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September 9, 2014

Inbee Park

Lexi Thompson

Michelle Wie West


THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everyone.  We would like to welcome you to the 2014 Evian Championship, the final major of the 2014 LPGA season, and there's a lot of excitement this week, especially with a very big award on the line, the inaugural Rolex Annika Major Award.  Very pleased to be joined by three of our four major winners so far this year.  The only one that's missing is Mo Martin, who couldn't play this week due to a thumb injury.  She was the winner of the Rico Women's British Open earlier this year.  But I would like to introduce the three ladies that I have with me who all have an opportunity to win this prestigious award.  We'll start off to my immediate right, the U.S. Women's Open champion, Michelle Wie.  To her right the Wegmans LPGA Championship Winner, Inbee Park; and on the end Lexi Thompson, the Kraft Nabisco champion.  Congratulations, ladies.  First off, it's pretty impressive company to just have major champion next to your name.  Each one of you has won one major so far this year, and I guess I'll just start it off by what does it mean to you to be a major champion, especially for Michelle and Lexi, who this is the fist time to have that title.  Michelle, what does that title mean?
MICHELLE WIE:  It's absolutely still surreal to me.  It doesn't seem real yet.  Just to be sitting at this table next to Inbee and Lexi as a major champion.  It's unbelievable.  I feel so grateful.  I feel extremely honored to be with these fellow players.  But it's been a lot of fun this year, and we're just really happy to be back at Evian.
THE MODERATOR:  Inbee, you won a few majors, especially last year winning three, but what does it mean to you to go to Wegmans and win that major championship two years in a row, and does a major championship still mean as much when you capture one?
INBEE PARK:  Yeah.  I think it never gets less.  I think the more you win, I think you actually know what it actually really means, so it is still such a great honor.  And I never defended my title before, and I just did that three weeks ago in Wegmans, so I think that was a very special accomplishment.
And yeah, obviously this year at the British Open I almost did my career Grand Slam, but I missed by a little bit.  Hopefully I have another chance this week, so hopefully I can pull it off this week a little bit better.
THE MODERATOR:  And Lexi, like Michelle, you now have major champion next to your name.  What does it feel like when you get on that tee and they announce you as the Kraft Nabisco champion?
LEXI THOMPSON:  It's definitely been different to get used to being introduced as a major champion.  It's such a huge honor.  Coming into the year that was one of my goals, especially the Kraft Nabisco.  I love that golf course there at Mission Hills, and I always have my family there with me, so it's a nice relaxing week, but I've always imagined myself jumping into Poppy's Pond.  But like I said, it's a huge honor to be a major championship winner, and I love every bit of it and happy to be back here in France.
THE MODERATOR:  It's a beautiful venue, and we're back here for the second year with this event as a major.  We've seen a lot of changes to the golf course over the past year from then to now.  What have you guys seen so far about the golf course and what do you think about it suits your game?  And I'll start with Michelle.
MICHELLE WIE:  I'm just really impressed with the conditions this year.  The greens are rolling perfectly.  I've just been hearing about the trouble they had with the weather.  They were telling me how much rain they got over the summer, and it just shows how dedicated the golf course staff is and how unbelievable they are just to get their golf course ready.  They just changed the golf course last year.
You know, it's been a short year with bad weather, and it's absolutely unbelievable how great the golf course is playing right now.  It could not be any better.  So I'm really proud of the golf course staff.
And you know, it's a fun golf course.  It's probably my ninth time here or so, and every time I come here, it still takes my breath away, the mean the lake and everything.  It's just so pretty here.  You go on the second hole, you see the lake.  You go on the fifth hole.  Every hole has such a beautiful view.  You can't really tell it from pictures.  You have to come here and every time just kind of take an extra second or two just to look at the views.
And I just think how lucky I am to be here, to be able to play in France, and the golf course is great.  It's the best it's ever been.
THE MODERATOR:  Inbee, you won here back before the changes were made, but is this golf course one of your favorites?  Is it one that seems to suit your eye well?
INBEE PARK:  This is a very challenging golf course, and obviously the golf course is a very hilly golf course, which we used to play as a young kid in Korea.  They built this golf course in the mountains; that's what they do in Korea.  It's kind of a little bit of a similar golf course to Korea, Japan style.  So I think it really suits Asian players on this golf course.
And obviously they did a lot of changes to become a major championship, and a few of the holes are much better now and a little bit longer in distance.  And yeah, those greens are very undulated, so you really gotta know where to land your ball, and I think you have to hit every shot perfect here, even, you know, tee to green; and obviously the greens, the breaks are just so tough to read, and it took me about five, six years to read the greens right, and I finally did that in 2012.  And they redid the greens last year, and it was really tricky last year for me as well, so I'm trying to get the breaks on the greens here, but it's still very challenging.
THE MODERATOR:  And Lexi, I know I watched you out there playing a little bit today.  What stood out to you about the golf course today when you were playing?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Well, like Michelle said.  The course is in great shape this year.  Hopefully we get the good weather for it, but this is nice.  This is my fifth year here, and I've seen quite a few changes, but overall in the last year to make it a major championship, they changed the greens quite a bit.  I mean they're very hilly right now.
And it's a great golf course.  It's pretty tricky.  You have to keep it in the fairway out here.  The rough is pretty thick, but the greens are rolling fast, and you can get some really tricky putts out here, so you have to know where to miss it on the greens or which hill to play it off of for your approach shots into the greens and what putt you want to leave yourself.  So there's a lot of thinking going into it, but that's what makes a great golf course.
THE MODERATOR:  I know as I said earlier, a major championship on the line this week, but also, our new award, the Rolex Annika Major Award.  First time it's ever been given out, and it's given to the player who performs the best over majors over all five majors in a season.  One of the stipulations is that you have to win a major, so you three ladies have that advantage in that you already have a major championship under your belt.  But Michelle, what would it mean to walk away with an award like that in the first year and be the first person to win that?
MICHELLE WIE:  As soon as I heard it in a meeting that we're going to have this award, this has definitely been one of my biggest goals.  Unfortunately I didn't play so well at British and had to miss the last major, so I'm really thankful that there's a fifth major, and I have a good chance this week.  So I'm going to play extra hard this week and see what I can do.
But obviously it's a very prestigious award with Annika being the presenter and everything.  It's definitely something I really want to win, and I've been thinking about it since last year.  There's nothing that I can do; I just think good golf kind of takes care of it.  I just know that in the back of my mind that I really want to win it, but I'm just going to go this week and have fun and see what happens in the end.
THE MODERATOR:  Lexi, two Top 10 finishes so far for you with the win and then a tie for seventh at the U.S. Women's Open earning points toward this award.  How are you feeling about your game right now and how do you feel about your chances of being able to walk away with that award?
LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, I feel really good about my game right now.  I've been practicing extremely hard, especially in the off season coming into this year.
But you know, I'm just going to play this event, try to do my best, and that's really all I can do, but this award means a lot.  I've always looked up to Annika.  She's always been a huge role model to me, so it would mean a lot to win that award, and I'm just going to go out there try to do my best and see where it goes.
THE MODERATOR:  Inbee, if this award had been given last year, you would have ran away with it with the three major wins, now being in contention for it, what would it mean to you to be able to walk away with that award?
INBEE PARK:  It's given by the legendary player Annika, so I think it's even more special, and obviously it would have been nice if it was there last year.  This year obviously it's going to be a little bit more work needed to be done.
And yeah, I really like the competition, and this award is going to mean a lot to everyone, and everyone sitting here has a chance and they're going to play very hard as well, so yeah, that really encourages me to play well as well.
So yeah, it's going to mean a lot obviously to everyone, so hopefully I can do my best here.
THE MODERATOR:  Before I open it up for questions, I'm going to ask one last question of Michelle, and that is, we are very happy to see you here after a little bit over a month break due to your right injury to your right index finger.  How are you feeling and are you excited to be back in action this week?
MICHELLE WIE:  It's actually quite amazing to be back in a tournament.  I think I was thinking a lot about it, and you kind of take your health for granted.  You know, when you're healthy and you play and a lot of times and you practice, you're like, oh, it's practice.  You kind of have that mentality.  But you kind of really do take your health for granted, and you really shouldn't, and I think that with my injury it just kind of put a lot of things in perspective for me about how important your health is, and I was really looking forward to hitting balls again, but I was being really patient.  I kind of learned my lesson a couple of years ago, so I just decided to listen to the doctor this time and taking things pretty slowly.
But yeah, I'm extremely excited to be here and can't wait to tee it up.
THE MODERATOR:  Just take us through, what was the time line like?  Did you start putting first and when was that and kind of how did you get back into form and do you feel like you're pain free now?
MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah.  So Thursday that was Michigan.  I remember something was up, and I kind of pulled out of nine holes, and then took an MRI, and they said it was an acute stress reaction, and that I did a really good job of stopping when I did.
But yeah, I was in a splint for two weeks, and then the third week I tried to wean off of it, tried to move it around, and I actually just started really just putting and chipping last week and started hitting balls three days ago.
You know, I'm definitely‑‑ I kind of have the mindset where I'm going to hit 230‑yard drives, and hopefully I won't play with Lexi and she won't outdrive me by 50 yards this week.
But yeah, I'm definitely one club less, not hitting as far as I want to, but at the same time I'm just really excited that I can hit balls, I can come out here and play.  Kind of played just five holes yesterday, 13 holes today.  I'm working up to 18 holes, so hopefully by Thursday I can play 18.
But I'm feeling pretty good.  I'm feeling pretty healthy, and I'm just really happy to be here.  I'm really excited.
THE MODERATOR:  I know everybody is glad to see you here as well.  I'm going to open it up for questions.  A reminder to raise your hand and wait until the microphone comes before you ask your question.
Anyone want to go first?  I guess I can keep asking questions.
Lexi, we talked a lot about how you've kind of grown as a pro, but what did being a major champion, having that win do for your confidence level and how has that changed you, do you think, as a player?
LEXI THOMPSON:  I think overall the biggest tournament that helped me out the most was Solheim Cup.  Playing under that kind of pressure and pulling those shots off when I know I needed to has helped me out so much, and definitely helped me out getting the Kraft Nabisco win under my belt.  Just dealing with that kind of pressure, I mean I didn't feel as nervous that Sunday, especially playing with Michelle.  I mean it was definitely more relaxing and we had some fun out there.
And it's helped me out so much and gave me a lot more confidence pulling off that first major win.
THE MODERATOR:  And since I'm asking, you guys are both first‑time major winners this year.  Anything special you do with those trophies a little different than any other trophy?  I mean a trophy is always exciting, but is there something even more special about where you put your major trophy.
LEXI THOMPSON:  Just in a place where I can always see it at home.
MICHELLE WIE:  Oh, yeah.  Mine is very visible.
THE MODERATOR:  Any questions?

Q.  What did winning the major championship in your mind, do you feel like it was a good time for you at your age, 24?
MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah.  It's funny because I'm 24, but I feel a lot older than 24, but at the same time I'm still really young, but people like Lexi make me feel really old as well, too.  So I feel like it's a really complicated age.
But I feel like I've gone through a lot of growing phases.  I've gone through a lot of ups and downs and I think that I'm kind of at a point where I still feel like I'm learning every day, but at the same time I kind of know a little bit more than I did when I was here at 16.  So I feel good about my age.  I'm turning 25 soon.  I need to start wearing for wrinkle cream, but that's about it.

Q.  Do you feel that you have less pressure from before because we all were looking for you?
MICHELLE WIE:  The pressure is internally for me.  I put a lot of pressure on myself.  I try not to.  But I think I've been trying to have more of the mindset to try to control what you can.  I think a lot of times I'm kind of like a perfectionist where I want everything to be perfect.  But I gotta realize that stuff happens and you can't control everything.
So really just focus on trying your best and focus on what you can control, and I think it's kind of been working out for me so far.
THE MODERATOR:  Inbee, last year when you came to Evian, you still had a chance to become the first‑ever player to win four majors in a single season.  And there was a lot of pressure surrounding that.  Is it different coming here this year and not having that pressure on you?  Do you feel differently?
INBEE PARK:  Yeah, I think it's a little bit different than last year obviously because I experienced so many different things last year, and I played with so much pressure in the British Open last year and here at Evian, and this year is obviously a lot less pressure for me, and obviously the experience helped me a lot to handle the pressure a little bit.
So yeah, I feel like I'm probably in a better condition, my body is in better condition, my golf game is in better condition than last year.  I feel like I probably didn't win as much as last year, but I feel like I have matured and my golf game has improved a little bit.  So yeah, I think I have a little bit more confidence than last year when I was here.
THE MODERATOR:  For everyone in this room that hasn't seen you guys all year, it's been a very exciting year out on the LPGA Tour, a lot of attention, a lot of great wins.  I want, I guess to kind of close this out, each of you to quickly say what you think has made the LPGA so great this year and kind of what's different about it than perhaps what people have seen here from a year ago.
MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, I was on the communications committee a couple of years ago, and I still talk to Kraig a lot about this.  I think the one thing that we work on a lot is there are so many great personalities out on tour.  There are so many great people on tour with so many cool stories, and I think that more and more people are starting to notice that.  People are starting to notice the different personalities on tour and that we are really competitive, but at the same time we root for each other.
I think there's a lot of great story lines out there.  It's definitely a work in progress.  We all work together to make our tour better, and I think that's one quality that's special about our tour is that we all want to grow our tour, and we're really working towards that.  We always kind of figure out a way, what we can do to get more sponsors and whatnot.
But I think this year I think people are really starting to notice the different story lines, the different personalities, so yeah, I think that's what's been different about this year.
INBEE PARK:  Yeah, I think this year we had a lot of different winners from different countries, different players.  There's been a lot of playoffs this year which made the fans get a little bit more excited.  And yeah, I think people get to know players better, and obviously Michelle winning a major and Lexi winning a major I think helped the LPGA a lot to promote obviously.  And yeah, I think it's always good to have a lot of diversity winners and very close wins instead of 10, 15‑stroke wins.  So yeah, I think it's been a very good year for the LPGA.
THE MODERATOR:  And Lexi, we'll finish it off with you.
LEXI THOMPSON:  They pretty much covered it all.  Yeah, like Inbee said, there's been a lot of different winners this year and more American winners so far, but I think in addition to that, just how we interact with our fans, whether it's been following us out on the golf course or if it's within social media, the way we interact with them and with the sponsors, going to sponsors' commitments, like pro am dinners or talking to them during the day at the pro ams.  It means a lot to them, and we've gained a lot of tournaments even since I turned pro in 2010.  So it's very cool to see how the LPGA has grown just in the last few years, so I hope it continues to do that and I think it will.
THE MODERATOR:  No doubt.  The tournament numbers are up.  TV numbers are up.  The number of countries that we're televised in is up.  It's been a really exciting year for the LPGA tour and a great way to finish up our major season by finishing here at Evian.  So thank you all for being here today, and look forward to seeing you the rest of the week.  Thanks, ladies.

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