Icher Leads in France Sorenstam One Shot Back
First-round leader Mi Hyun Kim was two shots off the lead at 8-under-par 136 while fellow Korean Grace Park was one shot further back at 7-under-par 137.
Icher, playing in front of a home crowd at Evian Masters Golf Club, was two strokes behind Kim to start the round. She began to chip away at the margin with a chip-in birdie at the third and added another at the fourth to reach 6-under.
She birdied the par-5 seventh and hit a sand-wedge within three feet of the hole at the ninth to move to 8-under and tie Kim, who had birdied the first and the fifth.
At the 11th, Icher drained a 40-footer for birdie to climb to 9-under but was soon matched by Kim, who made a birdie of her own at the same hole.
Icher took the outright lead with a seven-foot birdie at the 16th and parred the two remaining holes to stand atop the leaderboard midway through the tournament.
'I do not have the fate of the world,' said Icher. 'Second year on tour, so I learn.'
The 23-year-old Frenchwoman finished first at the 2000 Ladies European Tour Qualifying School. She went on to win twice during her rookie campaign in 2001 and earned her first victory of 2002 at the Caja Duero Open de Espana in May.
Sorenstam was lurking just one behind Icher after a round of 5-under 67. The Swede collected three birdies on the front nine and knocked a 4-wood one foot from the hole for birdie at the 15th. She had a chance to tie Icher for the lead at the par-5 last, but her eagle try missed as she settled for birdie.
'I gave myself a lot of opportunities, like that eagle putt on 18,' said Sorenstam, who won this event in 2000. 'I had a lot of chances out there, but the greens are still not something I'm used to. It's been tough to make the transition from last week. But if I keep hitting them close enough, they'll drop eventually.'
Pak, who captured her second LPGA Championship last week, matched the course record with a round of 8-under 64. Pak had a share of the lead after a birdie at the 16th but a three-putt bogey at the very next hole dropped her out of the top spot.
The 24-year-old, who became the youngest woman to win four majors with her victory last week, closed with a birdie at the last to join Sorenstam in a tie for second.
'It was fun today,' said Pak. 'Mentally, everything is set.'
Lindley put together a remarkable stretch to close out her round. The 30-year-old landed her tee shot inside three feet of the cup at the par-3 14th for the first of five consecutive birdies en route to a round of 6-under 66.
Cristie Kerr posted a round of 68 to finish alone in seventh at 6-under-par 138. She was followed by Wendy Doolan, Catriona Matthew, Maria Hjorth, Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, Carin Koch and Mhairi McKay, who were all tied at 5-under-par 139.
Suzann Pettersen and Jackie Gallagher-Smith are tied for 14th at 4- under-par 140.
Defending champion Rachel Teske recovered from an opening-round 74 with a 2-under 70 Thursday. Teske finished 10 shots off the lead at even-par 144.
Full field scores from the Evian Masters
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.