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Darkness suspends play on first day in Virginia
September 06, 2012

Jiyai Shin, -9, Rolex Rankings No. 13
Maria Hjorth, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 40
Paula Creamer, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 18
Azahara Munoz, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 16
Beatriz Recari, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 70
Christina Kim, -5, Rolex Rankings No. 179

Darkness forced the suspension of first-round play at the Kingsmill Championship at 7:26 p.m. on Thursday. A total of 33 players will return to the River Course at the Kingsmill Resort at 7:10 a.m. on Friday to complete their first round

Former Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jiyai Shin looked to be in top form on Thursday, firing a career-low 62 to take the lead at the suspended Kingsmill Championship. Shin’s 9-under-par 62 set the tournament 18-hole record on the River Course at the Kingsmill Resort and gave her a two-shot lead over Dewi Claire Schreefel, who still had two holes remaining in her round when play was called due to darkness.

Among the other players chasing Shin are 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champion Paula Creamer and 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship winner Azahara Munoz, who are among a group of four players that finished at 6-under-par.

The impressive round by Shin, who is now ranked No. 13 in the Rolex Rankings, was interrupted after 12 holes by a 1-hour, 56-minute rain delay. Thunderstorms descended upon the Kingsmill Resort around noon ET, causing the disruption in play. The prolonged break didn’t seem to hamper Shin, who returned from the delay with a flourish by chipping in from 20 yards for birdie on the par-4 fourth hole.

“When I leave [the course for the delay], I'm really worried,” said Shin, who teed off on No. 10 on Thursday. “I thought, ‘Okay, I left the hard chip shot, how can I practice?’ In my memory, in my mind was all about the chip shot, it was really hard. Then after rest, a little bit of practice for chipping, and when I back to there I chipped it in. So it was so lucky for the delay today.”

Shin certainly benefited from more than just luck, shooting 30 on her first nine holes and tallying nine birdies in her bogey-free round. In addition to marking a new career low for Shin, the 9-under-par round also tied the lowest round shot on the LPGA Tour this season. It had been done twice previously in 2012:

62 (-9) So Yeon Ryu, Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, 4th round Par 71
63 (-9) Stacy Lewis, Evian Masters Presented by Société Générale, 1st round Par 72

Return to the winner’s circle? It has been nearly two years since Jiyai Shin last won on the LPGA Tour. That victory came at the 2010 Mizuno Classic in Japan. Shin has had her share of opportunities in contention since that victory, but she has been slowed down by injuries including surgery on her left wrist this past May which sidelined her for two months.

Shin said that before her surgery this year, she was playing through pain and didn’t have much time to practice. Her time off following the procedure actually ended up being a good thing for Shin, who acknowledged that she had begun to press in order to return to the winner’s circle.

“It was good rest for me and then make me refreshed in my mind so when I come back, I really happy to play golf because I really waiting,” Shin said. “I know finally I get the feeling how I like to play on the Tour, so now I really enjoy on the Tour and maybe it help for the scores too.”

After besting her previous low round of the season (66) by four shots on Thursday, Shin certainly felt good about the state of her golf game. But she’s determined not to let the problems she had in 2011 when she put a lot of pressure on herself to get a win creep in again after capturing the first-round lead.

“Last year I think was I really want to win, I really want to win, so I thought last year I was pushing myself too hard, make more tired by myself,” Shin said. “Now this year changed in my mind a little bit and more enjoy, and like I told you, I really happy to play now. I just, I really like the competition with other players.”

Azahara Munoz was still a senior at Arizona State University the last time that the Kingsmill Resort hosted the LPGA Tour. Yet the 2010 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year winner had heard plenty about the golf course from her fellow players. The praise was so strong in fact that it caused Munoz to alter her tournament schedule.

“At the beginning of the season I was maybe thinking about skipping this tournament just to have two weeks off at home and go straight to the British,” Munoz said. “And I think I said that to Sophie Gustafson and she said, ‘No, you have to go to Kingsmill, it's so amazing there.’ So I guess I changed my plans and I'm happy I did and it's great. The golf course is one of the best we play all year. Fans are really good, all volunteers, and so far everything has been great.”

Munoz’s play was also great in Thursday’s first round, as she opened up the tournament with a 6-under 65. She had seven birdies and one bogey en route to finishing the first day in a T2. So while this is only her first event on the River Course here at Kingsmill, Munoz already appears to have taken a liking to it.

“Everything was working well,” said Munoz of her game in the opening round. “I hit a lot of fairways, I was hitting really good drives. I hit, I think, 17 greens and a lot of them pretty close so I gave myself a lot of chances. And I hit a lot of putts, and a few of them I missed short of it, but I guess I need to get a little more used to the speed. But I mean, I'm really happy with my round. I maybe miss-hit a couple shots, but they were still on the green, so everything went pretty well overall.”

Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer) has always been known amongst her LPGA Tour peers and fans for her competitive drive and will to win. These popular characteristics of the nine-time LPGA champion took center stage during Thursday’s first round of the Kingsmill Championship as she fought back from a bogey at the par-4 first with a birdie at the second and an eagle at the third.

Determined to not let the round slip away from her early, Creamer had a little talk with herself after the bogey which propelled her to a first-round 6-under par 65.

“There was no reason why it should have happened and it happened,” said Creamer. “I kind of just told myself I'm not doing this, like I'm tired of starting off not on the right foot, and just kind of came back with a great birdie on 2 and a little pitch-in on 3 for eagle from about 30 yards off the green from the pin, and birdied 6, 7, 8, 9.”

Despite residing in Orlando, Fla., Creamer feels right at home this week in Williamsburg, Va. where she previously finished tied for fourth in the 2006 and 2007 Kingsmill Championship. From the moment she reaches the guard gate at the entry of the Kingsmill Resort, Creamer’s competitive drive kicks into full gear.

“I like it, I like how it feels here, I like the people, everybody's been so nice, it's very relaxed,” said Creamer. “It's such a big tournament type of feel when you walk through or drive through the gates there at the beginning. It just makes you want to play well.”

Maria Hjorth (@mariahjorth) has had a bit of a difficult season this year on the LPGA Tour as she has not finished in the top-20 in a tournament and has missed an uncharacteristic seven cuts.

This week could be just the turnaround she needs as she posted a first-round 6-under-par 65 with a very familiar face right by her side as her caddie. Hjorth married Shaun McBride on December 31,, 2007 and after a three year stent caddying on the PGA Tour, he is on his wife’s bag at this week’s Kingsmill Championship.

“I've got my husband on the bag this week, which it's just a great feeling working together,” said Hjorth. “The last time we worked together we had a win, so hopefully we can keep on going and keep the tradition going. I just felt really confident and really relaxed, great feeling out there today.”

McBride previously caddied for Hjorth at the 2011 Avnet LPGA Classic where she recorded her last LPGA Tour victory. While the two have experienced great success as a team on the links, Hjorth admitted the pairing will not be long-term as McBride hopes to pursuit a career in golf as an instructor and mental coach.

“No, it's not happening very often, this is the last time,” said Hjorth. “He's, you know, trying to go a different direction and not caddie anymore. Yeah, it just happened to be this week because my other caddie and I just, you know, separated and I needed someone for this week, and we kind of planned it a long time ago that he was going to work this week.”

For Rolex Rankings No. 70 Beatriz Recari (@BeatrizRecari), much of this season has been a battle with the flat stick. While Recari has recorded four top-10 finishes this year, it wasn’t until a tied for 60th finish at the CN Canadian Women’s Open that she realized she needed to make a few changes with her putting.

A change with Recari’s putting began on Saturday in Canada but it wasn’t until the week long break between the CN Canadian Women’s Open and this week’s Kingsmill Championship that everything began to click.

“What happened in Canada, on the third round I had -- I hit 14 greens and 42 putts, so you can't play like that,” said Recari. “So we did a lot of work on the putting that afternoon and then I shot 3-under on Sunday. So something clicked for me and I just worked on the same few things we were working on in that putting green session Saturday afternoon in Canada and things started rolling. It's going well obviously, so I'm happy.”

The hard work seems to have paid off for Recari, who ranks 112th in putting average, as she fired a first-round 6-under par 65 that included 26 putts and a chip-on on the par-4 eighth.

“Well, last week was a week off and the week before was Canada where my putting was horrible, it wasn't good at all, so we did a lot of work on the green, lots of, you know, my routine lining it up and it definitely helped and I got a little better feeling on the greens and just hit the ball really well,” said Recari. “So that really the thing, I've been playing very consistent from tee to green all year round, it's just been a matter of getting the putts in the hole and that's really the difference today.”

Rolex Rankings No. 179 Christina Kim (@TheChristinaKim) has had her fair shares of ups-and-downs during her lengthy 10 years as a professional golfer. The 28-year-old made her debut on the LPGA Tour in 2003 and became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2004 Longs Drugs Challenge.

Kim went on to record one additional victory at the 2005 The Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions Presented by Kathy Ireland Worldwide and up until 2010, never went a year without notching at least one top-5 finish.

It wasn’t until 2011 that Kim’s struggles began to prevail and take center stage. In 2011, Kim missed five cuts and only finished in the top-20 twice and this year Kim has missed 11 cuts and only made $31,572 which lands her 111 on the LPGA Tour’s money list.

The combination of injuries, feeling unlike her normal outgoing self and bad play on the golf course have all resulted in the perfect storm for Kim.

“Well, this year is -- has been -- we all have our own personal demons,” said Kim. “I think I was able to see -- I've been down to Hades and back is the way I feel. Just a lot of combination of, over the last couple years, injuries that lead to bad golf, and then bad golf leads to not feeling so great, and then you don't feel so great and then you play badly. It's just this awful cycle.”

After a first-round 5-under par 66 at the Kingsmill Championship things might be turning around for Kim who has felt an overwhelming amount of support from her beloved fans on Twitter.

“My fans on Twitter, you know, though I don't know all of the -- however many I have of them, they've for the most part been very, very inspirational and kept me going through a lot of really tough times,” said Kim. “It's nice even when someone that you don't know, you know, to say that it's going to be okay, that there are people that care about you, you know?”

Cristie Kerr, a two-time winner here at Kingsmill, opened up this year’s event with a 1-over-par 72. Mika Miyazato shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday and is tied for seventh. Miyazato has finished no worse than T16 in her last eight LPGA events. Paola Moreno, who gained entry into the Kingsmill Championship by winning the Eagle Classic on the Symetra Tour, fired a first-round 3-under par 69.

KINGSMILL CHAMPIONSHIP
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