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June 18, 2014

Lydia Ko


MIKE TROSTEL: Welcome to the 2014 U.S. Women's Open here at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. It's a pleasure to welcome Lydia Ko to the interview room. Lydia playing in her third U.S. Women's Open. Was not only low amateur in 2012 at Black Wolf Run, but also won the U.S. Amateur the following month. At age 17 she has already won LPGA tournaments in 2012, 2013 and this year. And is off to another hot start with six top-10 finishes, including her win in April at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. You played nine holes a little bit today. Tell us what you think about the course and what strategy you might have for this week at Pinehurst.

LYDIA KO: It was definitely different to when I played here a month ago. The course is much drier, and obviously not having much rain may be the cause of that. I've been enjoying it so far. The greens are so pure. It feels like the U.S. Open and I'm really excited for it to start.

MIKE TROSTEL: What do you think about the unique characteristics of Pinehurst, which are no rough, the native areas off the fairway, and then the turtleback greens.

LYDIA KO: Those are two pretty hard aspects when you go into them. The greens, you've got to have some good short game skills. Sometimes you might get lucky, but most of the short game stuff that you do around the greens, it's kind of into the grain. So there's a chance where your wedge can get stuck in it. And I've been doing some practice with Sean and David and trying to work it all out. With the native areas, obviously you don't want to go in them in the first place. But if you do hit that way, you're kind of praying that it's on a good lie, not next to the fescue.

Q. Could you explain how you came to have Mike on your bag this week and what the experience has been like so far? He might be more famous than some of the golfers in the field this week?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I obviously knew him as Jim Furyk's caddie. And I know they've been together for a long time. Yeah, I think personally he's more famous than me. I was walking down with David Leadbetter, Mike and I, and a lot of people were asking for their autographs. So, I mean, I don't really care, but, you know, they're obviously very popular people. Yeah, he's obviously a very experienced guy and also a very nice person. And I kind of came across him after talking to IMG, my agent, about caddies.

Q. Now that you're a veteran at 17, what advice would you give to an 11 year old who's playing in this event?
LYDIA KO: She has a lot of talent, you know. She qualified as an 11 year old. I think my first Open was when I was 15. I thought I was pretty young then. But 11, that's insane. I'm six years older than her and she makes me feel old. Yeah, I think she's going to have some fun out there. And that's what we're all going to try and do.

Q. What were you doing at 11?
LYDIA KO: I was just hanging around in New Zealand, hitting some balls, probably skipping across the fairways. But she seems more mature than me when I was 11.

Q. A follow-up on caddies. What has been your philosophy in trying so many caddies, rather than settling on one?
LYDIA KO: I didn't know too much about the tour. And I did play 11 tournaments, but some of them, the courses change. They change yearly. And, yeah, to me, if I feel a big connection with a caddie, that's a big thing. And a lot of the things I need to take ownership and do myself. But hopefully I'll be able to find a permanent caddie along the way. And that guy might be the one that I had before.

Q. Juli Inkster mentioned you as one of the young, talented golfers coming up in the game right now. She announced today that there will be her last U.S. Open, she's the oldest player in this tournament. Can you talk about what she means to the LPGA, to women's golf as a whole, and what she's meant to you growing up?
LYDIA KO: It's a huge honor that she would actually select me as one of the future stars, hopefully. And, yeah, you know, she's done so much for the tour. And having people like Juli on the tour has actually made the tour bigger and get more attention from spectators, sponsors and et cetera. I played with her for the first time I think last year in Thailand. And it was great. I knew her -- nobody -- nobody would not know her. And just saying Juli Inkster, you can see she's up there. And she's legendary, especially to our tour.

Q. Wondering how much of the Men's Open you watched last week on TV?
LYDIA KO: I watched some TV coverage when I was in Orlando on Thursday and Friday. But they were playing during when I was practicing outside. So I couldn't get to watch a lot of it. But I watched some on Saturday. I sat down in one of the grandstands and kind of saw everybody kind of go through. And I kind of watched it on the wrong hole because I was only on the 7th green, and all of the guys were trying to get on in one. And I'm trying to hit driver, 6-iron on to the green. But I got out there inside the ropes on Sunday and got to watch some pretty intense stuff. It's my first tournament watching a PGA tour event. So it was really exciting just to see these guys that I saw on TV just walk by. Some of them knew my name, and I was totally freaked out.

Q. Was there a point at all when you were watching on TV when you saw a particular hole and a particular shot where you said, oh, that looks pretty hard? Not necessarily it worried you, but it gave you a better appreciation for what you might have ahead?
LYDIA KO: Just sometimes people could have these crazy breaks where it ended up not being on the green any more. And after seeing those I was like, man, it's going to be fast. And the course is going to get drier as we play. It means it's going to get faster and faster. No, I tried to take the positive out of it and had fun seeing the men's game. Obviously, they spin it and hit it a lot further than we do. But it was just good to see them right there and seeing it live.

Q. Just curious if there are any specifics that Fluff has given you around the greens in terms of advice, something that you learned from last week on a specific hole?
LYDIA KO: You know, more, obviously, you want to have an uphill putt, so that kind of led to him saying, if you're in between two clubs, you'd rather hit the shorter one, so there is a bigger opportunity where I would be putting up towards the hole rather than giving myself, it might be pin-high, but it might be where it breaks the most. Definitely, if I'm in between two clubs, I'm going to go for the shorter one.

Q. Just a follow-up, in terms of your cloud that you're on with the PGA tour players, is there a highlight, someone you were most excited about meeting?
LYDIA KO: No, they were all like, wow. After I met one, I kind of had a mental breakdown, it wasn't functioning for a while. But it was just really cool. I probably won't be able to see the PGA tour players for a long time again. Hopefully, this kind of thing might happen more often, I don't know. I was just super excited that some of them knew who I was. I really wanted to meet Gary Woodland. He's part of Callaway now, and I was watching on Sunday, on the 17th hole and he came up to me and another player, Sue Kim, and gave us a handshake. That was pretty cool to kind of do it during his round.

Q. If you see your career so far, what do you think would be the success of your career so far in golf? The key of success?
LYDIA KO: I don't think there is like this secret. And I think people have asked me this, and kind of think there is something behind it, but I personally don't know what is doing this. But the big thing is I'm having lots of fun. And I'm having fun on the tour this year. I wouldn't be able to tell you this magical secret and equation behind things, yeah.

Q. Would you say you keep having fun, as you used to, playing golf?
LYDIA KO: I think so. Obviously golf, it's a sport where you can play for a really long time. And if you don't have fun, you're not going to play well. And I think, when you have fun, the time goes faster. I've played 11 years of golf now, coming up to my 12th.

Q. What's been the key for you in terms of turning pro? How has the experience gone versus maybe what you expected when you made the decision to turn pro?
LYDIA KO: It's been really great. My first tournament was the CME Championship in November last year. And I was really nervous. And it did kind of feel a little different when I was on the first tee with my first round. But I've been having lots of fun. It's already June and I've turned pro like eight months ago and it kind of feels like yesterday, where all that video and everything crazy happened. I think playing good golf and playing consistently helped with my confidence. Just having so much fun and just being grateful that I can play on the tour at the age 17 is just the best thing.

Q. A follow-up to that. You had won as an amateur, but how big of a deal was that to you to get that first victory as a professional under your belt, in terms of just feeling comfortable and confident?
LYDIA KO: After being so close in Phoenix for the Founder's Cup, I figured that, man, maybe this isn't the time yet. But like a month or so later I won Swinging Skirts, and that was a huge confidence build up. I feel really good coming into this week. And I played great in Manulife, also. But I never want to over pace myself. So playing steady golf is, I think, one of the big things. And just winning in San Francisco definitely helped with my confidence.

Q. Who was it that caused that temporary mental breakdown on Sunday when you met him?
LYDIA KO: Just every single player. Just being there. I got to hug Sergio Garcia. When do I ever get to do that? (Laughter). I don't. So every player I looked and said, oh, my God, there's Keegan Bradley. Oh, my God, there's Rory McIlroy right there. I'm never going to be that close to them, ever. So it was awesome. And the next time I do get to see them, I'll be like this, again, have a mental breakdown.

Q. Also, just curious, what was your initial thoughts about the U.S. Women's Open being played second to the men, and can you describe how you feel the course is set up this week?
LYDIA KO: I think, you know, there are a lot of worries that there would be divots and pitch marks on the green, divots around the chipping areas and where we would be hitting from. But like I said before, the men hit it from, you know, different tees, and they drive it a lot differently to us. So I haven't seen that many divots that were a question to where I was hitting my drives. And also the chip shots, there weren't that many around, maybe because they used putters, I don't really know. To me, it's been exciting, because I get to see some of the men's play, and I've been trying to get the positive out of it. I'm just excited about the back-to-back Opens.

Q. When you turned pro, did your expectations for yourself change? And has that perhaps been the greatest challenge is to keep playing like you always did, even though the stakes are higher now?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, when I feel pressure it's probably like self expectation. I probably put more pressure on myself than anybody else probably could. I think that's the biggest one, where you try and push yourself, push yourself. And sometimes don't push yourself hard enough or vice versa. To me, I just try and stay calm. I know I'm going to have good days and I'm also going to have average days and kind of go over that. Every failure I make I can learn from my mistake and make it into a positive and make it into a success later.

Q. Do you ever pause and just take stock of everything you've already achieved at this point, 17, one of the top ranked players. Do you wake up in the morning and look back on what you've achieved now. Or is it hard for you to take stock of?
LYDIA KO: Me? I just feel like a normal 17 year old. I wake up and the alarm goes off and I want to like throw my phone, because I don't want to wake up yet. I feel like a normal teenager when I'm in the hotel, in my room. I don't feel like the world No. 3. A lot of people -- when people will tell me that and ask me stuff about it, then I go, oh, yeah, I am. But, me, I just feel like a normal teenager and think that's what makes it more fun and exciting. I don't have to think about everything else. All I need to think about is just hitting the white ball into the hole.

Q. Considering that remark of how you're trying to just have a normal life at 17, where does winning a Major championship rank in your general priority?
LYDIA KO: Just winning a Major championship would pretty much be up there. It would be the top. Everybody strives to win tournaments. And the Majors are the biggest out of them all. Yeah, that would do a lot with my confidence. I don't know when that may be, but, yeah, just having fun and enjoying the moment will hopefully bring that kind of where I could hold a Major tournament trophy.

Q. Can you imagine a scenario in which you would ever represent South Korea over New Zealand?
LYDIA KO: I'm playing for New Zealand right now. And I'm happy playing for New Zealand. Danny Lee is I guess another person like me where he was born in Korea and lives in New Zealand. I'm having fun playing for New Zealand. But at the same time when somebody looks at me they're not going to think, oh, she's a New Zealander. I am Korean, you know, you can see. But I think Korea and New Zealand is both in me.

Q. If I can follow, Danny actually said that he's been approached by people who have suggested to him that he represent South Korea and he even said he can imagine that if he's being approached, that you must be, too.
LYDIA KO: I haven't been approached. I don't know if somebody else has been. But I've just been playing my game. And the Korean people have been supporting me, and so has the New Zealanders. So it's good that they're both supporting me. So to me that's pretty special and I'm lucky to have that.

MIKE TROSTEL: 1:47 off the first tee on Thursday. Thank you very much.

LYDIA KO: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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