Nobody’s asking Tiger Woods what it’s like to play in the shadow of his niece today.
Still, Cheyenne Woods was a towering presence Thursday at the Manulife LPGA Classic.
With a 9-under-par 63, Cheyenne moved to the top of the leaderboard in the first round at Whistle Bear Golf Club in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. The effort looked like it was going to hold up through the afternoon to give her the first lead she has ever had in an LPGA event until Cristie Kerr and P.K. Kongkraphan matched Woods late in the day. The trio is one shot ahead of Germany’s Sandra Gal and Israel’s Laetitia Beck, and two ahead of Anna Nordqvist, Sei Young Kim and Brittany Lang.
Woods tied the course record with her best round on tour as an LPGA rookie.
With so much attention on her Uncle Tiger playing at the same time at the Memorial, where he struggled to hit fairways and greens shooting 73, Cheyenne put on a ball-striking clinic. She hit all 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.
“I had one bogey, which was a stupid three-putt, but overall I played solid,” Cheyenne said in her post-round meeting with the media.
Woods, 24, broke through to win her first Ladies European Tour title last year, taking the Australian Ladies Masters. Now, she’s looking to mount a run at her first LPGA title. Woods won LPGA membership in December making it through Q-School in her third try. Her rookie season, though, has been a school-of-hard-knocks learning experience. She has missed the cut in her last five starts.
At 113th on the LPGA money list, Woods could use a nice boost of good play to set her summer off right with a re-shuffle of the tour’s priority ranking in three weeks.
“It’s great to be in this position,” Woods said when asked how she will feel playing with a lead. “I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I'm just going to go out there – it's a new day – and go into it with the same mindset and just go play golf.”
Woods beat Australian Minjee Lee in a Sunday duel winning the Australian Ladies Masters last year. Lee won her first LPGA title at Kingsmill a couple weeks ago.
Woods got herself off to a strong start Thursday playing the first round alongside Jaye Marie Green and Brittany Henderson. Woods and Green went with fellow pro Sadena Parks to see rapper Drake in a concert in Toronto Tuesday night. Woods said it set the tone for a fun week.
“Jaye Marie and I were talking the whole day,” Woods said. “It was very relaxed.
“I think the biggest thing, we were just having fun out there. Sometimes that’s when I play my best, and it worked out.”
Woods caught fire in the middle of Thursday’s round. She holed a 50-foot eagle putt at the ninth hole and then birdied the 10th, 11th and 12th holes. She grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie at the 16th and took sole possession of the lead with a birdie at the 17th.
“Last week I didn't play well, but I putted better, so I carried that into this week,” Woods said. “I'm putting better this week also. I think that gives me more confidence from the fairway, too, for my approach shots. I think that was a big change for me that helped me.”