05 July 2019: China’s Yu Liu heads a packed leaderboard by one-stroke after a bogey-free course record tying round of ten under par (62) at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. Aditi Ashok made four birdies in her first round, taking off from a healthy bogey-free week in the Arkansas Championship. She shot two-under 70 and is lying in T69.
Liu, who is making her second appearance in the tournament, having finished in T18 last year, shot the lowest score of her LPGA Tour career as she looks to claim her first LPGA Tour title.
The 23-year-old from Beijing put on a ball striking masterclass including hitting 11/14 fairways and 15/18 greens but conceded that it was her short game that made the difference.
“I just made a lot of putts, mid-range inside 15 feet. The greens are really pure and the grass is similar to what I grew up with in China so I feel comfortable.”
South Korea’s Jeong Eun Lee, who led for most of the morning, started on the back nine and hit the turn in 29 shots (-7) before making an eagle on the 12th to raise early 59 alarms. The 30-year-old, who is one of the most consistent performers on the Tour, went on to finish her round with six straight pars to sign for a career-best LPGA round of 63.
Lee, who had her best result of the season last week in Arkansas has good reason for her change in form.
“I switched to a new coach and he’s given me a lot of great advice and we’ve changed a couple of things. My short game on the greens came together really well and I was able to make long birdie putts.”
“That’s the reason why I had luck today.”
Joining her in second place, and perhaps the surprise package on the leaderboard, including major winners Shanshan Feng (-8), Anna Nordqvist (-8), Ariya Jutanugarn (-7) and Sung Hyun Park (-7) is Monday qualifier, Yealimi Noh.
Noh, who shot 67 on Monday to make the tournament field, turns 18 in two weeks having only turned professional in February 2019 following victories at the 2018 Girl’s Junior PGA Championship, U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and 2018 Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship.
Seeking to become only the third Monday qualifier to win an LPGA Tour event (Brooke Henderson, 2015 Cambia Portland LPGA Classic and Laurel Kean, 2000 State Farm LPGA Classic), Noh is not getting carried away.
“I don’t really want to think about winning right now, I’m just really grateful to be playing.
“I was actually pretty nervous on the 1st hole and I told myself that I wasn’t. Throughout the round I got a little more comfortable.”
Defending champion Sei Young Kim, who captured the famous Sky Woman trophy last year in record-breaking style, threatened to continue where she left off with three birdies in her first four holes but eventually signed for a 3-under-par round of 69.
Native American sponsor invite Gabby Lemieux started her second appearance at Oneida with a first round 75 (+3).