Photo credit: @USGA
By Jeremy Harness
DALY CITY, Calif. – Lydia Ko really likes this course, apparently.
Ko, who won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in each of the first two years that it was held here–2014 and 2015-prior to the event being relocated to Taiwan, got out to a strong start on Thursday, posting a four-under round of 68 to open the MEDIHEAL Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club.
That was good enough to get her into a five-way tie for the lead with players such as Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall.
“It’s a golf course where nobody goes super low, so you just have to (continue) to play solid and be patient out there, and sometimes par’s not a bad score,” said Ko, who celebrated her 21st birthday on Tuesday. “I think I hit a lot of greens, so I think I’m giving myself as many opportunities for birdies (as possible).
“I don’t think I feel a huge difference, but I know turning 21 is a huge thing in the U.S.,” she said. “So I’m legal, and I can do some fun things now.”
To be exact, Ko hit 16 of the possible 18 greens on Thursday–including each of the first nine that saw her go four-under on the front side–to go along with 11 of 14 fairways.
Jessica Korda also got out to a hot start to shoot four-under, which included an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole. Her only blemish came at the 10th, where she missed the green and ended up with a bogey.
She rebounded quickly, however, parring the ensuing four holes before birdieing two of the last three.
“I didn’t hit a ton of great shots, but I always left myself in a good position,” said Korda, whose younger sister, Nelly, played in one of the late groups along with So Yeon Ryu and Lexi Thompson. “It was really cold out there, so it was good that I stuck to my process.
“Obviously the score says one thing, and my hands say another.”
Speaking of Thompson, she birdied two of the last four holes to finish with a three-under round of 69, which has her tied for second with three others. To make her round more impressive, she was one of the last ones to play on Thursday, meaning that she had to endure the cold, consistent wind that this area is well known for late in the day.
“This course is very challenging, especially when the wind picks up,” said Thompson, who had two LPGA Tour wins last year. “It’s chilly out (there), so it’s a little longer of a course.
“Some of the par-5’s are reachable, so you try to take advantage of that, but pars were good, and just take the birdie chances as you can get them.”