we are looked after very, very well so we all enjoy coming.
This is your second consecutive year to participant in this World Ladies Championship, what do you think about the changes to the golf course and facilities in this year?
We are on the different golf course this year. Personally I like this course more, maybe because I played well. So I would say the tournament is growing and getting better every single year.
Do you bring your own caddie or you have a local caddie?
I have a local caddie called Emma, she is a student here in Haikou, speaks very good English and she’s very, very nice, so she helped a lot today. (Do the right thing at the right time?) Exactly. She just carried my bag and was very, very sweet.
Valentine Derrey (France) 68 (-4)
Talk about your round today.
I played pretty solid. I hit every green until six, didn’t make one putt and then started making putts. I just played pretty good, made some putts and shot four under. Three birdies in a row on seven, eight, nine.
What do you think of the course?
Really nice, really good condition and really good shape. I like it here.
What are the challenges?
Maybe the greens. They are tricky to read and putt, but it’s a nice course; I like it.
Talk more about the greens.
They are really hilly so you have to be on the right side of the green to have a decent putt to make it.
The three birdies in a row created momentum, but what happened on the back nine?
Number 10, 11, 12 are hard holes because they are into the wind. I hit drive and 5-iron on 10 and 11 and then on 12 the third shot I had 8-iron, so I’m not having wedges in, so it’s harder and the pin position, on 10 and 11 are on the back left and right side of the green. Middle of the green is a good shot there.
Laura Davies made an eagle on hole three.
She hits it far. I hit it far but not as far as her so I don’t think I can make an eagle there.
Do you think driving distance is an advantage?
It helps, to make birdie, for sure.
How did you prepare for this tournament?
I stayed one more week in Australia after the three LET events to get to play a little bit more because the winter in France wasn’t good. I played well and finished top 10 in the ALPG event. I went home for three days and then came here. I just wanted to play more since we had a really awful winter.
This is your third year. Any changes?
No. I have a new physical coach but that’s it.
INBEE PARK (Korea)
Inbee, good start! 4 under par at 68 today. Are you happy with the start to the championship?
INBEE PARK: I hit the ball very good today which I was very happy with. I knew that the greens were going to be tricky this week and I had a tough time putting today but hopefully better days in the next three days. I’m just getting used the greens a little bit more and I’ll be fine.
How important is this championship to you, especially representing Korea as a team as well?
INBEE PARK: This week is special because it is not just individual, I am actually representing Korea out of the all the players. There is a little bit of pressure, but you know, just try to enjoy the pressure. I think we have a good team because I am good friends with Ha-Neul and I know she can play really good so we can try to rely on each other and try to be relaxed on the course and have fun in the next three days.
How confident are you that you can win the double – individual and team event – like China did last year?
INBEE PARK: I’m not trying to think too far ahead, but you know, I am really confident with my game with the win two weeks ago and it is still just the start of the season so I’m just trying to get my rhythm going for this season. It will be nice if I won individual and team together but I’ll just try my best and just see what happens.
Two questions, the first question is since you played very well in Thailand and won the Handa trophy, does it give you a good momentum going into this tournament now in China?
INBEE PARK: Of course. I had a lot of pressure coming into this season since I did well last year and I really want to play good this season. I felt really relieved after winning the first event and very relaxed after the first event so I am very happy to be coming here and also very confident coming this week.
The other question is, how do you rate the course?
INBEE PARK: I think the most tricky part of the course is around the greens. The greens are very severe. It is very tough to putt and there are a lot of undulations and you need to put yourself in the right position. The condition is in very good shape.
Did you learn anything from today’s round so that you can plan better for the next few days?
INBEE PARK: Of course. I knew after the practice round that the putting was going to be the toughest challenge this week. Obviously today I hit a lot of putts that were looking like they were going to go in but it just breaks a lot with the green. So I just learned that I have to play a little bit more break. I just learned a lot about the putting.
You have been spending a lot of time in the LPGA tour in the USA. How do you feel about playing in the European Ladies Tour, what is the difference?
INBEE PARK: It is my first experience playing at an LET event, it is very new for me. I’m very happy to see all the European players this week, that is something new for me. The course conditions and everything is a little bit different to the LPGA so I think it’s always good coming to Mission Hills. It’s a great resort and I’m very happy to be here. I’m really enjoying myself this week.
How did you get from the LPGA tour to LET this week? For the LET tournaments, did you get the entry from an invitation or did you go through other channels?
INBEE PARK: I got an invitation from Mission Hills.
This week is the only ladies’ world championship in Mission Hills Haikou. How do you relate to the other world golf championship events happening in America? Do you consider yourself strong enough to beat the rest of the field to become the champion this week? Will you consider yourself world champion?
INBEE PARK: I think everybody wants to win this weekend, not just myself. I think whoever plays really good, and whoever has really good conditions this week is going to be winner. I’m not coming here expecting to win. I’m going to try my best and try to see what happens.
After hole 8, you eagled and looked really strong going into the second half of the game but something happened at hole 15. Can you describe the elation you felt after you eagled, and what happened at hole 15?
INBEE PARK: I played very solid at the back nine, I had 4 under on the front nine and then I had birdie chances on number 10th through 13th but I missed it also. I think my momentum was kind of finished after number 9 and number 14 bogey I just missed green on the left, and I had a good tip. It was about 5 or 6 footer but it happens on this golf course. It’s a tough green but I was able to finish with a birdie that gave me a good momentum going for tomorrow.
Suzann Pettersen (Norway)
Suzann how did you get on out there today?
Decent but nothing special really – 2 under. I didn’t really take advantage of any of the par 5s which is disappointing.
You started off very well with a few birdies on the opening holes?
Yeah I hit some good putts and then had a few chances but got an average score on an average day.
How did you find the course?
It’s a nice course. The wind makes it just a little bit more challenging to attack some of the pins but it’s in good shape.
How will you approach it tomorrow – much the same as today?
No – much the same. It’ll be pedal to the metal!