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March 27, 2018

So Yeon Ryu

Rancho Mirage, California

THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much for coming earlier for our LPGA Women Who Play announcement. We're very excited to have that organization joining the LPGA. We're now going to transition over to the 2018 ANA Inspiration. And I am here with our defending champion, world No. 3, So Yeon Ryu. So Yeon is a five-time LPGA winner, including, as I mentioned, the 2017 ANA Inspiration, and the 2017 Wal-Mart Northwest Arkansas Championship presented by P&G, as well as the 2010 U.S. Women's Open. So Yeon was also the LPGA's Co-Player of the Year in 2017, tied with Sung Hyun Park.

Your win last year could be considered a breakthrough, perhaps, in your career. It was your first win through 2014. I remember sitting right here next to you and those tears in your eyes as you held the trophy. It really seemed to propel you ahead to a fantastic 2017. What was that experience like for you?

SO YEON RYU: Yeah, first of all, I just cannot believe it's already a year ago and I'm sitting here after one year. Yeah, if I look back, I had two really big turning points in my professional career. One was when I won the U.S. Women's Open in 2011, and the other one was 2017 ANA Inspiration. As you said, after I won this tournament, I was a step closer to achieve my dream, which is to become No. 1.

Then after I won this tournament I just got a lot of confidence back that I was able to play really well for a whole season. Then I won the 2017 Co-Player of the Year, so this tournament just brought me everything.

Q. Looking back to 2017, you took the win. You were able to make the jump in Poppie's Pond, but those closing moments were certainly difficult with the ruling and everything that happened around that. How were you able to achieve everything you wanted through all of that and to stay true to yourself through everything that happened during that time?
SO YEON RYU: The thing was I was not the one in charge of taking care of all the ruling kind of situation. All I had to do was only what I can do. So what I can do is keep playing golf, stay focused on each shot, each hole, and just seeing the tournament instead of seeing the hassles.

I know that was a lot of the hassle last year, and I really had to keep talking to myself, okay, just do what I can do. Don't think about the other thing. But I feel like after I'd done the tournament I learned a lot through the situation. I feel like I also got confidence myself so I could control myself.

Q. Last year you also won the Rolex Annika Major Award. It's given to the player with the best performance in the season's five majors. As you received that trophy at Evian, what did it mean to you to have your name forever linked with Annika Sorenstam, one of the greatest in the game, and to receive that honor?
SO YEON RYU: Yeah, exactly. It's already an honor to have that award, because that's evidence that I played really well at the major tournament. But that award is named after Annika Sorenstam, which is my big hero. I'm going to see my name with the trophy with Annika's name on it. Such a special woman.

I would say when I won the 2011 U.S. Women's Open, I couldn't really appreciate fully about I won a major event because I didn't play much major events back then, and I was not an LPGA member. But right now I played many a major event, and I know how tough it is to win a major tournament, and how tough to keep playing really well at the major tournaments. So seeing myself to receive that award, I'm really proud of myself.

Q. So fast forward a year, 2018. You had a Top 10 finish in Australia. What is the state of your game as you come back here to defend your title here in Rancho Mirage?
SO YEON RYU: Yeah, I played like five tournaments before this tournament. To be honest, I'm not really satisfied with all the results, but I'm working on it. I learned a lot of things through the five events. I know some of the things I need to work on to play well at the major events. So this week I'll have my coach with me.

So we are working on a little bit of a swing, a little bit of putting and chipping and pretty much everything. So hopefully I can bring out my A-game this week. Then if I can defend my title, it's going to be really awesome.

Q. You said you learned a lot after going through the experience last year with Lexi. What did you learn?
SO YEON RYU: Once again, all I can do is just what I can do. Sometimes we're just out there and there are a lot of things going on, and sometimes I started to take care of a lot of things. Oh, this player is too slow to play together, or this ruling was bad, whatever, but those things I cannot fix it. What I can do and what I can handle is just do my thing. So I think that's the thing I learned interest through all the experiences last year.

Q. You mentioned getting to world No. 1. For those of us who never experienced it, we saw Justin Thomas talk about it last week in that event, and just the pressure and how it was on his mind. How much is that on your mind, and how much does that change you as a player in terms of your confidence level?
SO YEON RYU: To be honest when I just became No. 1, I didn't expect it. So just before that I think when a lot of players think I'm close to No. 1, that's the moment when you're really frustrated because you know you better play well to become No. 1. You better play well to achieve the No. 1.

But back then I had no idea I was able to do it, so that was kind of lucky to me. But after that, I was very lucky to have so many former No. 1 players as my friend. They gave me so much advice. And most advice and the most common advice was just be yourself because when you're No. 1, you just need to take care of a lot of things, especially a lot of things from outside of you.

A lot of people expect you to play really well. Then when you're playing bad -- not even outside of top 20 or top 30, then people start to talk about how bad you are. Why you struggle? What is your problem with it? So even when you don't really have a problem, you start to think about yourself as you're having a problem.

It's definitely tough but worth it. So hopefully I can handle the situation again.

Q. You talked a little bit last night about seeing your name on the plaque on the walk for the first time. Can you talk about what that felt like? Did you ever get a picture with it?
SO YEON RYU: I haven't. I'm going to do it tomorrow because I played front nine today. But as I said last night, since I saw Grace Park jumping into Poppie's Pond, winning this tournament was my dream. Then every time when I walk to the 18th green and I saw all the names at the bridge, I was like one day I really want to put my name on that there.

This year I saw it yesterday, and I was really overwhelmed. I started to shake my hands and I just couldn't really explain how I feel. But it's really great to see my name alongside a lot of great players. Then hopefully I can do it again and put my name on the bridge again.

Q. How are you finding the conditions of the course this year, and specifically the rough?
SO YEON RYU: I think compared to last year, the rough is a bit thicker, and the greens are firmer and faster. I think that's because of wind. But it's already firm and fast, so I expect to have really tough conditions with the greens.

I think by the time on Sunday the rough is going to be pretty thick.

Q. You talk about gaining confidence from the victory last year. Did you have no confidence coming in here? You had a major championship already and been rookie of the year. You've had success on the Tour. But what was your confidence level when you came here last year?
SO YEON RYU: It was more confidence about how I handle situation, especially when I'm in contention. Since I won the 2014 Women's Canadian Open, even though I was kind of close to winning the tournament several times before I won this tournament, I just couldn't win any for like two years and a half.

So because of that I started thinking maybe I'm not strong enough to handle the pressure. I just started to think that way. But after I won this tournament, and especially after having to go through all the hassle, finally I was able to think to myself I'm really good at handling the pressure.

Q. Can you talk about the importance of major championships in your career in relation to No. 1? You spoke about that a week or so ago, about how important that was. But how important is it to you to win majors and not just play well throughout the season?
SO YEON RYU: First of all, major golf course set-up is definitely different, like longer rough, thicker rough, narrower fairway, faster green. It's not just about course set-up, it's because in majors we have to handle a lot of pressure. Like people start asking you about, oh, it's going to be really great to become a major champion. So because of all that, we always have extra pressure to play coming into play major tournaments.

So if you're going to win the tournament with all the pressure, that means you're a really strong player. So I think having two major trophies under my belt just makes me feel like a really great player, and makes me feel more excited to play a major tournament.

Q. Is there more pressure now as a returning champion?
SO YEON RYU: Yes and no. Because before I won this tournament, I was always willing to do this tournament. But I'm kind of relieved, okay, at least I won this tournament once, so I feel like I can play well at this golf course. So that kind of gave me relief.

But at the same time, expectation level on myself and from a lot of people, that's what made me kind of frustrated to play.

Q. Your win here obviously last year and then your consistency in all the majors earned you the Rolex Annika Major Award at the end of the season. What did it mean to you to win that award last year?
SO YEON RYU: Now I know how tough to win a major tournament. Now I know how tough to keep playing in a major tournament. So receiving the award is evidence that I played really well at the major tournaments. I always feel like you have to have extra skill to play really well at the major tournaments.

So having that award is just seeing myself as I'm just improving my game all the time. So I'm really happy to have the award last year, and hopefully I can have it for the future many more times.

Q. You had Tom Watson on the bag for an awfully long time. How long exactly?
SO YEON RYU: I started to work with him since my first tournament in the LPGA until Bahamas. So I would say six years and one tournament.

Q. So how has that adjustment been like being with a new caddie?
SO YEON RYU: That was definitely tough, but luckily I was able to have Mikey at the Australian Women's Open which is my current caddie. I was looking for another caddie, but Suzann was pregnant, and because of that Mikey was available. And now I'm having Mikey on my bag.

As you know he's a very experienced caddie, and he's worked with Karrie Webb for like 15 years and worked with a lot of different players. So I really felt like he's been helping me out on the golf course, and he knows how to relax me.

The most favorite part these days for me is I just love to hear all the history about the LPGA. He's been here for 20 years. He told me about the player who played here like 18 years ago. Then he told me about the battling versus Karrie and Annika Sorenstam. All those stories just make me more pumped to play.

Q. So is it my understanding that Tom is no longer caddying, is that right?
SO YEON RYU: Yeah, at least he told me he's retiring from the caddying. But we don't know what's going on for the future. But right now he's happy to be back in Australia.

Q. For those of us who will never have the opportunity to jump in Poppie's Pond, what was that like?
SO YEON RYU: I think it's, even though I always dreamed about it, I never really thought how I'm going to jumping in. So because of that, by the time like the emcee said this is the time you're jumping in, I was like, am I really going to jump in? I haven't even thought about how I'm going to jump in. So I didn't know how to do it. I just jumped in.

My first expression was, wow, it's cold. But at the same time I don't mind to do it like a hundred times more.

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