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Michael Bisping: ‘I want to leave Tim Kennedy in a pile of piss and blood, begging the referee to rip me off him’

 
 

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 04:00 AM PDT

Another international season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) has drawn to an end, culminating with an exciting mid-week Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) card that takes place later this evening (Weds., April 16, 2014) on FOX Sports 1. Take a look at the special fighters and fights from the “Bisping vs. Kennedy” event who have the potential to haul in one or more of UFC’s new performance-based bonuses.

There are several fun mid-week mixed martial arts (MMA) matches set to take place tonight (Weds., April 16, 2014) from Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is set to pull the trigger on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations” Finale, which will showcase several talented fighters scattered throughout the card.

In addition to the trash-talking main event between Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy, TUF: “Nations” Finale features a patriotic “Canada vs. Australia”-themed co-main event between Patrick Cote and Kyle Noke, two TUF titles up for grabs, a bad blood Featherweight scrap (Dustin Poirier vs. Akira Corassani) and a Sarah Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith rematch, one of 2013′s hidden treasures.

Indeed, with all the potential for heart-racing action, it will be interesting to see who secures some extra cash with UFC’s new performance-based bonuses. Therfore, let’s take a look at who are most likely to impress later this evening on FOX Sports 1:

Michael Bisping (Fighting Tim Kennedy): Bisping may not be a clear-cut No. 1 Middleweight title challenger, but he is definitely a very skilled and experienced martial artist. His game is pretty much the perfect foil to Kennedy’s, who is essentially a less impressive Chael Sonnen with better submission defense. The submission defense won’t matter here, though, because Bisping won’t let this fight hit the mat. Between shrugging off takedown attempts, Bisping will have his way with Kennedy on the feet en route to an easy, impressive decision win. Barring a fluke, Bisping is one of the best bets as a bonus winner on this card.

Patrick Cote & Kyle NokeThat’s your “Fight of the Night” pick, Maniacs. Two guys with good firepower, iron chins and lots of heart and experience. I was impressed with Noke’s win over Charlie Brenneman and I’m excited to see him back in action after his most recent performance in Sept. 2012. Despite Alessio Sakara gifting Cote a win by bludgeoning the back of his head after hurting him badly, “The Predator” showed he still belongs in the Octagon thanks to his exciting back-and-forth win over Bobby Voelker. Both men look a lot faster at 170 than 185 pounds; therefore, expect this to be a high-paced, back-and-forth battle.

Dustin Poirier (Fighting Akira Corassani): I cannot believe this fight is happening … what a mismatch. Poirier is good at everything and is coming off an incredibly impressive win over Diego Brandao. Corassani is good at what, exactly? His striking is poor and it is just shocking that he has a three-fight win streak in UFC. Robbie Peralta is a fairly impressive win, sure, but he’s no where near Poirier’s level. This is going to end violently; in fact, I really don’t see how Poirier could not win impressively.

Sarah Kaufman & Leslie SmithAnother possible “Fight of the Night” candidate is actually a rematch from Invicta FC 5 almost one year ago. Their first fight was very exciting, with Smith nearly finishing Kaufman in the second round, only to claw back to take a split decision. As much as I don’t find women’s MMA to have the same quality as its male counterpart, there’s no denying that the women fighters put on good fights. And that’s something you can expect here. Smith is also coming off a loss coming into her Octagon debut, which should give her extra incentive to try to notch a win here.

Ryan Jimmo (Fighting Ryan O’Connell): “The Real OC” is out of his element here, making his UFC debut against Jimmo. O’Connell strikes me as neither a great athlete nor a good technician, and I expect to see Jimmo take this one with ease. “Big Deal” may get a bad rap for some boring performances, but he has some legit wins and O’Connell really doesn’t. O’Connell’s four career losses are all finishes, and I expect nothing less from Jimmo.

Mark Bocek (Fighting Mike de la Torre): Bocek — who can be considered a UFC veteran at this point — welcomes promotional newcomer Mike de la Torre to the Octagon at this event. De la Torre is pretty athletic and has some promise, but for the most part, he’s fairly raw … and has lost three times via submission (Bocek’s bread-and-butter). Expect de la Torre to bring the fight to Bocek early, but to be quickly dispatched for an impressive submission victory from the Canadian.

And there you have it. TUF: “Nations” Finale has some decent fights on tap, as well as some fighters who are poised to turn in memorable performances. These types of sleeper events can be surprisingly spectacular, especially with the sweet blend of fighters and fights about to hit Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1.

Enjoy the show!

Michael Bisping: ‘I want to leave Tim Kennedy in a pile of piss and blood, begging the referee to rip me off him’

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 08:00 PM PDT

Call me crazy, but I do believe Michael Bisping dislikes Tim Kennedy.

Michael Bisping has been involved in a war of words with just about every single one of his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) opponents.

From jawing back-and-forth with Dan Henderson on the set of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9, to trading insults with Alan Belcher, to his war of words with Jason Miller, Bisping is no stranger to heated rivalries.

Like this one.

But, during a recent interview with FOX Sports, you get the sense that his beef with Tim Kennedy is indeed personal and the dislike “The Count” has for the former Strikeforce veteran is “as real as it gets.”

So much so, that the brash Brit is determined to hurt Kennedy in the most violent way imaginable to the point that he will be begging for the fight to be stopped after he finds himself lying in a pool of his own bodily fluids.

Bisping’s words:

“I’m going to fight with a lot more venom, a lot more intensity. Maybe some guys that throws them off, but for me, it’s the worst thing you can do, pissing me off. I’m an emotional guy and I fight way better when I’m like that. This will be a stoppage for sure, you ain’t going to see a decision. I haven’t come up here to Quebec for a mixed martial arts contest. I’ve come up here to beat Tim Kennedy up in the most violent way as I can possibly do. I want to hurt him, I want to leave him on the floor in a pile of piss and blood and he begs the referee to rip me off him and then I never want to hear Tim Kennedy’s name mentioned in the same sentence as me ever again.”

If that threat sounds familiar, it should, that’s because it’s the same promise Bisping made when he was scheduled to face off against Mark Munoz at UFC Fight Night 30. Of course, the fight never took place because “The Count” was forced out of the bout with an eye injury.

Indeed, Kennedy has succeeded in getting under the skin of Bisping thanks to videos such as this one. And during yesterday’s (April 14, 2014) face off between the two combatants, “The Count” unloaded a verbal tirade on the former Army Ranger.

According to Bisping, the “mind games” Kennedy insists on playing will prove to be his downfall, as all they have done is increased the British brawler’s intensity and put him in the zone.

And when the two talented middleweights hit the center of the Octagon in the main event of tomorrow night’s (April 16, 2014) main event of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations” Finale at Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City, Bisping intends to show Kennedy that he’s in way over his head.

MLB: Here is what you need to know at a glance

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Pineda, Ellsbury lift Yanks in first meeting with Sox

Brewers solve Lee in Philadelphia to cap 6-0 trip

Abreu’s latest multihomer effort carries White Sox

Strasburg’s 12 K’s, Desmond’s slam key Nats’ sweep

Generations merge as Giants bid farewell to ‘Stick

And a few more things you need to see:

Must C: Catch

Must C: Catch

Red Sox right fielder Daniel Nava lays out for a diving catch to rob Yangervis Solarte of a hit

Larry Walker bowls a perfect game, is a Canadian hero

Larry Walker bowls a perfect game, is a Canadian hero

The former NL MVP has now been part of a perfecto in both baseball and bowling.

Joe Mauer accepts Silver Slugger Award with adorable twin daughters

Joe Mauer accepts Silver Slugger Award with adorable twin daughters

Target Field’s cute factor significantly increased.

Sports on Earth: Just a Sea Dog

Sports on Earth: Just a Sea Dog

Red Sox prospect Henry Owens has been living up to his substantial hype — but the club is being cautious.

Ryan Dempster attends Cubs game; can you spot what's out of place?

Ryan Dempster attends Cubs game; can you spot what’s out of place?

He decided to watch his former team play from the stands. Things got stranger from there.

 

 

 

Pujols’ 494th HR powers 1-hitter from Richards, ‘pen

V-Mart’s HR in 10th takes Nathan off the hook in LA

Werth’s grand slam in 8th caps wild victory

Papi pens another chapter with late go-ahead HR

Crew now 5-0 on the road after three-run eighth

And a few more things you need to see:

Ervin's excellent debut

Ervin’s excellent debut

Ervin Santana wins Braves debut, allowing three hits over eight scoreless innings, striking out six.

The new R.B.I. Baseball 14 is here

The new R.B.I. Baseball 14 is here

The amazing new game has launched in the Apple App store and on the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Here's how Billy Hamilton's unique speed can change a game

Here’s how Billy Hamilton’s unique speed can change a game

When is a single worth more than one base? When it’s a Billy Hamilton single.

Sports on Earth: Calculated speed demon

Sports on Earth: Calculated speed demon

The current Cardinal with the most stolen bases for the club is none other than Yadier Molina.

Watch Jose Abreu hit his first career home run ... and get the silent treatment

Watch Jose Abreu hit his first career home run … and get the silent treatment

Who doesn’t love the silent treatment?

Clay Guida vs Tatsuya Kawajiri: UFC Fight Night 39 ‘Fight of the Night’ early pick

 

Posted: 11 Apr 2014 04:00 AM PDT

Two featherweights who have been around the mixed martial arts (MMA) block, Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri, will collide in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 39, which takes place later this afternoon (Fri., April 11, 2014) from du Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. And it’s going to be a good fight.

In the stacked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 145-pound division, making a name as a new Featherweight contender is no small task. However, two big names in the sport, Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri, have recently joined the ranks.

More important, “Carpenter” and “Crusher” will hook ‘em up later this afternoon (Fri., April 11, 2014) on Fight Pass in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 39 from du Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Guida, whose UFC tenure began all the way back in 2006, has become known for many different kinds of performances. Even though he has put on terrific fights in his bouts with Roger Huerta, Diego Sanchez and Ben Henderson, he has also turned in some miserably boring performances, most notably in his wins against Anthony Pettis and Gray Maynard.

Maynard fight excluded, Guida’s fights tend to be exciting when his opponent is competent enough to thwart his stifling top game. Against “The Bully,” the fight was boring mostly because Guida’s gameplan seemed to be a concerted effort to do anything but fight, while Maynard was completely inept at cutting off the cage and keeping the caveman in front of him.

When Guida can’t get the takedown, he tends to rush forward with reckless abandon, throwing wildly with quick forward movements, putting the pressure on his opponent to counter a constantly moving and attacking target. When he gets caught, he continues to throw aggressively, even if he is clearly hurt by his opponent.

Kawajiri has been a well known mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter for some time, making his name in Japan for promotions such as Dream, K-1, Pride FC and Shooto. His style is the embodiment of his nickname, “Crusher,” leveraging terrific wrestling ability and physical strength to bring the fight to his opponent. His striking doesn’t tend to be his main focus, but he does sport strong, fairly technical boxing skills with good power in his hands.

The key to this match being an exciting is Kawajiri’s wrestling ability, both defensively and offensively, which is probably enough to give Guida problems. Guida will be unable to have his way with Kawajiri, meaning that this fight will either be played out on neutral terms on the feet or we’ll see Guida taken down and put under pressure.

Should either of those scenarios happen, expect Guida to fight like a mad dog to gain the upper hand. He’ll attempt to make up for the skill discrepancy in the striking department with constant pressure, which should set the pace for a terrific back-and-forth struggle for supremacy.

Clinch battles will be technical, but high paced, while the striking portion of this fight could be very interesting, leading me to believe this fight will be the most exciting on an otherwise weak UFC Fight Night 39 card. Indeed, expect Clay Guida and Tatsuya Kawajiri to deliver a very fun fight in Abu Dhabi … perhaps even the “Fight of the Night.”

History in the making: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira proves once and for all that jiu jitsu works

Posted: 10 Apr 2014 09:00 PM PDT

“If you have any knowledge at all of jiu jitsu, it’s just not going to work. If you literally have never heard of anything and have no idea what they’re doing, okay, kind of like the first UFC, yeah jiu jitsu works. It’s kind of like trickery, basically. If you have any idea about any of the tricks, it’s just not going to work, unless you’re a complete idiot and fall for it. Maybe I should re-phrase it and just say, jiu jitsu doesn’t work on me.”

Dave Herman, June 2011

Dave Herman was struggling to stay afloat in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight division.

Despite an impeccable record on the international mixed martial arts (MMA) scene, where the Indianan racked up a staggering 21 wins against just two losses, “Pee Wee” had been knocked out in consecutive fights by towering Dutch “Skyscraper,” Stefan Struve, and then again by portly power puncher Roy Nelson.

Getting clocked by “Big Country” left him at just 1-2 inside the Octagon.

But the silver lining on his cloud of defeat was his submission defense. Herman had never been tapped in 25 professional fights and considered himself to be submission-proof. After all, if Jon-Olav Einemo — who once defeated Roger Gracie in Abu Dhabi — couldn’t force his surrender, then no one could.

Especially not an aging Brazilian coming off a devastating arm injury.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was one of the bigger names to cross over from PRIDE FC, in the days following ZUFFA’s hostile takeover. In fact, if a certain Russian “Emperor” hadn’t made his way to “The Land of the Rising Sun,” there’s a strong chance “Minotauro” would have spent several years atop the 265-pound throne.

It was not to be.

To make matters worse, Nogueira was nearly put down by Heath Herring after making his way to the United States way back at UFC 73. But just like he did so many times throughout his storied combat sports career, “Big Nog” persevered, battled back, and took home the win.

The writing, however, was clearly on the wall.

Nogueira — above all else — was known for his durability. But in seven trips to the Octagon, the fading Brazilian had been knocked out twice before suffering his first submission defeat. And not just any submission, either, but the kind of medieval bone crunching that nearly ended his career.

“When I grabbed it and started cranking,” opponent Frank Mir would later recall, “it just crushed like twisting a bag of potato chips.”

Ouch.

Naturally, major surgery (metal plate + 16 screws) was required to repair his mangled wing and the rehabilitation process kept him on the sidelines for over 10 months. The promotion teased a fight against hulking Parisian Cheick Kongo, but ultimately settled on the struggling Herman.

“I’m not concerned about his jiu jitsu game because as we all know, jiu jitsu doesn’t work,” Herman declared just days before the fight. “I’m not worried about being submitted by Nogueira at all.”

Their heavyweight showdown was scheduled to take place in the UFC 153 pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event on Oct. 13, 2013, inside the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Not only did Nogueira have the homefield advantage, he had the motivation to prove he could still be competitive after nearly having his arm torn off.

And making “Pee Wee” eat crow was just an added bonus.

“This guy talk a lot of shit,” Nogueira said in the build-up to their South American slugfest. “He’s never been submitted? He never fought that level on the ground. I can be the first one to do it.”

From our UFC 153 play-by-play:

Nogueira drops Herman with a left hook then dives on top of him! He’s in side control and passes to full mount. Herman tries to buck but Nogueira is on top of him with both hooks in. Nogueira dives for an armbar and Herman has his arms locked together and he escapes the position. They scramble and get back to their feet. Nice straight left scores for Nogueira and he attempts a takedown but Herman is on top. Nogueira has double underhooks in his deep half guard and he’s working for a sweep but Herman postures up and backs away. Nogueira dives in and lands with a nice left and right hand. He lands a heavy left hand and takes Herman down again. Nogueira passes to mount and he dives for an armbar again but Herman is defending. Herman tries to spin free and Herman flips over. Nogueira has the arm extended and Herman taps out!

After all that pre-fight trash talk, Dave Herman was forced to wave the white flag.

Nogueira was unable to make it two in a row after falling to Fabricio Werdum in their 2013 rematch, a submission loss that forced “Minotauro” back into surgery to repair ligament damage. After another lengthy layoff, he’s back on the scene and ready for one last run at the division title.

Waiting for him will be Roy Nelson.

They’ll do the deed in the UFC Fight Night 39 main event scheduled for tomorrow (April 11, 2014) inside Du Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, on a rare Fridayafternoon fight card streamed only on the promotion’s new “Fight Pass” digital network (results here). Will jiu jitsu work one last time for the aging legend?

We’ll find out in less than 24 hours.

Pacquiao vs Bradley 2 24/7 episode 2 full HBO video replay

Posted: 10 Apr 2014 07:30 PM PDT

Want Pacquiao vs. Bradley updates around the clock? HBO’s got you covered (insert pun on show title here). We’re closing in on the year’s biggest boxing rematch and HBO’s coverage is on point, bringing you the second episode of its traditional “24/7″ series. In the latest installment, watch Manny Pacquiao shoot hoops and Timothy Bradley do some slow-mo cardio training with badass montage music in the background, plus plenty of padwork and sparring. Most important, see Pacquiao’s adorable little dog get angry at his posse. And it’s all narrated by the smooth voice of Liev Schreiber — a fine a way to set the stage for this showdown for which anyone could ask! To watch the first “24/7″ episode of “Pacquiao vs. Bradley 2″ click here.

Legacy FC 30 results: Holly Holm knocks out Juliana Werner (head kick) in Albuquerque

In news that will surprise no one, Holly Holm improves to 7-0 in her budding mixed martial arts (MMA) career.

Former three-division boxing champion and top female bantamweight mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Holly Holm (7-0) kept her perfect record intact by knocking out Juliana Werner in the Legacy Fighting Championship (LFC) 30 headliner on Friday night (April 4, 2014) inside Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It was a complete blowout.

“Julie” demonstrated one hell of a chin and took “The Preacher’s Daughter” someplace she had never been inside the cage — and that’s the fifth round. Unfortunately, the Brazilian was outstruck and outclassed for the duration of the fight, unable to match Holm’s superior blend of speed, power, and technique, finally succumbing to a fifth-round head kick knockout (watch it here).

Here are the full Legacy FC 30 results:

Holly Holm def. Juliana Werner via technical knockout
Flavio Alvaro def. Donald Sanchez via unanimous decision
Ray Borg def. Nick Urso via submission (rear-naked choke)
Enrique Briones vs. Adrian Cruz ruled a draw
Martin Sano def. Clint Roberts via submission (rear-naked choke)
Kamarudeen Usman def. Lenny Lovato via technical knockout

The event aired live on AXS TV.

After her championship win in front of a raucous hometown crowd, Holm expressed interest in a possible Cris Cyborg pay-per-view (PPV) fight later this year (more on that here). But is she better suited for a championship showdown against Ronda Rousey?

Perhaps…

As the UFC women’s bantamweight champion continues to clean out her division, the promotion has been scouring the globe for possible title contenders (even here). Not that it doesn’t already have a handful of talented bantamweights already in its employ, but the division is still in its infancy.

Every little bit helps.

Hopefully, the second round of negotiations between UFC and Team Holm don’t end the way the first round did, with UFC President Dana White effectively slamming the door on “The Preacher’s Daughter.”

Time will tell.

An Interview With: MICHELLE WIE Saturday April 5th

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THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everyone.  We would like to welcome Michelle Wie into the interview room, a solid 1‑under par round today, sitting one shot out of the lead.  Just take me through the day out there and how pleased are you with your performance today.

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, it felt good to start off with a birdie.  Just after that really just couldn’t get anything going.  But I held on in the middle and the front nine, and the back nine was just a whole lot of pars.  But it felt good.  Par is a good score out here.  Just couldn’t get anything going today, but at the same time I’m happy with the 71 today.  Hopefully I can get things going again this weekend.

 

THE MODERATOR:  When you come off such a great round as yesterday and to be up near the top of the leaderboard, how does that change your approach when you come into round 2?  Is it really just try to maintain?  Do you think about going low?  What was your mental approach today?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  You know, I just went out there and I just really took it hole by hole.  I know the holes that are birdieable, so I went out there and tried to attack those.  I knew the holes that par is a good score.  So I really just attacked it hole by hole.  It doesn’t really matter what I shot yesterday.  I really just kind of focused on that particular hole.

 

THE MODERATOR:  When you’re in a major now heading into the weekend, to see yourself up near the top of the leaderboard, do you let yourself get excited, or are you pretty much focused on what you have to do tomorrow?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  I’m really excited.  It’s fun being on or near the top of the leaderboard.  But try not to look forward too much.  It’s a long way ’til Sunday; two days is a long way to go.  But at the same time I am very excited.

 

 

 

Q.  That stinger fairway wood shot off the tee has really become your go‑to shot to keep the ball in play.  Is that something you’re totally comfortable with now?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, it’s kind of always been my shot in my bag.  I’ve been kind of bringing it out a little bit more.  But yeah, it’s definitely good.

 

 

 

Q.  You were in the final Sunday pairing in Thailand; what was it like to be back in that situation, and what did you learn from that that will help you this week?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  It was a lot of fun.  I was really excited.  I was nervous.  And I think I learned a lot from it.  I think I was in contention for a little while, like really close to Anna.  I caught up to her.  Obviously she played really well coming down the stretch, but definitely learned a lot from it.  I can definitely use that experience this weekend.

 

 

 

Q.  Can you talk about maybe how you’ve gotten less technical over the years?  Is that a true statement?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, you know, I’ve tried ‑‑ it’s always a battle for me just because I’m such a perfectionist when I’m out there.  I try to do everything perfectly.  I just really just am trying not to look at my swing, just really feel it and just try not to be perfect, just kind of get it in the ballpark and just feel it and kind of just hit some shots rather than trying to make a perfect swing every time.

 

 

 

Q.  When did you start trying to make a conscious effort to do that?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Well, I’ve always kind of made a conscious effort of it, but I really told myself this last October not to really look at my swing, maybe looked at my swing maybe twice since then.  So I really haven’t looked at any of my swings.

 

 

 

Q.  It looked like yesterday and today you made some pretty tough par saves at various times during the round.  Is that a sign that you’re just comfortable with your overall game as much as hitting that stinger or making a few putts?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, I think that’s the beauty of majors.  You kind of have to do that.  It’s not like ‑‑ we have tournaments where you’re going to have birdie chances every hole.  There are some tough holes out there.  I was really proud of myself for making those par saves today, and hopefully on the weekend it won’t have to be that difficult.  Hopefully make it a little bit easier on myself, but I was proud of myself today.

 

 

 

Q.  You were talking about getting less technical.  How difficult is that when you get yourself to a point, and I know it’s easy to look at your golf swing and keep looking at it.  How difficult was it when you made that decision not to look at it?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  It was hard.  I almost felt like a little bit of an addict.  I was like, I really want to look at it, am I doing it right.  But once I stopped looking at it, I like don’t even want to look at my swing anymore just because I don’t want to start relying on my eyes again.  I just really am starting to rely on my body and how it feels, and I think I’ve really gotten into tune with how I’m moving.

 

 

 

Q.  Does that take you back to when you first started playing?  Do you feel like you did maybe early on in your career?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, I think so.  I think definitely when I was younger, way younger, I just tried to hit the ball hard.  I really just wanted to hit it far, so I definitely think I’m kind of going back towards that.

 

 

 

Q.  After you missed the short putt on 18 and walked away with par there, then on that next par‑5 did you hit it in the trees and it came out and you ended up with a birdie?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, it was a pretty lucky shot there.  I thought it was for sure OB.  But hit the tree luckily, bounced back into the middle of the fairway, and it was a good birdie.  I was really happy about that.

 

 

 

Q.  Sometimes you just need a little luck, right?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Exactly.

 

 

 

Q.  We’ve talked a lot about confidence and how it’s coming back for you in spades.  Not to be a downer or anything, but at what point did you feel the least amount of confidence?  Is there a point in your career that you can point to?

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Yeah, for sure.  I think there was a couple of points.  I don’t think it was just one moment.  I just really struggled with injuries.  I really struggled with my health, as well.  I was just not healthy.  I was not feeling well.  And you just go out there and you’re grinding and you’re grinding and you don’t see any improvement, and I think that’s when you get most frustrated, the most like ‑‑ that’s the least confidence.  I think it was beginning of last year, end of two years ago, when I really struggled with my putting.  I think that’s when I just wasn’t comfortable at all.  But I’m just really grateful that I went through that just because I know how I came over it, and if I ever get not confident and get back into that, I know how to get past it now.

 

THE MODERATOR:  Always about a learning game, right?  You learn from everything that you go through, and we’re glad to see you back up here near the top of the leaderboard again, and wishing you the best of luck this weekend.

 

MICHELLE WIE:  Thank you.

 

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An Interview With: LEXI THOMPSON

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THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everyone.  We would like to welcome in our current co‑leader Lexi Thompson, shot a fantastic 8‑under par 64, the lowest second‑round score ever shot here at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, very nice round.  Just take me through the day.  It looked like you were just on fire out there.  What was really working well in your game today?

LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, well, I had a little bit of a slow start.  I parred my first five holes.  But I struggled a bit yesterday on the greens, just struggled to get my putts to the hole, but I figured out some things after my round yesterday with my putting and some of my iron shots.  So I would say mainly just committing to my iron shots, hitting some good ones in there and draining some nice putts on the back nine especially.

THE MODERATOR:  You’ve been playing some great golf.  We watched you play really well at the Kia Classic last week.  Your play was what secured the No. 1 spot for the U.S. in the International Crown by moving up in the rankings.  What has been the biggest key for you, the biggest difference in your play of late and how much confidence did that bring into this week?

LEXI THOMPSON:  Well, I would say especially last week, I just went into last week and just tried to have fun out there, laugh in between shots, get my mind off the game, and same thing with this week.  Just go out there and relax.  Even though it’s a major, it’s just a golf tournament, so just going out there and having fun.  But I worked extremely hard in the off‑season on my short game and just trying to get my game a lot more consistent.  I think that’s showing in the last few weeks, so hopefully it’ll show even more.

 

Q.  Can you get a little technical with us about your putting and what you’ve worked on in the last six months?

LEXI THOMPSON:  In the last six months I went through quite a dramatic change.  I had moved really close to the ball to get my eye line more over it to see my line.  It’s not something I’ve been used to.  Even as a little kid I stood far away from the ball and took the putter inside.  So I just went right back to that, just go where I’m most comfortable and feel I can make the putt.  I really think putting is pretty much all confidence.  So I moved farther away and just take one look at the hole and just knock it in.  Hopefully.

 

Q.  How long did it take to get comfortable with that?

LEXI THOMPSON:  With moving back far away?  It probably took me a good month or so because I putted the other way a few months, so I had gotten quite used to that putting stance.  But when I moved back, it was definitely where I was more comfortable.  It took me about a month or so to get back used to it.

 

Q.  You’ve played this tournament four times.  You played it once as an amateur.  Do you feel comfortable on the golf course now?  Do you feel like you’ve learned enough about it?  Obviously 64 is pretty good.

LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, I feel really comfortable on this golf course.  I always say this is my favorite tournament of the year, just coming here it’s so beautiful, like really nice weather, and the fans are amazing.  I really enjoyed this week out of the year probably the most out of them all.  But yeah, I’m really comfortable with the golf course.  I get to hit a lot of drivers, so I just aim up the right side and hit my little draw.  I really enjoy it out here.

 

Q.  Was there any point during the round today where you said to yourself something special is going on out here, the hole looks like a bucket?

LEXI THOMPSON:  I wouldn’t say I saw there was something special going on, I was just trying to stay in the moment and focus on each shot, not really think about what I was shooting.  But yeah, I had the same confidence over every shot, just committing to my line and just being confident over every shot or every putt, and I just tried to do that the whole way throughout, even at the beginning of the round.

 

Q.  You’ve been playing in majors since you were 12 years old.  What have you learned that’s maybe helping you now?

LEXI THOMPSON:  I would say the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is just staying patient.  Majors, they don’t shoot crazy low in majors usually, so even if you’re just parring, missing a few birdie putts, you just have to stay patient with it and know you can take advantage of a few holes and get the birdies there, and that’s what I’m kind of realizing here.  You have plenty of birdie holes out there, so even if you miss a few birdie putts, you’ve just got to keep on plugging away and get those looks with the birdies.

 

Q.  Did you have to learn how to stay patient?  Was that a hard process?

LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, I think that’s definitely a huge learning process I’ve gone through because sometimes I’ll have a good amount of birdie chances and miss a few and get a little impatient.  As long as you’re hitting it well and you get those looks, you just have to tell yourself that they’ll fall eventually and just go out with a confident attitude.

 

Q.  Can you just give us a couple of your highlights today, your favorite putts that dropped or something that we might have missed?

LEXI THOMPSON:  I would say probably my favorite putt I dropped today was on No. 1, my 10th hole.  It was quite a bit breaker, so it was pretty cool to watch it go in hole.

 

Q.  How long was that putt?

LEXI THOMPSON:  It was probably almost 30 feet.

 

Q.  How much break did it have?

LEXI THOMPSON:  I played it a good at least five feet out, so it was pretty cool to watch.  And then the 18th hole, I went for it in two today and hit a hybrid to about 20 feet.  I made birdie, but I love playing that hole.  It’s so scenic, and embracing all the fans walking up to the greens is always a great feeling.

 

Q.  Can you take us through your last hole?

LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, I went for it in two, I had 235 front, got in a greenside bunker, hit my bunker shot up to about 10 feet and made it.

 

Q.  Yesterday you had 35 putts, today 25.  Did you make any adjustments overnight or they just went in today?

LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, well, I putted a little bit after my round yesterday.  I just had a little bit of speed issues yesterday.  I didn’t really commit to my lines, and I came up short a lot yesterday.  I just went out today and picked my line and sped up my tempo a little bit with my putting and just went up to it and said I’m going to knock it in.

 

Q.  You’ve won LPGA events, but to see your name at the top of the leaderboard at a major tournament going into the weekend, what kind of feeling is that like, and what do you do now kind of looking forward to the next two rounds?

LEXI THOMPSON:  It’s a great feeling to have.  Obviously this is one of my main goals, to win a major this year, especially the Kraft Nabisco would be a huge honor.  But no different attitude going into the weekend.  I’m still going to go out there, have fun, stay patient with each shot, pick my line and just commit to every golf shot and just have fun out there.

 

Q.  Just in case you do end up paired with SeRi, I’m trying to think back, you might have been too young when she was in her prime.  Do you remember her coming up and what do you know about SeRi?

LEXI THOMPSON:  Well, I’ve played with SeRi quite a bit.  I don’t know too much about her accomplishments, but I obviously show she’s an amazing player and great role model.  But yeah, I mean, it would be great to be paired up with her.  She’s an amazing player.  But I’m just going to go out there and play my own game.  This tournament has so much history behind it, so it would be a huge honor to win it obviously, but just going into the weekend with the same attitude.

 

Q.  You were a little young in 1998 when she won the U.S. Women’s Open.

LEXI THOMPSON:  Yeah, I was only three.

 

Q.  Sort of playing off that theme, SeRi was just in here and talking about some of the things she’s learned over the years and how her attitude just sort of changed.  You’re 19; can you even see what that would be like to be like a 17‑year veteran at some point and facing that evolution of your game and your life, or is it still kind of too far out there?

LEXI THOMPSON:  It’s pretty far away.  I haven’t looked too much into the future.  I’m just trying to take one tournament at a time.  This is what I’ve always wanted to do, play out on the LPGA.  To be like a Se Ri Pak and be a veteran out here and winning that many times would be a great honor.  Like I said, this has been my dream since I was a little girl to play out here.  Seems like I’ve been out here a while just only being 19.  But I look forward to the years to come to play out on the LPGA.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you so much for joining us, and best of luck this weekend.

 

ASAP Sports

An interview with: SHANSHAN FENG, Current leader

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An interview with:

SHANSHAN FENG

 

 

KELLY THESIER:  We’d like to welcome our current leader Shanshan Feng into the interview room.  A great 6‑under par round, great playing out there.  What really worked well in your round, and what were the keys to being so successful out there on the golf course today?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Well, I did play with Amy Alcott today.  She’s won three times here in the past, and after my first drive off the first tee I was asking her, I said, can you tell me the secrets about winning here?  Because before this year I never did well here.  So she was telling me all the secrets.

Well, don’t ask me what the secrets are because that’s a secret.  I’ll tell you maybe after we finish Sunday.  But I did learn a lot from her.  Last year the first day I shot 6‑over here, and I think that is a very big improvement.  I do think that I played really well today and had a great time with Amy.  I just hope that I can have three more good days.

KELLY THESIER:  12‑shot improvement, that is a pretty big improvement, I’d say.  When you play with someone like Amy who has been around and done so much in her career, what do you take from when you play in a pairing like that?  What do you watch for?  What did you learn from her over the course of the 18 holes?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Well, mainly I was really focusing on my game, but at the same time I was really watching how she was dealing with all the tough shots because the greens here are really firm.  Of course, she’s not hitting as long as girls like us right now, so she would have maybe woods into the greens all the time.  I was just watching, she didn’t hit many greens today, but she saved a lot of up‑and‑downs.

The short game is really important, and I would say that she was actually encouraging me.  Like I made a bogey on 15, and she was like, okay, let’s make two birdies back in the last three holes.  I was like, yes, ma’am.  Then I only made one, I didn’t make two, but I thought that was good enough.

KELLY THESIER:  Yes, that was pretty good motivation right there.

SHANSHAN FENG:  Yes.

 

Q.  You played this the fourth time you’ve played the tournament, I think?

SHANSHAN FENG:  More.  I think I only missed the first year, so maybe six, five or six.

 

Q.  What is it that you still have to learn that you haven’t learned in the past?  Is it just that the conditions change every year or is it the golf course is that tough to read?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Well, this morning it was playing easier because there was no wind.  This course usually in the afternoon the wind will pick up, so afternoon is actually the big challenge.  Without the wind today the golf course is in good shape.  The pin positions weren’t that hard.  We actually had a lot of birdie chances.  I think a lot of the girls will.  So we have three more days, but once the wind picks up, it’s different.

 

Q.  Couple of players have mentioned the pin positions they thought were tough today.  You didn’t find them as difficult?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Maybe I was just being lucky.  Sometimes I think luck is part of your game.  So I think good luck was on my side today.

 

Q.  When we spoke to you in the past you talked about how you weren’t really that recognized back in China and women’s golf wasn’t that popular.  After defeating Stacy in that match in China, did you find that your popularity had risen or has risen quite a bit?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Well, I was really surprised when we were playing in Beijing there were so many Chinese people actually that came to watch us.  They were all rooting for me, so I was really excited and surprised.  But I would say there were more people recognizing me and know about golf a little better now, but still it’s not that popular as the other sports like maybe tennis or football.  But I do think that it’s getting bigger and bigger.  Like any Chinese player can do well at Rio Olympics, I’m pretty sure everything’s going to change.

 

Q.  Before you came to the U.S. for the LPGA, did you speak English or have you learned it totally since you’ve been here?

SHANSHAN FENG:  I still don’t speak English (laughing).  I’m speaking Chinese.

 

Q.  But on the golf course, you talk to your golf ball in English.  Wouldn’t it be a whole lot more fun to chat with it in Chinese?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Actually, you know what?  It’s really weird.  If I’m talking to my caddie in Chinese because I’m so used to me speaking English on the course.  If you want me to calculate the yardage or wind in Chinese, I actually mess it up, so I don’t know.

KELLY THESIER:  Is it easier sometimes you think?  Because you’ve done it so much in English it just makes it way easier to do it that way?

SHANSHAN FENG:  I think so.

 

Q.  You have the one major championship already.  Do you focus differently when a major comes around now that you want to get that second one or is it the same focus you had before?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Well, actually before I won the last major I always thought majors I would have to even try more because they are majors.  I want to play better.  But because of that mindset, actually I never did well in majors until I won.  Because that week I was like it’s just one tournament.  It doesn’t matter if you fail.  It’s okay you missed the cut.  It’s just one tournament out of like 30 every year.  So this is what my mindset is right now.

I know it is a major.  It’s an important tournament to us, but I’m just going to keep doing my same thing, same routine.

 

Q.  Can you tell us what you shot?  Because all day long it says you were 6‑under, the board said you’re 5‑under.

SHANSHAN FENG:  I made a birdie on 2nd, made a birdie on 7th and 8th, made a birdie on 11th, 12th, 13th, bogey on 15th.  Hold on, no, birdie on 14th.  And then bogey on 15th, birdie on 16th.

 

Q.  You didn’t bogey 1?

SHANSHAN FENG:  1?

 

Q.  Yeah, did you bogey your first hole?

SHANSHAN FENG:  No.

 

Q.  Okay.  That’s what’s wrong.

SHANSHAN FENG:  No, I knocked it really close.  I’ll take the par.  It’s okay.  I’m pretty sure my scorecard is right, so that’s all that matters.  No problem.

 

Q.  When did you first hear of Amy Alcott and learn about the pond and all that?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Well, I think it was maybe a few years ago here.  I think Amy was going to play that year.  So I think actually I sat on the same table as her for lunch in the clubhouse.  So that was the first time I actually got to see her and really know about her.  Of course now I still don’t know a lot about her, but all I know is she’s a legend, and she’s a great golfer and she taught me a lot.  She’s really nice too.

 

Q.  So growing up in China, this tournament, did you know about it at all?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Well, of course, we knew it was one of the majors.  But to be honest, the U.S. Open and the British Open are the two most famous majors.  But I would say a lot more people they recognize the men’s golf better in China.  But now since me and actually Janet Lin, this year we have two Chinese girls on the LPGA, and we have no male players on the PGA.  So actually more people are watching the women’s golf right now.

 

Q.  I was going to ask you, I know last year we talked about you had one win in 2012, two victories on the LPGA in 2013.  What you had said was your goal.  Do you have a number in mind this year of what you want?  Is it three?

SHANSHAN FENG:  It is three (laughing).  I think by the time when you asked me, maybe that was after CME, I never thought about it.  But then I thought about it, and I’m like I won one in 2012.  I won two last year, so everybody has to go forward.  So I’m like okay, I’ll set three, because I want to keep improving.

 

Q.  Are major championships in there or do you have a number for that as well?

SHANSHAN FENG:  It doesn’t matter if it’s a major or not.  A win is a win.  I don’t care if the purse is only 1.2 or 3.25.  A win on the LPGA is a win.

 

Q.  Do you think winning last year twice and it came towards the end of the year, how did that change your confidence level in your game?  I know you went in and won in Dubai at the end.  What has that been doing for your game just now getting these wins on your resume?

SHANSHAN FENG:  Well, I think actually before I turned pro I was always winning like as a junior and amateur.  After I turned pro I was lost for three‑and‑a‑half years.  Then actually after that I think I’ve won ten tournaments now in three years so far.  So I do think that I know how to win a tournament.  Of course, every win will give me more confidence.

But actually the beginning of this year I was kind of a little lost because I lost a little weight, and then my swing kind of changed a little.  I wasn’t swinging very comfortably when we were playing over in Asia.  But I do think that my condition is better and better, and Gary is here this week.  He just fixed my putting again.  So it’s good.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

An interview with: INBEE PARK

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Q.         How would you assess how things went for you today?

INBEEPARK:  Today was probably a little bit disappointing today.  The pin positions were very tough for the first day.  Half of the pins, we couldn’t go at the pins.  There were very tough pins out there.  I just didn’t give myself a lot of opportunities.  Obviously, the opportunities I had, I didn’t make the putts.  So it took me a while to make a birdie.  Birdie on the 18th, so it’s just hopefully a better day tomorrow, and hopefully I can hole some putts tomorrow.

 

Q.  How frustrating is it knowing the success you’ve had here a year ago that you just couldn’t get it going in what seemed like pretty good conditions?

INBEEPARK:  Yeah, there was no wind; it was perfect scoring conditions today.  Just the pins were a little bit tough, but obviously I could have shot under par out there, but just a few putts didn’t go in.  I need to hit more fairways, and more greens, and got to hole some more putts.

 

Q.  You said that you’re really pleased with your ball striking this year, kind of waiting for your putter to get hot.  How is your putter coming along?

INBEEPARK:  It wasn’t a good putting day to day, obviously.  I tried a new putter today, and I’m trying.  First time I tried the thick grip was last week on Sunday.  I felt comfortable over it.  I tried it this week, and obviously today wasn’t the best putting day, but I haven’t been putting good with any putter, so I’m just going to try to stick with this putter.  Yeah, I just don’t know what is wrong.  It just doesn’t seem to like the hole.

The way I’m striking the ball, I’m still pretty happy with the way I’m striking the ball.  Not as good as last week.  Last week was probably like very good ball striking, 100% out of 100.  So this week, even last year here I struck the ball well, but I’m probably striking the same way this year, but the putting is the difference.

 

Q.  So you’re using a new putter today for the first time?

INBEEPARK:  I used it last Sunday.

 

Q.  Where did you get it?  Did you pull it out of the closet?

INBEEPARK:  I actually got one this week, earlier this week.

 

Q.  Tee to green you feel like everything’s okay?

INBEEPARK:  Yeah, it looks all right.  Just like ten footers, within ten‑footers, you know.  I tend to hole maybe two or three a day during last year’s rounds.  But this year I’m lucky if I make one within five feet.  So, it’s just hard when you can’t pull anything, and obviously you’re going to the green you’re very good.  You’re striking the ball well.  But on the green every time you’re disappointed.  So it’s just hard to get that rhythm going for 18 holes.

Obviously, with the good ball striking, you have to make one or two mistakes.  That gives me a bogey, so that’s just very tough to get it up‑and‑down because my putting is not going.

 

Q.  Did you use the same putter for all three of your major wins last year?

INBEEPARK:  Yeah.

 

Q.  What was it?

INBEEPARK:  A Sabertooth, Odyssey, yeah.

 

Q.  How many have you used since then?

INBEEPARK:  How many putters have I used?

 

Q.  Yeah.

INBEEPARK:  I’ve used a couple.  I’ve tried a couple other putters.

 

Q.  Last year?

INBEEPARK:  Last year to this year, yeah.  Later in the year, yeah.

 

Q.  What are you using right now?

INBEEPARK:  Right now is a Jailbird.

 

Q.  Is it just a matter of well, it’s not really working so I’m going to try another one?  Is it sort of just searching for one that works?

INBEEPARK:  Yeah, I’m just searching for one that works because I haven’t really been putting well for a while.  I’m just not comfortable over that putter, so I just wanted to change.  Yeah, so hopefully it gives me a little different feeling and a little bit of confidence with the other putter.

 

 by ASAP Sports

 

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An interview with: ANNA NORDQVIST

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THE MODERATOR:  It is a great pleasure to welcome in last week’s winner from the Kia Classic, two‑time winner this year, Anna Nordqvist.  Talk about somebody coming in on a hot streak.  You’re all smiles.

ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I’m all smiles.  Obviously feels great coming in here.  I know this stop is many of one of us favorites on tour.  I’m so excited to be here.

THE MODERATOR:  You won a major championship back in 2009.  Looking for another one obviously.  Do you feel like you’re a completely different player today than you were prior to winning the first one, much more prepared should you win more majors?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  Absolutely.  Like you said, I feel like a completely different person today than I did 2009.  Didn’t even do my rookie hours for media training.  I was thrown right into it in 2009, having to do press conferences winning that major.

I think it’s been quite a journey these last couple years.  My game has improved a lot.  I feel like I learned a lot from my mistakes being on tour for five years.  You mature.  I think I matured a lot as a person.  I’m a lot more comfortable with myself, in my game.  I feel like I’m in a much better spot now than I was in 2009.

THE MODERATOR:  How have you changed?  What things have you learned specifically?  What is the biggest thing you’ve learned over the time you’ve been on the LPGA about yourself or your game?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  When I won my major, I didn’t even have my full status on tour.  It was my fifth start.  It was kind of overwhelming.  All of a sudden I was thrown into ProAms.  You’re used to everyday life.

I think the biggest difference, you make it a lifestyle.  I have a lot more friends now obviously than I had then.  Worked hard on my game.  I feel like I can’t even compare myself to the player I was then.  I think I had maybe four top 10s that year, ended up winning two.  2012, two years ago, I had 12 top 10s.

My consistency has probably been the biggest difference.  I feel I can be up there a lot more.  I’ve been up there in the majors last year.

In order to win tournaments, which is my goal, I feel like I have to be up there.  That’s a position where I feel like I’m putting myself in recent years.

THE MODERATOR:  If you keep getting those really big checks, you get more friends, a lot more people call you.

We’ll take some questions.

 

Q.  You have a pretty decent record at this tournament.  You’ve been in the top 10 three times in the last four years.  Playing the way you are, knowing you can play this course pretty well, how do you feel coming into the week?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  I’m excited to come back.  I went to ArizonaStateUniversity, played quite a bit of desert golf.  Maybe that’s why I’ve always had a special passion for this tournament.  It reminds me a lot of Phoenix where I used to live.

You get to manage your game, play the ball off the tee into the greens.  I feel like that’s one of my strengths.  Maybe that’s why I’ve had success in recent years.  Feel like my game is in a good spot, so obviously I’m excited to go into this week.  My confidence is high.  I’m having a good time.

 

Q.  It’s always a golf course where people said you have to hit the ball good off the tee, long and straight.  A lot was made on TV last week about your increased distance off the tee this year.  Can you tell us about how you went from 240 to 260?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I think it’s a combination.  I told my trainer Kai Fusser end of November that I was staying in Florida over the winter and I wanted him to work out with me.  I wanted to hit it hard in the gym.

I also changed equipment, TaylorMade this year.  The driver has probably gone from the least favorite club in my bag to my most favorite club in my bag.  New golf balls.  I have a new swing coach.  I feel like a lot of the changes, you go up on the tee, you hit it further.  I definitely think that’s helped.

But this course is not all about length.  The rough is not as thick this year as it has been in the past, so it’s not as penalizing.

It definitely helped me when I won in Thailand having more distance off the tee because I could carry some bunkers I’ve never been able to carry in the past.

As long as I can keep it straight, that’s my main focus.

 

Q.  Who is your swing coach now?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  I work with a Spanish guy, Jorge Parada.

 

Q.  When you’re walking on 18 on the way to the green, you pass the Walk of Champions, the pond, DinahShore’s statue, what is that like?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  I think this tournament brings back so many memories.  I was telling my caddie today when we were walking down 18, I remember the shot Karrie Webb won from off the fairway.  I just couldn’t remember what year it was.  I’m looking at the signs there.  It ended up being 2006.  That’s quite a bit away.  But you remember like it was yesterday.

Been so many good jumps in that pond, obviously.  I think this tournament has a great history.  There’s been so many great players that have played it over the years.  I played this tournament since 2010 and it feels like I remember this course on top of my head.

But it just means so much.  Walking down 18, all the good memories.  I want to make my own memories hopefully one day, too.  Definitely you look at the water and hopefully you’ll be jumping in there one day.

 

Q.  Are you a good swimmer?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  I used to be a swimmer when I grew up for six, seven years.  I would say I was the most dedicated swimmer without any success.  But I loved it.

 

Q.  If you dove in, would you swim a couple of laps?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  I don’t know.  We’ll see.

 

Q.  You talked about how you thought about leaving the tour at one point.  What were some things that happened since then that have caused you to rethink that?  You also talked about the hard work you put in.  What were some specific things you’ve done?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  I’ve always been a very passionate player.  I’m very ambitious and a hard worker.  Doesn’t matter what I do in life.  I wanted good grades in school.  If I was playing soccer, I wanted to be good in soccer.  When I finally picked up golf at 13, I wanted to be really good at golf.

You put in so much hard work.  It’s tough traveling, managing everything.  It came to a point at the beginning of last year where I felt like I lost the love for the game, the passion I used to have.  I questioned whether it was worth putting in all that hard work and not being happy on and off the course.

I made some changes.  My younger brother, Mattias, he’s a really good golfer himself.  He came out and ended up caddying for me last summer.  He’s been such a good inspiration, helped me get my attitude back and inspiration back and love for the game last summer.

Started working with a new caddie, Jason Gilroyed, on my bag now since July.  He’s been a positive influence.  Just having a lot of positive people around you that make you believe in yourself when you start to doubt yourself.  You start doubting if it’s worse practicing when you’d rather think about you want to do something else.

I definitely questioned whether it was worth it or not.  But I kept my head in it.  I’ve been a person that never wanted to give up.  I think that’s what I did thanks to a lot of the positive people I had around me at that time, that told me not to give up.

End of last year was pretty disappointing because I felt like I didn’t play that bad but didn’t see any results.  I had a lot of top 15s last year.  I was very consistent.  But I wanted to come back and win tournaments.

End of last year I told myself that I was going to work a lot this winter, give it my all.  For me it’s always been all or nothing.  I decided I’m going to give it my all for a couple more years, or you never know.

I definitely found the love for the game again thanks to a lot of friends and family around me.

THE MODERATOR:  There were probably some tears of disappointment in the tough times.  Did you allow yourself some tears of joy in Thailand or at Kia?  How was it emotionally?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I think Thailand was probably my most emotional win on tour because I won the end of ’09 and I won an unofficial event in Jamaica 2010.  Ever since I put in so much hard work, had a bit of a struggle at times.  When you know you’ve gone through that and you come out on top, then it means more to you.

Thailand was a great event.  I played really well.  I had InbeePark chasing me down the stretch.  Kept firing birdies at me.  I stuck my head into it and ended up winning by two.  So it was very emotional.

Coming to Singapore the week after I had nothing because I was mentally fried.  I was proud of myself.  But definitely I can look back to all those moments where I worked so hard, so it definitely meant a lot.

THE MODERATOR:  How big was the Solheim Cup for you?  You were fantastic that week.  Made the ace.

ANNA NORDQVIST:  Well, Solheim Cup has always meant a lot to me.  I just remember watching it when I grew up.  All of a sudden 2009 I’m playing alongside my role models growing up.  Suzann Pettersen, Laura Davies, Mimi, Helen Alfredsson.  I could only dream about that when I was growing up.

Back in 2003 I was watching the girls play.  I could never even dream about going inside the ropes there.  Now I’ve done three.

It’s those events where it really brings out the passion in me.  In Colorado we had the best team ever, I felt like.  We got along very well.  A lot of us grew up playing up together.  A little bit of a generation shift on the European team.  We just had such a good time win or lose.

Liselotte really believed in us.  We made so many great memories that week.  Obviously having that ace is something I will always remember.

 

Q.  How is your cold?  How are you treating it?

ANNA NORDQVIST:  Yeah, I got a cold on Friday last week.  Not the best timing, but what are you going to do?

I practiced early yesterday to try to get home and get some rest.  I was in the morning portion today, so I’ll go home and get as much rest as possible.

THE MODERATOR:  We’ll let you go get some rest.  Anna, thank you very much for being here.  Congratulations on your two wins and perhaps another major this week.

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An interview with: JULI INKSTER

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An interview with:

JULI INKSTER

 

THE MODERATOR:  It is a great pleasure to welcome LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Juli Inkster and Solheim Cup captain for the United States.  Where do we begin?  Let’s start with this week, your memories of this events, what you’re expecting of yourself.

JULI INKSTER:  Well, this is probably my favorite tournament of the whole year, just with the history, the success I’ve had here, the golf course, the tradition, the DinahShore, Colgate.  I didn’t play before that, but just the history of the players that played before me.

It’s just a special week.  My family lives close enough they can drive here and watch me.  They’ve watched me win a couple times here.

I’m looking forward to it.  I’m not playing as bad as I’m scoring.  My putting has been very disappointing, but switching it up this week, see if that helps.

THE MODERATOR:  ’84 and ’89, what do those wins mean to you specifically?  We’ve had players talk about the importance of this event in their career.  What has it meant to you?

JULI INKSTER:  ’84 was my rookie year.  I remember I birdied the last hole to get in a playoff with Pat Bradley.  She was winning everything.  To come out on top and win that…

I know for me then it was just the tournament, it was a major, but I didn’t really get the whole tradition, the importance of it until later on in life when you look back and say, Hey, you won two Krafts, two Opens.  You’re thinking, You know what, that’s pretty good.

I think you have more appreciation for what you do later on in life.

THE MODERATOR:  31 LPGA Tour wins, tied with Karrie Webb amongst active players for major championships with seven.  Can you assess your career right now as you sit here?  I know Solheim Cup captain is something on your mind, but talk about the career that has been for you.

JULI INKSTER:  For someone that just kind of fell into the game, I can’t believe I’ve accomplished what I’ve accomplished.  I can’t believe that I’ve been fortunate enough to do this my whole life.

I love what I do.  I’ve been very fortunate to get up and be able to go out and play golf.  I have a great job area to play in.  So, you know, it’s been a great ride.

I’m still playing a little bit.  I’m not going to play as much.  I’ll probably play 10 to 12 this year, probably a little less next year.

I still enjoy being out here.  I still enjoy being with the girls, giving them crap, making sure they’re on their best behavior.

THE MODERATOR:  Did you say Kraft?

JULI INKSTER:  Crap, c‑r‑a‑p (laughter).

Keeping them on their toes.  Being the Solheim Cup captain now, I can’t believe all the sucking up I’m getting, but it’s been great (laughter).

I’m looking forward to it.  It’s been a great ride.  To say I won 31 times, seven majors, winning three U.S. Amateurs, it’s been pretty fun.

THE MODERATOR:  Let’s start with some questions.

 

Q.  You have cut back your schedule.  You talk about maybe even more next year.  As Solheim Cup captain do you feel like you need to be out here as much as you can?

JULI INKSTER:  I don’t know.  I’ve played with these girls forever.  I know who they are, what makes them tick.  I don’t need to be out here micromanaging them.  They do what they do.  I don’t need to be out here following them to see how they play the par 3s.  I know their games.

I’m going to be out here if they have any questions, stuff like that, but I don’t think I need to be out here following them around.

 

Q.  This golf course, you did win in ’84 as a rookie.  You may be the only person to win here the first time they showed up.  You talk to people who played in the ’70s, they say it’s a different golf course.  How much has the golf course changed from when you showed up to now?

JULI INKSTER:  It’s a lot longer.  We’re playing it a lot longer.  But we’re hitting the ball farther.  Kind of goes hand‑in‑hand.

I don’t know.  I think it’s the same golf course.  Same layout.  I used to hit a little more 3‑woods off the tees than I do now.  I hit driver pretty much every hole but a couple.

The par 3s are a little longer.  The greens are definitely firmer than we used to play them.  Every year the rough kind of bounces up and down.  This year the rough is as much as it was maybe a couple years ago.

I think it’s the same golf course.  You got to drive the ball on the fairway.  You got to be pretty accurate with your irons or you’re going to have some tough putts.

 

Q.  You’re one of the few people who has seen Karrie Webb’s evolution from the best player in the game to this great ambassador for the game.  Can you speak to the evolution you’ve seen in her as a person and as a player.

JULI INKSTER:  Webbie, she’s very, very competitive, works very hard at her game.  She has a lot of respect for the LPGA past, meaning she gets how the LPGA was made.  She gets what she needs to do to make it a better place to leave.  She’s on the board now for a couple terms.  She really thinks things through.

She’s the epitome of a Hall of Famer to me.  She keeps grinding.  She keeps playing well.

This is a typical Webbie statement.  A reporter calls her about, You’re making headway at 39, winning.  How are you doing it?

She rattles off, Well, Juli Inkster at 39 won two majors, and at 42 she won two majors, ta‑da, ta‑da.  If you would have done your homework…  All of a sudden the reporter is like…

I wouldn’t have known that if someone was talking about it reversed.  But Webbie knows the history of the game, knows a lot about it.

It’s great to see the look in her eyes.  I mean, she has that look of calmness and confidence.  I’m sure she’s got a few more majors in her, that’s for sure.

 

Q.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but back problems seem to be in the news this week.  How do you play 30 years?  Is it the ghost in the golfer’s machine?  No rhyme or reason?

JULI INKSTER:  I’ve had one injury, an elbow one time, in my whole career.  This is just my personal take.  They start golf so young that their bodies have not developed and they keep hitting balls, hitting balls, hitting balls, hitting balls.  The travel, the play.  Something’s got to give.

I didn’t even start till I was 15.  I played a lot of different sports.  I did a lot of different things.  I don’t know if that’s it or if some people are just more susceptible to having injuries.

I really am a big believer in doing different things than just golf.  I think your body, it’s a tough wear and tear.  If you use different muscles and do different things…  That’s just my take.

 

Q.  Was there anything that you did throughout the course of your career to protect against back injury?

JULI INKSTER:  No.  I mean, I did other things besides sit out there and beat balls.  I skied.  I bike ride.  I play basketball.  I did all the things I probably shouldn’t have done, but I did.

I don’t know.  I mean, Suzanne, without her here, it’s a big loss because she’s a great competitor.  She’s played well here every year.  I know this is one of her favorite tournaments, one she would love to win.  I just hope it’s nothing serious and she gets back out here.

THE MODERATOR:  Let’s relive a little bit of the Solheim Cup announcement, that night for you.  I’m sure you’ve had some thoughts since the phone call originally from Mike Whan.  Can you take us back to the moment you found out you were captain?  Now that it’s all sunk in, is this a big part of what you’re doing day‑to‑day?

JULI INKSTER:  Mike Whan called me, can I call him back, I have a favor to ask.  Typical Mike Whan.  Will you be the Solheim Cup captain?  No fanfare.  It was either a yes or no question.  I said, Yeah.  He said, Great.  That was in November.

He also said, But you can’t tell anybody.  I’m like, All right, that’s going to be easy.  But I did.  I told my parents and my family and friends.  Told them to hush‑hush it.

Then they had the big deal in Phoenix.  It was great.  I think what was great about it for me is it was a ProAm party.  We had a players meeting, ProAm party, then it kind of ran a little later than it was supposed to.  All the girls kind of stayed for it.  I thought that was great because I’m not so sure at their age, when I was their age, that I would have done that.

It was great to see how excited they were for myself and Pat to be captain and assistant captain, how much they were looking forward to it.  That was the biggest thing I took away from it.

THE MODERATOR:  What are you going to do as captain?  What is the biggest thing you’re going to give to the team?

JULI INKSTER:  They know how to play golf.  I don’t need to go out there and say, Play well.  That’s what it’s all about.

What I really would like to do is get the camaraderie back of enjoying the Solheim Cup, not making it bigger than what it is.

Believe me, I want to win.  But at the end of the day, I want them to have fun.  I want them to come away with, Hey, that was a great experience.  We had a lot of fun.  I think a lot of times it’s just a lot of pressure on them.  I’d like to take that off them and try to enjoy the moment.

You’re the best 12 American players here.  Whether you win or lose, next week you’re still going to be one of the 12 best players.  Just go out there, have fun, enjoy your partner.  At the end of the day we’ll see how the points add up.

THE MODERATOR:  Are you suggesting that the fun has gotten away from the red, white and blue?

JULI INKSTER:  It seems like they play tight.  I know because I was in Ireland.  It just seemed like it was stressful.  I didn’t enjoy it.  I don’t know why.  It was just not fun.  It was just too much pressure.  We had too much to do.  We never really had a lot of downtime to enjoy ourselves together as a team.

I wasn’t there last year, but I heard Meg did a great job.  She was a great captain.

The Europeans, basically they just played better.  They made more putts.  They just got the ball in the hole quicker than we did.

I play better when I’m just relaxed and have fun.  If we can just go over there and not really kill the practice rounds.  They already know the golf course.  Do something different.  Have something like a whiffle ball game, a softball game, something different than golf.  Just try to make it something that they will enjoy.

 

Q.  At the champions dinner the other night, Charlie Meacham stood up and said it was time we won.  Got a pretty big eye roll from Annika.  How do you balance trying to have fun with people going around like that?

JULI INKSTER:  It’s easy to say, We’re going to go win.  That makes no sense to me because you can say, I’m going to win this week, but you know what, you got to go out and do it.

That’s what I’m going to try to get my team to do, is have the mindset that we are great players.  Myself, I know you can get a little intimidated just with the crowds, the expectations.  You just kind of make it more than what it is.

Basically it’s golf.  You hit the ball, you go get it, you hit it again, you go get it.  I think sometimes it gets too big and you get out of what you’re really good at, and that’s playing golf.

So, believe me, I’m going over there to win, but I think you can win and have fun.  I don’t think you have to be a grinder for the whole week.  I think that’s what the Europeans do the best.  I think they have fun.  They win.  You know what, at the end of the day, they’re going to have a great party.

I just think we need to get back to doing what we do, which is play golf, being a team, throwing the expectations out the window, just play golf.

THE MODERATOR:  Wonder how the weather will be in Germany for whiffle ball.

JULI INKSTER:  Might have to get a heavier ball (laughter).

 

Q.  Have you read Paul Azinger’s book on Valhalla?

JULI INKSTER:  Yes.

 

Q.  Do you intend to implement anything like that or talk to him?

JULI INKSTER:  I’ve already talked to him.  I talked to him a lot about it.

I don’t know.  That might not be a bad idea.  But I’m going to see how the team kind of shapes up next year and see if my team falls into that area and go from there.

Yeah, it’s a great idea.

 

Q.  Do you have a best memory of DinahShore and what she meant to this event?

JULI INKSTER:  Well, the only memories I have of DinahShore, every time she saw me she always came up and gave me a big hug, asked how I was doing.  I never really had dinner with her.  I played a ProAm with her.  She was always very gracious to all the gallery, autographs.  She was just a superstar in a normal body.  She never thought she was bigger than who she is inside.  I just think that was great.

 

Q.  Talk a little bit about the decision to slow down.  Why?

JULI INKSTER:  Why?  Well, I’m going to be doing a little announcing this year.  I’m going to try to see if that’s something I’d like to do.  I’m kind of really over traveling overseas to play over there.  With the Solheim Cup, I just think I’m going to be busy enough.

I’m going to probably play 10 to 12 this year.  Who knows next year.  But, I mean, that’s the beauty of where I’m at:  I can play if I want to play and I don’t have to play if I don’t.  That’s what I love about it.

It’s kind of a win‑win for me.

THE MODERATOR:  You were talking about pressure.  Now you just said where you are in your career.  What type of expectations do you put on yourself as you play 10 events?

JULI INKSTER:  I don’t really ever put a score on what I want to shoot.  I feel like my golf game is good.  I just got to get back to making some putts and getting on a little bit of a roll.

I still think I can win.  If I do what I’m supposed to do out here, I think I can win.

THE MODERATOR:  If everything fell into place, you had one more leap into that pond, can you describe that?

JULI INKSTER:  Once again, it’s easy to sit here and say I’d love to do it, but I got to go out and do it.

We’ll see.  I just think I have one more win in me.

THE MODERATOR:  Let’s find out if it happens.  Juli Inkster, thank you very much.

JULI INKSTER:  Thanks.

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An interview with: COMMISSIONER MIKE WHAN ANNIKA SORENSTAM

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GABE CODDING:  Good afternoon and welcome.  My name is Gabe Codding.  I’m the tournament director of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  Thank you for being here and supporting women’s golf, the LPGA, and golf’s first major.

This has been an historic week so far and on behalf of Kraft Nabisco and IMG, welcome to the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

We are honored to host the special announcement and I want to acknowledge the people to my left:  LPGA commissioner, Mike Whan.  Representing Rolex, Arnaud Laborde.  And three‑time Kraft Nabisco champion, Annika Sorenstam.

At this time I would like to introduce the chief communications officer of the LPGA, Mr. Kraig Kann.

KRAIG KANN:  Good afternoon, everybody.  It is great to be here as we continue to celebrate the traditions built mere at Mission Hill Country Club.  The list of major champions is a who’s who for sure in women’s golf and the image of jumping into Poppy’s Pond and slipping on the white robe is something that every player past and present dreams of and thinks of.

The LPGA’s goal is always to elevate women’s golf and showcase the talent and the tour.  There is no better stage than that of a major championship.  It brings together a combination of the best players, certainly the brightest lights, and the most intense pressure to showcase talent and ultimately allow each and every player to perhaps make a very big name for themselves.

Today we are proud to announce something that will forever increase the importance of every major opportunity and celebrate the game’s greatest players.  To help do that, once again the commissioner of the LPGA, Mike Whan.

COMMISSIONER WHAN:  The announcement today really involves both of the people on my left.  I’ll start with Rolex.  To say that Rolex and the LPGA are intertwined would be an understatement.  Rolex is involved in virtually every LPGA event we play in some way, shape or form.

What’s incredible about Rolex is their vision, the ability to see big before the rest of the world sees big.  Whether you’re talking about Solheim Cup, International Crown, Evian.  It’s already the standard by which professional women golfers are measured whether you’re talking Rolex Rankings, Player of the Year, Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year, it’s already the standard in the game.

About a year ago, as you probably remember, we started in a meeting here which bled over to Augusta the following week, we started talking about a new idea.  How could we recognize what happens over the course of all LPGA majors?  In a strange way, one word kept coming up over and over again.  Do you remember our famous word?  Annika.

When we started talking about major performance between the LPGA and Rolex, we kept coming back to Annika for all the right reasons.

This is too good not to read to you.  I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but bear with me.

Annika, 89 professional wins, 72 LPGA wins, 1994 Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year.  This is unbelievable, eight Rolex Player of the Year, six Vare trophies for lowest scoring average.  Almost just as importantly, 10 major championship awards.  It’s safe to say that her résumé deserves to be on what we’re going to announce next.

KRAIG KANN:  No question about it.  Before we continue on with the actual specifics of the award, let’s have a look at some of her on‑course magic, Annika in this special video.

KRAIG KANN:  One of the most accomplished ever to play professional golf, a round of applause for Annika Sorenstam.

Mike, I think it’s time to talk about this award, the specifics.

COMMISSIONER WHAN:  The three of us are proud to introduce today the addition of a new award in women’s professional golf, the Rolex Annika Major Award.  Each year at Evian weekend we will deliver this award to the player that performs the best over all five majors.

I’ll let Annika do the award specifics, but suffice it to say that that winner each year will receive a Rolex timepiece, this new trophy, and a $100,000 bonus.  It’s a pretty exciting time and thanks to both of you for making it a reality.

KRAIG KANN:  Today we have the trophies from each of the LPGA’s five major championships displayed on this stage.  Later this year, we’ll hand out the first ever Rolex Annika Major Award at the Evian, starting a new tradition.  That trophy is being crafted, pardon the pun, at this moment, ready for display later this year.

Annika, let’s get some thoughts and insight from you on this concept and how excited you are to have your name attached to it.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  It’s very exciting.  I want to thank the LPGA and Rolex for making this possible.  This is a dream come true for me.

Rolex has been a partner of mine for over 20 years.  I always felt like the performance in major championships defined your career.  I was lucky to play well in some of them.  To partner with the LPGA and Rolex in this fashion to create kind of a legacy award of this stature, it’s really very special.

I feel honored you have chosen me to do it.  This will continue to keep me being with the LPGA, Rolex, and keep the association we have.  I look forward to being part of it, watching the girls play.  It’s really exciting.

KRAIG KANN:  Can you take us through the qualifying process.  You are part of the criteria building for this award.  Take us through that and how somebody gets to hold this trophy each year at the Evian Championships.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  First of all, it’s only points in majors.  We give points if you finish in the top 10.  The way we allocate the points are the same as we do for Rolex Player of the Year, the same allocation, which means if you win you get 60 points, if you finish second, 24 points, if you finish third, 18, it goes down, if you finish 10th you get two points.  The award will be handed out at the Evian Championship on the 18th green.

I would say the most important factor that differentiates this award to anything else is you have to win a major championship to be eligible.

KRAIG KANN:  That one little carrot dangles there for everybody, a must‑win.

Each year the LPGA’s best will compete for this award.  We are fortunate to have with us today 2013 LPGA’s major winners.  I’d like to invite them to come up and spend time with Annika.  Last year’s winner of the RICOH Women’s British Open, Stacy Lewis.  Last year’s winner of the Evian Championship.  Current Rolex number two, Suzann Pettersen could not be here due to injury.  Last year’s winner of the U.S. Women’s Open, the Wegmans LPGA Championship, and defending champion of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, world number one InbeePark.

Annika, I’ll let you control the Q&A with these two superstars.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Inbee, I’m sure you wanted this award to be introduced last year.  You probably would have run away with it.

INBEEPARK:  Should have started last year.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Does this give you ladies extra motivation to play well?

INBEEPARK:  Yes, I think it definitely gives us an extra inspiration to play well in majors.  Even if there was no awards, we’re motivated a lot harder on the majors.

This is very good for us.  Obviously to honor a player like Annika, it’s a great award.  I think it’s going to give a lot of motivation to players.

STACY LEWIS:  I was excited to see this because I value consistency and playing well in the majors.  Those are two goals of mine.  To see this happen, to see it come together, winning a couple majors would be nice, and then to win this award would be just an extra bonus.

KRAIG KANN:  Specifically for you both, the importance, as Annika talked about, on winning a major is something quite special.  This is also about legacy and future, not just about the past and Annika’s accomplishments, but about everything everybody will accomplish moving forward.  20 years from now saying you won this award, what would that mean to you?

STACY LEWIS:  It would be an honor to win this, especially the first year of it.  Anytime there’s an award, I think we all want to win the first year.  To put your name on that trophy, to say you performed the best in the majors for a year, it’s a huge accomplishment.

INBEEPARK:  Yeah, I think so.  I think to put your name on any kind of trophy is an honor.  But I think this one is going to be even a bigger honor.  Out of the many awards, this is going to be one of the ones we really want to win.

Yeah, I’m looking really forward to it.

KRAIG KANN:  With that I’m going to let these two superstars head off the stage.  Ladies, thank you for being here and good luck in trying to accomplish this honor this year.

Now we’ll take some questions from the media.

 

Q.  Obviously you have a Player of the Year that includes the major championship winners for points.  I know the PGA TOUR has a World Golf Championship overriding award.  What was the inspiration to break out the five majors on this tour for a specific award?

COMMISSIONER WHAN:  In the women’s golf arena, majors give us the opportunity to have exposure.  Today is a great example when you look around the media center at Kraft Nabisco where we get ratcheted up a notch that quite frankly doesn’t happen week in and week out on the women’s stage.

The world is really paying attention to women’s golf like never before in these five majors.  We know those women out there on the range are paying attention like never before.

The idea was, let’s take the greatest moments in women’s golf, let’s take the greatest performances across all five in women’s golf, let’s create an award that captures the same momentum.

Having just explained this to a few players over the last couple days, winning anything with Annika’s name on it on this tour is over the top.  You probably knew that already.  But I’m floored every time we explain it to a new player, the idea of putting their name on an award next to Annika’s is life‑changing.

 

Q.  The little codicil about having to win one, is that your idea?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  Yes, I have a little bit to do with that.  The reason why is I’ve played in a lot of major championships.  I know what it takes to finish.  I know what it takes to come down the winning stretch.

I’ve always said that if tournaments were played for 70 holes, we would have different winners.  There is a difference of coming down the 17th and 18th in a major championship.  You need to be able to finish.  That was one of the things that I told the LPGA.  You have to win a major to win the major award.

I think it just makes a lot of sense.  Of course, if you have five different winners, it’s going to be pretty exciting.  Even if you have a multiple winner, there could be a chance for somebody to finish second a few times.

I think it’s going to be exciting at the Evian Championship, you will have a chance to win.

KRAIG KANN:  This feels like one more step in trying to raise awareness for the best players in the game.  Something Annika didn’t have a chance to win when she was competing.  Do you want to share some thoughts on that opportunity for ladies?

COMMISSIONER WHAN:  You’ve seen that as a consistent trend.  We’re trying to create a grander spotlight for these women, whether it’s the race to the CME Globe, the fifth major, the Rolex Annika Major Award.  It’s all about trying to identify, recognize and showcase the best female golfers on the planet.

It’s funny, Arnaud and I were talking about this award.  Had we had this award before, Annika would have won it eight or nine times.  Why don’t we just put her name on it right from the beginning because it’s an award that would have her name on it already.

KRAIG KANN:  Annika, your thoughts about that?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  I echo Mike’s comments.  The majors are where we get a lot of exposure and coverage, things being talked about.  I think majors define your career.

To be able to do an award like this is to build a legacy and obviously extra motivation for the girls and continue the tradition for the majors.  Again, with Rolex as a partner, it makes so much sense.  It’s a matter of how are we going to finish it out, when are we going to announce it.  I’m lucky they wanted me to be a part of it.

It is exciting and I feel honored they’re looking at my performance and recognize it.  It’s flattering at the same time.

 

Q.  You’ve won every award in golf multiple times.  Now your name is going to be in perpetuity part of the LPGA landscape.  Where does this fit in your filing cabinet of trophies mentally?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  I would say pretty front and center in many ways.  Even though I stepped away from competitive golf about six years ago, I feel like I’m very involved in the game.

I like to do a lot of things with my foundation to inspire young girls to play well.  Also I continue to work with some of the LPGA players.  We have a partnership with the LPGA and the Symetra Tour.  With Rolex, I’ve been with them for over 20 years.  We continue to do more and better things.

I would say that’s why this is so important.

KRAIG KANN:  I’ll leave you all with this, that will be the buildup and hype over the next five majors.  This will be something that everybody follows all year.  Can you envision what this might be like on the 18th green in France?

COMMISSIONER WHAN:  I was doing interviews this morning.  I can’t remember a time in my five years as commissioner when so many of the best golfers in the world are playing their best golf at the same time.

I watched the Kia Classic on TV over the weekend.  When you looked at that leaderboard, thought about some of the best players I’ve seen over the last five years, we’ve had great years when great players have had great runs.  I can’t remember when so many are having a great run at the same time.  When great players are playing well, the majors become the defining moment.

Whether it’s this Sunday or the four more Sundays that will follow that, I really think this is going to be a watershed moment for women’s golf which will lead us into 2016 and the Olympics, which is the next high watermark for women’s golf.

I’m excited.  I think we have an opportunity to showcase women’s golf like we haven’t before.

KRAIG KANN:  Annika, I trust you’ll be looking forward to this all year long?

ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  I will.  I’ll be at Evian and look forward to presenting the trophy to the player who performed best in the majors.

THE MODERATOR:  Have a great day, everybody.  Enjoy the Kraft Nabisco Championship this week.  Thank you.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

AN INTERVIEW WITH: Stacy Lewis

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AN INTERVIEW WITH:

Stacy Lewis
THE MODERATOR: Thank you again for being here. I’m joined by the number three ranked player in the world, top American, Stacy Lewis.
You just said this is an easy week for you. I need to hit the rewind button and say, What?
STACY LEWIS: This is easy. Not as many commitments. I’m not running around like a crazy person. This is a pretty easy week.
THE MODERATOR: When you say that, what is a normal week? What are the challenges that you face in a nonmajor?
STACY LEWIS: A normal week is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I start the day at about 6 or 7 in the morning and finish at 7 or 8 at night.
This week I have more down time, more time to practice, time to be to myself, be able to relax a little bit. I try to do that on purpose at majors so I have more time to prepare.
I feel really good about the way we did things this week and feel really relaxed.
THE MODERATOR: You’ve had a remarkable run over the last couple years. Of the things that you remember most, what stands out? What are you most proud of among your accomplishments?
STACY LEWIS: Probably the consistency. I pride myself on that. I pride myself on not playing my best golf but still finishing inside the top 10, giving myself chances to win. Like last week, I didn’t feel like I played my best golf, but I still had a chance going into Sunday. That’s what I’m really proud of.
I definitely would have liked some more wins, especially in the last six months or so, but I feel like I’m moving in the right direction.
THE MODERATOR: 16 of your last 17 events, top 10s. That’s pretty consistent.
STACY LEWIS: That’s not bad. Karrie had to let me know I didn’t get a record, so she was pretty happy about that (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. When during the year do you start thinking about Mission Hills and the golf course? What do you do to start getting ready?
STACY LEWIS: Probably in December, as soon as the year is over. I work all offseason to get ready for the majors and to be peaking at the right time, to get ready for this week.
Really over the last couple months, all my work has gone into this week, having everything sharp. My coach has been out three weeks in a row, but I’ve wanted that because I wanted to make sure when I get to this week I’m just ready to play, and we’re getting to that point.

Q. Specific parts of your game you start working on?
STACY LEWIS: A major obviously tests a little bit of everything. Early in the season I wasn’t hitting the ball the way I wanted to. I didn’t have the height on my shots I normally have. That’s something you need on this golf course. We kind of worked on the swing, getting some height back in my shots again.
The putting really has been my Achilles’ heel so far this year. It’s been really streaky. I’ll have some rounds where I’ll make some putts, but I’ll have rounds where I’ve had a lot of putts.
That’s what we’ve been working on the last few days. I feel like I’m really getting a lot more comfortable with it.

Q. I’ve heard a couple people say maybe the rough doesn’t look quite as choking this year as it has in the past. Is that your take on it as well?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I was actually a little bit disappointed when I played the golf course yesterday for the first time not having the rough. That’s what makes this golf course, is the rough. It makes those fairways seem a little bit tighter. You have to play a little bit smarter on the doglegs.
But there’s no rough. The greens are still firm. If you’re in the rough, you’re going to have trouble stopping the ball, but it’s definitely not a penalty like it has been the last couple years.
THE MODERATOR: Karrie Webb was talking about the way the tour is going right now. She specifically brought up the Americans and their play, feeling like that is a big positive for the tour. From your perspective, how important is it for the Americans collectively? How much do you all talk about it?
STACY LEWIS: Contrary to belief, we don’t talk about it a lot. But I think the Americans playing well, it’s huge for this tour. We’re an Americanbased tour. I mean, it’s no lie that the ratings go up, more media coverage. Things happen when the American players are playing well.
It’s great to see Lexi going into her own. I played with her on Sunday last week. She’s having fun out there again. She’s playing some really good golf.
Paula finally getting a win again. Cristie is settling into life with her baby. It’s a great time for American golf.
I’ve been saying it and we’re finally having the proof.
THE MODERATOR: Is getting back to number one something that drives you right now or something that could be a distraction if you think about it too much?
STACY LEWIS: It’s really not a distraction because, number one, while I really want to get back, as you kind of saw last year, a lot of it’s out of my control. I played some really good golf last year. I won a major. Inbee goes out and wins three. There’s not a whole lot I can do there except win a few more.
I’m going to try to control what I can control, and that’s winning golf tournaments, and let the rest take care of itself.

Q. When you look back on this tournament when you won, what did that do for your confidence? How did that change everything for you mentally?
STACY LEWIS: One, it’s hard to believe how long it’s been since we were there. It really opened my eyes that I could be one of the best players in the world.
At the time I was still kind of struggling for that first win. It just opened the door for more wins, more confidence that I could do it really.
I don’t know. That final round, I was so motivated just because everybody was giving it to Yani that Saturday night. Everybody said she was going to run away with it. I was so motivated that day, there was no way I was going to lose.

Q. A year ago at this time, nobody would have had any idea Inbee would win three major championships. Talk about how your viewpoint and the players’ viewpoint of her has evolved.
STACY LEWIS: I think it’s gotten to the point where you’re never surprised when you see her name up there. It was like last week, you didn’t see her name all week, all of a sudden she finishes up there in the top 10. It’s just every week she’s there.
She’s making putts. It’s not like when Yani was number one. She was reaching par 5s in two, driving it far, being showy with it a little bit. There’s nothing flashy about Inbee’s game, but she gets it done. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, it just matters what that score looks like on the scorecard.
THE MODERATOR: A little deeper on a perspective from you about being No. 1, the toll it takes mentally, the learning curve you went through at the end of last year and the start to this year. Seems like you have a much fresher outlook on everything. Maybe it’s not translating into numbers of victories, but you seem quite different.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I don’t know what it is. I think I was so focused on getting back to number one last year that I kind of lost sight of enjoying it and having fun. Really I’m at a position where I can make an impact, make this tour better, make a lot of other people better around me.
I think I’ve tried to embrace that a little bit more and have more fun with it. Phoenix was probably the most fun I’ve had on the golf course in a long time. Hanging out with the kids that were out there, all the founders walking around. I don’t know. I’m trying to enjoy it a little bit more and have more fun, realize I’m in a position where I can make an impact, and make it a good one.
THE MODERATOR: Your Twitter conversations with the fans, are you having fun with that?
STACY LEWIS: I’m trying. I got back on Twitter. I’m trying to ease my way back into it. It’s not the easiest thing in the world for me, but I’m trying.

Q. It’s not like 39 is old, but ever since you’ve been out here Karrie Webb has been one of the elite players. Do players appreciate and marvel at longevity? Is longevity something that impresses other players?
STACY LEWIS: You have longevity, but playing good golf for a long time, which is what Karrie has done. A lot of us as players, I don’t see her as old. Everybody is writing her as being so old. She’s younger than Phil, a lot of those guys on tour. She has a few good more years in her.
The way she’s playing right now, the sky’s the limit. But playing that well, how hard she works, she’s been doing this a long time. She works just as hard as some of the girls that are 18 years old in their first year on tour, she’s probably working harder than them.
It’s great to have her around, to have her perspective, to be around her, to talk to her. She’s great for this tour. She’s always coming up with ideas and ways to make women’s golf better. That’s what we need around.

Q. Your thoughts on Lydia Ko, how she’s started her pro career, what sort of threat will she be this week?
STACY LEWIS: I think Lydia is a threat any week. She’s so solid. She doesn’t realize how good she is. That’s the one thing that I’d like to see in her, a little bit more confidence and belief that she can win, belief that she is one of the best players out here because she is. She’s a threat any week. She’s such a good putter. Very consistent with her irons. She seems to be getting a little bit more comfortable the week in, week out kind of grind on tour.
I think she’s going to get more comfortable as the year goes on. But any week Lydia’s a threat.

Q. How important is this event? How important is it to stay here?
STACY LEWIS: This event, I mean, you can’t even understate it. For me, when I think of a major, I think of this event. I think of the tradition, the history.
Last night at our champions dinner, just hearing all the ladies talk about Dinah Shore, all the traditions that have been built here, we can’t leave here. This is what our tour is about. We have one of the best celebrations on tour. The walk across the bridge, the walk when you have the lead coming up Sunday, it’s the best.
I think a lot of the older players like Juli, they know this tournament as the Dinah, where players my age, we know this as the Kraft. For me it’s going to be hard to not call it the Kraft anymore because that’s what Kraft Nabisco has built here. It’s Kraft, that’s what it is. Everybody knows what course it’s at, where it is. We need to hopefully get another sponsor, somebody onboard, that wants to create a tradition like that again going forward so these 16 17yearolds that are coming out in a couple years, what are they going to call this. We need to stay here.
THE MODERATOR: I think some of the 17yearolds are already here. Stacy, best of luck this week. Have a great time.
STACY LEWIS: Thanks.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports

 

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AN INTERVIEW WITH: Michelle Wie

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AN INTERVIEW WITH:

Michelle Wie
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for being here. I’m joined now by Michelle Wie. A practice round or two in the books. Feeling good about yourself going into this major championship? All smiles. You had a nice start to your year.
MICHELLE WIE: Having a lot of fun. My goal this year is to be consistent. Just been working hard and having a lot of fun out there, really enjoying myself.
THE MODERATOR: You played in five events this year. You’ve been in the top 16 in every one of those events. What does that say about Michelle Wie right now and her game?
MICHELLE WIE: I thought I snuck it in the top 15 last week. My goal this year is to be consistent. I’m just going out there, making every hole count. I’m just going out there and trying to make a birdie or par, see where that gets me.
Obviously I want to win. I feel like I’m getting closer and closer. I’m just taking it day to day and working hard.
THE MODERATOR: It seems to me like over the last couple of years, the smile has gotten bigger and bigger, and the eyes a little brighter every single year. Do you feel like you’re in a great place right now?
MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, for sure. I’m really happy. I feel like my game’s coming along. I feel like I’m really adjusting well in Florida. It was tough a little bit between the transition period, but I feel like I’m out of the transition period now. That’s really good.
I’m having a lot of fun in Jupiter. I feel like I got a really good system down. Really enjoying the game. Really feeling like I’m almost becoming like a little bit of a golf nerd.
THE MODERATOR: What is that?
MICHELLE WIE: Just get excited when you’re out on the golf course. You look at the yardage book, see little things. I remember Beth Daniel showed me her yardage book from Kraft Nabisco. I got excited from the grain directions. Just talking a lot about golf. I guess that would be the definition.
THE MODERATOR: Are you suggesting maybe over the last few years, maybe back three years, your head wasn’t in the game as much, and suddenly you’re much more dialed in?
MICHELLE WIE: I think I’m just really appreciating the game. Obviously went through a lot of hard times and good times. Just knowing how much I’ve been through, I think I’m just really appreciating the fact I can go out here and play the game I love for a living. I just realize how lucky I am, how lucky I am to be here.
This tournament always puts things in perspective for me since I played here since I was really young. It reminds me when I was really young coming out here, Oh, my God, I’m at the Kraft Nabisco. I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love to do.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take some questions.

Q. You say you’re close to winning. You’ve been very consistent. What’s the difference between finishing eighth or ninth for you right now and getting a victory?
MICHELLE WIE: I think it’s just a couple of low rounds. I’ll go out there, I’ll have a low round, I won’t follow it up the next day. I think I need to keep making birdies. It sounds stupid to say, but make more birdies and less bogeys. That’s basically what it comes down to, I guess (laughter).

Q. You played this golf course since you were 13. You made some very low rounds here, came close to winning here. How comfortable are you when you walk onto this property? Is it different than when you were 13?
MICHELLE WIE: I talked to my caddie about this. It’s weird because every year feels different here. I don’t know why. It still doesn’t feel like I know the golf course inside and out. It feel like it’s changed a couple times, a couple tee boxes, the rough length. The conditions play a big part here. One day it could be no wind and hot, another day can be windy and cold. I think the conditions play a major factor here.
But I am very comfortable on this golf course. I really enjoy it. I have a lot of fun here.

Q. Twice in your opening statement you talked about how you are playing the game that you love for a living. There was a period of time not long ago where you didn’t look like you liked golf. In hindsight, is that fair? Have you recaptured some of the joy you had as an early teenager?
MICHELLE WIE: I think you all know when you aren’t playing well, when you’re struggling with the game, when it’s difficult, it’s not as fun. I get frustrated a lot.
Even during those times I still loved it. It was very frustrating for me. I really wanted to do well. I was working hard at it. Just wasn’t getting any better. It was frustrating, very frustrating for me.
But even then I still felt really lucky just being able to do what I love to do. I still loved it. Love/hate relationship with it. Love it one moment, hate it the other. But I am lucky.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s say you were 12 years old. I think I might know the answer to this, but if you were in complete control of your career from that point forward, would you change anything that you did to try to get to the place you are right now?
MICHELLE WIE: No. I’m a really big believer that the mistakes you make, the failures that you go through, really makes you the person that you are now. I think no one makes all the right decisions. I still would have done everything. I have a lot of really great memories from all those decisions that I made.
All the ups and downs come with golf. It really does. It’s a really hard game. It looks easy from watching TV. But one day you feel comfortable, the next day you don’t. It’s a hard game.
I think all the mistakes I made, all I’ve been through, it made me who I am today, and I’m grateful for that.

Q. You’re second on the tour in greens in regulation and fifth in scoring. Is there something that you and David have honed in on that’s clicking for you?
MICHELLE WIE: Nothing majorly different. Like I said, last year, just working on a lot of things. I just have to be patient. Sometimes improvements show up overnight and sometimes they take a couple years. I think I’m on the couple of years track.
Feel like I’m getting better, a little better, every day. That’s exactly what I want to do. I don’t feel myself improving overnight. I chip away at it every day a little bit, a little bit. Hopefully I get to a place where I can start winning tournaments again.

Q. Do you have a favorite memory from this tournament?
MICHELLE WIE: I have a lot. The most memorable, memorable memory that I have I don’t know if it’s a good memory or not but I remember when Karrie holed out on me on 18. That’s the most memorable one (laughter).
But I think it’s just a walk down 18 when I was 13. Was it when I was 13? I think just walking down there, teeing off in the last group, people clapping, standing up, it was amazing. I think there’s so much history here.

Q. I think it was Honda Thailand where you were just ripping the driver confidently everywhere. I asked David about that. He said your confidence in your driver has really gone up. He said that filters down through the rest of your game. Is that a true statement?
MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, I like Thailand. I like that golf course. That would be the golf course I hit the driver the most. It was fun. I was feeling quite sore after that week. I haven’t hit that many drivers in a long time.
Yeah, I definitely think when my driver works well it goes down to all my game. Driver is all tempo. When I hit my driver well, it really means I am moving my body parts well.

Q. What do you most admire about Karrie? I think there was a time where people probably thought she was on the downside of her career. She certainly has proved people wrong about that.
MICHELLE WIE: Oh, yeah, she definitely proved people wrong about that. I definitely respect her a lot, a lot. I got to know her personally over the last couple years. I respect her as a person as well, too. She’s so cool and so nice. Her game, I mean, she’s ferocious.
I think a couple times, we came pretty close at Evian a couple years ago down the stretch. She played so phenomenally. I think obviously winning twice this year, especially Singapore, coming back on Sunday at Phoenix. She’s an incredible golfer. Definitely a Hall of Famer. You can tell when you play with her. She’s cool, awesome.

Q. That ferocity that you talk about, can that be somewhat intimidating inside the ropes staring at that?
MICHELLE WIE: For sure. She’s tiny, but she’s scary (laughter).

Q. Your thoughts on Lydia Ko, her transition from amateur to professional this week, what sort of a threat she might be as well?
MICHELLE WIE: She’s an incredible golfer. I played with her a couple times last year and this year. She’s just so consistent. She hits fairways. She hits it on the greens. She makes the putt. I look at her, Oh, that looks easy.
But she’s a really good golfer. She has a really, you know, stable mindset when she’s out there. Nothing really fazes her. Whether she makes a birdie or bogey, it’s all the same to her. She’s fun to watch, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: A couple, three years ago you joined and took part as one of the players on a player communications committee. I tell this story quite a bit. You could have said, I don’t have time for something like that. Players give feedback on the tour. How are you really able to kind of take on so many other activities? You could have easily said, No, my game is not in the right spot. You said yes. My question is, Why yes and why so involved in the tour? How have you been able to balance that?
MICHELLE WIE: It didn’t really take that much time. We got a couple free dinners out of it. Free food, I’m in always (laughter).
But, no, I think just talking to a lot of older players, just seeing what they did to help the tour. I guess I’m feeling a little bit older now. I’m seeing a lot of younger kids come on tour. It’s made me really realize that I want to leave the tour in a better place than when I came in. I talk to Christina Kim a lot. That’s really what she emphasizes. We both are on the player communication committee. We have a lot of great, fun ideas. I just see the tour going in a better place.
We’re really big on social media. We’re on a lot of different media outlets. We have a way bigger presence on Golf Channel. I think we have a lot to present. There’s a lot of personalities on this tour. There’s a lot of hidden treasures out here as well. There’s so many people that are so funny that need to be in the media more. That’s what I enjoyed about the communication committee. It wasn’t about, How can I be in the media more? It wasn’t about Stacy being in the media more. It was about, Let’s feature this player more because she has such a great personality. It was fun to throw back ideas here and there.

Q. I was noticing, you also paint. Designed an oversized golf ball.
MICHELLE WIE: That was a little bit daunting. They gave me this huge golf ball. I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s hard enough to paint on a flat canvas. I thought I did a pretty cool job. I looked at it, Oh, I like how it turned out. Then I saw Luke Donald’s. I was like, Why? His is so much better (laughter).

Q. You’ve had quite an academic career. You have an interesting set of interests off the course. What do you think about someday, if you were going to pursue something else, if you weren’t involved in golf right now, where do you think that would take you?
MICHELLE WIE: You know, I definitely would miss school. I definitely see myself going back to grad school, business school. I definitely see myself pursuing more of an academic career, getting my master’s in something.
Future endeavors would be something about food, in that area. I’m a big foodie. It’s a big passion of mine. I can see myself going into that.
THE MODERATOR: Owning restaurants, a fancy chef, a TV show about cooking?
MICHELLE WIE: We’ll see. Won’t miss any opportunities.
THE MODERATOR: This year is a great success for Michelle Wie if what happens?
MICHELLE WIE: It would be a big success for me if I just go out there and keep improving every week. I think I started off obviously in a great place, but I want to get better and better. I want to end the year better than how I started.
If I could improve a little bit, a little bit, each tournament I’d be very happy. I want to have fun, go out there, enjoy myself, just have fun, I guess.
THE MODERATOR: First career major could be this week. Play well. Thanks for coming in.
MICHELLE WIE: Thanks.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports

AN INTERVIEW WITH: Karrie Webb

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AN INTERVIEW WITH:

Karrie Webb
THE MODERATOR: It is a distinct pleasure to have a twotime winner this year, one of the best ever to play the game, Karrie Webb. Overall thoughts about playing in this major? Here we go, huh?
KARRIE WEBB: It’s great to be here. I’m always excited. I’m always excited in the leadup to this event and then obviously getting here. I’ve always played well here, obviously won a couple of times.
I love this event. I love the history and the tradition. I love that I’m a champion of this event, being a part of that history.
THE MODERATOR: Seventime major champion. Obviously in this game you go through ebbs and flows, great play, then sometimes maybe your confidence isn’t the best. Obviously it’s pretty good right now. Do you feel like you’ve got many more majors in you?
KARRIE WEBB: I hope so. I feel like my game is as good as it’s ever been as far as having the ability to win majors. Obviously starting the year off as well as I have, it gives me that little bit of confidence going into this week that if I get things going, hopefully down the stretch on Sunday I’ll have a shot to win it again.
THE MODERATOR: Your wins are impressive, but coming back to win after disappointments is more impressive.
KARRIE WEBB: I didn’t get off to a good start. I disqualified myself at the Australian Masters which I love, had lots of family there, so very disappointing. Really made me feel a bit underdone going into the Australian Open. That was just a lovely surprise, I guess. To start the year having a long offseason, you don’t know what shape your game is in until you start adding them up.
To have a chance on Sunday and to play as well as I did on Sunday at the Australian Open was very special to win at home. It kickstarted a great year.
Obviously Singapore, I had a threeshot lead with seven to go, didn’t get the job done there, which hasn’t happened too many times in my career. That one stung quite a bit.
Then to come back and win in Phoenix helps get over that, which was nice.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You mentioned you’ve always played well here. Is that a matter of the golf course, a matter of coming in here maybe more focused than at other times? Why is it that you’ve won it twice and contended numerous times?
KARRIE WEBB: I like the golf course. I think it sets up well for me. I don’t hit it overly long anymore compared to what some of the young girls are doing now, but I feel like I shape the ball well off the tee and generally keep the ball in the fairway, just go from there. Hit some good iron shots out there.
I think this is the 19th time I’ve played this tournament, so I’ve had plenty of putts from all different angles on the course. I feel very comfortable on the greens, as well.
THE MODERATOR: Eleven top 10s in those appearances.

Q. Both times you won here you had teenagers on your heels. Seems like the teenagers come and go, but you outlast them. How do you explain that?
KARRIE WEBB: I don’t really have any answers to that. Some of these teenagers are still out here. They’re not teenagers anymore thankfully.
That’s the beauty of golf, I guess, is that you can play at the highest level for a very long time, if you have the desire to do that. That’s why I try. Any of the young girls coming out of Australia, I try to tell them there’s no need to rush because you can be playing the best golf of your career in your 30s and 40s. That’s been proven out here before.
I’m glad that I’m still prepared to put in the hard work and I’m glad that work is paying off.

Q. When you said you feel your game is as good as it’s ever been as far as being able to win majors, can you tell us the fine points of that?
KARRIE WEBB: I think I just understand myself a lot more. I understand each and every day what part of my game is there and what’s not. If it’s all there, I’m pretty happy about that.
But I just manage myself pretty well. Early in my career I was very good mentally, but I didn’t know how exactly I was approaching that. I think I’ve learnt that side of the game a lot in the last 10 years. I feel like I’m as in good a place mentally on the golf course as I ever have been probably because I understand what it takes out there, what it takes for me to play well.

Q. You’ve spoken in the past about you had so much success right away you exceeded your expectations. This is an Inbee Park question, because she faces that challenge, too. What is the challenge in following up on that?
KARRIE WEBB: I think for Inbee, I mean, she’s still got plenty to achieve. She’s still got a long career ahead of her.
It’s probably hard to set goals for this year saying, What is achieving my goals, when last year I became number one in the world and won three majors. You don’t keep raising your expectations higher than that because that’s just a career year. To think you’re going to top that is setting your sights pretty high.
She’s just got to sit down and look at, you know, what she wants to achieve as a player, what else motivates her. I’d be shocked to hear if she’s not motivated at all by anything else out there.
Just continuing to be in contention and win golf tournaments every week for me is motivation enough. You just have to set different goals that are setting the bar high, but it’s a bar that you can jump over.

Q. The motivations that drive you now, that make you work and grind, how have they evolved or changed from 15 or 20 years ago when you first got here?
KARRIE WEBB: Yeah, I think they’ve definitely changed. 15 years ago I can honestly tell you I woke up every morning before I went to practice or play a golf tournament and it was, What do I need to do to be the best in the world? That was something that I constantly pushed myself to achieve.
Probably didn’t enjoy the challenge I set myself as much as I should have. But now I think I still challenge myself, I still push myself, but I cut myself some slack so I can enjoy life a little bit and enjoy the spoils of good golf. I realize that it doesn’t happen all the time. It was happening all the time for me 10, 15 years ago. I think I really did take it for granted.
Now my off time away from the course, I think I allow myself to pat myself on the back if I played well and enjoy that.
THE MODERATOR: Did you cut yourself some slack after Singapore or did you beat yourself up?
KARRIE WEBB: It was hard not to think about it. You have a 30hour flight back to the United States. It was pretty hard not to think about it all the way back.
Fortunately I’d won a couple weeks before. If I hadn’t have won a couple weeks before, I think that would have lingered on a lot longer.
I think it was more really trying to, without dwelling on it for too long, work out what I did wrong so that next time it won’t happen.

Q. You’ve talked about how much you love this event, the traditions. With this being Kraft’s last year, what would you like to see happen to this event and do you think it needs to stay here?
KARRIE WEBB: It definitely needs to stay here. There’s too much history and too much tradition here. If the LPGA lacks anything, in any other events, it’s that. I definitely think we need to stay here at Mission Hills.
My opinion, I have voiced it a few times in the last year or so, is that I think Dinah Shore’s name should come back onto the event just to keep that identity. Whoever comes onboard as a sponsor, you know, it shouldn’t just be the sponsor’s name because I don’t think the tournament will have  Kraft and Nabisco have been a part of this event for so many years, even when we took Dinah’s name off the event, people knew what event it was because they’d been a part of it for so long.
A new sponsor coming in, I just feel like to keep the identity of this event, when people tune in to watch, they’re going to know, That’s the Dinah Shore, the LPGA’s first major of the year. That’s what I’d really like to see for 2015 and beyond.

Q. Is there a place you stay every year? 19 years, you must have some traditions yourself.
KARRIE WEBB: We’re actually going to LG’s Steakhouse tonight. I always take whoever I have in town, so Mikey, my caddie, comes. Adam, my physio. My whole team, I take them out, we have a nice steak dinner and a nice bottle of wine. That’s happening tonight.

Q. (No microphone.)
KARRIE WEBB: I wouldn’t be out here. If I didn’t learn to let go a little bit and not have my life totally revolve around golf, I think, yeah, you wouldn’t have seen me for probably five years.
I think that’s kept me out here. Even though I am still hard on myself, it’s not to the extent that it was 10, 15 years ago.

Q. I believe the same year you were inducted into the Hall of Fame, your ranking fell pretty low, like to 27. At that point did you wonder if you were closer to the end than not? What kept you going? What other goal is out there for you?
KARRIE WEBB: Yeah, I think one of the changes World Golf Hall of Fame recently made is that you have to be over 40 to get in. I was just short of my 31st birthday. I didn’t think it was near the end obviously because I still hadn’t even turned 31.
But obviously reaching such a pinnacle in my career so early on, it was hard to set goals. I guess I meandered there for a little while.
But winning here early in 2006, in the fashion that I won, I think really turned everything around for me.

Q. Given your history here, as well as you’ve played to start the year, if somebody tells you you’re the favorite this week, do you pay much attention to that?
KARRIE WEBB: No, I don’t pay much attention to that. There’s just so many great players playing well, they’ve won, they’re on the cusp of playing really well, I don’t really take much notice of that.
It doesn’t matter who the favorite is, you still got to get the ball in the hole, and hopefully you’re doing it the best on Sunday afternoon.

Q. How often when you play 18 do you think about the shot? Is it every time?
THE MODERATOR: The shot.
KARRIE WEBB: Well, it was cute yesterday because I played the back nine with Minjee Lee and Su Oh, both my scholarship winners last year. It was fun because it’s obviously their first major they played in. They asked me when we were on 18 where I made the shot from. Mikey looked in his yardage book, he said, Right where your mum is standing, to Minjee. I was standing pretty much on the spot.
THE MODERATOR: I think you have a perspective that not every other player has because you sit on the LPGA board. I think the beauty in watching you sit on the board is you don’t always agree with every single thing, you have an opinion. What is your take on the state of where the tour is and what you’ve seen over the last five years or so?
KARRIE WEBB: Well, when I first came on the board we had 24 events. So that was probably the worst point at that point to come onto the board because things weren’t great.
In that three and a half years, it’s just been remarkable to be on the other side, and behind closed doors to see what Mike and Jon and the team have done to get us back to 32 events, plus the International Crown this year, 33 events.
I think the tour is very, very healthy. I think we just had the International Crown press conference. I think it’s great that the United States’ team is the number one ranked team. We’ve needed to have that strength from the U.S. players for many years just for the growth of the LPGA again in the United States.
Obviously the Asian players continue to play well, and growth of golf in Asia is booming. Obviously we’re doing very well there.
I think we’re just looking up and up from here. I don’t think as a schedule we need to have too many more events. I just think the strength of those tournaments needs to grow and improve, and I’m pretty sure that’s going to happen.
THE MODERATOR: Not too many stronger than the one you’ll play in this week. Thank you very much for being here, have a great week.
KARRIE WEBB: Thanks, everyone.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports

AN INTERVIEW WITH: Paula Creamer

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AN INTERVIEW WITH:

Paula Creamer
THE MODERATOR: It’s fantastic to have Paula Creamer, winner this year, here in the press room. There’s a bunch of different ways we could go to kick this off. We could go ring, we could go putt, we could go victory, or that you have not missed a cut in a major in your entire career. What does that say about you? That is really impressive.
PAULA CREAMER: Why did you say that? I don’t think you needed to add that part to it.
I don’t know, I guess I’ve been pretty lucky in that sense.
THE MODERATOR: I know Solheim Cups and competition for teams get you fired up. What is it about a major specifically? You’re competitive. What else?
PAULA CREAMER: The best golf courses are the ones we play. Great crowds, biggest venues. Most of the time you play really difficult courses. Those are the kind of golf courses that I grew up on and that I really love.
I love being able to hit every kind of shot in your golf bag and using all 14 clubs. Most of the majors, they have that. They have that ability to go to the golf course, every day is kind of different, weather, tee boxes, pin placement. It can be more aggressive. I like that kind of golf.
THE MODERATOR: If somebody said 22under is going to win this week or plus2 might win this week, you relish the plus2 and the challenge?
PAULA CREAMER: I love that. I think half the battle of golf is also grinding it out and making those pars, eliminating those big mistakes that you can make. When they hang a carrot in your face, when they move a tee box up, make it a drivable par 4, you have to think a lot, I love that. That’s a whole other part of golf that you have to be good at as well as hitting the shot and making the putt.
THE MODERATOR: How about 75foot putts? Do you relish that, as well?
PAULA CREAMER: I would take it, definitely take it.
THE MODERATOR: Brian Williams, NBC News, you were everywhere.
PAULA CREAMER: I don’t think at the time, and I still don’t realize, how big that putt really was. For me emotionally it was just huge, being able to get the monkey off my back, to have that win. But to do it in that type of way, in that fashion, 75 foot, you could just see my emotions for it. I was so excited, overwhelmed, shocked, everything.
To be able to watch it on TV and to see all these things, that’s something I joke around with, but saying I get to show my kids that one day. When they say I’m not cool, I can say, I did this, though (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Let’s take some questions.

Q. This would seem to be a golf course and a tournament you would thrive in. It’s the one major you haven’t had a top 10 in. Is it too much pushing on yourself or something about the course that doesn’t fit your game?
PAULA CREAMER: You know, this golf course actually, if you look at it, it really does fit my game really well. You have to be able to put the ball in the right spots of the greens, give yourself good looks at putts, hit it to the right side of the fairway. Especially when the rough is up.
I don’t know. I believe it will be my 10th time playing here. I missed one as a professional, but I played one as an amateur. I feel like maybe I put too much pressure on myself with it being the first major of the year, making my expectations a little bit high, putting the bar a little bit too high.
Last year was I think my best finish. Unfortunately my grandmother passed away that Sunday, Easter Sunday. My mind was on different things. I was not really here in a sense. I just went out and played some golf. I kind of learned from that that maybe I’m taking these practice rounds and things a little bit too seriously when I come out here instead of just playing golf.

Q. You mentioned fairways as opposed to rough. The rough, not quite as high this year. Is that a good thing for you? Would you rather see it at five inches?
PAULA CREAMER: I would definitely rather see it five inches. This golf course has its ups and downs. We’ve come here in the past with the rough heights. It’s a shame it’s not five inches. Definitely you can hit a 5iron out of the rough if you do hit it in there. The greens I’m sure will get faster as the weekend comes around. They’re so green. I’ve never seen this golf course so green and lush, the actual grass.
I do wish the rough was up a little bit. But it is what it is. You’re just going to have to play with what the golf course gives you now.
THE MODERATOR: Winning changes the perspective on the tough times you go through. Now that you have that monkey off your back, have you thought about what was the reason it wasn’t falling into place for you? Was it irons, putting, Lady Luck in a way?
PAULA CREAMER: Obviously after I won, it was very close to when I had surgery. All my doctors, physio, everybody, said, It will take you a good year to overcome and get your left arm back. I didn’t believe them. Being a stubborn athlete, I thought, Okay, I’ll be fine.
It really did take a long time. Changing my golf swing around, I’ve been working with my coach David since I was 16. It was a time to really break down my golf swing now that I had my strength back, being able to do things with my golf swing that I’ve never been able to do before. For me, that’s what I had to do. I had to go backwards to go forwards.

Q. You’ve been coming here for a long time. With this being Kraft’s last year, what would you like to see happen with this tournament in 2015 and beyond?
PAULA CREAMER: I mean, this is the 42nd or something year. I hope we’re here another 42 years. There’s not much more to say than just tradition. There’s so much that goes on with this tournament, through the players. Every woman known to man has walked down that cart path in front of that water. It’s nostalgia. Hopefully we’ll be sitting here saying that in 35 more years, for sure.

Q. A lot of golfers when they leave juniors and turn pro, they end up with different coaches. How have you kept the same coach? What are the challenges? Can you see why so many golfers go with somebody else?
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, I have been so lucky. I found a good one. He’s like my dad. I spend so much time with him. He knows me better than a lot of people, even my family.
I think the biggest thing is he knows how to play golf. He’s been on the European Tour. He’s won. He knows what it’s like to have droughts. He knows what it’s like to win, have confidence over a 6footer, 10footer, what it feels like to 3putt on the last hole.
He is a feel player, never has been very technical. I think the fact that he has watched me grow up and he’s watched me since I was 16 just mature into a woman, I think that has helped so much.
Our relationship, I trust him with my life. When he says, We have to do this, I believe it. I believed in him. It’s the same with my whole team. Been with my caddie 10 years. My manager has changed three times in 10 years. I’m big into loyalty and relationships. You have to have that if you want to be a number one player or athlete in the world.
THE MODERATOR: A lot of people have been asking you about this place that you’re in personally. I’m not going to ask any more. Why don’t you talk about it, why it’s so positive for you right now.
PAULA CREAMER: Well, Derek is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me. He’s just such an incredible person. It’s so nice to be around someone that is so positive. I met him, I was going through a rough time with my golf. He was just there no matter what.
I think being able to relate to what we do. He’s an Air Force pilot. I can’t imagine the pressure and feelings that he goes through, but I do understand the practice, the hours, what goes into it. You just don’t go into a plane and fly it into Afghanistan. There’s a lot of things you have to train for and be ready for anything that comes your way.
I have learned so much from him. I’m so lucky and blessed that I get to spend the rest of my life with him.
THE MODERATOR: Stacy Lewis talked about this, Karrie Webb talked about it. The United States rallied to overtake South Korea as the number one seed. If you go back let’s say three years, there were some conversations among media folks and others about, Where are the Americans? You all are the number one seed, things have changed in the rankings. Is it something that’s important to you?
PAULA CREAMER: I think it’s huge. I know it’s very important. We are an international global tour, but our home is here in the United States. The Americans do want to play well, we always have. We have been outnumbered at times. But we have such a good, strong group. I think that the biggest thing is a lot of these younger players are playing well.
Older, I don’t even know what older is out here anymore, 25 is old. I feel like we all are taking our part and learning our roles that we have. We’re strong. We always have been. It was just a matter of time where we break through. That leaderboard last year was awesome. There were so many American flags on it. I think it’s going to continue to play out.
At the same time it’s good to see we are so international and global because it takes us all over the place, too.
THE MODERATOR: Are you okay with the pressure on America?
PAULA CREAMER: Our first match is against Australia. They’re a strong team. We have to take it day to day, like any match play event.
I feel good about our team. We’ve obviously played on Solheim together. We know what it’s like to choose partners, to be there for someone. At the same time you have to get the ball in the hole.
THE MODERATOR: That’s July. This is now. Good luck to you. Have a great week, Paula.

Q. I was just looking at that incredible 75foot putt. You did say you were struggling, that you lost the love for the game. Does that win now bring the love of the game back to your heart?
PAULA CREAMER: I’ve never lost love of the game. That’s for sure. The day that ever happens, I’m putting the clubs in the garage, we try a new sport.
But, no, I think it was never the love of the game. There’s a passion when you dedicate yourself this much to something, if you ever lose that, you have to rethink what you’re doing.
For me it was the grind. It’s tough. It’s very difficult out here. Trying to also grow as a person, I’m not just Paula Creamer on the golf course, I’m also Paula Creamer a person. I think learning how to balance those two things…
It’s no fun when you’re playing bad. It really isn’t. I had a lot of times where I said that to my coach, to Colin, I’m not enjoying this.
How could you? You’re not playing to your potential. This is what is going to make you tougher and stronger. We always used it as a positive to turn it around.
I’m very lucky that even my bad threeyear slump, it wasn’t horrible if you look at it in the big picture, in the big scheme of things. It just wasn’t to what I feel I could have accomplished.
For me, it was more of an internal battle of overcoming what I had to overcome.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Paula.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports

 

 

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2014 KNC Champions Junior Challenge

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2014 KNC Champions Junior Challenge

Mission Hills Country Club – Arnold Palmer Course

Monday, March 31, 2014

 

Pos.    Player                        City/State                                          Score

*1        Lilia Vu                       Fountain Valley, Calif.                       70 (-2)

2         Aliea Clark                 Carlsbad, Calif.                                 70 (-2)

T3        Megan Kim                Redondo Beach, Calif.                     71 (-1)

T3        Robynn Ree               Redondo Beach, Calif.                     71 (-1)

T5        Mackenzie Raim       Palm Desert, Calif.                           72 (E)

T5        Bethany Wu               Diamond Bar, Calif.                          72 (E)

T5        Andrea Lee                Hermosa Beach, Calif.                     72 (E)

T9        Isabel Ji                      Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.                   73 (+1)

T9        Jocelyn Chia              La Crescenta, Calif.                          73 (+1)

T9        Haley Moore              Escondido, Calif.                              73 (+1)

T9        Muni He                      Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.                   73 (+1)

T13     Katherine Muzi          Walnut, Calif.                                     74 (+2)

T13     Elizabeth Schultz       Lafayette, Calif.                                 74 (+2)

T13     Brigitte Dunne           Camarillo, Calif.                                74 (+2)

T13     Ashleigh Park            Mission Viejo, Calif.                          74 (+2)

T17     Megan Conder          Brentwood, Calif.                              75 (+3)

T17     Jiyoon Jang               Rancho Mirage, Calif.                       75 (+3)

T19     Jessica Mangrobang Chula Vista, Calif.                            76 (+4)

T19     Karah Sanford           Escondido, Calif.                              76 (+4)

T19     Elizabeth Wang         San Marino, Calif.                             76 (+4)

T19     Alyaa Abdulghany     Newport Beach, Calif.                      76 (+4)

T19     Stephanie Lau           Fullerton, Calif.                                  76 (+4)

T19     Patricia Wong           Walnut, Calif.                                     76 (+4)

T25     Angella Then              Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.              77 (+5)

T25     Alana Uriell                Carlsbad, Calif.                                 77 (+5)

T25     Erin Choi                    Torrance, Calif.                                  77 (+5)

T25     Lydia Choi                 Beverly Hills, Calif.                            77 (+5)

T29     Nancy Xu                    Sunnyvale, Calif.                                78 (+6)

T29     Madeline Chou          Santa Ana, Calif.                               78 (+6)

T29     Ellen Takada             Irvine, Calif.                                        78 (+6)

T32     Divya Manthena        Santa Rosa Valley, Calif.                 79 (+7)

T32     Mackenzie Perez      Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.           79 (+7)

T32     Grace Park                Cupertino, Calif.                                79 (+7)

T35     Danielle Lee              La Mirada, Calif.                               81 (+9)

T35     Hannah Kim               Chula Vista, Calif.                             81 (+9)

T37     Ysabel Tran                Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif        82 (+10)

T37     Kailie Vongsaga       Monterey Park, Calif.                        82 (+10)

39        Jamie Harada           Costa Mesa, Calif.                            86 (+14)

 

  • Lilia Vu defeated Aliea Clark on the first playoff hole and receives the final sponsor’s exemption into the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
  • NOTE: Team Pat Bradley (Aliea Clark, Jiyoon Jang and Ashleigh Park) won the team competition.

Lilia Vu of Fountain Valley, Calif. defeated

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Aliea Clark of Carlsbad on the first playoff hole to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship Junior Challenge and capture the last spot in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Both players fired 2-under-par 70s on the Arnold Palmer Course at Mission Hills CC.

Live Quotes from the Hard Rock Casino Las Vegas-World Series Of Fighting

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PALHARES, MORAES CAPTURE

WSOF WORLD TITLE BELTS

 

All photo credit to: Lucas Noonan/WSOF – Additional photos below 

 

 

LAS VEGAS – Brazilian submission master Rousimar Palhares (17-6) needed just 69 seconds to take the World Series of Fighting welterweight title away from former champ Steve Carl (21-4).
And it was his signature move – the heel hook – that led “Toquinho” to victory.
The championship fight headlined Saturday’s “World Series of Fighting 9: Carl vs. Palhares” event at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and aired on NBCSN.
Making his World Series of Fighting debut, Palhares wasted little time in shooting the fight to the floor. From there, he rolled for Carl’s leg, and the end was near. Looking first for a kneebar, Palhares then turned to his patented finishing hold, wrenching the inverted heel hook until Carl was forced to tap and hand over the belt.
In the night’s co-feature, Marlon Moraes claimed (13-4-1) claimed World Series of Fighting’s inaugural bantamweight title with a dominating decision win over a gutsy Josh Rettinghouse (10-3).
Rettinghouse looked to push the pace early, but Moraes’ excellent defensive wrestling skills kept him on the feet, and his crisp muay Thai provided all the offense he would need. A sharp counter punch floored Rettinghouse in the first, but he crawled back to his feet and soldiered on. Moraes came forward with thunderous leg kicks that wobbled Rettinghouse early and often and left him nearly immobile for the final few rounds.
A game Rettinghouse pushed forward until the final bell, but in the end, Moraes was simply too much and cruised to a decision win, earning a championship belt in the process.
Fighting for the first time under the World Series of Fighting banner, Japanese middleweight Yushin Okami (30-8) proved he’s still one of the world’s best fighters, as he dominated Bulgarian opponent Svetlozar Savov (12-5).
Savov simply had no match for Okami’s powerful wrestling attack and found himself on his back early and often. Pushing easily to mount in both the first and second rounds, Okami dominated the fight on the floor and eventually set up an arm-triangle choke and cranking the hold until he earned the tap with 14 seconds left in the frame.
Afterward, Okami admitted he had hoped to show off his striking skills but realized the importance of a win.
“My gameplan was to use my striking game, but once we got going, I saw that he had good distance, so I was forced to change my gameplan,” Okami said.
In a key welterweight fight, Josh Burkman (27-10) picked up another highlight-reel win with a stunning knockout of Tyler Stinson (27-10).
While Stinson was the vaunted knockout artist, it was Burkman who landed a crushing lead right from a southpaw stance, sending his opponent crashing to the floor. Burkman made sure he had no time to recover, landing a huge follow-up right hand that ended the fight at the 2:15 mark of the first.
“The one thing I didn’t want to do was stand in front of him,” Burkman said after the win. “I knew he had enough respect for my hands, and if he hurt me, I was going to take it to wrestling.”
In the night’s first main-card matchup, lightweight Johnny Nunez (5-0) kept his career mark perfect with a hard-fought split-decision win over Ozzy Dugulubgov (5-2).
The aggressive Nunez set the tone early in each round, pushing forward with reckless abandon. Dugulubgov proved a tough foe, defending takedown attempts and answering back with submission attempts of his own.
Ultimately, while Dugulubgov had frequent moments in dominant positions, his inability to capitalize on the advantages cost him, and Nunez was awarded a split-decision win. Afterward, Nunez said he wasn’t concerned with anyone claiming controversy in the call.
“I don’t care what anybody says,” Nunez said. “I’m not worrying about anyone but myself and my team.”

In the night’s featured preliminary contest, Mike Corey (13-3-1) looked downright dominant in a second-round submission win over Shane Kruchten (11-3).

The shorter Corey dealt well with Kruchten’s reach, leaping in with powerful punches and dropping him in the opening round. In the second, Corey took Kruchten to the floor, peppered him with punches and moved quickly to his back. While Kruchten tried to defend, Corey muscled in a rear-naked choke attempt and squeezed until he earned the tap at the 2:59 mark of the round.

Bryson Hansen (7-1) made an immediate impact in World Series of Fighting’s bantamweight division, needing just 46 seconds in his promotional debut to score a TKO win over Sean Cantor (1-1).

Hansen looked for a takedown early in the fight, and while Cantor defended well, he also exposed his chin in the process. Hansen seized the opportunity, unleashing a barrage of left hands that stunned Cantor and forced a quick TKO stoppage.

Featherweight prospect Chris Gruetzemacher (12-1) made his long-awaited World Series of Fighting debut in impressive fashion, thoroughly dominating longtime veteran John Gunderson (34-16-2). Using a grinding wrestling attack, Gruetzemacher had Gunderson on the defense from start to finish, and “Gritz” was awarded a clear-cut decision win.

While his brother, Bryson, would later duplicate the feat, Brenson Hansen (6-2) picked up a victory, downing Boostayre Nefarios (2-2) via decision. Nefarios appeared to hold in the edge in speed and quickness, but Hansen moved constantly forward, firing heavy punches and outworking his opponent en route to the victory.

In an early welterweight matchup, Danny Davis (9-8-1) turned in one of the more impressive efforts of his career, outworking Phil Dace (9-5) over the course of three rounds and scoring a unanimous-decision win.

The night’s first fight saw lightweight JimmySpicuzza (3-0) keep his perfect career mark intact with an impressive, first-round submission win over Gil Guardado (2-1).

WSOF RING GIRLS KAT KELLEY, JESSICA SUTTON, EMILY MILLER, MICHELLE ULIBARRI  WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION ROUSIMAR PALHARES BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION MARLON MORAESYUSHIN OKAMI  JOSH BURKMANJOHNNY NUNEZ

Live Feeds From The Hard Rock Hotel MMA EVENT World Series Of Fighting

Marlon Moraes quotes

9:20 PM 3-30-14
Marlon Moraes:

“This was my first time going five rounds so I knew I had to save myself and conserve my energy.”

“I’m just so happy I can represent my family and my city and my country with this world title.”

“I respect him, he’s stayed in there and didn’t quit, but I’m the champion.”

“I knew I was safe on my feet, but I wasn’t afraid to go to the ground.”

“It just means so much to me to be holding this belt. I can’t believe it.”

 

WSOF Strawweight Champion, Jessica “Jag” Aguillar declares Palhares victory “Fight of the Night”

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Okami def. Savov by arm triangle choke at 4:46 of rd. 2

7:35 PM (6 minutes ago)

Yushin Okami quotes:

“My game plan was to use my striking game but once we got going I saw that he had good distance so I was forced to change my game plan.”

“I don’t have any plans for my next fight. I know there is talk about doing a show in Japan and I want to fight for a world title.”

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Josh Burkman def. Tyler Stinson at 2:15 of Rd 1 quotes

Josh Burkman:

“The one thing I didn’t want to do was stand in front of him. I knew he had enough respect for my hands and if he hurt me I was going to take it to wrestling.”

“Absoulutely I think I am a highlight reel and I pride myself on that. I want to make my art look good and I always try to be entertaining. But it doesn’t happen without a fighter like Tyler Stinson.”

“I’m not going to wait for a potential title shot. I want to fight.”

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Johnny Nunez def. Ozzy Dugulubgov

“I don’t care what anybody says. I’m not worrying about anyone but myself and my team.”

“I worked harded than any fighter in Las Vegas. My trainers have to tell me to tone it down. I got cut on Monday and Wednesday and my guys were telling me to watch it and take a break.”

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll just wait for the next call and my next fight.”

 

Brought to you by Sports Life magazine

 

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Faux FBI agent Michael Bisping wants you to ‘put the pieces together’ regarding Vitor Belfort’s UFC drug test

According to Michael Bisping, he’s the only guy left out there in the middleweight division after Chris Weidman dukes it out against Lyoto Machida at UFC 175, since he’s assumed Vitor Belfort won’t be fighting for quite some time.

Say what you want about Michael Bisping’s attitude, but there’s no doubt we’d all watch a show with him posing as an FBI agent in the vein of the classic Miami Vice series.

“The Count” expressed his willingness to fight the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida (which has been postponed until UFC 175 in July), feeling like he’s the worthiest contender in the middleweight division.

From his conversation with MMA Junkie:

“Chris Weidman, he’s a very worthy champion, he’s very, very good. He’s got a tough fight on his hands against Lyoto Machida. I think I’m going to lean towards Machida in that fight, if I’m honest. After that, unless they do an immediate rematch, which I don’t think they will, it keeps it exciting for the fans, I’m not sure who’s next. Obviously, Vitor would have been next, but I don’t think he’s going to be fighting any time soon.”

His comments about Vitor Belfort spark interest among the observers of the sport, because it’s something he could have a point about.

“The Phenom” was pulled from his UFC 173 championship bout against Chris Weidman, because testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) had just been bannedin Nevada (where the fight was taking place) and he didn’t have proper time to prepare for the bout and adjust his levels accordingly — since it was only three months away.

For those of you who don’t know, Belfort was the poster boy for TRT, much like Lenny Kravitz was the poster boy for terrible rock music.

The Brazilian was then subjected to a drug test, in which he participated in, but declined to share the results publicly. When asked about the results, UFC President Dana White said it was either up to Belfort or the commission to display them publicly.

Since Belfort’s participation in the fight was already nullified, he opted to keep them to himself. Keep in mind, Belfort has already tested positive for banned substances in the past.

“You know, I am not an FBI agent, but the guy did drug tests in Nevada recently, and all of a sudden, he’s not fighting for the title anymore. You know, hmm … put the pieces together. Anyway, let’s not dwell upon that, the whole TRT thing — it’s been, it’s gone, it’s done, it’s dusted.”

It’s understandable the Englishman feels a bit distraught on the whole subject, since he was a victim of the “TRT Vitor era,” in which Belfort blasted his head right off his shoulders at UFC on FX 7 last year.

Bisping was gracious in defeat at first, but then called out “The Phenom” for being a cheat. Fellow UFC fighters Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson suffered the same fate as the English combatant, too.

Regardless of who says what, the former title challenger was apparently promised the winner of Weidman vs. Machida at UFC 175.

But, will Belfort be able to continue his fighting career accordingly?

“The Count” has his hands full with trash-talking Tim Kennedy at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations” Finale on April 16, in Quebec City, Quebec. If he gets past the United States Army veteran in the main event, he makes a case to be considered as the next challenger to face the winner of the championship bout in July.

The Manchester-based fighter has been competing under UFC since 2006, but has yet to earn a title shot with the promotion. His UFC record stands at 14-5.

But did he forget about Ronaldo Souza?

“Jacare” is on a six-fight winning streak, and he’s even ranked above Bisping on UFC’s official ranking list, if that means anything at all. Plus, the Brazilian has already expressed interest in facing the winner of Bisping vs. Kennedy, already making himself available to fight either of those competitors.

Stay tuned for those developments as they unfold.

With that being said, things are getting quite saucy at 185 pounds right now.

Kyle Busch: The glamor of winning races and being on TV

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Kyle Busch escapes tire issues, wins Auto Club 400 in overtime

Auto Club 400
By Reid Spencer
Photo Credit NASCAR via Getty Images

 

FONTANA, Calif.— In a race that saw tire problems turn the contest upside-down, Kyle Busch won Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the year six laps past its scheduled distance.

The first driver on four fresh tires for a restart on Lap 205 at Auto Club Speedway, Busch passed Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart on the next-to-last lap, bringing rookie Kyle Larson with him.

Able to keep Larson behind him on the final lap, Busch crossed the finish line .214 seconds ahead of the 21-year-old, who had won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the two-mile track one day earlier.

The victory was Busch’s second straight and third overall at Fontana, his first of the season and the 29th of his career. Kurt Busch, who like Stewart took right-side tires only on the final pit stop on Lap 200, ran third, followed by polesitter Matt Kenseth and Stewart.

Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Carl Edwards completed the top 10.

“I knew four tires was going to win the race, so I’m glad (crew chief) Dave (Rogers) called that,” Busch said in Victory Lane. “There was some great racing up front between Tony and Kurt there. It was really interesting to watch that.

“I went into Turn 1 thinking I’m going to run the middle and then Tony started sliding off the bottom and I’m like, ‘Nope, not having it.’ I had to get some brake and cut my car to the left and drove underneath him and got him cleared off Turn 2, and I was able to keep Kyle Larson behind me.”

Though he ran second, Larson nevertheless earned Busch’s admiration in the process.

“Man, what a shoe that boy is,” Busch said. “If he would have gotten alongside of me, it would have been a whale of a race. I drove off into Turn 3, but I heard ‘Car inside’ on my left.

“If he drove it in further than I did, Jesus must have told him to stop… What an awesome race this track produced!”

Larson was surprised he was able to reach second place after restarting ninth in the bottom lane for the green-white-checker.

“I was thinking I was going to line up eighth,” Larson said, “but then the 40 (Landon Cassill) stayed out, and I had to line up on the bottom, and I was disappointed because the bottom had been getting jammed up once we got to Turn 1. I was surprised–I just watched it on TV and it was pretty wild–we were four wide there into (Turn) 1.

“Came out in fourth there, I think, and then got to second off Turn 2 the next lap and thought I might have a shot at Kyle, depending on where he’d go into Turn 3. But he was good enough to keep it on the bottom and stay ahead of me. But we’ll take second. Long race and definitely didn’t expect to run second, so I’ll take it and head back to North Carolina with a smile on my face.”

Until the final five laps, the race had all the makings of a routine victory by Jimmie Johnson, who had a commanding lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon as the event approached the regulation distance of 400 miles.

But Johnson, who led 104 laps, blew a left front tire and drove his car to pit road, handing Gordon the lead. No caution.

Brad Keselowski suffered his third left rear tire failure a lap later but stayed out of harm’s way. No caution. The same fate befell Marcos Ambrose on the same lap. No caution.

Finally, when Clint Bowyer’s Toyota spun on lap 198, thanks to a flat left rear tire, NASCAR called the caution that set up the two-lap dash to the finish.

The tire issues that surfaced during Saturday’s practice sessions—particularly in the left rear position—plagued drivers throughout the race, not just at the finish. Kevin Harvick caused the first caution on Lap 18 when his left rear tire blew.

Harvick charged through the field and was running third on Lap 138 when another blown left rear forced him to pit road. With tire debris strewn across the backstretch, NASCAR called a caution on Lap 141, with Johnson in the lead.

Keselowski, who suffered two flat left rears during Saturday’s practice, had two more during the race but both yellow flags rescued him in both cases. Twice Keselowski brought the No. 2 Ford to pit road under caution with the tire soft, escaping a failure at speed that could have damaged the car.

But the third failure, in the closing laps, dropped the 2012 series champion to 26th at the finish.

The race winner, though, had no tire problems and suggested that other teams might have been overly aggressive in lowering tire pressures.

Notes: Gordon was shuffled back on the final restart and finished 13th… Johnson came home 24th, the last driver on the lead lap… Menard, who skipped Friday’s qualifying to be with his wife after the birth of their daughter, posted his ninth-place finish after starting from the rear of the field because of the driver change. Matt Crafton had qualified the car… Sam Hornish Jr. ran 17th in Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota, after Hamlin left the track for a local hospital before the race to treat a sinus infection that impaired his vision. Hornish had been at the track on standby for Matt Kenseth, whose wife Katie is expecting the couple’s third daughter.

Top 5 Worst Nicknames in sports:

Top 5 Worst Nicknames in sports:
Sportslife Magazine Staff/Mike Arthur
5. Stanford Cardinal
Nothing strikes fear into your enemy then your powerful… tree. In all fairness the Stanford faithful have had an identity crisis since the Indian mascot was removed. Since then lots of new nicknames and mascots have floated as suggestions. At least they’re not Virginia Tech trying to explain that their made up word is actually a turkey.
4. Orlando Magic
The only illusion we need to see is this name disappear. When your name invokes thoughts of Criss Angel and David Blaine passing off film editing tricks as sleight of hand the name is rendered inadequate for a professional team.
3. Anaheim Ducks
Three Disney movies starring Emilio Estevez and yet your name is still lame. No other team tried as desperately to get their nickname to catch on as the Ducks. Initially the team’s name was officially “The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim” as if we’d confuse them with the Oregon Ducks who by way of their name were not as mighty. After the Walt Disney Corporation sold the team they thankfully went through a color and design change but in truth the whole team name should have been scrapped as it still brings back bad memories.
2. New York Jets
To be fair the fans love the nickname but every time I see the Jets logo I can almost see the WTC just out of view. The unfortunate situation almost completely replaces the old thoughts of Broadway Joe throwing for a touchdown with that of heartbreak and despair. The name couldn’t be more unfortunate unless there were teams named the Pearl Harbor Flyers, the New Orleans Levee Breakers, or Newtown Shooters prior to other tragedies.
1. Any WNBA team ever
Other than possibly the Minnesota Lynx the WNBA has provided a seemingly endless array of bad nicknames for its teams. Their nicknames are sports clichés and eye rolling silliness. From the Sparks to the Mystics these names are bad, like names your mom would have given your tee ball team bad. Just in case you don’t get it WNBA there is nothing cool about a team called the Dream.

Kyle Busch on his way to mastering ‘The World’s Fastest Half-Mile’

2011 NASCAR Media Day - Sprint Cup Series Portraits
March 13, 2014
 
 
Dominance. In the annals of sports lore, what constitutes a feat of pure dominance?
How about when New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen threw the only perfect game in World Series history against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 … the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team dominated the college ranks in the 1960s, losing only twice in four years … the Miami Dolphins put together a perfect 17-0 season that ended with a Super Bowl victory … the 1992 U.S. Olympics basketball “Dream Team” steamrolled the competition on their way to the gold medal in Barcelona, Spain … the 1985-86 Boston Celtics went 40-1 at the Boston Garden en route to the NBA title.
All of these are fine examples, but when it comes to NASCAR and today’s drivers and race tracks, there is no better pairing than Kyle Busch and Bristol Motor Speedway.
While Busch doesn’t have the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories at the .533-mile track nestled in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee — that honor belongs to NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip with 12 — it is easy to see why he’ll be a favorite to win Sunday’s Food City 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX).
“When they changed the track starting at the end of 2007, I just really took to it right away,” said Busch, who has a record 15 victories at Bristol across all three of NASCAR’s national series. “I really liked it and I’ve been fast there, but also I’ve had great race cars from Joe Gibbs Racing.
“It’s just a fun race track no matter what series I’m running there.”
In 18 starts in NASCAR’s premier series at Bristol, Busch has compiled five wins, eight top fives, 12 top 10s and 1,431 laps led. The victories and laps led are personal bests for the Las Vegas native. Kurt Busch (Kyle’s older brother) and Jeff Gordon are the only other two active drivers with five wins at the track.
The younger Busch has a series-best Driver Rating of 101.8, and series-highs in most laps led (1,431) and fastest laps (585).
Since 2006, he has finished outside the top 20 only once — a 32nd-place finish in March 2012. Over the past nine years, his average finish at the track is 9.9. His average since the track was repaved following the 2007 season is 8.1.
His first Bristol win came March 2007 in a green-white-checkered finish. He followed that up with a Bristol sweep in 2009. His last two wins at the track came in August 2010 and March 2011. Since his last win, he has two top-six finishes, including a runner-up performance in the March 2013 event.
In the first three races of 2014, Busch has eclipsed the 100 driver rating figure and collected fastest laps run in each; however, he only has one top-10 finish to show for his efforts – a ninth at Phoenix. He finished 19th at Daytona and 11th last weekend in his hometown. He’s currently 10th in the standings, 38 points behind leader Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Busch is approaching a major series milestone, one that could come this Sunday. If he leads 140 or more laps — an accomplishment he’s achieved four times at Bristol, most recently in March 2011 — he will become the 15th driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history to lead 10,000 laps.
In August 2010, Busch pulled off the rare hat trick by becoming the first driver in NASCAR history to win all three national series events at the same track. Rightfully so, it’s his most memorable moment at the track.
“We won the Truck race on Wednesday night, backed it up with Nationwide race Friday and took home the Cup race on Saturday night,” Busch said. “It’s something that’s never been done in the 16 years there have been three series and it hasn’t been done in the four years since I did it. There could be a chance for me to do it again.”
Busch’s Bristol success extends beyond the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He’s visited Victory Lane six times in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and four times in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
ELLIOTT IN RHYTHM
Over the first three races of the 2014 season, NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott has continued to make progress.
In the season-opening race at Daytona, the 18-year-old son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, finished a respectable 15th. The following week he notched his first top 10 in the series, coming home ninth at Phoenix. Then last week, the younger Elliott posted his first top-five finish at Las Vegas, when he placed fifth.
If Elliott is able to continue his upward trajectory, its feasible that he could be celebrating in Victory Lane following Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 presented by Lilly Diabetes (2 p.m. ET on ESPN2) in his inaugural series visit to Bristol Motor Speedway.
“It’s going to be important to learn as much as we can to help build that notebook for the fall,” Elliott said. “The past two races, my NAPA AUTO PARTS team has been getting into a nice rhythm and we want to build on our fifth-place finish at Vegas this weekend in Bristol.”
Prior to this weekend, Elliott has competed at the .533-mile short track three times, including the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in August 2013 where he finished fifth. He placed 10th in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race in 2012. In his first race at the track — in the X-1R Pro Cup Series — Elliott came home with a fifth-place showing.
He is currently fifth in the standings, only 14 points behind leader Regan Smith. In the rookie race, Elliott leads all rookies with Ty Dillon in second (-four).

Dana White: I know for a fact that Georges St. Pierre will return to UFC

Music to “GSP” fans’ ears everywhere.

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre recently teased a potential comeback to mixed martial arts (MMA) after walking away from the sport a few months ago.

Now, UFC President Dana White guarantees that his former top box office draw will indeed return to the Octagon and get back to doing what he does best, and that’s fight.

And by the sound of it, “Rush’s” first fight will be against the new welterweight champion who will be crowned this weekend (March 15, 2014) in Dallas, Texas, as Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks vie for the strap St. Pierre left behind.

His words (via MMA Fighting):

“I know for a fact he will (return). Is it fun for Georges St. Pierre to be gone? I mean, no, I wouldn’t say that it’s fun for him to be gone. But the welterweight division is exciting right now, and when Georges does come back, whoever’s standing there, it will be a fun fight.”

Indeed, it looks like all the issues “GSP” was having — which we now know was a tough battle with obsessive compulsive disorder – seem to be in check.

While no potential date is set for the French-Canadian’s return to MMA, White is confident Georges’ fighting days are far from over, which can only mean positive things for the Zuffa-owned company and “GSP” himself.

One thing is certain, when the day finally does arrive, “Rush” will have a “fun” fight lined up, possibly against “Ruthless” or “Bigg Rigg.”

But will St. Pierre suffer from ring rust?

Brad Keselowski capitalizes on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fuel shortage in Las Vegas

Kobalt 400

 

Brad Keselowski capitalizes on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fuel shortage in Las VegasBy Reid Spencer
NASCAR

Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — Unfortunately for Dale Earnhardt Jr., crew chief Steve Letarte’s words proved prophetic.

“If it runs out, stay on the track and coast to the finish,” Letarte told his driver as he took the white flag in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

And that’s exactly what happened.

After pulling away slightly from race winner Brad Keselowski during a dramatic battle over the last 15 of 267 laps, Earnhardt ran out of fuel on the backstretch, a half-lap from the finish, and coasted home in second place, 1.531 seconds behind the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford.

Following a scrape with the outside wall and an off-sequence pit strategy, Keselowski took the checkered flag for the first time this season, the first time at LVMS and the 11th time in his Sprint Cup career.

The winner of Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Keselowski completed the first weekend sweep by a Ford driver since Carl Edwards won both races at Phoenix in 2010.

Earnhardt, the Daytona 500 winner, was runner-up for the second-straight race. Paul Menard ran third, followed by pole winner Joey Logano and Carl Edwards, as Fords grabbed three of the top five positions.

Six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth completed the top 10.

With a victory, all but guaranteeing a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Keselowski wasn’t surprised that Earnhardt and Letarte were willing to gamble.

“It’s such a [reliefi] for myself and everyone on the team to get that win in early and being able to enjoy the racing opportunities that we have, rather than being stressed out about it,” Keselowski said. “The chance that Dale and Stevie took with the 88 car was way out there.

“It was a good, risky move on their part, because they had nothing to lose because of this [new Chase] format. I think that shows some of the opportunities that come (from having) stress-free days, and I’m looking forward to being able to take those same opportunities, because I’m not scared to take ‘em, and I know (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) is not, so look out.”

Committed to a fuel-mileage gamble, a luxury he earned with the Daytona 500 win, Earnhardt stayed on track during Lap 222 pit stops under the fourth caution of the afternoon for debris on the frontstretch.

It was that same caution that gave Keselowski a welcome opportunity to refuel, a move that put him back on sequence with the rest of the lead-lap drivers other than Earnhardt, Edwards and 12th-place finisher Denny Hamlin.

Keselowski restarted seventh but quickly rocketed past all but Earnhardt and Carl Edwards, who also stayed out under the yellow. More than two seconds behind Earnhardt, Keselowski slipped past Edwards on Lap 245 and drew a bead on the leader.

With three laps left, Keselowski had narrowed the interval to .296 seconds, the closest he would get before Earnhardt’s car slowed on the backstretch halfway through the final lap.

“I ran two real hard laps right after that restart (on Lap 226), and we got about a 20-car-length lead, and I started lifting real early into both corners and seeing whether they were going to catch me,” Earnhardt said. “So I was being pretty cautious and lifting pretty early, and when I saw Brad pass the 99 (Edwards), I knew Brad in clean air would be quicker than us, potentially — he had been all day — and I just continued to save fuel and hope that once he got behind me and got into dirty air I could keep him there.

“I continued to save until he got within about eight car lengths, and then I started running hard, and we were fast enough to keep him behind us. As soon as I got to the top of Turns 1 and 2 the last several laps, I was real comfortable that he wasn’t going to get to me, felt fine about, if we had enough gas, we weren’t going to have a problem, but we didn’t have enough gas.”

Using a contrarian fuel-mileage strategy, Keselowski stayed on track when the rest of the lead-lap cars came to pit road on Lap 156, under the third caution of the race for debris on the backstretch.

Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford took off on old tires and built a lead of more than 2.5 seconds over Kevin Harvick, whose strong run was spoiled by a brake failure as he chased Keselowski.

Harvick, last week’s winner at Phoenix, brought his car to pit road on Lap 194 and ultimately lost 30 laps as his team went about repairs in the garage.

Keselowski gave up the lead when he came to pit road on Lap 196 and regained it briefly during the subsequent green-flag pit stop cycle. But Earnhardt took the point by staying out for a Lap 226 restart and held the top spot until Keselowski passed him on the final lap.

Vitor Belfort out of UFC 173 main event, Lyoto Machida will fight Chris Weidman for Middleweight title

Belfort out, Machida in for UFC 173 main event!Feb. 27, 2014 shall go down as one of the most important dates in mixed martial arts (MMA) history.With the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s (NSAC) unanimous vote to ban Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) offering its full support of the decision, the biggest question was how it would affect the UFC 173 main event between UFC Middleweight champion Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort.We already know the answer, even though the pay-per-view (PPV) event, which takes place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, doesn’t take place until May 24, 2014. That’s right, Belfort has already removed himself from the main event, allowing enough time for him to wean himself off TRT and, hopefully, prepare for a bout at a later date if the promotion is amenable.

Company president, Dana White, made the shocking late-night announcement on Fox Sports 1, revealing that former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida — fresh off a unanimous decision win over Gegard Mousasi at UFC Fight Night 36 earlier this month — will take his place.

What a twist.

Since a 2012 defeat at the hands of Jon Jones at UFC 152, Belfort became the face of TRT in MMA. Belfort returned to the middleweight division and was able to score three straight knockouts to earn his second shot at UFC middleweight gold. At almost 37 years old, his career has seen a resurgence.

To say it’s an unlikely story would be an understatement.

In an interview with ESPN for a piece for “Outside The Lines” on the subject of TRT, Belfort stated that he feels condemned for doing something that is legal. He even attempted to distract away from his TRT usage by bringing up the very true fact that many fighters are taking Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) without additional testing.

In the same breath, Belfort has also claimed that no other fighter in MMA is tested as much as him.

In speaking with people within various athletic commissions, I know that those who are granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for TRT are subjected to out of competition testing. Should any of those fighters fail a test, they’d be suspended by the commission.

Those days are now done. And so, too, might be Belfort’s championship aspirations.

 

Earnhardt was determined to seize the moment in Daytona 500

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Earnhardt was determined to seize the moment in Daytona 500

By Reid Spencer

Photo Credit: 295433 Tom Pennington/Getty Images

NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In one crucially important respect, this was a different Dale Earnhardt Jr.

In another respect, this was the same Dale Earnhardt Jr. we have known since his childhood. 

The “different” Dale Jr. was the one who raced in Sunday night’s marathon Daytona 500, talking control of the race after a 6-hour, 22-minute rain delay and staving off challenge after challenge until he took the checkered flag.

Earnhardt had the race’s dominant car, and he knew it. Empowered by that knowledge, and bolstered by a formidable performance in the final nine races of last year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Earnhardt wasn’t about to settle for second place, his finishing position in three of the previous four Daytona 500s.

Nor would Earnhardt defer to Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who between them have won 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships to Earnhardt’s none.

Perhaps because his hunger for the taste of victory at Daytona had reached starvation proportions; perhaps because his final Daytona 500 with crew chief Steve Letarte, who leaves next year for the TV booth, had galvanized his resolve; perhaps because he hadn’t won a race at a track other than Michigan in almost eight years, Earnhardt gave no quarter to friend or foe. 

“I hated to do some of the things I had to do tonight to race,” Earnhardt said after the race. “There were a couple laps where I had to run Jeff Gordon right on the fence, down the turns, the straightaway, right on his door, to keep him from drafting by me.

“I hate to do that to my teammate. I hate to do that to anybody. But that’s what it took. That’s what you had to do.”

On this night, second place would not have been good enough.

“I knew, like we had talked about before, I talked to Steve about how we were not in the right place at the end of these other races,” Earnhardt said. “We’d make a move and finish second. We knew we didn’t have a shot at winning, knew we didn’t have a shot at the leader at the end. Why? What do we need to do?

“Tonight, it was all about not giving an inch, not running fifth, not sitting there in fifth place all night and being OK with it. We wanted to be in the lead every lap, be in first every lap. That’s what my motive was.”

Brad Keselowski, who finished third, said afterwards that the 56th running of the Great American Race was the most all-out flag-to-flag run he had ever experienced. Earnhardt concurred.

“It was a unique race,” Earnhardt agreed. “I feel uncomfortable sitting here bragging that I drove my ass off or ran the best race of my life, but it was a unique race. We all were pushing the envelope out there, asking a lot of each other. I remember running real, real tight on the door of the 16 car (Greg Biffle) for the lead. He had the 20 (Matt Kenseth) behind him.

“I just kept thinking, ‘All it’s going to take is for Matt to make one move a little wide into the corner or something like that, catch my quarter panel, turn me into the 16, we’re going to be up in the wall.’

“Every lap you’re asking every driver around you to be able to hold their line and be smart and see what’s happening and understand how close quarters were. Everybody was shoving all over each other, climbing over the top of each other. So you were asking a lot of everybody around you to be able to do that all night long.”

But the drivers running near the front did just that — masterfully.

“We all really put each other in a lot of difficult situations, but it was really fun even under the circumstances,” Earnhardt said. “I felt like that, for the first time in a long time, you were able to see just how talented everybody out there was. Biffle and all those guys, everybody was really bringing the best out of themselves tonight.”

If the Earnhardt on the race track was different, the one who sat at the dais in the media center was thoroughly familiar.

This was the Earnhardt who makes no attempt to disguise what he feels, and his elation was palpable. This was the pure, guileless, relentlessly honest Dale Earnhardt Jr., the driver whose total absence of pretense binds him inexorably to the fans who love him, regardless of his results on the track.

To call Earnhardt’s honesty “refreshing” is to do it a grave injustice. His honesty is nothing short of astonishing and his moral compass unerring.

The level of his confidence, however, may be at a new pinnacle.

“We have a lot of confidence, coming off such a strong year (2013), obviously winning this race,” Earnhardt said. “Our confidence couldn’t be higher. Confidence is a great thing. It’s half of the battle, you know, being confident in what you’re doing. When you have the most, you’re in perfect situations to have some good things happen, so hopefully we can seize the moment.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick echoed Earnhardt’s comments.

“It’s that little magic with the car,” Hendrick said. “It’s also that magic with the guys here, with the team. When you hit it, it’s amazing. When Jimmie Johnson goes two years and doesn’t win a championship, something’s wrong.

“Well, there’s nothing wrong; it’s just everybody else is that good. They’ve got that magic, and these guys have that magic. I think this could be the year.”

Georges St. Pierre: ‘TRT is a joke and should have been banned a long time ago’

If it had, perhaps GSP would still be fighting?

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre hates performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

In fact, “Rush” will go to great lengths to prove he fights clean, even if it makes him look “stupid.” But the fact that his opponents do not reciprocate – and UFC does not push for it – is one of the reasons he decided to vacate his title and walk away from combat sports in late 2013.

A lot has changed since then.

Mostly on the regulatory front. Just last month, Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) banned testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in mixed martial arts (MMA), something St. Pierre tells Sports Day DFW should have been done a long time ago.

“It should have been done a long time ago. There’s not another sports that accepts it. It’s a joke. For our sport, I don’t want to accuse individuals. Never once have I accused a person. I don’t want to accuse the organization. The problem is the system. One of the reasons why I stopped (fighting) is I see a lot of (expletive) going on and I got tired of it. I tried to make things change and it didn’t work. The guideline should be random testing, especially when you fight for a title. The guy that finished first in cycling, would have finished 40th 10 years ago. That’s how much drugs help now. You lose a race in cycling, you lose your ego, you lose something financially. But if you lose a fight, not only do you lose financially and your ego, it can affect your well-being, you have cerebral damage and be really messed up. If the UFC does something, the other organizations will follow.”

Speaking of following, TRT is now banned in Brazil and California.

With St. Pierre out of the picture, Johny Hendricks will battle Robbie Lawler for the vacant 170-pound title next weekend in Dallas, Texas. Whether or not “Rush” ever comes back to try to reclaim it is unknown at this time, but if UFC fails to meet his personal demands in regards to drug testing, there’s a chance he could be gone for good.

Anyone disagree?

2014 NASCAR Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contenders

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2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year ContendersJustin Algaier
Michael Annett
Alex Bowman
Austion Dillon
Parker Kligerman
Kyle Larson
Ryan Truex
Cole Whitt
2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contenders

Dakoda Armstrong
Tanner Berryhill
Chad Boat
Chris Buescher
Ty Dillon
Chase Elliott
Dylan Kwasniewski
Tommy Joe Martins
Ryan Reed

2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contenders

Ben Kennedy
Mason Mingus
Tyler Reddick
Tyler Young

 

Dana White going ‘nuts’ over Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Cyborg UFC fight because it’s NOT happening

Sorry, Cris Cyborg, but you’re not even close to being one of Ronda Rousey’s future opponents, according to UFC President Dana White.

Cristiane Justino isn’t going to like this one bit.

While the former Strikeforce women’s featherweight champion has been lobbying for her chance to retire current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s bantamweight titleholder Ronda Rousey, company president Dana White is sick of hearing about theWanderlei Silva lookalike.

The Las Vegas fight boss says “Cyborg” will not be Rousey’s next opponent inside the Octagon, and by the sound of it, she may not ever get the chance to square off against “Rowdy.”

He gave his reason to BT Sport:

“No. The Cyborg thing, I can’t believe people are asking me about Cyborg, number one. First of all, she does not fight here. Everybody realizes that, right? See weighs 145 pounds and her genius manager, Tito Ortiz, said that she would die if she went to 135 pounds. She’s also coming off a steroid suspension last time she was here. I can’t even, it drives me nuts. She will not fight Cyborg. I don’t know who she’s going to fight. She’s going to go film ‘Entourage,’ the movie, and then we will figure out what’s next for her.”

A far cry from White’s previous statements.

Cris, meanwhile, has been seemingly making all the right moves to make her much-desired fight against “Rowdy” happen.

For starters, she ended her partnership with Ortiz – Dana’s bitter rival — which could improve her relationship with the UFC higher-ups. She also laid out a plan that will see her test the waters at 135 pounds a few times before challenging “Rowdy” in December of this year.

While that’s unlikely to happen, according to White’s comments, Rousey may instead fight Cat Zingano next. That is of course, if“Alpha” is ready to go by summer time. If not, then Alexis Davis will likely get the nod. One thing is certain, it won’t be Cyborg who will get next dibs on Ronda.

And it likely never will be.

Here’s what you need to know at a glance…

Here’s what you need to know at a glance…

Jeter set for spring debut as slate ramps up

Reddick astounds with two dazzling catches

Trout gets pre-arbitration-record $1M for one year

Reyes ready to run with second chance in Toronto

The Puig question: Can the Wild Horse be tamed?

UFC SUPPORTS TODAY’S RULING BY NEVADA STATE ATHLETIC COMMISSION

UFC SUPPORTS TODAY’S RULING BY

NEVADA STATE ATHLETIC COMMISSION

 

Las Vegas, Nev. – UFC President Dana White issued a statement regarding the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission:

 

“The Ultimate Fighting Championship fully supports the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the immediate termination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). We believe our athletes should compete based on their natural abilities and on an even playing field. We also intend to honor this ruling in international markets where, due to a lack of governing bodies, the UFC oversees regulatory efforts for our live events. We encourage all athletic commissions to adopt this ruling.”

 

For more information or current fight news, visit www.ufc.com.

UFC Ultimate Fighter (TUF): ‘China’ Finale Fight Pass main card preview, predictions

The inaugural The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “China” winner will be crowned at the show’s Finale this Saturday (March 1, 2014) from Cotai Arena in Macau, China. Beyond the contract bout, however, there are several reeling fighters badly in need of wins. With some brutal losing streaks intact, it could be moving day for several of the event’s main card participants. Whose head will end up on the chopping block? Read our fight previews and predictions to find out!

This Saturday (March 1, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Asia for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “China” Finale, airing live online via Fight Pass digital network at 8 a.m. ET from Cotai Arena in Macau, China.

Zhang Lipeng and Wang Sai will square off for a welterweight contract in the evening’s co-main event, while Shawn Jordan meets Matt Mitrione in a heavyweight affair pivotal to both fighters’ careers.

The rest of the mixed martial arts (MMA) card features a featherweight showdown with Ivan Menjivar moving up a division to face Japanese fan favorite Hatsu Hioki. Slumping bantamweights Nam Phan and Vaughan Lee look to get off the snide in the night’s (or morning’s) opening main card bout.

Let’s take a look at the rundown of the main card bouts — sans the main event between Dong Hyun Kim vs. John Hathaway, which we will preview and predicttomorrow – at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “China” Finale:

*****

135 lbs.: Nam Phan (18-12 overall, 2-5 UFC) vs. Vaughan Lee (13-9-1 overall, 2-3 UFC)

Let’s just say that neither of these fighters brings the most momentum into Macau. TUF veteran Phan has lost five out of his past seven bouts, all in UFC. He was last seen dropping a decision to Takeya Mizugaki at UFC Fight Night 33. Phan most likely needs a win here to keep his job, but the odds aren’t in his favor. Despite possessing black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, and karate, Phan has struggled to win in the octagon.

Not to be outdone, Lee hasn’t fared all that well as of late either. He tapped out to a Raphael Assuncao armbar in his last fight at UFC on Fuel TV 10, but at least that was against a highly ranked opponent. Lee has a solid ground game with seven submission victories, but he’s also tapped out six times. Phan should be looking to take advantage of that, so Lee needs to bring a sharpened grappling game to the cage.

Both of these fighters could be cut with a loss, so the stakes couldn’t be higher for Phan and Lee.

Prediction: Phan def. Lee via submission

*****

145 lbs.: Ivan Menjivar (25-11 overall, 4-3 UFC) vs. Hatsu Hioki (26-7-2 overall, 2-3 UFC)

The battle of skidding fighters continues with Menjivar vs. Hioki. Experienced veteran Menjivar was last seen at UFC 165, losing a decision to dangerous Wilson Reis. Prior to that, he was on the wrong end of a Urijah Faber choke at UFC 157. Last year was far from Menjivar’s finest as a fighter, so he badly needs a win to retain any degree of relevancy. Perhaps making his way up to featherweight will turn the tides for him.

In Hioki, he’ll face an opponent who’s reeling even worse than he is. Once thought to be a legitimate contender to Jose Aldo’s 145-pound belt, Hioki turned down that fight and has paid the price ever since. After starting out 2-0 in UFC, he’s since dropped three straight to talented contenders Ricardo Lamas, Clay Guida, and Darren Elkins. Hioki is a lethal submission artist who’s only lost by decision throughout his whole career.

The former Shooto and Sengoku featherweight champ is going to be a handful for Menjivar in his new division.

Prediction: Hioki def. Menjivar via unanimous decision

*****

265 lbs.: Shawn Jordan (15-5 overall, 3-2 UFC) vs. Matt Mitrione (6-3 overall, 6-3 UFC)

These two knockout artists have seen better days as well, but Jordan has the more momentum of the two. The former LSU Tiger was last seen getting destroyed by Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 166. Prior to that, however, he scored finishes over Pat Barry and Mike Russow. Jordan is a hungry and dangerous competitor who will be more than motivated to put his loss to Gonzaga in the rearview mirror.

Mitrione, on the other hand, is on life support in UFC, most likely needing a win to stay employed. Last year he garnered more attention for his comments about controversial transgender fighter Fallon Fox than for his actual fighting ability. “Meathead” has lost three out of his last four bouts, the most recent being a technical submission to Brendan Schaub at UFC 165. He’s failed to rise to the occasion against top-level opponents, and Jordan is near that level. Things aren’t looking good for the polarizing Mitrione.

Prediction: Jordan def. Mitrione via technical knockout

*****

170 lbs.: Wang Sai (6-4 overall, 0-0 UFC) vs. Zhang Lipeng (6-7-1 overall, 0-0 UFC)

Both Sai and Lipeng have advanced to the final stage of TUF: China, but their recent track records in MMA would suggest they’re far from killers, at least in terms of UFC-level competition. Sai has split his last six official bouts. “Boss” has shown a preference for finishing his opponents with strikes, so he’s going to be on the lookout for an impressive knockout from the opening bell.

Lipeng has submitted his opponent in three of his six wins. He’s also tapped out five times, a statistic that can’t continue if he wants to fight with any degree of consistency in the octagon. He brings a losing record into Macau; yet he has a fresh chance at success if he can somehow score the contract. The odds should be against him in a close bout.

The winner will be etched in history as the first victor of TUF: China, but they’re going to be faced with a rude awakening upon their UFC debut. Still, with high stakes on the line and emotions running high, this could turn into an exciting back-and-forth affair.

Prediction: Sai def. Lipeng via knockout

*****

Enjoy the card … because it may be the last time you see several of these fighters.

UFC/MMA Twitter reactions to NSAC’s decision to ban Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)

Sometimes, Twitter is amazing for reactions. Today was one of those days!

Thursday (Feb. 27, 2014), Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) unanimously voted to ban the use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) in combat sports. This decision not only applied to future applicants, but would also apply to those who have received exceptions for use in the past.

Needless to say, it’s a pretty historic decision that hopefully will become the norm in mixed martial arts (MMA) around the world.

This decision is especially applicable because Chris Weidman is expected to defend his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight title against TRT proponent/villain Vitor Belfort at UFC 173 in May 2014.

When NSAC reached its decision, the Twitterverse exploded! Below are some of the best tweets of the day from fighters and MMA media.

UFC/MMA fighters seemed pretty happy with the decision!

So TRT is now officially banned in Nevada. U could argue I only have one loss on my record. After I beat Kennedy I want my shot at the title

— michael (@bisping) February 27, 2014

 

The Nevada State Athletic Commission banned testosterone. It is a great day for the sport. I hope all states follow suit. #TRT

— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) February 27, 2014

 

This is just the genesis of eliminating performance enhancing drugs in our sport. We have a long way to go. Random testing, HGH is next #TRT

— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) February 27, 2014

 

Very happy to see TRT banned, absolutely a ridiculous idea to start with and a major factor of my personal retirement from fighting

— Brian Stann (@BrianStann) February 27, 2014

 

Good news on the ban of TRT use in Nevada. So what does this mean in other states?

— Chris Holdsworth (@holdsworth135) February 27, 2014

 

Shit looks like I will have to retire earlier than 65 now!

— Ike Vallie-Flagg (@IKEVF) February 27, 2014

 

TRT is finally banned, now we can only hope that 1 day we will have Olympic level drug screening in MMA. So we can catch the EPO, HGH users

— Vinny Magalhaes (@VinnyMMA) February 27, 2014

 

Ban on trt in Nevada? Hell ya haha good job nsac good fuckin job

— Cody Bollinger (@CodyBollinger) February 27, 2014

 

Glad to see NSAC put a stop on TUE exemptions. What do you guys think? @ufc

— Chris Camozzi (@ChrisCamozzi) February 27, 2014

 

Getting caught up on some @ufc news after a long flight… #NSAC & #ufc says “no more #TRT ”

— Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) February 27, 2014

 

I’m okay with the Nevada Commission banning TRT… But if they start checking ice cream levels I am going to be really upset. #MMA #UFC @ufc

— Joe Lauzon (@JoeLauzon) February 27, 2014

 

Nevada just banned the use of synthetic testosterone for fighters. Shit just got real. Literally.

— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) February 27, 2014

 

Unfortunately, Vitor Belfort didn’t tweet. But that’s okay, because your boy predicted what he probably would have said …

I’d laugh so hard if Vitor sent out a tweet just saying “…shit”

— Matthew Roth (@MattRoth512) February 27, 2014

There were some other amazing tweets as well from MMA media …

Is somebody spraying sanity gas into this NSAC conference room?

— Steven Marrocco (@MMAjunkieSteven) February 27, 2014

 

What about all those sleepy and fatigued fighters!!!

— E. Casey Leydon (@ekc) February 27, 2014

 

A lot of you asking what I’m going to write about now that TRT is banned. My answer is: Your mothers. All of them.

— Ben Fowlkes (@benfowlkesMMA) February 27, 2014

Oh and for those wondering about the UFC’s stance, turns out that they’re supporting the NSAC decision …

Statement just released to press regarding today’s NSAC ruling: The UFC fully supports; encourages all athletic commissions to adopt

— Dave Sholler (@Sholler_UFC) February 27, 2014