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Granada off to good start in CME Group Tour Championship
November 20, 2014

Although Julieta Granada can’t duplicate her million-dollar feat of 2006, she got off to a fast start at the CME Group Tour Championship by firing a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Thursday at Tiburon Golf Club. Granada, who ranks 24th on the Race to the CME Globe, snagged a two-stroke lead over LPGA winner Sandra Gal, who carded a 4-under 68.

“I just managed my game really well at the beginning where I was playing really conservative, just hitting the greens, and two putting for par,” said Granada, who made six straight pars to open her round. “The start is really tough out here, but once you get going you can make some birdies out there.”

Race to the CME Globe leader Stacy Lewis, who controls her own destiny, closed with an eagle on the 17th hole to stand three shots off the lead at 3-under 69.

Granada closed the front nine with back-to-back birdies on the seventh and eighth before a par on the ninth. She opened the back nine with a birdie on ten and then again made consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes.

The Paraguay native entered the clubhouse with a birdie on the reachable par-5 17th and ended her day with a short par putt on the 18th.

Eight years and one day ago (November 19, 2006), Granada captured her lone LPGA Tour win at the season-ending ADT Championship to earn the first and still only $1,000,000 payday in women’s golf. The big check was both a blessing and a curse.

“I wouldn’t take it back,” said Granada with a smile. “But, you’re 20-years-old and it’s your first year out here and life becomes really good so you think you can relax a little bit.”

From 2007 through 2011, she posted a total of just five top-10 finishes and struggled. She hit a low point in 2009 when she finished 106 on the LPGA Tour money list.

It’s been a long and sometimes difficult process, but Granada was reemerged in 2014.

“I’m 28 now and I’ve been through 4th on the money list to 30th on the money list to 100th on the money List,” said Granada. “You just to have to mature as a player and as a person.”

Although her season earnings don’t compare to 2006, her season has been just as consistent. She has equaled her career high total of seven top-10 finishes in 2014.

She will aim for one more as the LPGA finishes a magical season.

“We have really good names out there that have been playing well all year, and it’s just so tight, the battle for whoever wins,” said Granada about the razor close races for the Rolex Player of the Year and the Vare Trophy. “I think it brings even more prestige to this event and see who can come out on top.”

Not that Stacey Lewis or Inbee Park need advice, but if one player in the field understands the pressure of a potential million-dollar round, it’s Granada.

“They’re tough and they’re good players, so they will just keep playing their game,” said Granada. “This course is a good finish with 17 being a reachable par-5. It will be interesting to watch, but it’s just golf, and you have to hit one shot at a time.”

69 keeps Lewis in the driver’s seat:

Stacy Lewis finds herself in a good position to win the inaugural Race to CME Globe after an opening round 69.

“Well, it was a bit of an up and down day. Didn’t get off to that great of a start, but the short game was really working all day,” Lewis said.

“Just kind of kept me in there to make some birdies there at the end and make a few putts. The golf course is playing so hard. You just got to hang in there, and that’s what I did today.”

Lewis, who would also take home Rolex Player of the Year, Vare Trophy and the money list title with a victory. Used two birdies and an eagle to counter one bogey on her card.

“It’s nice to be playing and not be talking about it or worrying about it all the time,” Lewis said. “I think we were all kind of a little bit nervous, a little bit hesitant there at the beginning, but we seemed to all kind of settle in. It’s one good round. We got a long, long way to go, but it’s nice to get off to a good start.”

Park and Ko stay in the hunt for the million after 71s:

Inbee Park and Lydia Ko, who are two and three respectively on the Race to the CME Globe, didn’t have their best opening rounds, but stayed in the hunt by finishing the first-round at 1-under 71.

Park made her only bogey of the day early on the second hole. The pedestrian-for-her-standards-day included two birdies, one on the fourth hole and one on the 17th.

“Just a boring round today,” said Park. “I think I had many pars and nothing seems like it wants to go in. I gave myself a lot of opportunities, and I feel like I played really, really well, but nothing seemed to drop.”

Meanwhile, Ko was bogey-free over the first 14 holes and was 2-under with four holes to go. She proceeded to make bogey on 15 and 16 before a birdie on the 17th to get back in the red numbers.

“It was a pretty consistent day: three birdies, two bogeys,” said Ko. “There aren’t a lot of birdies out there. It’s a tough course with this length, especially first couple holes where you’re playing into the wind.

Both Park and Ko were asked if they thought about the potential $1 million bonus while on the course.

“I think everybody is thinking about the $1 million,” said Park.

No, not at all, I enjoyed playing alongside Stacy and Inbee today,” said Ko.

She may not have been thinking about the $1 million bonus, but she was definitely pondering her Thursday acceptance speech for winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year.

“I’m a little nervous,” said an honest Ko about delivering her speech at the Rolex Awards banquet. “I’m not a very good speaker in front of a large crowd, so I’m definitely going to be nervous. Hopefully everybody will be nice, and even if I make a mistake they’ll be like, yeah, whatever.”

Gal sits in second after 68:

Sandra Gal currently sits on the leaderboard thanks to an opening round 68 during a windy day at Tiburon.

“I had to hit a lot of knock down shots,” Gal explained. “Then again downwind you got to have really good control. So I hit lots of different types of shots today. It was pretty crazy. The difference between into and down was enormous.”

Starting on the back nine, Gal opened her round with a birdie and added an eagle on the par-5 17th to make the turn in 3-under, 33. A bogey on the second dropped Gal back to 2-under but she was able to close strong with birdies on her final two holes.

“Yeah, not going to change anything,” Gal said of her approach to the rest of the tournament. “Just going to play solid and have good pace with your putts. Hopefully hole a couple. I’m not going to change anything.”

Double keeps Ryu out of the final group:

So Yeon Ryu, who is 5th on the Race to the CME Globe, made birdie on the 11th hole to move to 3-under and stood just three shots back of the lead. After four straight pars, Ryu had a chance to close near the top of the leaderboard.

Ryu got off track on the 16th hole when she found the green side bunker.

“My bunker shot was quite hard,” said the three-time LPGA Tour winner Ryu. “That bunker was really firm and I really couldn’t expect what’s going on and it bounced really bad late and it landed 40 yards away so I made a double bogey.”

Ryu recovered with a birdie on 17 and a par on 18 to close at 2-under 70.

Although it could have been a 4-under 68, Ryu is satisfied with day one.

“I had so many birdie opportunities today, so I’m really happy with my long game,” said Ryu, who hit 14 of 14 fairways. “I never gave up (after my double) so I look forward to playing the next three days.”

Strong play over the next three days could add $1 million to her bank account.

“Everybody thinks about the $1 million,” said Ryu with a wide smile. “End of the season can be exhausting and we can lose motivation, but the Race to the CME Globe gives you a lot of motivation. I think that’s why I still have a lot of passion and still really enjoy this tournament.”

Symetra Tour update:

The Symetra Tour had the spotlight in the media room at the CME Group Tour Championship on Thursday morning as Chief Business Officer Mike Nichols and Tour graduates Marissa Steen and Sadena Parks discussed a host of topics.

Nichols, who took the reins of the Tour in 2012, set the stage by announcing that the 2015 schedule will feature the most events in 27 years.

Both Parks and Steen are at the CME Group Tour Championship for rookie orientation. They are learning from different facets of the LPGA Tour including media, rules, operations, player services and more.

“I’m just looking forward to everything from the purses, the atmosphere, the venues and the competition,” commented Parks about gearing up for the LPGA in 2015. “The LPGA Tour is top when it comes to women’s golf and we will be playing amongst the best in the world.”

“This is what I am excited for to just be in the strongest fields in the world week in and week out and getting to test my skills against the top players every time I tee it up,” said Steen.

The first test is January 26-31 at the Coates Golf Championship. One thing is for sure, they are well prepared.

Numbers to know:Here is how the top-9 in the Race to the CME Globe performed during Thursday’s opening round:

CME Ranking
Projected Ranking
Stacy Lewis
69 (-3)
Inbee Park
71 (-1)
Lydia Ko
71 (-1)
Michelle Wie
72 (E)
So Yeon Ryu
70 (-2)
Shashan Feng
74 (+2)
Anna Nordqvist
77 (+5)
Chella Choi
71 (-1)
Karrie Webb
74 (+2)

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