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Trio sharing lead in Florida
November 15, 2012

Suzann Pettersen -6, Rolex Rankings No. 5
So Yeon Ryu -6, Rolex Rankings No. 9
Sun Young Yoo -6, Rolex Rankings No. 22
Cristie Kerr -5, Rolex Rankings No. 11
Lizette Salas -4, Rolex Rankings No. 107

Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu, and Sun Young Yoo all fired first-round 6-under 66’s to finish in a three-way tie for the lead at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Pettersen’s mistake free scorecard on the Eagles Course at the TwinEagles Club in Naples, Fla. consisted of six birdies while Ryu, this year’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, notched seven birdies and one bogey and Yoo, the winner of this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship recorded nine birdies, one bogey and one double-bogey.

The trio head into tomorrow’s second round with a one-stroke lead over Karine Icher, Lindsey Wright, Na Yeon Choi, and Cristie Kerr.

Course Clown. Rolex Rankings No. 22 Sun Young Yoo came into this week’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders ranked third on Tour in greens in regulation and 74th in putts per green in regulations. While Yoo’s struggles with the flat stick are apparent in her stats, this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship winner got a bit of advice from her swing coach earlier this week that paid off on Thursday as she only needed 25 putts en route to a first-round 6-under 66.

“Actually I had my coach here earlier in the week and he told me to grip down a little bit when I putt so I can hit more relaxed, so I think that kind of helped me a lot,” said Yoo. “I rolled the ball pretty good, so I feel good with everything.”

Nicknamed “Course Clown” among her friends, her playful personality took center stage during her post-round interview on Thursday. Yoo made the turn with a 6-under 30 and after getting it to 9-under at one point, the two-time LPGA Tour winner struggled on the final two holes ending double-bogey, bogey.

When asked what happened down the stretch, the witty Yoo said with her contagious laugh, “I don’t want to talk about it”.

“I don't want to talk about it,” said Yoo with a laugh. “I hit 4-iron on No. 8 and it took a big bounce on the green, so I hit my ball 10 yards over the green and I kind of hit fat on my chip and then it barely got on the green and I three-putted there.”

In it to win it. Known on tour for her grit and will to win, Suzann Pettersen finds herself in contention for her third victory this season at the CME Group Titleholders. When asked after her 6-under round what a win at this week’s season-ending event would mean to her, she further affirmed her competitive nature.

“I'm in it to win it,” said Pettersen. “That says it all.”

Regardless of if Pettersen wins this weekend or not, she has closed out the 2012 season in style as she recorded back-to-back victories at the recent LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship and Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Presented by Audi.

“There's a lot of golf left and I don't really think about it too much,” said Pettersen. “I feel like my shoulders are fairly freed up after kind of winning two in Asia. I don't feel like I really have to go out and do anything. That makes the game just that much easier and you can kind of try and hit the different shots you see and play your instincts.”

Finishing with a bang? So Yeon Ryu has managed to reach nearly every goal that she set for herself in her rookie season. In addition to earning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors, she captured the second LPGA victory of her career at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic

But still one goal remains for Ryu -- capping off her season with a victory at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Ryu made that a possibility with a strong opening round on the Eagles Course at the TwinEagles Club in Naples, shooting a 6-under 66 to tie for the lead after the first round of play although she said that this great round came as a bit of a surprise.

“Actually, yesterday on driving range my shot was so bad so I couldn't expect this really great results,” Ryu said. “But the first I'm really happy with my results so far. Actually, the last week on Sunday in Lorena Ochoa Invitational, my putt wasn't really great. That problem is really speed control problem, so I was practice speed control, then today my putting was really great.”

It’s a busy final week for Ryu, who will be accepting her Rookie of the Year award on Friday night at the Rolex Awards Celebration. She joked about having big shoes to fill following tremendous speeches by the two previous Rookie of the Year winners, Azahara Munoz and Hee Kyung Seo. So perhaps it’s no surprise that her plans for Thursday night following her stellar play were centered around practicing her speech.

“When I'm going to hotel today, I have to go in front of mirror and I just practice myself,” Ryu said with a laugh.

American Surge! The country with the most victories on the LPGA Tour this season may surprise a few people, at least Stacy Lewis believes that’s the case.

American golfers have combined for a total of eight wins this year with Stacy Lewis capturing four wins while Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lang, Angela Stanford, and Jessica Korda have picked up one victory each this year. Combine that with Lewis becoming the first American in 18 years to take home Rolex Player of the Year honors and it’s been quite a stellar year for American golf.

“It's great, and it's great for inspiring the next generation of American golfers and we need to do that,” said Cristie Kerr of the success for the players from the U.S. this year. “The media needs to focus on that because they've been for so long, why aren't the Americans winning? We are winning and we need to be written about.”

But the Americans are hoping to add one more victory to that total this week. Kerr is one of the Americans who found themselves near the top of the leaderboard after the first round of play at the CME Group Titleholders. Kerr fired a 5-under 67 and sits in a T4 while Lizette Salas and Brittany Lincicome are tied for eighth at 8-under-par. There are a total of five Americans who currently sit in the top-15 after Thursday’s first round.

Blessing in Disguise. To say that Lizette Salas stumbled upon the game of golf as an accident wouldn’t be farfetched. Salas’s father, Ramon Salas, has been working at Azusa Greens golf course for over 30 years and when her brother disliked the game, Lizette picked up right where he left off.

“My dad has been working at Azusa Greens golf course for 30-plus years and he's the head mechanic there,” said Salas. ‘It was my brother supposed to play but he didn't like it, so I'm the youngest of three, so I went out there and just kind of took it as a hobby.”

Salas’s newfound hobby proved to be just what she needed to help her achieve her longtime goal of attending college but the Azusa, Calif. native got more out of the experience than what she originally bargained for.

“Yeah, that was my first and foremost goal when I was a child is that I knew golf can get me into school,” said Salas. “I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and I think that's another reason why I stayed. I wanted to win four national championships and that's why I stayed.”

Salas, a rookie on this year’s LPGA Tour, not only played collegiate golf but was the University of Southern California’s (USC) first four-time All-American. Immediately after college, Salas turned her attention to professional golf and after spending one year on the Symetra Tour, she moved onto the LPGA in dramatic fashion.

“I think I was in 21st or just outside the Top 20 and I made a birdie on the final hole to get into a nine-way playoff,” said Salas. “I just went straight to the putting green and I knew it was going to come down to putting. I didn't know the whole playoff situation, so they came up to us and they're like okay, there's nine of you. Then we asked how many spots are there and they just said three. We're like oh, shoot.”

Faced with a difficult task ahead of her, Salas rose to the occasion birding the three playoff holes to solidify her spot on this year’s LPGA Tour and earning her the nickname, “Miss Clutch”.

Tweet Up! Sandra Gal spent an hour in Golf Channel’s TV booth on Thursday afternoon as she took over the LPGA’s twitter account. She answered questions from fans and was interviewed by Golf Channel talent in the booth. It was all part of the “Social Event of the Season” at the CME Group Titleholders.

Tweet of the Day: Goes to the Golf Channel, which highlighted one of the special promotions that’s going on this week for the “Social Event of the Season.”

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