Trio one shot clear of the pack at Wegmans
Beatriz Recari -3, Rolex Rankings No. 83
Beatriz Recari, Giulia Sergas and Ryann O'Toole are tied for the lead after the first round of play at the 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship. The trio shot 3-under 69s to take a one-shot lead over a group of seven players at 2-under-par. Both Recari and O'Toole had four birdies and one bogey en route to taking a share of the first-round lead while Sergas had six birdies and three bogeys in her round.
For 35 years, Wegmans has been a sponsor for the LPGA event in Rochester, N.Y. Headquartered in the Gates suburb, the family-owned supermarket chain is popular in the Mid-Atlantic states not only for their food variety but also for their Market-Café in-style dining. It is at the top of every player's dining list during the week of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
First-round leader Beatriz Recari started her week off with a few meals from the superstore, which may have given her the fuel she needed to succeed this week.
"Well, definitely, you know, your body needs great nutrients," Recari said. "Monday, I think, I went twice to the Wegmans store, and I had great sushi, great food, and I take care a lot about my nutrition. So I mean, if you give good fuel to your Ferrari, your Ferrari responds. Give the Ferrari the cheap fuel, it's not going to go as fast. Definitely Wegmans' store food is top notch."
Ryann O'Toole missed the cut at last week's ShopRite Classic but she got off to a hot start in Thursday's first round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship, finishing tied for the lead following a 3-under 69. Perhaps the key to O'Toole's success on day one of the tournament was a phone call that she made the night before the start of play.
O'Toole spoke with noted golf mental coach, Dr. Bob Rotella, on the phone Wednesday night and the conversation focused on the outdoor sport enthusiast keeping her aggressiveness on the course.
"His biggest thing with me is to try to get me to play in a sense that I do everything else," O'Toole said. "That being said like surfing or snowboarding, just kind of a free spirit a little bit. Don't hold back. He tries to get a little arrogant side to come out of me….We've been working on things, like clicking my mind off every time I hit a shot, turn it off and keep going, letting it go, staying in the moment. I think that's working out for me."
O'Toole may only be in her second year on Tour but she's no stranger to finding her name near the top of the leaderboard at majors. O'Toole finished ninth at last year's U.S. Women's Open en route to being named a captain's pick for the 2011 U.S. Solheim Cup Team.
"I like hard courses," O'Toole said of her success in majors. "To me, I don't know, I focus a little more. I get out here just like everyone else does and go, wow, the rough is heavy, the fairways are narrow, the greens are fast. It really calls for using different shots out of your bag. It makes you work. Rather than courses being a birdie-fest some times where it's wide open and you hit way, I find that this asks a lot more out of your game. So for some reason, it focuses me in a little more."
Although Yani Tseng has created a fairly large gap as the leader in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, a fire has sparked in players like Stacy Lewis to take that spot away. Tseng's three wins this season have helped solidified her No. 1 spot, but Lewis' two wins and jumping from No. 7 to No. 3, the buzz about the two golfers have sky rocketed in the past few weeks. So, what about No.2 Na Yeon Choi?
Choi has posted two top-5s and has consistently placed in the top-25 this season. She may be hungry for a win, but she is just fine sitting at No. 2.
"I feel like I like chasing somebody rather than leading," Choi said. "When I'm chasing to somebody I can play aggressive, or I can act more aggressive. Yani and Stacy, they are playing so great, and last week I played last week with Stacy and she hit it so far. She is pretty skinny. She has a really good putter. I just do my best every time, every week. I think it doesn't matter if I do it the right way, the right direction."
When Se Ri Pak injured her left shoulder during a freak fall at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in late April, it seemed unlikely that the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member would be out for a considerable amount of time. It also put into doubt whether she'd be able to play in this year's U.S. Women's Open at the spot where she captured her memorable 1998 U.S. Women's Open victory – Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis.
But the 34-year-old didn't take nearly the time to recover from a tear in her left labrum as initially thought. Pak is back in the field this week at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, nearly a month before this year's U.S. Women's Open and much sooner than anyone anticipated her returning. And despite the fact that Pak only started to take full swings two weeks ago, she showed no signs of rust on Thursday while shooting a 2-under 70 to sit in a tie for fourth.
"Today I never expect that's going to be solid round today," Pak said. "The last two days in practicing were so-so. So I just come out, being kind of more practicing, just to make sure, I am going to be here full-time right now. That's why I try to get the feel for it. I guess that helps a lot I guess. Low expectations helps a lot."
Locust Hill Country Club is a familiar place to many of the LPGA players who have competed on this golf course year after year. But while the players know it well, there has been one big change to the course this year and it's the difficulty of the rough.
Off the tee, players are hoping to hit the narrow fairway to avoid the thick Kentucky bluegrass in the rough. The crowded leaderboard shows some higher scores today as Beatriz Recari and Ryann O'Toole were the only two players to shoot in the 60s.
"I mean you miss a fairway, and you got to get up and down somewhere," Paula Creamer said. "It's pretty rare that you can actually hit a green from the rough. But it's tough. That's what a Major should be. This golf course has always been a narrow driving hole, but it's just the rough is so much thicker than it has been in the past and the scores show it."
2010 Wegmans LPGA Champion Cristie Kerr was asked about the lack of many low scores during the first round of play and she cited the change that it's unlikely that the winning score of the past two years (-19) will be matched this year.
"I think it is going to play tougher," Kerr said. "I don't think there is going to be any 18 or 19-unders. The rough is measurably worse than the year that I won. It's just a lot thicker. It was very long that year, but it wasn't like really dense. I mean even with sand wedges out, it's a lot tougher."
"The year I won there was a lot of rough," she added. "Maybe not quite as tall as it is even this year. But it certainly wasn't as dense. It's just gobbling up the golf balls this year."
It's been six years since Jeong Jang's big win at Locust Hill Country Club but after one round of this year's Wegmans LPGA Championship, Jang has put herself in position to contend here once again. Despite a three-putt on the last hole, Jang found herself in a seven-way tie for third. Between her last win here and now Jang had made quite a few changes in her life. Sidelined after a knee injury, she took a year off for surgery and planning for the arrival of her baby girl.
Samantha Lee Jang was born just seven months ago, and it didn't take long for Jang to get back on the road with the LPGA. Despite missing a few cuts in her first three appearances, she has placed in the top-50 in the last four tournaments with a season-best finish tie for 15th at the HBSC LPGA Brasil Cup. With a slow start to the season, Jang says she's not upset because after each round she gets to see her baby.
"My life is totally changed after I had a baby," Jang said. "I can't be mad after the round. It doesn't matter how I play bad. I'm just happy to be traveling with her. I had a 3-putt on last hole. It could be really upset, and I couldn't say any word and after. And now I saw baby today after, and I forgot right away. I don't remember I had a 3-putt last hole. Just different. I'm just enjoying it."
Cheyenne Woods had been waiting for this day for a long time – her first tournament round as a professional golfer. And as the 21-year-old Wake Forest University graduate was prepping for the big moment, she got a little extra encouragement via text messages from her famous uncle and fellow pro golfer, Tiger Woods.
"[He said] Just trust my abilities, have fun and be patient," Cheyenne said.
Woods got off to a decent start in her first event since turning professional. She was tied for 65th after shooting a 3-over 75 in Thursday's first round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
"It was really exciting going into this day," Cheyenne said. "I've been waiting and waiting for this moment. I couldn't wait to get out here. I was a little nervous starting off but it felt great to be out there."
So is there anything specific that she's hoping to accomplish this week in what will be the first of two majors on her schedule this summer?
"Just boost my confidence," Cheyenne said. "It's a little intimidating being out here with the Yani Tsengs and Paula Creamers for the very first time, but I'm just excited and taking everything in and using it as experience for my future career."
Less than perfect day: Defending champion Yani Tseng didn't get off to the start that she hoped for in Thursday's first round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Tseng matched her worst round of the season with a 76, although her previous score of 76 came on the par-73 Royal Melbourne Composite course. Following her less-than-stellar opening round, Tseng sits seven shots back of the leaders entering Friday.
"I hit the ball right and left and I don't hit it on the fairway," Tseng said. "If you can't hit it in the fairway on this course, it's kind of tough to hit a low score. But I was very surprised that scores didn't go very low today. So obviously I have a little chance to get it back tomorrow. Hopefully to make some birdies."
During her warm-up on the range, Golf Channel cameras caught Tseng getting her left wrist and arm looked at by a trainer. But Tseng said after her round that it wasn't an injury or anything that affected her play in the opening round.
"Just a little tight this morning," Tseng said. "That is not a problem for the score today."
Michelle Wie opened up the LPGA's second major of the year with a 2-over-par 74 but the unusual thing about her score is that she did it with 13 clubs. Just before Wie was about to tee off, the head of her 3-wood cracked and she was forced to go with a 2-hybrid in her bag…Of the 150 players in the field, there were only 25 rounds shot of even-par-or-better in Thursday's first round.
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