Highlights of the Media Days -- both the more serious and the lighthearted
Now that the player interviews are finished and the USGA has had their opportunity to report out on the US Women’s Open championship, it’s time to focus on golf. So, before the player’s tee off and get their first rounds completed, here is our l0ok back on the two-days of player interviews.
Lexi has been a mainstay at the US Women’s Open (USWO), since she was 12 years of age, meaning that this is her 14 consecutive USWO that she is playing in. Coming into this year’s USWO, Thompson decided to bring a new caddie with her as she does not have a full time caddie this season. Tim Tucker, who usually caddies for PGA pro and current Men’s US Open champion, Bryson DeChambeau.
“Well, first off, we get along with each other very well, so that's most importantly for me. Just getting me laughing. But of course having my numbers and everything. But the first day that we went out, he has all the green density, the air density, and has that all factored in, and you know, it was unbelievable. Like the first two holes he said, It's going to play this number. And I trusted it and I hit it so close, and it was a perfect number. But I'm like, Maybe I should just have another -- like the actual pin number in my head just for my sanity. But it's unbelievable like what he calculates. I'm like truly amazed. I'm like, Just keep it to yourself; just tell me what you think the shot will play. But like I said, very talented and just happy to have him out there helping me.”
As for the caddie-player relationship on course, Thompson shared her thoughts as to what is important for her, ". . . I don't carry yardage books, so I have a lot of trust in whoever is carrying my yardage book, doing all my numbers and everything. So there's a lot of trust involved. But at the same time, I feel like the caddie-player relationship is the most important thing out here. Personality for me, just to keep me laughing in between shots, to have me talk about anything other than golf or the shot that I just hit is key. And just to keep me relaxed. You know, I've said it before, but I just want my best friend and somebody to be there for me at my side, and at the same time doing my numbers.”
Watching how Thompson and Tucker handle this week will be interesting and it just may prove to be the little edge that propels her to the top of the leaderboard when the final round ends.
Along with her ranking as the fourth best player in the world comes the expectation that she will be contending for victories at major championships. It is an expectation that Danielle Kang typically embraces rather than shy away from. However, one of the wrinkles in this year’s edition of the USWO is that the first two rounds will be played on both the Cypress Creek course and the Jackrabbit course. It is something rarely seen in regular LPGA events and practically never in a major championship, so it poses a new challenge for players.
“The preparation changed quite a bit because I did take advantage of the advance practice rounds. I came here during the Houston Open, during the men's event, and played three rounds just to get familiar with the golf course. But I actually didn't play on Monday here, and today I played nine holes. I think being able to calibrate between the golf courses back and forth will be really key, because they're both rolling differently, the greens. They break differently, speed is different, and grass is a little different. I think being able to calibrate as fast as I can between Thursday and Friday will be a little helpful going into the weekend.”
As for her specific preparations coming into Houston this week, Kang offered some insight into how she has prepared herself and her game, "To gear up I actually took some time off. I felt like my game was getting a little bit titter tatter. That's how I explain it. When I played this golf course I knew I needed my distance, I needed the height, my speed, I need that, and that's very important to me. I didn't quite have that in Georgia when I played at Reynolds Lake, and I hit my driver like 225, about 225, and I was hitting things lower. That's something that I wanted to change when I came out here, or at least have in my bag because Cypress Creek is a big golf course. There's a lot of cover numbers, like 230. There's going to be a lot of 4-irons in and 5-woods, and if I just could kind of capitalize on that 10, 15 yards, I think it'll benefit me just a little bit. So, I wanted to tune that in during the few off weeks.”
With her strong play for most of this season, we will see how Kang’s preparations pay off and whether she is able to convert her efforts into another major championship victory.
As noted in our preview of the US Women’s Open, one of the biggest questions surrounding Nelly Korda’s participation was always going to be about her back and how she has recovered from that injury and prepared for this event. “It's good. It's a lot better than it was. I'm just really grateful to be out here, and I'm just going to take it step by step. I just started practicing probably 12 days ago, so I'm just happy that I'm pain-free. … I just took my time really with it. I didn't want to rush. I wanted to make sure that I was 100 percent whenever I teed up or tried to swing again. So honestly, I just -- it wasn't that bad. I just wanted to make sure that it wouldn't happen again.”
As for the effect of having a long layoff and not much opportunity to play before coming into this event, Korda was rather frank with her assessment and whether she was feeling any anxiety. “A little (anxiety), yeah. I mean, you kind of don't know what's going to happen. I mean, your feel is not 100 percent there. Like yesterday when I was putting I was hitting them like 10 feet by, and I was like, my feel is definitely not there right now. But I think as I play more rounds under pressure obviously it'll get better.”
As the only player in the field this week with multiple US Women’s Open championships to her name, Inbee Park was always going to be considered a potential contender to win this event and on Wednesday much of the interview focused on her thoughts about what it takes to win at the USWO.
“Yeah, I mean, it is quite different, and obviously U.S. Women's Open golf courses are tough to learn one but trying to learn two tough courses is definitely a big task for everyone this week. But with the sunlight we kind of have to do it. They kind of, I think, have done it really smart that we play on two golf courses. It's just a busy three days that we have to spend before the tournament starts. The girls are going to be probably more tired than before because a lot of the girls probably played like 18 holes of practice round a couple times before they play.”
With her recent spate of good play and whether that is important and beneficial to her, Park was asked how beneficial it was to have finished strongly in Dallas last week. “. . . I always think that -- I always love to play a week before the major championship, trying to give myself some confidence with a good result. And it definitely does help the game because definitely it gives you a lot of confidence going into the major week. It doesn't matter whether you're playing a different golf course, playing in a different city. It's just you're just kind of testing out your game, and you kind of know where your game is at and you know what to improve. You just never know that before you actually play in a tournament, so I really take it as a good practice week.”
Putting has always been one of Inbee Park’s biggest strengths as she typically ranks as one of the best putters on tour. Given the extraordinarily large greens on the Cypress Creek course, it was quite natural that people wanted to learn of her thoughts. “Yeah, the greens are huge, so we're going to do a lot of long putts around these greens. The speed is going to be the key on the greens. Yeah, obviously we're hitting long clubs into the greens. Long golf course, big greens, you're going to do a lot of long putts, so we're going to hit a lot of long clubs in.”
As Park’s interview started to wind down, there were a few lighthearted questions for her, especially as she and some of the writers in attendance have developed a working relationship with her over the years. Being in Texas, some even wanted to know what her thoughts were regarding barbeques in Texas compared to her native South Korea and if they really differed.
“Yeah, they're different. The marinating style, the sauce is a little bit different. But yeah, as a meat lover, I really love Korean barbecue and the Texas barbecue."