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Icher takes lead ahead of packed leaderboard
October 17, 2014

Interviews:
Rolex Rankings No. 36 Karine Icher (-5)
Rolex Rankings No. 24 Brittany Lincicome (-4)
Rolex Rankings No. 49 Beatriz Recari (-4)
Rolex Rankings No. 61 Ilhee Lee (-3)
Rolex Rankings No. 62 M.J. Hur (-3)

Karine Icher of France shot 4-under 68 on Friday at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship to take a one-shot lead over American Brittany Lincicome and Spain’s Beatriz Recari. Icher’s two-day total of 5-under 139 sits atop a packed leaderboard and has 12 players within three shots of her lead.

She used three birdies in her final four holes, which included a birdie-birdie finish, to take the 36-hole lead at an LPGA event for the first time since 2009. Icher said the change in wind conditions on Friday had the Ocean Course at SKY 72 Golf playing as a completely different course.

“Well, today was a completely different course than yesterday. It was like completely different,” said Icher. “It was funny to play because we were all laughing, my caddie, for example, like No. 1 yesterday, I hit a driver and two and today was driver and wedge. It was kind of funny, it was less wind today, so I'm surprised there's not much low score, because I thought the course was easier today.”

Icher’s round of 68 was the second lowest round of the day and was only outdone by KLPGA member In Gee Chun who turned in a 5-under 67. Icher, who is in her 12th season on the LPGA Tour, is still searching for her first career win and said her goal for the final stretch of the season is simple: earn a victory.

“It's the final four or five tournaments for us, so I'd like to win one,” said Icher. “There's nothing else I'm looking for. I’m pretty much in every tournament so there's no deadline for me and I’m good to be able to play CME. So now it's just go for it.”

First-round leader Haeji Kang stumbled with a 3-over 75 and now sits in a tie for 10th and three shots back. Among the group of six players tied for fourth at 3-under par are No. 4 and two-time winner of the event Suzann Pettersen (70-71), recent winner in Alabama M.J. Hur (72-69) and Spain’s Azahara Munoz (72-69).

No. 2 Inbee Park (71-73) fell into a tie for 24th while No. 3 Lydia Ko (73-69) climbed into a tie for 10th. Both players have a chance to take over the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings this week.

Much needed R&R: Brittany Lincicome was playing in a resurgence of solid golf the past couple months on Tour, but the Florida native knew it was time for a break before the final stretch of the season. The r&r seemed to pay off as she’s just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend in Korea. Lincicome’s last event was the Yokohama LPGA Classic where she tied for 19th and then took four ‘lazy’ weeks off before heading to Korea for her first event of the Asian swing.

“The first week, I played in Cristie Kerr's breast cancer charity event and that next week just kind of hung out with my boyfriend in New York. He had some outings and we went into the city, kind of did the touristy thing and he had an outing in Washington. So basically just did nothing, hung out and didn't pick up a golf club for over a week.”

“And then the last two weeks, I have not played more than nine holes every other day probably. So walking 18 in the Pro-Am was a little rough,” Lincicome added. “I had taken some spin classes, so at least I was doing a little bit of cardio.”

Before her finish in Alabama, Lincicome had three-consecutive top-10’s, two coming at major championships (runner-up at Wegmans LPGA Championship and T8 at the Evian Championship). The rest at home has seemed not to slow the five-time winner and she hopes that as she lingers around the top of leaderboards, the No. 6 win will come this season. Her last victory came over three years ago at the 2011 CN Canadian Women’s Open.

“Just playing, had a bunch of Top-10s here recently which is good,” said Lincicome. “Just stay trying to get the Top-10s because eventually the wins will come. Praying the way I was playing before I took the break is still going to be the same way I'm going to play to finish out the next five. Just building confidence.”

She finished birdie-birdie on Friday to jump into a tie for second with Beatriz Recari and likes the idea of tough scoring conditions that may come this weekend. Lincicome’s tee shot on the par 3 17th hole nearly won her a brand-new Kia K900 when it rolled and hit the flagstick but bounced to a few feet away.

“Hopefully the good breaks keep coming and the wind switches back to yesterday's wind,” said Lincicome. “But I've played it both ways and I feel like I'm ready for either way. I felt like 15-under par was going to win the tournament, but it doesn't seem to be going that low, which is good. I like tournaments where not too many, maybe like five or 10-under par wins, so just keep doing 2-under each day, and I'm right there. I just need that one really good like 4- or 5-under a day.”

Putting in the hours: Beatriz Recari has had a tough time comparing her two-win season a year ago to her injury-filled season in 2014 and the Spaniard has been on a mission to get back on track. She said she completely reworked her swing from scratch and didn’t get anything going until June. She missed six cuts in the first 10 events of the year.

“I consider the U.S. Open my first tournament of the year. I started, struggling with injuries and had to kind of redo my swing from scratch,” said Recari. “So you know, I consider the U.S. Open my first tournament and my goal was to qualify for these Asian events.”

“I had to focus so much on my long game that I kind of neglected certain parts of my game because I had to because I had no time,” said Recari. “And the most important priority was my long game from my play from tee-to-green, so I knew I was aware that I was going to make some silly mistakes just by lack of practice really.”

Recari, who considers herself a strong player on the greens saw her putting stats plummet and fought to get back her feel with the flatstick. Last season she finished 7th in putts per GIR (1.770) and 9th in putting average (29.13). This year she ranks 61st (1.829) and 54th (30.17) in the same categories.

“And lately I felt more confident. I gave myself some time to practice my short game, practice my putting, especially because that's the one thing that I thought was letting me down, especially when I was playing -- I played really well in the British Open and Grand Rapids, and I felt my putting was what was letting me down.

“I spent a lot of time in China and especially last week in Malaysia, and started seeing the results in Malaysia right away,” Recari added. “Just confirming to myself that all I needed was practice. I always considered myself a good putter. So it was just a matter of getting back to putting in the hours and seeing the putts go in and trusting my stroke.”

Quoteable: “Just pretty lazy and enjoying -- I feel like as I get older, if I wanted to join a nine-hole ladies league, that would be perfect. 18 holes is too many.”

Brittany Lincicome in her comments on what she did during her four-week break prior to this week’s event.

INTERVIEWS

Rolex Rankings No. 36 Karine Icher (-5)

THE MODERATOR: We welcome Karine Icher, our clubhouse leader, a very solid round today. Not a lot of low scores. What was the key to your 4 under today?
KARINE ICHER: Well, today was a completely different course than yesterday. It was like completely different. It was funny to play because we were all laughing, my caddie, for example, like No. 1 yesterday, I hit a driver and two and today was driver and wedge. It was kind of funny, it was less wind today, so I'm surprised there's not much low score, because I thought the course was easier today.

But it's always a pleasure to play here. The course is in really good shape. Probably one of the best greens we play all year.

THE MODERATOR: This is your third Asian event. Coming into this stretch of the final stretch of the season, did you have any goals or any mind set, things that you wanted to achieve throughout this final stretch of the year?
KARINE ICHER: Yeah, it's the final four or five tournaments for us, so I'd like to win one. There's nothing else I'm looking for. I pretty much in every tournament want to make sure so there's no deadline for me to be good enough to be able to play CME or whatever. So now it's just go for it.

THE MODERATOR: Anything in your game you've been working on, anything in particular that's been a hindrance, anything that's been strong? Just overall aspects of your game?
KARINE ICHER: Well, this week my coach was here, so we practiced a lot like low shots because we knew it would be windy.
So we practised a lot of that and seems to pay off, because here, I mean, it's always windy. I never played in Korea without any wind. So the low shot is very strong in my game right now.

THE MODERATOR: Who is your coach?
KARINE ICHER: Brian Mogg.

THE MODERATOR: How long have you guys been working together?
KARINE ICHER: One year. I started last winter.

THE MODERATOR: And how often does he come out.
KARINE ICHER: He comes a little bit, yeah, because there are five of us with the same coach. So he comes quite a bit, yeah.

Q. This tournament has expanded to 72 holes for this year. How do you approach it?
KARINE ICHER: It's the same. It's nice not to have really four rounds to play an event before, three rounds, we don't have lot of three round tournaments right now. We probably have one or two tournaments, even less than that. So I mean, three rounds, you have to be really ready and shoot three days really low.

Now, four rounds, you have a little bit more time and I think it's more fun for everybody. We have one more day and the fans have one more day to see each player they want, so it's good.

Q. You had a birdie on No. 15, and it seems like a relatively short par 4?
KARINE ICHER: Yeah, it's downwind and seems easy, but then when you realize you have to hit your driver really in a narrow place to go to the green, and it's just to know that you need driver when you are hitting downwind and probably a 7 iron and a wedge, but probably maybe you can birdie doing that, maybe 7 iron and a wedge. I pushed a little bit my driver.

I was in the rough on the right side of the green and still had a good lie and I had a good shot. But I mean, if you hit a really good drive, you can go like all over the green on the other side and then the 2 putt par is tough.

THE MODERATOR: Take us through the final two birdies, how those played out.
KARINE ICHER: 17 was looking short. It's still a tricky hole but I had just a 7 iron into the wind. It's only like 145 to the pin and have to hit a 7 iron. Then 18, again, completely different hole than yesterday, and I had to hit wedge. Yesterday most of the girls hit it in two and today there was no way. It was a three shot hole. So hit a really good wedge and almost a tap in for birdie, so a good finish.

Rolex Rankings No. 24 Brittany Lincicome (-4)

Q. Another very good day. How happy were you to match yesterday and continue?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: It started really bad. I was 2 or 3 over pretty early in the round and thought it was going to be one of those days because I was in between clubs on a lot of the holes and just wasn't getting the bounces that I had got yesterday. So it was nice to just calm down a little bit, made a couple birdies and then the back nine I felt like I played really well.

Q. So what happened in the slow start? I know you had two bogeys.
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Just a couple errant shots here and there or just 3 putted one of the holes. Just bad approach shots and then a bad chip to be on top of it, you know. But yeah, I felt like the wind today was not as strong but it was a different direction in the beginning, which made it more challenging. I wish it would switch back tomorrow, because the last couple holes played no, that's not true.

They were easier, I guess, coming in than the first. The first couple in the opposite wind was very challenging.

Q. How big was the birdie on 18? Obviously to finish is big?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: I was super nervous going for it. I feel like 18 is normally a very short hole and I hit 3 wood, a little grip 3 wood, which I knew was going to go long. When I got there, I thought it was in the rough but it was in the bunker.

The bunker shot to that pin is not easy but luckily everything came together at the end and the bounces kind of went my way because it landed in the rough which slowed it down enough to just roll it up there to a foot. But if that would have been the first couple holes today, I probably would have hit it in the water.

Q. How far was this putt, just a foot, tap in?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Yes.

Q. Weekend approach?
BRITTANY LINCICOME: Hopefully the good breaks keep coming and the wind switches back to yesterday's wind. But I've played it both ways and I feel like I'm ready for either way.

But I felt like 15 under par was going to win the tournament, but it doesn't seem to be going that low, which is good. I like tournaments where not too many, maybe like five or 10 under par wins, so just keep doing 2 under each day, and I'm right there. I just need that one really good like 4 or 5 under a day.

Rolex Rankings No. 49 Beatriz Recari (-4)

Q. A couple late birdies, really good for you.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah, definitely. I played solid on the front nine and then I missed it, put it on the wrong spot on 11, that was my only bogey of the round. But then I reacted really quick and then I made birdie right away on 13 and good 2 putt on 14, and then a good birdie on 15.

So definitely I gave myself some chances and finished strong, always under par on this course is great. I'm just very pleased with my game and continuing yesterday's play, as well.

Q. Last couple of events, you've been playing better, maybe more than the beginning of the season. Anything in particular is clicking?
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah, I consider the U.S. Open my first tournament of the year. I started, struggling with injuries and had to kind of redo my swing from scratch. So you know, I consider the U.S. Open my first tournament and my goal was to qualify for these Asian events.

I was aware that I started kind of in the middle of the season and that I had to focus so much on my long game that I kind of neglected certain parts of my game because I had to because I had no time.

And the most important priority was my long game from my play from tee to green, so I knew I was aware that I was going to make some silly mistakes just by lack of practice really. And lately I felt more confident. I gave myself some time to practice my short game, practice my putting, especially because that's the one thing that I thought was letting me down, especially when I was playing I played really well in the British Open and Grand Rapids, and I felt my putting was what was letting me down.

I spent a lot of time in China and especially last week in Malaysia, and started seeing the results in Malaysia right away. Just confirming to myself that all I needed was practice. I always considered myself a good putter. So it was just a matter of getting back to putting in the hours and seeing the putts go in and trusting my stroke.

Last week I came back to good stats on my putting on tournament rounds and that gave me confidence towards this week, and my game was solid. So just very happy that everything is pulling together.

Q. You've played here a few times; comfortable on this course? It's been playing pretty tough.
BEATRIZ RECARI: Yeah, I have a good record this year in windy conditions. You can see the British Open. Starting yesterday, I felt confident about previous results, and every time that I have fast greens, my stats are really good. I feel really comfortable, and like I said, getting back to the numbers that I'm usually at on greens, on putts per green from last week, that gave me confidence to trust it even more.

So, yeah, I feel very comfortable and everything is where I want it to be and I just want to make sure that I keep it up on the weekend, and whatever happens for me, it's been a process of getting back and I'm seeing the progress and I'm seeing the results and that's all I care and I'm just really excited for the weekend. Just keep on doing a better and better job every day.

Rolex Rankings No. 61 Ilhee Lee (-3)

THE MODERATOR: Like to welcome Ilhee Lee to the interview room, just two shots off the lead, even par today. Give us a little recap of your round. How did you feel overall and your position going into this weekend.
ILHEE LEE: So early this year, I was kind of struggling but then I recovered my pace in competition. I've been doing okay in the Asian swing, and I'm not that satisfied with the score today. But I'm satisfied I guess with the even par. I think my putting has become a little stronger and it's helped me lower my score.

THE MODERATOR: You've had some pretty good finishes the past couple events. What's been working better for you this past couple weeks rather than earlier this season?
ILHEE LEE: I think I've tried a lot to change my mind set. Going into the Asian swing, there are no cutoffs, so I'm focused on staying true to my game and I think that mind set has helped me to get lower scores.

THE MODERATOR: How many friends and family?
ILHEE LEE: A lot.

THE MODERATOR: How many, do you think?
ILHEE LEE: More than 30 tickets from the LPGA, thank you. (Laughing).

Q. So it was less windy today but the scores were less than yesterday. Why do you think that is?
ILHEE LEE: Actually, I expected lower scores but overall, the players, they were not able to lower the scores. I think it's because for where the hole is, it can make it very difficult, and so I think a lot of the players had difficulty reading the holes. And depending on the location of the pin, the greens can be very difficult to read.

Q. So you got your first win under very windy conditions and it seems that golf and wind are not a good combination for low scores. I'm curious to know if you have a strategy or any tips on how to overcome windy situations?
ILHEE LEE: I actually live in Dallas and it's always windy. So it's actually really rare to play golf on a windless day.

So I practice a lot in these conditions and this has helped me to overcome my fear of the wind. What I've learned in playing the wind is that if you try to overcome the wind itself, it will play against you. So you need to read the wind and you need to take advantage of the wind for your game.

So I think compared to other players, I am more at ease playing in windy conditions and I'm a little bit more comfortable and I actually enjoy trying to play the wind in windy conditions.

Q. You mentioned Dallas. Curious to know if you've seen Anthony Kim?
ILHEE LEE: Actually I went to the championship four years ago to see him and it seemed like he really enjoyed the game and he didn't seem stressed out at all. This was not long after I arrived in the U.S. and I thought that was something I could learn from, but after that since then, I haven't seen them.

THE MODERATOR: It's a lot of golf in the weekend but could you imagine, would it be a dream come true to win here in Korea?
ILHEE LEE: I was actually on the Korean tour for 2 1/2, three years, before I went to the U.S. and I had no wins. So I really want to win in Korea, and if I win an LPGA tournament in Korea, that would really be a dream come true.

However, like you mentioned, there are still two rounds left. So I'm trying not to focus too much on winning and trying more on having a more comfortable game.

Rolex Rankings No. 62 M.J. Hur (-3)

Q. Very good day, there weren't many low scores. What was the key today to your round?
MI JUNG HUR: Overall, I think my shots were overall I think good. I was making shots and no big misses. But I think that I could have lowered my score considerably if I had putted better. I think putting wise, I wasn't up to par today.

Q. The third event in Asia, was there a goal coming into this stretch? Did you have anything in mind you wanted to achieve in the couple events we'll play here?
MI JUNG HUR: I didn't really have any specific goals coming into the Asian Swing. But I was looking forward to this championship because it's held in Korea and it's been three years since I've played here. There are a lot of fans and supporters out there, so I really want to end this championship with a good score.

Q. Why have you not played it?
MI JUNG HUR: Because I played bad the last three years.

Q. You couldn't get in the field?
MI JUNG HUR: Yes.

Q. So you were excited because you finally got?
MI JUNG HUR: Finally, yes.

Q. Who is here with you? Family, friends? Anybody watching?
MI JUNG HUR: A lot.

Q. Who is in the group?
MI JUNG HUR: Definitely my parents and my father's sisters and brothers, my mom's sisters and brothers and my friends. It's pretty a lot.

Q. So how many do you think?
MI JUNG HUR: 15.

Q. Have you been looking back on your win at all, just replay it in your head for some confidence? How big of a boost has that been? You've been playing well since it, which is good.
MI JUNG HUR: I think I don't really look back or replay the win in my head. I think it has not really impacted my confidence, but I have to say that before that, my shots were a bit shaky. But now I think it was a bit uncertain. But I think that it got rid of a lot of my nerves or the uncertainty in my shot but it has not really impacted my confidence.

Q. Was the wind worse or better today?
MI JUNG HUR: Less windy compared to yesterday but the direction of the wind is completely changed. But overall it was less windy.

Q. Comfortable on this course? How many times have you played it?
MI JUNG HUR: So it's my third time at this championship, and actually maybe it's because it's been held in Korea, I feel much more at home and comfortable compared to any events in the U.S. So I think that's why I'm shooting better.

Q. How far is home from here?
MI JUNG HUR: Two hours.

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