Pair Share Futures Lead
But the four-time All-American from Duke University and 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur champion finally stepped up to lead a round for the first time this rookie season at the $70,000 Betty Puskar Futures Golf Classic. And she held the first-round lead alone at 5-under-par 67 until Melanie Holmes-Smith of Melbourne, Australia, posted her own 67 late in the day to climb into a tie for the lead.
'I haven't been in the low numbers for a while,' said Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, whose 67 ties her season-low round. 'Honestly, I was feeling the pressure a lot this season, but I have to blame myself for letting it happen. I just have to give myself some room.'
The former Duke star, who turned pro after this spring's NCAA Women's Golf Championship, and rookie Holmes-Smith, put some room between themselves and the rest of the field today. Only Sung Ah Yim of Seoul, Korea, posted a round in the 60s. Yim, who currently is ranked No. 6 on the Futures Tour's Money List, carded a 3-under-par 69 at The Pines Country Club in the Tour's 13th annual visit to the University of West Virginia's hometown.
'This course is up and down [hilly], longer and wider than last week's course and that is nice,' said Yim, 20, also a rookie.
Six players tied at 2-under 70 and six tied at 1-under 71. For the day, 27 players finished the first round at even-par 72 or better on the 6,287-yard course with spaghetti rough. Hit it in the fairway or on the green and players could score. Hit it in the rough and call the yardman.
Michelle Simpson of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., was among the 15 players who recorded an 'other' score on the round's statistical chart for the 209-yard, par-3 17th hole. 'Other,' as in something other than a bogey.
'I hit the green and four-putted on that hole,' said Simpson, who finished the day at 2-under 70.
But while The Pines offered the 144-player field generous fairways and smooth-rolling greens, the lengthy rough kept players focused on the short grass and on making every available birdie.
Nirapathpongporn, who has three top-20 finishes this season, got off to a good start when she holed out of a bunker on the first hole from 20 yards for birdie. She added five more birdies from a range of 4 to 20 feet, with only one bogey on the 10th hole after she failed to get up and down for par from a long bunker shot.
But the par-4 10th hole was no friend to anyone Friday, playing as the day's toughest hole and averaging 5.01 strokes for the field for the uphill 394-yard poke. It tripped up the Thai star. It also snagged Yim, who missed the 10th green.
Friday's 67 also was the season's low round for Holmes-Smith, who joined the Futures Tour during the second week of June in Lima, Ohio. She carded 25 putts today and said her opening-round score was the result of her new mental approach, thanks to help from her sports psychologist.
'It hasn't been pretty lately,' said the Aussie, whose best finish this season has been a tie for 19th in Vermont in early July. 'Usually, I'm having to make 35-foot bombs for par. But this feels very natural. Hopefully, I can go back out there and stay aggressive.'
Ditto for Nirapathpongporn, who hopes to add to her resume this week.
'I know what I have in me and I know how to use it when it matters,' she said. 'It's not like I havent been here before.'
Saturdays second round of the 54-hole tournament will begin at 8 a.m., off the first and 10th tees. The leaders will tee off at 2:09 p.m.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.