Eleven players went under par after the first round of the Samsung World Championship at Torrey Pines and two familiar faces from last week are tied atop of the leaderboard. Last week’s winner Jiyai Shin & Song-Hee Kim (right) both fired 6-under 66s which featured 7 birdies and one bogey during Thursday’s play. Just a stroke behind are Sophie Gustafson & World #1 Lorena Ochoa.
Song-Hee notched her 8th top 10 of the 2009 season last week, but has not been able to take the next step into the winner’s circle in her third year on the LPGA. Song-Hee joined the LPGA after a record breaking 5-win season on the 2006 Duramed Futures Tour. She has taken a slow ascent to the top of the LPGA. Her rookie season was completely underwhelming, only making 10 of 19 cuts and never breaking into the top 20. 2008 was a beautiful bounce back for Song-Hee finishing 14th on the money list, and posting 7 top-10s. Now it’s the time for Song-Hee to take the final leap into the winner’s circle. She has been playing quite well the past couple weeks, and clearly has the tools to win on tour. Whether she can carry this form into the next three rounds will be very interesting. A couple weeks ago at the Canadian Women’s Open Kim shot a second round 62 to jump to the top of the leaderboard, but faltered with a 77 in the third round, dropping out of contention. Last week she lead by two going into the final round in Arkansas, could not find a birdie on Sunday and finished T-4. If she can finally break through and get her first win against this elite field, Kim may run off many in a short period.
With that said her opening round co-leader is the final round queen (as she is fondly known in Korea). A final round 64 last week put her into a playoff with Angela Stanford & Sun Young Yoo, and she only birdied the first two playoff holes to secure her third victory of the year. Jiyai is the vision of consistency, hitting many fairways and greens. If she can her putts to fall, she is a danger every week. She opened with her only bogey of the day on the first hole, but came home with 7 birdies to find herself in a familiar position, in the lead.
Lorena Ochoa also bogeyed her opening hole on Thursday, but came back with 6 birdies of her own to be only a stroke behind. For as much as being said about her lackluster season, Lorena is only surpassed by Jiyai in number of victories in 2009. She halted a outside top 25 4-week skid a couple weeks ago in Canada where she finished T10, and seems to be getting back into a groove. A win this week would push her over the million dollar in 2009 earnings and add even more intrigue into the bunched money list race, currently lead by Jiyai.
Sophie Gustafson finished T10 with Lorena at the CN Canadian Women’s Open a couple weeks ago, which ended a two week worse the top 25 stretch of her own, which came after her playoff defeat to Ai Miyazato at the Evian Masters.
Half of Miyazato’s 11 top 10 finishes in 2009 have come the past 6 weeks in a row, and with a field of 20, it’s very likely that Ai will continue her streak to 7 weeks in a row. She is two strokes back at -4 after her 68, tying her with Hall of Famer and sponsor exemption Juli Inkster. It’s wonderful to see Juli playing well once again, and showing that she clearly deserved this exemption into the Samsung.
Defending champion Paula Creamer is alone in 7th, shaking off the myriad of health issues she’s had to face this year. U.S. Women’s Open Champion Eun-Hee Ji will need a big round tomorrow to get back into contention after shooting the worst round by three strokes today, a +6 78.
At the 2009 California Sectional qualifier, JLPGA standout Tamie Durdin of Australia leads after the opening day of play with a six-under 66 playing the Palmer course at Mission Hills. Right behind her is Big Break alum Chrisitna Lecuyer who is at -5. Jane Chin, Yuko Mitsuka, Esther Choe, Briana Vega, amatuer Ayaka Kaneko, Amanda Blumenhurst, and Azahara Munoz also find themselves in the top 10 after day 1.
Struggling after day 1 were Maria Jo Uribe, Aimee Cho, Sae Hee Son, Tiffany Joh, and Stephanie Na, who all find themselves right near the cut line in the first stage of LPGA Q-School.