Trio Tied for Lead in Futures Tour Opener
Teenager Seon-Hwa Lee of Chonan, Korea took the early first-round lead at 6-under-par 66 at Cleveland Heights Golf Course. By afternoon, two other players ' Carrie Wood of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Nicole Dalkas of Palm Desert, Calif. ' had also carded 66s for a share of the lead.
'This is a great start but its just one round,' said Wood, a non-exempt member of the LPGA Tour who played in the late afternoon. 'I didnt expect a lot or hit the ball that well off the tee, but I made the putts I needed to make.'
To be exact, Wood made 25 putts and posted a bogey-free, six-birdie round. The eighth-year pro is still looking for her first professional win.
Lee, 18, missed one fairway and one green and carded seven birdies and one bogey en route to taking the lead in the morning wave of tee times. The rookies only bogey came on the 13th green when she missed the green and failed to get up and down for par. She credited her play with experience she gained on the Korean LPGA Tour, where she has won twice and was ranked No. 3 on the 2003 money list.
'Playing here is good experience because Ive never played in the United States other than at the FUTURES Tour Qualifying Tournament last fall,' said Lee, through an interpreter. 'Im still 18. Theres no rush. I want to get one of the five LPGA Tour cards [awarded to the top five money winners at the end of the year].'
Dalkas, a fourth-year pro, also raced the setting sun with her late-afternoon 66. Her short professional career has included two rotator-cuff surgeries on her right shoulder, a one-stroke miss at last years LPGA Qualifying Tournament and more LPGA Monday qualifiers in 2003 than she cares to remember. The former LPGA Tour members goal is to regain her full LPGA status, which she hopes to earn by playing full-time on the FUTURES Tour this season.
'Its only going to teach me how to win playing out here this year,' said Dalkas, 24, who recorded seven birdies and one bogey in her opening round.
Naree Song of Seoul, Korea, got off to a slow start in her professional debut. The prodigy from the David Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Fla., shot a 3-over-par 75 in her opening round with bogeys on her first three holes. At 17, she is the youngest player on the Tour this season.
'It was a little stressful,' said Song, whose twin sister Aree Song is playing on the LPGA Tour. 'I kind of went cold, but I got it back. I just didnt adjust quickly enough.'
Cleveland Heights, a municipal course, was one of three host courses for last years Qualifying Tournament. But the rain-soaked course last November bore little resemblance to the sun-soaked, quick-rolling greens of todays opening round at the 6,230-yard, par-72 layout. Still, it was a scoring course and birdies were abundant.
Yvonne Cox of Charleston, W.Va., Aram Cho of Seoul, Korea, and Heather Stirling of Stirling, Scotland, all posted 5-under-par rounds of 67.
'This was definitely a confidence booster,' said fourth-year FUTURES Tour member Cox, 26, who took off the last four months to work in golf retail. 'I came into this week with no expectations. The time off from golf was good because it made me hungry when I came back out here.'
Rookie Libby Smith of Essex Junction, Vt., and veteran pro Michele Fuller of Jupiter, Fla., each carded rounds of 68. Amateur Brittany Lincicome of Seminole, Fla., fired a 2-under-par 70.
Perhaps the days most tenacious player was rookie Seul Ki Kim of Incheon, Korea, who arrived at the course at noon for a 12:40 PM tee time after an all-night flight from Korea. Kim ran into U.S. work-visa problems. The visa arrived five days later than expected and the player left Korea Thursday afternoon for Los Angeles, then departed L.A. at 10 PM Thursday to arrive in Tampa at 5:10 AM today. After the drive to Lakeland and some unpacking, refreshing and a couple of winks of sleep, Kim yawned her way to a 1-under-par 71.
'Im very glad the first round is over,' she said through her interpreter. 'I was almost sleeping on the golf course, but Im satisfied.'
Sue Ginter-Brooker of Appleton, Wis., who won the Lakeland event two years ago, is playing seven months pregnant. She shot a 1-over-par 73.
Courtney Swaim of Duluth, Ga., also made the most of her round after her putter broke with six holes to play. The epoxy fell out of her putter shaft, causing the clubhead to spin, so Swaim putted on the next hole with her 7-wood. She putted her last five holes with her pitching wedge, making a four-footer for birdie on one of the holes. 'I wont use the pitching wedge on Saturday unless I start putting bad,' she said.
Saturdays second round will begin at 7:20 AM, off the first and 10th tees. The leaders will tee off at 1:50 PM.
Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME
NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.
A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.
In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.
“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”
Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.
“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.
Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.
“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”
How does she feel?
“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”
Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.
New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title
NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.
Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.
She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.
“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”
Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.
Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.
Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.
Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.
“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.
Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.
“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”
You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios
NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.
Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:
Race to the CME Globe
Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.
Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.
The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.
Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.
Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.
So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.
Rolex Player of the Year
The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.
Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.
Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.
Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.
It’s simple math.
The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.
1st - 30 points
2nd – 12 points
3rd – 9 points
4th – 7 points
5th – 6 points
6th – 5 points
7rd – 4 points
8th – 3 points
9th – 2 points
10th – 1 point
Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.
Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.
Rolex world No. 1 ranking
World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.
Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.
At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.
Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.
Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.
''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''
Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.
''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''
Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.
''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''
J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.
''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.
''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''
He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.
''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''
Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.
''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''