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October 24, 2017
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
THE MODERATOR: Let's start by hearing from Tun Musa Hitam, who would like to say a few words.
TUN MUSA HITAM: Don't worry, I won't make a political speech, because I am a politician (laughter). No, really, first of all, let me say thank you for being kind enough for turning up for our event. It adds up to color, if I may say, you are quite well known all over, through TV and all over wherever we have events.
Secondly, let me welcome formally the president, Mike Whan, the Commissioner, who is here. I'm very pleasantly surprised that you are staying here longer than before, and I hope, I told you next year, come earlier in advance.
Also at the same time, I would like to recognize the presence of our leading ladies of golf who are participating in this particular eighth edition of our LPGA, the leading ladies are the selective ones appearing before you in this special press conference. Without forgetting, of course, my pride of having our girls together with you who represent what I consider the success that we have achieved so far to try to get our girls on that platform.
As I have mentioned, as all of you know, this is the eighth year of LPGA in Malaysia. I can assure you that this eighth time that we are having is going to be as successful as in the past.
But I'm more encouraged over the fact that I am told by reliable sources that this LPGA at the TPC Kuala Lumpur happens to be one of the most popular events among the girls who compete all over the world. And whatever it is in that manner, it does encourage us to know that that the interest genuinely for the girls to come here makes us the success that we have been for the last few years, and I am sure this year is not going to be any worse than that.
We are going to have a very, very keen competition with the girls. That's what they are here for. But at the same time, I would like to show you, as typical of us, we hope that it is going to be a fun few days.
The fun few days is important because it adds touch to the common people, and we do want to attract the common people to come here, to be familiar with the course; not only the course, but to be familiar with golf, and in that manner, we do the same. We achieve the same success of getting people to be interested in golf all over Malaysia. We Malaysians are proud of the fact that we are a beautiful country. Especially on television, in golf, looking at our golf course, and really surging each time with pride of how beautiful it is.
But I can assure you, golf, that I follow you in different parts of the world -- in terms of beauty of the golf courses, we are still the best. I'm sorry, I am saying it to myself, and I think it is not untrue that I have that opinion. And that is one of the reasons I think that we are happy that you are here, and also, I'm told that the girls are also happy so far.
We welcome them, and as usual, I would like to formally say: Welcome, girls, I hope you're going to have a beautiful time in Kuala Lumpur, as in the past. To the ones who have never been here, they are not here today -- everyone with us has been here, but to the ones who are not here, of course we will have the opportunity to welcome them a bit later in the afternoon.
The objectives of having the LPGA in Kuala Lumpur, a bit obvious, we all know about it but maybe we reiterate it.
No. 1, golf development. In that respect, I think we have taken eight years before we, in Malaysia, reached this level, which is still a very lower level, which is still something which is challenging which certainly something that we are going to continue to make efforts to promote, not in terms of the game but to promote our girls to enter the international arena by qualification. We only have one now.
As you know, Kelly is there before you, and in this particular instance where we are having the eighth LPGA in Malaysia, I am proud to say that we are now having eight girls who are qualified, plus one, right. This is a big number as far as we are concerned, and I think it will be three or four years before one can be in the top hundred.
The second reason, of course, that we have the LPGA here in Malaysia is simple, very, very well known but not really heightened so much, and actually it is a charitable purpose. A charitable purpose is in order to raise awareness and to raise funds for cancer research. We all know this in the past, and Saturday will be declared Pink Saturday and hopefully everybody will be wearing pink as a sign of our support and active support in cancer research. We are represented here by Professor Teo Soo Hwang -- ah, she is (applause).
Before talking about Professor Teo, I would like to differentiate the way that we select our girls here, as compared to what happens in many other countries. Our objective here is to produce what I call to be sort of a balanced approach in the development of the personalities of the girls. Meaning, we want them to be very proficient champions of golf but we also try to emphasize the academic needs of the girls in preparation of their life as a whole.
So in this particular respect, of course, that's why our girls are encouraged to go on a scholarship, and I will come to Natasha later -- but Natasha, I might as well mention here, the youngest who qualified recently in every category. She came out first, and she's going on scholarship to the U.S. I think we are going to to help them when she is there so she will be able to develop her golf. That is one thing which is quite different in the sense that we give priority to academic achievement, as well.
Now, I need to say this, Michael always mentions this. So far we have collected something like 2.6 million to contribute to cancer. But I am not happy or satisfied with that. So we are charging for a lot of things this year on a lot of items which have been coming for free, we are charging for them, not for anything else, but to go to this fund, which is very much needed and very much appreciated in this particular job of promoting cancer research.
Now, like all the time when we have during the course of our competition, we have the fun part of it is very inclusive that we offer to the golfers, interested members of the family, the children, a lot of entertaining things around during the course of the competition.
So with the presence of such leading players with us, and with the presence of the names that are coming in the competition starting tomorrow, I am sure you will achieve success, and thanks for your presence and your support and thanks for the strong support of the press in supporting it and spreading news about our annual event. I'm sure it will be a success. I really wish you well, and let's all enjoy it. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. It's always lovely to hear from you and we wish you luck tomorrow, in the Pro-Am, as well.
Now to a gentleman, two simple facts about this next guest: He in 2011 joined the LPGA and there were 23 events and $40 million in prize money. This year, there's 34 events and excess of $67 million in prize money. Enough said. Your Commissioner from the LPGA, Mike Whan.
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Almost 100 percent right. The only change on that is I actually look the job at the end of 2009 and started in 2010 and the only reason that correction is necessary, is I want this group to realize that this, this event, is my baby. It's the first one I signed as Commissioner of the LPGA.
We had a spot in the schedule called TBD, and I quickly realized that "TBD" meant "to be determined," which meant the new Commissioner better determine something and I was lucky enough to meet Tun Musa and when you meet somebody who has a similar passion than you but actually thinks bigger than you, you hug that person and you stay close and eight years later, he can't get rid of me. Because at the end of the day, this tournament is special in so many ways.
We had the unique opportunity we had to spend a couple of minutes with your Prime Minister and his first question is in how do the players feel about Malaysia and playing in the Sime Darby LPGA. And my answer was, "Really, don't let anybody else tell you how the the players feel, because the players vote with their appearance. Players come to the events they feel great about." And 45 of the best 50 LPGA players in the world are in this event, and for the last eight years, I've never been able to say No. 1. I literally said, 45, 46, to 47, out of 50 for the last eight years. That's not because I want them to be here. That's not because Tun Musa looks good in pink, which he does. That's not because this whole event is built around breast cancer, which makes it truly unique and special to all of us at the LPGA.
That's because you do the little things right. This is one of the best golf courses we play all year and probably the most beautiful clubhouse-seen in the game of golf. We stay in an incredible hotel. We get picked up in a BMW 7 Series, which isn't a bad way to wake up in the morning.
We play in an event that not only is important to the country, but we televise is in 170 other countries so if our proud of Malaysia, if you're proud of Kuala Lumpur, be proud of this event because we are going to share that pride all around the world.
Most importantly, what I would tell you is when I landed here Sunday night, and I've been all over Asia the last three weeks: It felt like coming home. I knew how I was going to get picked up. I knew the hotel I was going to. I already knew what meal I was going to order that might. I knew I was going to see Tun Musa the next day. Everything about this felt like family.
When we came here in 2010, we came here as tourists. We from out of town, we didn't know Kuala Lumpur, and we didn't know Malaysia.
When we come back in 2017, we come back as family. I feel part of your family. You feel part of my family, and so what you might see up here is players and staff from America and Sweden and China and Malaysia, Korea, and South Africa; we have got it covered here.
What I would say to your fans that will read about this press conference or watch on a local news station: If you think you're coming out just to watch women's golf, you're going to be surprised because what you're going to get is the Olympics. You're going to get players from all over the world. You're going to see TV cameras from all over the world and the whole world is going to watch.
So don't miss your Olympics, Kuala Lumpur. Come out and be a part of it, because by being a part of it, not only do you celebrate what's happening in your own country, which is young women golfers are making it to the next level; and we're not too far away, where Kelly Tan gets met up with 12 more Kelly Tans because I really I think what's coming in women's golf from Malaysia is special. But you're going to come out here and you're going to support something bigger than all of us, which is breast cancer.
So don't let this event go by, because we consider you part of our family. Over the last eight years, you've made us part of your family, and for that we couldn't be happier and for that, I can't tell you excited we are to know we are going to be coming back here for years and years to come.
Thank you for letting us come and be part of your own tradition. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Looking forward to this event before Mike spoke, and now he spoke and I'm super excited, so thank you very much.
We have a number of players, as you can see, on the top table, so it's a chance now to hear from them, and a player who is truly in love with this layout is our defending champion Shanshan Feng. Shanshan did really well in four years where she won it twice. The other two years, quite disappointing because she finished second. So she is a quite remarkable record in this championship, but a little stat that you might not know is that her caddie has just as good a record with her; but in 2010, Mercer Leftwich, caddied for none other than Jimin Kang, the winner in 2010.
So between them, you really must say, they have a bit of a stranglehold on this tournament. They know every nook and cranny, every part of the golf course. Shanshan, how pleased are you to be back here in Malaysia, defending your crown on a golf course you love?
SHANSHAN FENG: Sorry. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: How pleased are you to be back here on a golf course that you absolutely love and always play well?
SHANSHAN FENG: Yes, well, I almost feel like that my caddie needs to be here because his record is better than mine because he's won three times here and I've only won two. The reason I've won is because of him. I think we actually met him. This is the first tournament he started to work for me, so this tournament is very special for us.
I think winning a tournament is a great way to celebrate our anniversary. So last year was our fifth anniversary, and this is our sixth. Every year, it doesn't matter how the result is. Coming back here reminds me of a lot of good memories, and I really like coming back to Malaysia. I love the food. I love the course. Of course, the weather, too, I don't mind. I play well here every year, so I love it (laughter).
There are a lot of people speaking Chinese here, so every time I come back, I feel like I'm at home, and a lot of people actually are supporting me. So I feel very comfortable coming back, and of course, this year, I'm coming back to pick up my membership card.
From what I understand, the prize ceremony last year, I was like, "Can I get a membership card here?" Because I play so well here. And every time when I lose my confidence, maybe this is where I should come back and play and try to find my confidence back.
Well, as the defending champion this year, I'm very happy to come back again and give me another time to try to defend my title. You know, I'm not really thinking about the result. I just want to enjoy the whole week and wish the other girls would give me a chance this week. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Shanshan. Your anniversary with Mercer, it sounds like you're an old married couple, but you get along a lot better than most married couples do. We do wish you well this week.
There are of course going to be other contenders that would like to see a different storyline play out. Namely, Anna Nordqvist, the recently crowned Evian Champion.
Anna, you've always played well here, a couple of Top-10s in the last few years. Golf course sets up for both of you; both Anna and Shanshan are green-hitting machines. You must be looking forward though this week, too.
ANNA NORDQVIST: Yeah, I'm always excited to come back to Malaysia. It's one of my favorite stops on Tour. You guys take such good care of us. TPC Kuala Lumpur is such an amazing golf course, like Mike said. It's getting better and better every year; you thought it was in perfect condition and you show up and it looks even better, more flowers. It's just such a great atmosphere. We get treated so well; the good food in Malaysia. All the players obviously enjoy the shopping. Tried to stay out there yesterday and ran into the Commissioner. Probably go a few more times this week. Very happy to be back.
Played with Shanshan a couple times here. Hopefully she will give the rest of us a chance this week. But great golf course, great track, and we couldn't be happier coming back here year after year.
THE MODERATOR: So I don't know, you played last week in Taiwan, rally-ing with a fabulous final round of 5-under. This must be one of your favorite stops on Tour. You always enjoy coming here.
SO YEON RYU: Like other girls, this is my favorite, as well. I love this tournament. I have so many reasons why I love this tournament. First of all, we have the wonderful hospitality and we play a really nice golf course and we support cancer research here. It's kind of a funny story because I knew I'm going to wear pink on Saturday. So when I first get all my golf attire from Fila golf, I just tried to find a pink but I couldn't find any pink. Then I just freaked out. The only pink I could find was a little pink. That's how much it meant to me, this tournament.
Also, it's really great to see this tournament always such poring their local girls really well. I remember when I first met Natasha, I met her at the par 3, during the Pro-Am, and she was being supported in junior golf and now she's going to play in this tournament and I'm going to play with her. This is really, really special.
I love food, as well. I love the curry puff here. Every time I come here, I always try to find a curry puff. And yeah, I won two times this year but I'm still seeking for another win, and hopefully this one is going to be my third win in 2017.
THE MODERATOR: Give that girl a curry puff and a pink shirt and she is ready to go.
For those of you that join us on Saturday, hopefully everybody in this room, wear pink in recognition of the tremendous work that is raised and carried out by Professor Soo who joins us here. The work that you do for cancer research in Malaysia, and the funds that have been raised in the last eight years at this tournament, are tremendous. Thank you for all that you do to make this tournament so special.
We'll open the floor now to questions.
Q. Question for Kelly. It's been a bit of a rough season. I think you need to go back to Q-School. What will you focus on this week? What's your goal?
KELLY TAN: I've been playing pretty good the past couple of events. The results just haven't really showed. I'm going to take this week as building up my confidence. Feeling pretty good with my past couple days of practice here. I haven't seen the course all year this year, and seeing it on Monday, the course is fantastic. Like the girls say, the course is always in great shape but every year it just get better. I'm excited to play.
Q. Natasha, how exciting is it to play in a field like this?
NATASHA OON: It's very exciting. I'm a bit nervous, also, and you know, these are the top players and I'm so excited to play among them because they are so good and they have done so much. I hope to learn from them.
THE MODERATOR: Natasha, is it a big nerve-wracking being here on the top table with the world No. 1, No. 5 and No. 6, not to mention Steven Thielke to your right?
NATASHA OON: Yeah, it's very, very nerve-wracking. I've never been on something like this, so yeah, this is my first time -- I'm nervous.
THE MODERATOR: What are you most looking forward to? Are you very nervous about striking the first ball on Thursday, or are you hoping the tournament gets underway and you want the tournament to start now?
NATASHA OON: I want to take my time before the tournament. You know, try and prep myself. But it's just really exciting and I also can't wait to tee off tomorrow, yeah.
Q. Natasha, you are headed for the U.S., right?
NATASHA OON: Yes, next year.
Q. Are you looking forward to it?
NATASHA OON: Yeah, it's college. I'm really looking forward to making a lot of memories and playing college golf and being on a team.
Q. Jessica is also playing this tournament, Jessica Korda. Are you likely to get your wish of playing with her?
NATASHA OON: Yeah.
Q. Are you likely to get your wish?
NATASHA OON: I don't know. It's something random, so I really don't know.
THE MODERATOR: I know you're a big fan of Jessica Korda, but what would be your dream three-ball come Thursday morning? Who would you love to play with on the LPGA?
NATASHA OON: So Yeon, Shanshan, Jessica.
Q. Question for all of the players. The chairman just talked about everybody having fun, and I know there's fun outside the ropes but how do you manage to have fun on the golf course when you're competing to win a great prize? What do you mean by "fun" on the golf course?
SHANSHAN FENG: I mean, even though, you know, off the course, I'm a very silly girl, but on the course, I'm very professional.
So I'm trying to stay calm because that's the way that I can play my best. But I mean, I know all of the girls here on the Tour, we are always like family. We see each other more than we see our families, actually, so we're great friends. It's just great to play with your friends and try to compete with them. Like you're not trying to beat them. I mean, you're trying to bring out your best and you hope your competitors bring their best, too.
It's just a friendly game, and I don't know what the other girls are feeling like, but I always feel very great and happy playing with them. So I kind of have fun, I mean, on the course.
THE MODERATOR: I certainly think that applies to So Yeon, as well. You have had a remarkable year. You won the first major and changing your swing since since working with Cameron McCormick, so you've been through some tough times on the golf course and there has been some frustration, but it's paid off and you are the world's No. 1 golfer. How much are you enjoying it and how difficult is it being No. 1 when you've got such a close gap between you and the other contenders, just to enjoy it?
SO YEON RYU: We had a dinner with Inbee together one day when Inbee was No. 1, and then Shanshan said, "Well, if I become No. 1, maybe I'll just want to retire next week."
When she said that, I was like, I kind of agree with her. You know, if you become No. 1, you just pretty much achieved everything and you can't really do anything more.
Inbee told me, "Trust me you won't retire after you become No. 1." Now I know what Inbee said. First time I become, No. 1 I was definitely overwhelmed, and I was really, really happy to achieve my dream. But then I started chasing my dream again and I started to think about my next goal and everything was just the same.
Then like three or four weeks later, I realized, too, it's really tough to be No. 1 because you have a lot of duty to represent your tour really well and represent your country and a lot of high expectations from a lot of family, friends, sponsors. But right now, I'm still enjoying my game. Doing my best and enjoying my game is the best to keep playing well and keep enjoying my life and my tour life.
Q. Can we hear from the players, you say you like the golf course. Which part of this course do you individually find tougher? If you could, could you make just mention like kind of one hole that you maybe like in particular?
ANNA NORDQVIST: I think what's so great about this golf course is it has character. Every hole is challenging, a lot of water. There's a lot of pin placements and a lot of run-offs. There are a lot of holes that are really tricky, the greens, especially with longer irons.
I feel like the hole that seems to be the best hole is hole No. 15. We've been playing a short left pin a few times during Sunday and even though it's a 1000 or 110-yard shot, you can either win or lose the tournament right there. It get tough when you're under pressure. But it's definitely a lot of great holes. 16, 17, 18, it's hard to find a bad golf hole on this golf course, and you are definitely going to have to strike it well to low score out here.
SHANSHAN FENG: Well, of course, I love the course. I mean, I kind of agree to what Anna just said. I think out here, playing on this golf course, we need strategies. Like it's not a course that you just get on the tee, bring your driver every time and swing as hard as you want.
I mean, this is a course where you have to decide sometimes you want to play on the safe side and sometimes maybe it's time to go forward. Like 16th hole, when the tee is up, like what I did -- the reason why I won three years ago, not last year, is because 16, I tried to go for it, and I actually made an eagle on the hole, and that was how I won the tournament because I won by two I think.
And then the 15th, last year, the first day, I only hit a pitching wedge. It was only 110 to the pin but I hit it in the water, so it was a double. And then even though I made two birdies on the weekend, you would think like the one 115-yard hole you would make birdie every time because we are professionals, but actually we don't. Even though it's only 115, but it's so challenging with the wind and with the water in front of you, under pressure, everything.
The course is really challenging. I think driving is very important because you have to give yourself chances to hit on the green, and then to have birdie chances. So I think that's why I've done pretty well here recently because my ball-striking is kind of consistent.
Do you agree? Just kind of -- yeah (laughter).
SO YEON RYU: I mean, I agree with all these girls' opinion. I just cannot really pick one hole because I pretty much love every hole, but I like the idea about 16. We use two tees, and normally on Sunday we use the forward tee and the pin is on the back left quite often which is the toughest pin position at that green.
I should say, when I played the Pro-Am, I made a hole-in-one on No. 7, so maybe I should pick that one as my favorite.
But back to No. 16, like Anna said, if you decide to go for it and win the tournament, you could lose the tournament, as well. Everything has both sides. I would pick the 16th because that's one of the last par threes.
Q. You mentioned about your next goal, becoming world No. 1. Is the Rolex Player of the Year among them? You are quite close to Lexi Thompson, and she is not here this week.
SO YEON RYU: Yes, Player of the Year would be my goal for this year. The thing is, even though you have the goal in your mind, you better not think about it too much because if you think too much, you cannot really focus on the present.
Right now what I'm doing is focus each shot, each hole, each tournament. So yeah, I'm just going to do my best and hopefully I can win this tournament and I'm going to get close to Player of the Year.
Q. Stephen, question for you. Obviously the pressure is on you to deliver as much as the players this week, and you put a lot of attention to the spectators experience. Can you tell us, what's the drive behind that?
STEVE THIELKE: As you know, TPC Kuala Lumpur has done a number of major events. We did three in a row, European Tour, PGA TOUR and LPGA for three years. But this is definitely, like everybody said, this is my favorite course, which he is check title sponsor, host venue. We pretty much control the event.
But it's just fun. Everything inside the ropes, outside the ropes, is great. We have had some challenges this year with -- not major challenges; we have hardly ever not had rain in Malaysia, but as you know we had ten days of no rain last week, until pretty much yesterday when the girls arrived. They are double-cutting and double-rolling the greens right now greens are pretty quick now and will speed up by Thursday. It's a challenge to keep things under control. But inside the ropes, I don't know what the lady said, but it looks pretty good out there.
Outside the ropes, I've got to congratulate IMG Golf who has helped us take this event to the next level, Jeremy Harvey-Samuel is our new tournament direct door and he's helped us. Have you seen the courtyard? We have extended it to be closer to the putting green and be a little more engaged with the players. We changed things up a little bit.
Even tonight, we have an earlier cocktail party. We heard the girls say they like the shopping and the food and the action in Kuala Lumpur, so we are going to allow them to have an early event and then go have some time off before the Pro-Am tomorrow.
There are a couple other things we are doing to take this, Malaysia's most fun golf event, to the next level. There's all that that makes it fun, just listening to the ladies say how much they enjoy coming here, having the hard work behind the scenes with the team, it just awesome.
And of course, we have the CIMB Classic last week, so we had another event. So to have a team that can two events back-to-back this year, is challenging, but it's a team effort and it's quite exciting to be part of it.
Q. So Yeon Ryu, you have become world No. 1, so what are the challenges and difficulties you faced to come to that?
SO YEON RYU: Try to keep the position? I think even because though you are No. 1, you are a human being. You cannot be perfect all the time. I always try to play great and perfect, but because I'm a human being, I just cannot play well all the time.
Of course, even though I really tried hard to keep improving myself, sometimes I just want to rest. I just want to enjoy this moment and I just want to have fun with these girls, but sometimes it's just challenging because, you know, like for example, when I'm not finishing in the Top-10, like people started to ask me, what's going on, what's wrong with you, how can you finish outside of the Top-10. It was like, because I'm a human being. Sometimes I cannot play really well. I think people's perspective is the most toughest things to deal with. Otherwise, I really enjoy it right now and I really enjoy being No. 1.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports