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February 26, 2013

Paula Creamer

Robbie Henchman

Rob Hungate

Giles Morgan

Suzann Pettersen

Angela Stanford

Yani Tseng

Mike Whan


THE MODERATOR:  Good morning, and welcome to the HSBC Women's official press conference here at sunny Sentosa.  We embark on a new era, and it gives me great delight that once again the best women's golfers are here in Singapore to compete in what is arguably the most prestigious tournament in women's golf in Asia.
Please allow me to introduce our top table all at once.¬† We are very thrilled to have Robbie Henchman, the Senior Vice President and Global Co‑Managing Director of IMG Golf.¬† To his left, world No. 13, Paula Creamer, former U.S. Open Champion, affectionately known as the pink panther and one of the stars from the LPGA Tour, wonderful to have you here.¬† Mike Whan, the Commissioner of the LPGA, and then the world's No. 1 golfer, and she has been at the top of her game and the top of the rankings now for 107 weeks, the great Yani Tseng, terrific to have Yani here.
We have Alex Hungate, the Group General Manager and CEO of HSBC Singapore.¬† To his left is the world No. 7, a ten‑time winner on the LPGA who particularly likes playing in Asia, especially after her form in the latter half of last year with two wins; and to her left is Giles Morgan, Group Head of Sponsorship and Events for HSBC, super Giles that you are, joining us once green here this week.¬† And our defending champion, the world New York 19, Angela Stanford, who earned her fifth LPGA victory with that sensational playoff last year.
So ladies and gentlemen, our top table.  We will begin straightaway.  Alex, would you please like to start proceedings?
ALEX HUNGATE:  On behalf of HSBC, welcome to the 2013 HSBC Women's Champions.  This is our sixth year we have sponsored this tournament, and since teeing off in 2008, the event has earned the reputation as one of the top golf tournaments in Asia, and it is affectionately known by many as Asia's major.
We are delighted with the profile and the prestige that the event has gathered since it started, and as a result of that, we recently announced a three‑year extension of the contract, and we also announced that we would move the event here to Sentosa Golf Club after five successful years at Tanah Merah Country Club.
The contract renewal and the move to Sentosa both created a lot of he excitement around this year's events and we are looking forward to it very much.
In addition to our sponsorship of HSBC Women's Champions, we have enthusiastically supported a wide range of programmes that bring learning opportunities to young people around the world because we believe that sport plays an important role in the development of life skills, and values in society.
That's why here in Singapore we have renewed our sponsorship of the HSBC youth golf challenge, a programme we have been supporting since 2008 in our partnership with the Singapore Golf Association.  The tournament reaches out to students between the ages of 12 and 17 and represents our commitment to golf out reach at the grass roots level.
Now it's great that so many of the top women golfers are, in fact, from Asia and HSBC recognises the importance of nurturing local talent and here in Singapore, we have had a qualifier tournament, as usual, and for the second year out of three, Cristabel Goh has qualified as the Singapore winner and she will be taking part in the tournament alongside the world's best women's golfers to experience for the second time what it's like to compete against the world's best.
One of my personal wishes is that during this week, many other young Singaporean girls will get inspired to take part in golf and potentially also one day also qualify for this tournament.
So HSBC Women's Champions, as a sponsor, provides us with a great opportunity to profile Singapore as a dynamic hub within one of the world's fastest growing regions, Asia.  So this year the bank is pleased to host three business forums alongside this tournament, and the first one is a women's forum, the second is women in finance, specifically; and the third one is our international exchange programme which brings people from around the world, companies from around the world, into Singapore, to look at setting up their companies here in Singapore, learning from HSBC what it's like to do business on the ground.
There's a lot of business activity this week around the event as well as some world‑class golf.¬† On behalf of everybody at HSBC, welcome to the tournament; I hope it's a fantastic and excitement experience for everybody involved.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, indeed, Alex.  We are all looking forward to the action when it kicks off on Thursday morning.
It's a new golf course.  The players have been out the last couple of days and have had a chance to have a look and we'll be hearing from them shortly.
Giles, if you would say a few words?
GILES MORGAN:  Welcome to all of the media who have supported us over the last six years for me event.  2013 marks our 10th anniversary as a major international sponsor of golf, and in that time, we have been involved with over 30 golf tournaments around the world, and hosting over a thousand golf days and helped thousands of children as well in five major regions to get involved with the sport.  It is a truly global portfolio spanning five continents and we are really proud to be associated with the game.
One of our greatest achievements in that time is spearheading at rival of world‑class golf here in Asia, both here in Singapore with the HSBC Women's Champions and with the WGC ‑ HSBC Champions, which is our flagship men's event in China.
When we came to Singapore in 2008, we wanted to create a tournament which would showcase the very best in women's golf, and as we prepare for our sixth renewal of the event, it feels like we have achieved that ambition.¬† By signing this three‑year extension to the sponsorship, it is reaffirming our commitment to the tournament and to golf in Singapore.
All in all, our global portfolio is in fantastic shape.  Last month we enjoyed great crowds and great golf at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, and this summer marks the third year of our partnership with The Royal & Ancient as the world's oldest golf tournament, The Open Championship, returning to its spiritual home in Scotland.
And of course two years from now golf returns to the Olympics games in Rio; and we are investing in golf in Brazil, as well, as we have done with the Middle East and Asia.  In the future these countries and markets are going to play an increasingly significant role in international trade and international golf, and Singapore is a really important component of that.
HSBC Women's Champions is a glittering showcase for some of the world's best women's golfers on the planet.  We have got 38 of the world's top 40 on the LPGA Money List with us here in Singapore, a wonderful achievement.
And we are proud of the fact that the qualification criteria is tough.¬† Those qualified for the event by winning an event on the LPGA Tour or finishing the year in the Top‑20 of the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings.
This means that the event has a star‑studded role call of previous winners including M√©xico's Lorena Ochoa; Karrie Webb from Australia; Ai Miyazato from Japan, and American reining champion, Angela Stanford, who is sitting to my left.
And I know for Angela and Yani and Suzann and Paula, all are looking forward to coming to Singapore because they are always welcomed here with open arms.  This is one of the features that makes the HSBC Women's Champions such a special event.  Thank you for all your support, and we look forward to three more years in Singapore.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you Giles.  HSBC, truly a global supporter of golf worldwide.
This is the third event on the LPGA this season.  We've been to Australia and Thailand with a very dramatic finish on Sunday, and Mike Whan, of course.  Was there.  Now it's time to hear from the LPGA, Commissioner Mike Whan.
COMMISSIONER WHAN:  Thank you and thank to both of you for hosting us once again.
True story:  On Sunday night I was talking to my wife, which I think was on a Sunday morning her time and she said, you sounds excited.  I said, I get excited every time we start to head to Singapore, and had the same conversation with Angela this morning in the hotel.
This tournament is a lot like Singapore; it's unique.  There's not another one like this on our and I don't think I've ever been to another city like Singapore.  It's welcoming and it shows a level of class and respect to the LPGA that I don't know if you ever say thank you enough for.
But there's a bigness about this event that makes the entire thing exciting for all of us.  We are looking forward to not only a new golf course, a new host hotel experience, but I think IMG and HSBC blow us away every year and I would not be surprised if the same isn't true this year.
Just listening to Giles talk about former winners tells you about this tournament.  One of the two players that is not here is graduating from college this week, and I know where she will be, because I saw her Sunday, and she said, I'm going to miss Singapore; and I said, you're doing the right thing and we'll see you next year.
On behalf of the best players on the world, not just the ones sitting here but the ones that aren't, I want to say thank you for welcoming us back year after year; not only welcoming us but treating these top players like top players; and most importantly for letting 170 other countries experience this week what we are going to experience firsthand.
So couldn't be happier to be back, thanks.
THE MODERATOR:  And it is indeed terrific to have the world's best women's golfers here at Sentosa.  Before we open the floor to question, we have a video to show you which encapsulates the highlights of previous HSBC Women's Champions and what we can look forward to over the next few days.
(Video played).
THE MODERATOR:  That was terrific inspirational video and I'm sure the players will be eager to get out on the golf course, I'm sure most of you, it's the first time.  But before we do that, the floor is open to questions you might have for our distinguished guests here.

Q.  Inaudible.
PAULA CREAMER:  I felt better, that's for sure.  Those things happen all the time and you can't control something like that.
I will say, we will see what happens.¬† I feel worse today than I did yesterday.¬† I had pretty bad whiplash from hitting the headrest but I took it easy and I hope that I can tee it up on Thursday.¬† That's my point‑‑ I've qualified‑‑ to me, Suzann was there and I've never seen‑‑ I'm lucky to have a good friend and a guy in front of me to pull me out of that car so fast.¬† I didn't even know where we were and all of a sudden we were‑‑ at the airport.¬† It's pretty amazing, like I said, how we walked away but things happen.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:¬† I'm the one that managed to lift it off, the last car‑‑ inaudible‑‑ it just happened so fast, you can't see it coming to be honest.¬† I think you go back to Thailand, they have the highest rankings of car accident pretty much here in Asia; and to be honest it was just a matter of time before something happened, and just lucky enough that we all got away with no major injury.

Q.¬† With the Asian players at the top of the rankings and despite the increase in the number of events, to not have a major in Asia‑‑
COMMISSIONER WHAN:  Listen, I've said this before many times:  There's nothing stopping Asia from having a major other than us just having the right time slot and opportunity to build one.
I've said it before:  If we were sitting here today and it was a major, I would say that there would be 57 of the Top 60 players on the LPGA Money List; there is.  If we were playing this as a major, I would say, there would be 170 countries watching us, because that's where we cap out; there is.  If this was a major, I would be telling you that we would be getting the top players in the world to come to the press conference, because it means that much to them.  I've been here for four years and I've been sitting next to the same two players for four years.
I've made this comment many times that I don't think people in the region realise how good it is, already.  I did make a fifth major; I said many times, if you asked me before I became Commissioner, if I liked the idea of a fifth major, I would have said no.
But at the same time I believe that the No. 1 thing I need to do as Commissioner of the LPGA is give the best players on the planet the most exposure possible to showcase their skills to the world.  I thought their fifth major offered us that opportunity.
But I've never ruled out an Asian major, I have nothing against an Asian major.¬† I just think even when it does happen, I'll be able to say I told you so, and everybody in the room‑‑ see, you already created what you thought you needed.
GILES MORGAN:  I think from our perspective the sport of golf, and indeed any sport we are a sponsor of, it's not core to our business.
What we are trying to create in all of our sponsorships around the world is supporting international flagship events that attract the best customers from the best cities where we do business and the reason we have renewed the HSBC Women's Champions is this is a showcase event in Asia for the best talented women golfers in the world and we are absolutely delighted to be back.  If the sport made different offers to us, well, we can look at it at that time, but we are just delighted to be back for three more years.
ANGELA STANFORD:  You know I'm excited to be back.  I say it every year I'm here, I love Singapore and you know, it's awesome to have a sponsor like HSBC.  Everything feels great here and treat us great and it's great to be back.
It will be a different course and it's a different venue‑‑ I just walked around the back, and it is different.¬† You know what, I think that's great.¬† I think it's a new challenge, and it just‑‑ I think it's going to be a great week.¬† So just add to everything that has been built here.

Q.  We heard this week from Tim Finchem that the PGA TOUR are opposing the ban on anchored putters.  Where do you stand on that, and what do you think is more important, the putter or slow play?
COMMISSIONER WHAN:  I guess I'll go first and I'll let them talk about slow play.
On the issue of the USGA and R&A, I've said this many times, there's nobody better placed to establish the right rules of the game than the R&A and the USGA.  They don't have a stake in it in any other way; in equipment or players, etc., and we have been playing by their rules for a long time.  I certainly expect the LPGA will be playing by their rules for a long time from now on.
I respect the way they have gone about this which is they have given us the opportunity to provide feedback.¬† As most of you know that follow the LPGA, and most of you do, we don't have a large number of anchored or belly putter players.¬† I've asked Heather Daly‑Donofrio, our tour head from an operations perspective, to reach out to every player that we know that does and get their feedback; so their feedback will be involved as well.
But on a personal level, this is just Mike Whan speaking, I believe in the R&A and the USGA and their role in the game to do what is right without any stake one way or the other.  I don't believe personally that it's going to have a major impact on the growth of the game or enjoyment of the game or anything else.  I think it's a real change that if they make it and when they make it, we will all adjust and move on.
But I also think a long‑term grandfather clause is the right way to go.¬† We won't give them our specific feedback as a tour until I get back next week and have a chance to get all the player feedback.¬† I think there's a lot of discussion right now.¬† I, for one, would be amazed if in the long term we are not all playing by the USGA and R&A rules on every tour.¬† I could be wrong, but it would floor me if it turned out the other way around.
PAULA CREAMER:¬† We need to play faster.¬† I pretty much‑‑ golf is not meant to being played the way it has been the last couple of years, and we all‑‑ I have my moments and we all have our moments out there, and it's something that we all need to work collectively together on.
There's no reason why you should not be able to watch us finish on the 18th hole because it took too long out there.  And that's something that I think that we are all perfectly aware of.  It's brought up pretty much every time we have a press conference.  We are trying; our rules officials, there's only so many of them out there.
We, as players, have to take a bigger stance and say something to each other, and that's what it comes down to in using our voices as players.
COMMISSIONER WHAN:  I think it would surprise people in the room that as Commissioner in 2010, 2011, 2012 in our player meetings when we have an open forum, the No. 1 complaint from the players is make us play faster.  I would say that slow play was a topic among the LPGA before it was a public topic; before the media or writers were asking us questions about it.  And we have gotten faster each of the last few years; as Paula said, we should still get faster.  But we are trying and we have had made it a top priority, because quite frankly it's been a top priority of the players well before everybody wrote about it.

Q.¬† Is there a specific discussion ‑‑
       COMMISSIONER WHAN:  As they are every year.  Every year we talk about a slow play policy and the objective is to make it a policy that's not subjective; here is the policy and go enforce it.  And that's not always easy whether you're player or an official, but I think we have proven we are able to do that in tough situations.

Q.  Your thoughts on returning here?
YANI TSENG:  Always very happy to be back here and this is always one of my favourite stops on the Tour.  HSBC always has a great hospitality for us.  I played nine holes yesterday and I think the course is much tougher.  Played pretty long and have to be very patient on this golf course.  It's a very good challenge, and I remember looking forward and I'm playing well now and I have a good confidence and I just want to go out there and have fun and beat everybody.  (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR:  She's in very good form, she equalled the course record in Thailand on Sunday at 63, so she's playing great.

Q.¬† For your challenge‑‑
YANI TSENG:¬† I think I put too much expectation on myself.¬† I think even people, too, the fans and the media, they give lots of pressure.¬† You know, if I don't finish top 10, like I'm in trouble; like what's wrong with Yani if you don't finish in the Top‑10.
When I look back, I mean, I still have three wins and 12, 13 Top 10s.  I'm very happy.  When I was in there, it was tough but when you look back, I feel last year was a great year for me and I think my game is improved and I get mature and I know things, what I want, and I do lots more maturity because it's going to make me happier.  I think I just learned so much from last year, and compared to lots of people, I'm very lucky already, so I think really appreciate it a lot.

Q.¬† How important is it for you to be No. 1 ‑‑¬†
YANI TSENG:  For last year I would say it's very, very important but after the last year, I've been learning so much.  I mean, world No. 1 is not as important like before now.  I've already reached, and I've been there before, I'm still here, but I just want to enjoy more.  Because I know if I'm not looking at result, I just want to play the golf and enjoy every swing and enjoy every tournament.
And I think, like I said, I feel very appreciate, and I just don't want to think about it that much.  But I mean, that's always been my goal, and I just want to keep playing and keep smiles and do the best I can.
THE MODERATOR:  You've been No. 1 for 107 weeks now so a real strangle hold at the top of the rankings.

Q.  (Inaudible.).
ANGELA STANFORD:  I don't have that many to spare anymore.  So I have a flight to catch this year, so we have to wrap it up.
I guess you just don't realise it when you're in the moment.  And when I tell people at home, I'm like, I can't even remember how many playoff holes we played.  So it all kind of becomes a blur, and you know, in looking back at the end of the year.
In looking back at the end of the year, Shen Shen won the LPGA, Na Yeon Choi won the U.S. Open, and I wonder if any of those girls‑‑ it was just interesting, I felt honoured to come out on top with those ladies.¬† So it was great experience and I'm looking forward to this year.

Q.  Inaudible.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:¬† I think my entire career, one exception‑‑¬† but for me it's about trying to post a round.¬† It's different when I play a round of golf at home, it takes 2 1/2 hours to spin around on a cart.¬† It's just different to play competitive golf compared to practice, as much as you try to kind of pretend it's a tournament, it's not really the same.
Over the years, I've learned to be patient.  I know if you work hard, it's going to pay off sooner or sometimes later.  That was the case after.  Looking back at last year, I felt like I played good but I just couldn't fire all five cylinders at the same time.  If I can win all of a sudden, the bubble burst at the end there.  I'm very happy.  Just really trying to enjoy.

Q.  Inaudible.
PAULA CREAMER:¬† It felt really nice, it was a little hot outside.¬† I don't really know how to‑‑ it was wet.¬† (Laughter) it was fun.¬† Last year it was a beautiful shot with the diamonds.¬† This year you come out and get to see the skyline.¬† This is part of golf that we enjoy doing.¬† I know I did.¬† Angela didn't like me touching her arm but other than that, we are doing pretty well.¬† It's fun.¬† It's neat.¬† I'm glad that‑‑ it wasn't my idea, but we went with it, all of us.
THE MODERATOR:  Sensational photo.

Q.  Inaudible.
ROBBIE HENCHMAN:  That phrase itself ironically was one we used throughout the deliberation period in terms of where we were going to take the tournament.
We talked about the nature of this event being Asia's major, if you look at the majors, whether it's the men's game or the women's game, other than perhaps Augusta and perhaps the KNC, most of the majors do tend to move from time to time.¬† We had five wonderful years at Tanah Merah on an absolutely world‑class course.
But ultimately, every tournament that we are involved in globally, every tournament that has achieved great heights in terms of attracting the best players in the world, attracting global crowds and television coverage, ends up needing some sort of change at some point in time.  And we felt that after five great years at Tanah Merah, a move to Sentosa, and here we are today at a phenomenal facility, phenomenal golf course with fantastic management was probably the right thing to do for the event.
THE MODERATOR:  I think those of us from Singapore know that it really will be a stern test of golf for the players come Thursday.

Q.  (Regarding bringing additional tournaments to Asia.)
COMMISSIONER WHAN:  We try to keep our Asian swings early in the year and later in the year.  We have opportunities to put one or two, maybe max, more.  But as Robbie knows, Robbie was really the driving force behind Beijing.  We have not said, well, we have to get this market or we have to get this location.  It all starts with the business partner that has the opportunity.
I think when Shen Shen's putt went in at the Wegman's LPGA Championship, I know Robbie and I sent a text message back that forth that a couple of billion people probably saw that, and I don't think it's a surprise that a year later we are going to start playing in Beijing.
I think it's another great opportunity for the women's game to showcase the best players in the world.¬† I remember last week sitting in Thailand thinking, I rememberwhen there was really no young Thai women at the level of the LPGA, and I think at last year's Q‑School, we had five.¬†
       So it's fun to see.  We think we have an impact on the market; whether we do or not, we believe that travelling around the world not only is exciting and good for us, but it's good for the game worldwide.
So I don't know where the end is, but I think from a logistics perspective, we can really only do it a couple of times a year without the risk of really burning out players with travel, especially at the peak of their career.

Q.¬† Will there be a discussion regarding Lydia Ko turning professional‑‑
COMMISSIONER WHAN:  No, I have not had a conversation with Lydia or her family, either last year or this year.  I met Lydia very briefly but I wouldn't read into that in any way, shape or form.  I don't think I had had a conversation with a lot of players before the petition.
I don't know, I've said many times, personally, I hoped Lydia does what she said she was going to do last year after the Canadian Women's Open, which was go to school and continue to play amateur golf, because I think it would be great for young women around the world to see a role model do that, as well.  We have seen both types.
But she'll make that decision and when she does I'm sure I'll be part of that decision if that's a direction she wants to go.  But I think for now it's great the attention it brings to the game.
Last week, what happened in Thailand, it brought a lot of attention, not just to Thailand but all over the world.  Great golf is coming from literally all over the world and literally every age.  Again, if you had said it 15 years ago, you would not have believed it, but today it's out there on a weekly basis.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Yani, you got to play with Lydia a few weeks ago in Australia, you felt like a baby‑sitter, didn't you?
YANI TSENG:¬† I felt old on Tour‑‑ it's hard to see the younger generation coming out.¬† She is still 15, but she doesn't play like 15.¬† It's amazing to see and I'm very impressed and hopefully in the future we can play some competition on the Tour.¬†
COMMISSIONER WHAN:  I remember saying that about a lot of the players up here when they were 16, Yani, Paula it's not as abnormal, but it is coming from literally all over the world now.

Q.¬† The age limit for players on the Tour‑‑
COMMISSIONER WHAN:  The way the LPGA works we have a Constitutional rule of 19, and under 18 is really a petition with the commissioner's sole discretion, and the key phrase in there is sole discretion.  It's really not right of me to broadly discuss that, either to media, or even among players or staff members.
So I've shared a couple of times some of the guidelines I use as it relates to under age, but it's not something that is broadly discussed; I look at every individual petition if and when I do get them.  I only discussion the conversations with the petitioner, just because I think that's a private situation between us and them.  Whether it's a petition I have approved or a petition I haven't, I really haven't talked about the process out loud because I think that's something pretty personal with the family and the player.

Q.¬† Fair enough, but with an increasing number of young people‑‑
COMMISSIONER WHAN:  I got more petitions in my third year than my first year, but I don't get 50 petitions; I get six.  In my first year, I probably got two.  And in all of the petitions I've ever received, I think I've approved one.
I think, I've said this many times, I think being a great LPGA professional has a lot to do with what goes on inside the ropes, and as you're seeing today and this morning at the photo shoot, it has a lot to do with what's going on outside the ropes.  It's literally all over the world as today shows.
I have to think about that, for both the player and the Tour.  It's an awful lot to ask of somebody that is not about hitting balls onto a green and making two putts for par.  It's just talking about finding the right balance for people, especially when you talk about people a long way from home.

Q.  (Inaudible.).
ALEX HUNGATE:¬† I think Singapore as a financial hub has gone from strength to strength; even during the financial crisis you see a lot of the wealth management initiatives that the government has taken here have been very successful.¬† So as a wealth management hub and with the trade hub, with the so‑called South‑South trade; in other words, between emerging target and emerging market, you see Singapore taking on a very important role, as well.
Since HSBC is fundamentally a trade bank and was founded as a trade bank, we started as a trade bank with approximately nine percent market share globally; and that means Singapore has become increasingly important over these last few years.
In addition, you see a lot of investor interest in the Asian region.  So while we are strong in China.  In particular with our strong position in Hong Kong; Singapore and Asia has become increasingly important over this period, as well.
So from a business perspective, Singapore as a financial hub has become more important.  From a host perspective, I think Singapore has really been a great host for us.
The government, the Minister of Trade, the Singapore Tourist Board have all been very supportive of this tournament over the last five years, and have reinforced that support in terms of our renewal over the next three years, as well.
So we could not say anything lacking either from a business perspective or support from the host city.
THE MODERATOR:  A perfect answer on which to finish.  Thank you very much indeed to our ladies and gentlemen on the top table and thank you all very much indeed for joining us this morning.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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