Lydia Ko tees off during the first round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic on Thursday. ( AFP-Yonhap)
DALY CITY, California (AP) ― Karine Icher and her caddie husband, Fred, evaluated the conditions and course at challenging Lake Merced and decided on a Day 1 strategy: stay short of the pin and putt uphill.
The move worked beautifully, and Icher delivered the most consistent performance on a day there weren’t many in the debut of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.
“I think it’s the key on this course,” Icher said. “It’s a tough golf course, especially with the wind and temperature. It gets so cold. You try to stay warm and try to catch the right wind and go with it and make some putts.”
The Frenchwoman birdied four of her first seven holes and finished with a 6-under 66 on Thursday to take the lead, two strokes ahead of Lydia Ko and several others. Afterward, Icher was off to pick up 2-year-old daughter, Lola, from the tour’s children’s care and head to dinner.
The start was delayed two hours because of fog and play was suspended because of darkness with 24 players still on the course.
Icher had a bogey-free round and hit all but one green in regulation. Many struggled off the tee or with their putters on speedy, tricky greens on a cool day with plenty of wind and hovering fog not far off the Pacific Ocean.
The gallery sang “Happy Birthday” to Ko on her 17th birthday as she started from the first tee, and Ko came through with a 68 on a day she was also named among TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people. Ko’s group barely beat the horn for darkness.
“I wanted to finish today,” she said, acknowledging the birthday song was “kind of embarrassing” but much-appreciated.
Morgan Pressel birdied four of her first eight holes and was among the players sitting three strokes back at 69.
Mo Martin also shot a 69 after warming up four times before finally hitting her first tee shot following the fog delay.
Pressel, whose round began on the back nine, went to 4 under at the turn.
Top-ranked Park In-bee opened with a 73 in the $1.8 million event, while second-ranked Suzann Pettersen had a 70 in her first tournament since missing three events with a back injury. On the par-4 11th, a frustrated Pettersen made an 8-foot putt for triple-bogey to fall from 3 under to even par before bouncing back.
Michelle Wie, coming off her first win in nearly four years last week in her home state of Hawaii, finished at even-par 72.
Those who were still on the course will play resume their rounds Friday morning, so many will have a quick turnaround after a short break. Tee times remained the same.
Park In-bee plays a shot on the 10th hole on Thursday. (AFP-Yonhap)
Martin surges to Zurich Classic lead
AVONDALE, Louisiana (AP) ― A few weeks ago, Ben Martin had missed seven of eight cuts and figured he’d better make some changes.
He started by meeting with his sports psychologist and hiring an old buddy from Clemson as his new caddie.
The results have been pretty good so far.
On Thursday, Martin treated a tiny late-afternoon gallery to a course-record round, shooting a 10-under 62 in the first round of the Zurich Classic.
“Really, everything was working well,” Martin said. “I had a pretty good start and just kept it rolling. It was just one of those days, just like you draw it up.”
Martin birdied 10 holes and made pars on the rest. His final birdie came on his most spectacular shot in a round full of them when he chipped in from 55 feet with a 54-degree sand wedge on the par-3 17th hole. That came a hole after the 26-year-old South Carolina native hit the flag on a chip from behind the green, setting up a tap-in par.
The previous record at TPC Louisiana was a 64, accomplished many times, including once earlier Thursday, when Andrew Svoboda did it to take a lead that held up until Martin surged past late in the day.
Peter Hanson and Noh Sueng-yul were tied for third at 65.
Martin stayed home during the Masters two weeks ago, when meetings with his psychologist persuaded him to focus more on the process of playing on the tour than his results. Then he hired fellow former Clemson player Alex Boyd to haul his clubs, giving him a sense of comfort as walked the course with someone he could talk to about anything.
“We’re good friends ... have a lot in common, so a lot to talk about in between shots,” Martin said.
Last weekend, Martin matched his career best with a third-place tie in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head. He also finished third in early March in the Puerto Rico Open, but missed four cuts after that.
Martin opened the Zurich with a 10-foot birdie putt, the first of six birdies on the front nine, most set up by approach shots within 10 feet. One exception was his 26-foot birdie putt on No. 5. He opened the back nine with a 14-foot birdie putt, made a 10-footer on 11 and a 20-footer on 13.