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Rookie Michaels shoots career best for shared lead
August 17, 2012

Sydnee Michaels -7, Rolex Rankings No. 260
Mika Miyazato -7, Rolex Rankings No. 19
Cristie Kerr -6, Rolex Rankings No. 9
So Yeon Ryu -5, Rolex Rankings No. 12
Brittany Lincicome -5, Rolex Rankings No. 18
Michelle Wie -3, Rolex Rankings No. 45

LPGA Tour rookie Sydnee Michaels (@SydneeMichaels) and Mika Miyazato (@mikachin1010) share the lead at 7-under-par after the first round of the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola (@SafewayClassic). Michaels and Miyazato both shot rounds of 65 on the Ghost Creek Golf Course at Pumpkin Ridge to take a one-shot lead over 2008 Safeway Classic champion Cristie Kerr (@CKGolferChic), Thailand native Pornanong Phatlum and recent Evian Masters winner, Inbee Park.

Michaels and Miyazato each tallied eight birdies and one bogey in their rounds on Friday. Miyazato birdied the difficult 18th hole to move into a tie for the lead with Michaels, who had set the score to beat early in the day as she teed off in Friday’s first group.

Rookie Sydnee Michaels is still getting accustomed to being near the top of the leaderboard on the LPGA Tour, but she does have an understanding of what it takes to win.

Michaels won twice on the Symetra Tour last year, en route to finishing fourth in the Race for the Card which earned her full membership on the LPGA Tour in 2012. But it took some time for her to get into a groove last year with both of those victories coming toward the end of the season. Her hope is that the same thing will happen in her rookie season on the LPGA as well.

For Michaels, who is the youngest of 8 children in her family, the round of 65 on Friday was her career-best. Her strong performance comes a week after tallying the best finish of her rookie season last week, a T21 at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic Presented by Kroger, Owens Corning, and O-I.

“It's been hit or miss,” Michaels said of her rookie season. “I'll be in contention and I might have a little shaky Sunday, and wind up top 30 or something like that or I'll miss the cut by one or two. I definitely feel that every week I learn something, and I'm hoping I'll start to hit my stride here towards the end of the season. Last year I hit my stride at the end of the season, so I'm kind of hoping I follow that pattern.

Playing in Portland certainly is a comfortable feeling for Michaels, who grew up on the West Coast just outside of Los Angeles, Calif. She is no stranger to this event either, having twice earned a spot in the field as an amateur. Both of those appearances came before the tournament moved to Pumpkin Ridge in 2009 but Michaels said that experience has really helped this week.

“It's an awesome opportunity for an amateur to be able to play in an LPGA event,” Michaels said. “ I was fortunate enough to play in eight or nine professional events before I turned pro, and any kind of experience helps you. So it's great to be back. It's awesome to be here, playing as an LPGA player.”

There have been five Rolex First-Time Winners on the LPGA Tour so far this season and that number could soon be growing. Mika Miyazato, who is in her fourth year on the LPGA Tour, has been making a strong push in recent weeks to capture her first LPGA victory and she is tied for the lead after the first round of the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola.

Miyazato’s strong opening round of 65 was a continuance of her solid play over the last three months. She has tallied five top-10 finishes in her past six events and has finished no worse than T16 over that stretch. The Okinawa, Japan native even recorded back-to-back, runner-up finishes at the Wegmans LPGA Championship and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G in June.

“My golf game is very confident right now,” Miyazato said. “But to begin the season I was not so very good with my golf game. I started to shoot right in a couple four or five events, ShopRite and Wegmans. So I'm gaining more confidence in my golf game.”

Miyazato credited her putting as the key to her success on Friday. She needed 29 putts to get around the course while hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation. It was a very solid round, particularly since she was in the afternoon wave when scorching temperatures made the greens firmer and more difficult to hold.

Cristie Kerr’s two-year winning drought probably seems particularly long after having tallied seven straight seasons with at least one win. It’s been a season of ups and downs for the 16-year veteran on Tour, tallying only three top-10s and her first missed cut since the 2011 Navistar LPGA Classic. But on a hot, Friday morning she fired a 6-under 66 to put her one-stroke behind the lead; her lowest score since the third round of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.

Kerr believes a low score in the first round will be integral to finishing well this weekend in the 54-hole event.

“It is key,” Kerr said. “You have to have a low round in a three‑day tournament. It's nice to get it out of the way. You've got to go out there tomorrow and make believe it's the first day of the tournament and try to get a low one again.”

Following the Evian Masters Presented by Societe Generale, the wine connoisseur took a nine-day vacation and traveled through Italy for both business and pleasure.

“We went to Tuscany and went around to the different wineries,” Kerr said. “Went to Ornellaia, and not only a fun vacation, but research for me because of the wine business. We had a lot of fun as a group.

“Came back, and I felt like I was ready to start practicing, getting ready for this week. I love Portland. I love the city and the weather and all the golf courses here. So this is an enjoyable week for me. I feel more relaxed and comfortable and ready to play golf.”

Brittany Lincicome (@Brittany1golf) never played on the Symetra Tour, as she qualified for the LPGA Tour on her first attempt back in December of 2004.But the five-time LPGA Tour winner joked on Friday that she may have really enjoyed that Tour due to all of the 54-hole events, like they are playing at this week’s Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola.

“I like tournaments that start on Friday,” Lincicome said. “It's one less day that I have to concentrate for. Obviously if you've won a four‑day tournament, you've beaten the best players and you've gone through four days. But I feel like I would have done really good on the Symetra Tour. I can't concentrate more than three days, I guess. laug.”

Lincicome has certainly had her fair share of success in both 54-hole and 72-hole events on the LPGA Tour. And she found herself just two shots off the lead after the first round of this week’s tournament, where a strong start is particularly important due to the shortened nature of the event. A big part of her success was her ability to take advantage of the par-5s, as she went 4-under on those which included an eagle on the ninth.

“I started out slow and wasn't making a lot of birdies and just kind of going through the motions,” Lincicome said. “You get to those holes 8, 9, 10 and it's like, okay, I have legit chances to make birdies and maybe even eagle on 9. If you go through those holes and you par all three of them, you're like I'm three strokes behind the field already. So it's one of those where you're going into the holes with a little more pressure on you because you know you need to birdie at least one, if not two or three of those holes to keep up with the lead.”

Michelle Wie (@TheMichelleWie) and Yani Tseng seem to be experiencing the same struggles as of late. As Wie tallied her seventh missed cut of the season last week while Tseng missed her third cut in the past four events, the two decided to play a commiseration round in Toledo and reflect on their season so far.

Whatever was discussed during that round supplied both of them with encouragement, as both finished under-par on Friday as Wie shot a 3-under 69 while Tseng shot a 2-under 70. They both agree that positivity will help get through their winless drought.

“It's just one week it seems so easy and another week, or another year, for me everything seems so difficult,” Wie said. “But I've got to stay positive. Nothing good will come out of it if you keep beating yourself up. The game is hard enough as it is without me doing that to myself. I'm just trying to stay positive after every round, looking at the positives and feeling good about each week and really trying not to doubt my game, because I know I have it.”

Last week’s winner, So Yeon Ryu, followed up her first LPGA victory with another solid round. Ryu shot a 5-under 67 to put herself in a T6 after the first round at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola. Mariajo Uribe (@MariaJoUribe) aced the par-3 third hole in Friday’s first round. Uribe holed out from 155 yards with a 7-iron. It’s her second career hole-in-one on the LPGA Tour…Jeong Jang withdrew during Friday’s first round, citing a sore right wrist… Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng came close in Friday’s first round to breaking 70, which she hasn’t done since June 2. Tseng was 3-under thru 16 but bogeyed the 17th to finish with a 2-under 70 in the opening round.

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