Women’s World Cup of Golf
Gary Player Country Club
Sun City, South Africa
Jan. 17, 2008
Maria Hjorth, Sweden
Laurette Maritz & Ashleigh Simon, South Africa
Juli Inkster & Pat Hurst, United States
Celeste Troche & Julieta Granada, Paraguay; defending champions
Bettina Hauert & Martina Eberl, Germany
Maria Hjorth, Sweden.
MODERATOR: I believe this is your first time in South Africa. Can you start by explaining what it feels like to be here with Sophie (Gustafson), representing Sweden.
MARIA HJORTH: It’s great of course coming down here and representing Sweden. It’s not very often that you have team events that you can play in so it’s great to start the season with this kind of event. Some best-ball, some foursomes. Although you have pressure on your own game there is also someone there to help you out so that’s good.
Q. Are you aware that Sweden is the hot shot favourites to take this title? Does that bother you at all?
MARIA HJORTH: No, it doesn’t. I think as long as you look at it the right way. It’s always good to be the favourites because then you know that you have two good players in your team but you also know that there are a lot of other good teams out there. We have to play really well to be able to win the whole thing. I think the way Sophie and I have been playing, especially the second half of last year, coming into this week we have a chance but we really have to play well and solid.
Q. How does it help that your games are quite similar?
MARIA HJORTH: Well it definitely helps to have the same kind of game that we play. Especially when we come to the foursomes because we don’t feel like there are certain holes that someone has to tee off from. We can look at it more from, I’m not really so comfortable on this tee so it’s better if the other person tees off on odd or evens. I think that foursomes is the important thing, when having similar games helps a lot. Of course, putting out here on this course; the greens are fantastic. They are a little slower than they were earlier in the week but I think now we haven’t had any rains they are probably going to speed up a lot coming into the weekend.
Q. In the first round you will play with the Japanese pair. Do you have any idea about their games or the strategy that they will have?
MARIA HJORTH: I think we just have to go out there and play our game. It can be easy to get caught up in somebody else’s game. I know Shinobu because she has played on the LPGA a little bit and I also met her in Japan. I don’t know the other girl at all. It will be good to play with them.
Q. How much do you think The Solheim Cup experience will help you and Sophie?
MARIA HJORTH: I think it will definitely benefit us. We’ve been used to it every second year almost, you play in a team event. Playing best-best-ball and foursomes you get used to playing that kind of forma which you never get to play otherwise, especially foursomes. So that definitely benefits us I think. On the other hand we have never been teamed up together before so that it something different as well. We know each other well so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Q. How many tournaments did you play in the States?
MARIA HJORTH: I played about 28 tournaments. I based myself on the LPGA.
Q. What were you in terms of driving distance?
MARIA HJORTH: I’m not sure. I think sixth or seventh or something like that.
Laurette Maritz and Ashleigh Simon, South Africa
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, team South Africa. Let’s start with you Laurette: welcome back. It was a good start to the year for you in 2007; a strong finish in Dubai. The same team again at the World Cup: you must be confident of your chances?
LAURETTE MARITZ: It wasn’t too difficult to choose Ash after her great season last year. We spoke about a four year plan and I feel like this year, instead of Ash and I being partners, she has really become my friend, which is great. When friends can work alongside each other, I think it makes a little bit of a difference. This year the course is playing great. Hopefully some putts will drop and we can work some magic out there.
Q. Ash, it’s been a magical start to your professional career. Did you ever dream it would be this good?
ASHLEIGH SIMON: No, never. I thought I would go to both qualifying schools and luckily I got to miss out on having to go to Europe. I had to go to the LPGA. The win in Europe was a great.
Q. You two have played this course together before but it’s a slightly different format. No singles. Does that mean you can play slightly more attacking golf?
LAURETTE MARITZ: I think so. If one of us is in position the other one can really go for it, and that is really your key. It is a fun format; it’s exciting and I think you will see more attacking golf.
Q. You have put yourselves in position over the past couple of years. You have certainly had your chances. Do you see with the new format that you can perhaps attack a little bit more and it will favour you?
ASHLEIGH SIMON: Definitely. I feel that the better-ball in the past has helped us. Last year we were a little bit out of contention after the first day because of the stroke play. It just killed us. From there we played well so I think this format is going to be good for us. It’s “go big or go home” kind of thing.
Q. You have been a pretty good foursomes combination and that might be the key to this entire tournament. Do you believe that?
LAURETTE MARITZ: Yes, I certainly do believe that is certainly the key. That middle day, if you can get in there nice and steady and you do some smart things out there then you have the last day where you can go for it. Like Ashleigh said, you can go big or go home. We’re home but we would like to go big!
Q. A lot of players have commented on the golf course and the focus is on the rough. Is it as penal as everybody says it is? What is the strategy in dealing with it?
LAURETTE MARITZ: You know it’s that old saying: “Take your punishment and leave.” If you try to do miraculous things out of there you are going to struggle. There have been many pars and birdies made if you chip out sideways and just do the thing that you know. I think with guys, they hit the ball a little further and can get out of the rough but watching the Million Dollar a couple of them get into the rough and even they struggle to get out of it. I think the Gary Player Country Club has been renowned for that and it’s pretty famous for it. It’s given many professionals some heartache but also some joy. If you try to stay on that straight and narrow you’ll do much better then you thought.
Q. It may sound like an obvious question but how different is it playing here as a professional. Is the mind set any different this year?
ASHLEIGH SIMON: No, it’s not. I don’t feel any different. I haven’t felt any different since turning pro. The bonus is that if you play well you get a cheque for it so that is basically the only difference. It’s always an honour to play with Lolly and represent South Africa.
Q. There are a number of teams out there. Who do you see as your main competitors?
LAURETTE MARITZ: I think just like Paraguay said this morning on TV: there are 19 other teams who can win. You have a pretty even field this week which makes it a lot of fun, instead of having favourites out there. Obviously there are some longer hitters and you are going to see a lot of talent. For us, the challenge is this golf course so if we can conquer it in our own way, I think we have a chance.
Q. Let’s look ahead to Saturday. You said it is a key round. Do you have any idea how the foursomes is going to go?
ASHLEIGH SIMON: Not yet, no. We think it may play the same as last year. We have played well in foursomes before so that is where it can make or break you. I reckon if you can get around in two under a round you have done very well.
LAURETTE MARITZ: The one thing that I must say is that it is always nice to come back to South Africa. Ash and I, our hearts are here. When we were watching the rugby guys, I had just arrived in England on my way home. It was the final and we were sitting in an English pub. There were just three Africans in there and we forgot where we were so when they first did scored three points on the poles we just went bananas and of course they all looked at us. We thought we need to be careful where we are! When the final whistle went I had tears in my eyes because I just know how hard it is to perform right throughout that tournament. I was proud of them and I really am proud of South Africa because we really are a rainbow nation. Ash and I are wearing rainbow colours and if they could see in our hearts we would have a trophy for it. But we are excited to be here.
Q. Do you spend much time in pubs Laurette?
LAURETTE MARITZ: Only to eat something! I knew you would catch on to that! Just for the record I don’t drink!
Thank you very much.
Juli Inkster & Pat Hurst, United States
MODERATOR: Thank you Team USA, welcome back. You came in second place last year. Looking to do a little better?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, that would be nice. There are a lot of good teams here, this year; it’ll be a little tougher. The course is extremely tough, the rough is up, so we’ll have to play pretty good golf.
Q. Pat, tell us a little about the past year, how your form’s been.
PAT HURST: I’m playing good, I’m feeling good this year and I’m ready to go.
Q. Golfers have said this is one of the toughest golf courses you play and you play it the first of the year. How do you prepare for it?
JULI INKSTER: You can’t really prepare for it; you kind of work on all aspects of your game. You might not peak this week, but down the road. You just try to loosen the bones up and get some good range time in, then come here and see how you do.
Q. Format is slightly different this year with singles being taken away. Do you see that as a benefit for the tournament as a whole?
PAT HURST: I think so. I think it’ll bring everybody a lot closer, so it’ll be good for the tournament. Last year, playing the singles, it just took a long time. It think it’ll be a lot better (without singles) for the tournament and for everybody watching.
Q. You normally don’t get to play a lot of alternate shot, a lot of foursomes. How comfortable are you with that? You were pretty solid last year.
JULI INKSTER: I think we’re both getting more comfortable with it because we played The Solheim Cup and played four-ball. But even practicing for the Solheim, and now we’re starting to play a lot more four-ball, in practice for the Solheim weeks before, months before, so we’re getting more accustomed to it. We used to show up on Friday of The Solheim Cup and say, ‘You take odds, I’ll take evens,’ and that really didn’t flow with how you need to work.
This golf course is really different because the person shooting even holes is doing a lot of putting on the front side. So there’s a little bit of strategy there so you need to figure out who’s doing what.
Q. How key is that Saturday foursomes round? The first and third round being best-ball?
PAT HURST: You have to go out and play halfway decent and, in this rough, it can be pretty tough. You just have to go out and take it one shot at a time in that format. It’s not ok to make bogeys, but it’s going to be ok then. You just try to do the best you can. Pars, birdies are great.
JULI INKSTER: Fairways.
PAT HURST: Fairways and greens. That’s what we’ve got to think: fairways and greens. And, if not, we’ve got to get up and down. It’s going to play an important part because it could shoot you right out of the tournament.
Q. Juli, you mentioned there are a lot of good teams out there. You were second last year. Where do you see the main competition?
JULI INKSTER: I think Paraguay, they seem to be very comfortable with each other. Scotland’s going to be a good team this year; Sweden has a good team; Korea; Canada’s a good team. I think the strength of the field—there might not be as many teams—but the strength of the field is better.
Q. South Africa?
JULI INKSTER: South Africa, yes. Ashleigh is a very good player and it will be interesting. I don’t think anyone’s going to run away with it.
Q. As a pairing, do you have any particular strategy in the best-ball, or do you just play it as it comes?
PAT HURST: I think just play it as it comes and not think too much about it and go out and play your game. If we play our game, it’ll take care of itself.
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, I think when you start trying to place things, you start screwing up. So, we’ll just try to play our own game and try make as many birdies as we can and, if we make some bogeys, so be it.
Celeste Troche & Julieta Granada, Paraguay
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, team Paraguay, the defending champions. Perhaps you can start by taking us through 2007, when you left Sun City, how the year went for you?
JULIETA GRANADA: For me, it was a very important week, we had a great time and we obviously won, so that’s always great. After that, my game was shaky all year, but I’m looking to get it back here and continue through the rest of the year.
CELESTE TROCHE: It was a very special week and we looked forward to being here and we’re here now and we’re very excited. I started off the year really well, then I hurt my back and was out for a couple months. I played a few events, but not many. But I think it was good for my game, I’m all rested up and I’m ready to go.
Q. You say you’re trying to get your game back in shape. This is a pretty difficult golf course to do it on.
JULIETA GRANDA: Yeah, but I had two-and-a-half months off, so that’s always nice when I can get ready and I’m not in a rush to get my game back so fast. Playing week after week, it’s kind of hard. But I had some good time off and I worked on my game. Obviously, I have some great memories of the course, so that always helps coming back to a place where you know you’ve played really well. I think my game is ready, it’s just a matter of doing it now.
Q. A lot more attacking play with the singles having been discarded and two rounds of better ball. Does that change your strategy at all?
CELESTE TROCHE: I don’t think so. I think we just are still going to go out and make birdies like we did the first day last year. I think there’s a little less pressure on the first day. When everything counts, it’s harder. But, looking forward the format, so I think we’ll do fine.
Q. You’re comfortable playing alternate shots?
JULIETA GRANADA: Yeah, we are. We played before, in South American tournaments, we played alternate shots, so it wasn’t so different for us. But, this year, we are prepared better for alternate shot; we’ve practiced a little more, so we’re looking to play well. Our games are very similar, which makes it easier on alternate shot where, if you play with a really long hitter, you’re hitting shots you never hit.
Q. Your mother is on the bag, again, this week?
JULIETA GRANADA: Yes, she’s on the bag and she’s ready to go. She’s also had some time off so we’re all fresh. We went to Paraguay twice, in November and December, so that was great for us to go back to our comfort zone. So, now we’re ready to start the year on a good note.
Q. Celeste, I have memories of this time last year on the 18th green—a lot of emotion. It was a big moment in your career. How important is it from the mental side, coming into this tournament, that you can draw on it?
CELESTE TROCHE: I think it’s very important—you can tell yourself you can do it. Before, you want to do it, but can you do it? Then you do it and it’s a great accomplishment in your mind and it makes you feel good that all the work you put in finally pays off and it was very nice. Especially winning the World Cup and representing your country; it wasn’t just for me, it was for the country, so it was really special.
Q. A lot of good teams here this week. Where do you see the main competition coming from?
JULIETA GRANADA: Obviously, Sweden, South Africa is local, U.S. All the teams are good, you can’t just point out a few. Last year, we weren’t the favorite, but we ended up winning, so anything can happen. You can’t worry about that. It’s a tough format, as a team, so you can’t be worrying about the other teams. You just have to play your own game. It’s possible; that’s our main thing. We did it once and we can do it again, no matter who’s in the field, we just have to play our own game.
Q. A lot of teams have said that Saturday’s alternate-shot foursomes are going to be key to this event given that there is best-ball on either side of that. That’s where you have to stay in contention.
CELESTE TROCHE: I agree. It’s the most difficult day. It’s hard to get into a rhythm, because you’re not hitting every shot. We just need to stay focused and have faith and that will be very important that day.
Q. Any new outfits this year?
JULIETA GRANADA: Oh, yeah, all the outfits. We already started wearing them today and yesterday, so we have three to go. They are red, white and blue because that’s our country’s flag, but there are different designs and they’re looking good. I’m sure everyone will enjoy them.
Bettina Hauert and Martina Eberl, Germany
MODERATOR: Welcome team Germany. Martina: this is your first visit to Sun City but you have been to South Africa many times. What are your first impressions?
MARTINA EBERL: It’s awesome. It’s incredible. Everybody was saying what a great place this was but I just wanted to surprise myself. I have been to many places in South Africa before playing with Bettina in some tournaments there. I played in the World Cup in 2005 at Fancourt but this is definitely the best place I have been to in South Africa.
Q. Bettina your form coming into the tournament – are you confident that you have the team that can go the whole way?
BETTINA HAUERT: I’m always confident so there are no worries about that.
Q. Your thoughts on 2007 – were you happy?
BETTINA HAUERT: Well it was quite a rollercoaster but in the end it was quite alright. I was happy.
Q. Martina, a good year for you?
MARTINA EBERL: Yes. I was playing well all year but never broke into the top five or anything. At the last tournament in Europe I was lucky enough to win and that pushed me up on the money list and I was lucky enough to qualify for the World Cup with Bettina.
Q. Tell us about your impressions of the golf course.
BETTINA HAUERT: The key to this tournament, like it is in basically any golf tournament, is fairways and greens. You don’t want to miss the fairway. You can be just one metre off the fairway and the ball is lost. There is no way of finding it. I lost a couple of balls in the practise round and you just don’t have a clue. I hope there are going to be ball spotters around because otherwise my caddie will have to carry two dozen balls.
MARTINA EBERL: I totally agree. You have to hit the fairway, even if you have to play more defensive. Hitting the fairway instead of going into the rough. If you miss it by even half a yard you may not find your ball so if you go for the centre of the green I think you’re pretty safe there.
Q. It is not often that you get to play better-ball and alternate shot foursomes. Are you comfortable together?
BETTINA HAUERT: We have known each other for ages. We played on the national team together and on the girls’ team. Martina made it to the ladies’ team a bit earlier than me and we played several European team championships together. We are roommates, we know each other pretty well so I think that shouldn’t be a problem at all. From the golf perspective, we have to play our own shots anyway. You can read the lines together and make decisions but everybody plays the shot herself.
Q. Your strategy in the foursomes… have you decided who will hit which shot?
MARTINA EBERL: No; not yet. I played 18 yesterday but Bettina played nine. The day before we also just played nine. Today will be our first time playing 18. I think it’s best to wait and see about who hits which tee shot. We will sit down tonight and have a chat about it but it won’t be a problem.
Q. There are a lot of strong competitors here. Do you rate your chances?
MARTINA EBERL: Well that’s the reason it is called the World Cup: the best women in the world are here. Both of us had a great year last year so we should be confident playing well and I think it wouldn’t make sense to say – of course we can’t to win but you don’t want to say a specific position. I think if we play well, keep our heads cool and drink a lot of water we’ll be fine.
Q. How much of a break have you had since the end of the season?
BETTINA HAUERT: The break was pretty short, coming from India. Three weeks. I had another company day going on which lasted nearly five days again into the break. I spent Christmas with my family and so did Martina. I think the break was too short but after Australia I’m going to take two more weeks off there and that should do.
Q. Some of the players say that this is the toughest you play all year. It must be tough to come to a course like this so early in the year?
MARTINA EBERL: Oh definitely but I think the Links at Fancourt. I stay with my opinion that it was the toughest course I have played in my life. The shape that the course was in at that time was so tough. The greens were so firm. Here, it’s more like a parkland course and I really enjoy playing parkland courses. Bettina does too. It’s a very, very tough course if you miss fairways and greens but if you keep going down the road and stay centre it will be fine. It won’t be a problem like the Links. For me, that was a very tough golf course at that time.
Of course this is a tough golf course but it’s tough for everyone. We have some teams like Sweden, who with Sophie Gustafson and Maria Hjorth are both long hitters but I don’t think they have a big advantage on this course. The longer you hit the ball, the fairways are getting tighter. Although they have a lot of power and muscles they won’t get very far either.
BETTINA HAUERT: I was hitting my seven out just 20 metres. My 52 degree was going a bit further but I couldn’t hit it more than 40 metres out of that rough. If you hit it into the rough then add one.
Q. At high altitude does the ball fly noticeably further up here?
BETTINA HAUERT: It’s nearly up a club.
MARTINA EBERL: I think for Bettina it’s a bit further because she hits her irons as far as I hit my woods! It flies a little bit longer but not massively. It’s going to be three quarters or half a club I think.
BETTINA HAUERT: You can add on like eight metres.
MARTINA EBERL: That’s like three quarters of a club. It’s nice though; you feel strong!
BETTINA HAUERT: It’s going to be disappointing when we go to Australia at sea level! We’ll be hitting them nowhere! (Laughter)