Suzann Pettersen continues to close-in on Inbee Park’s lead in the Rolex Player of the Year race and LPGA Official Money List. Pettersen played superb golf throughout the first round at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. Despite the rain and windy conditions the Norwegian carded 6 birdies and 2 bogeys to establish a 3 shot lead over her closest competitors. With a score of 68, Pettersen’s made a good start to successfully defend her 2012 Sunrise Championship.
On a day where only five players were under-par, Pettersen faltered early in her round with a bogey at the second but was able to quickly recover with back-to-back birdies at 5 and 6. Pettersen held steady at 1-under on the front-nine. After she made the turn the birdies began to trickle in for the Norwegian as she recorded three consecutive birdies beginning at the 10th. Pettersen went on to pick-up another birdie at the 15th before giving a shot back with a bogey at the 16th to finish the day at 4-under-par.
Rolex ranked #2, the 13-time LPGA Tour winner claimed a three-shot victory at last year’s Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship but despite the win and the impressive opening round on Thursday, Pettersen admitted to feeling a bit uncomfortable with the swirling winds at Sunrise Golf & Country Club.
It was a tough day out there, conditions were not great . . . I’ve played this course in nicer conditions. Once the rain stopped, the wind picked up, so I mean, it’s your pick, if you want rain or you want wind.
Suzann Pettersen, On Conditions During the Sunrise LPGA Championship 1st Round
While Pettersen felt uncomfortable in the windy conditions, she has every reason to feel comfortable with her game as of late. In her previous four tournaments, Pettersen has claimed two victories, including The Evian Championship, and two ties for third finishes.
Who Carded Sub-Par Rounds?
The wind, rain, and occasional fog kept everyone busy focusing on their next shot and trying to step one step ahead of the weather. Americans Irene Cho and Alison Walsche, Swede Caroline Hedwall, and Frenchwoman Karine Icher were the only players in the field in addition to Pettersen, to card rounds under par. The quartet finished in a tie for 2nd place with 71s, 1 shot under par.
Rolex ranked #101 Cho and 23rd ranked Hedwall were paired for the 1st round. “We didn’t even get a chance to talk to each other,” said Cho. “We were so busy doing stuff. We just chatted, like, all right, one hole down.” Hedwall agreed. “That’s basically what we did.”
The pair had to battle through rain during the majority of their opening rounds as they were the first group of the day. While both players fired under-par rounds, the task of juggling umbrellas and increased communication with their caddies made the test of playing on Thursday more difficult.
Walsche, Rolex ranked 95th, will be heading home after the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship for a bit of rest until the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Walschehas been gaining momentum during the LPGA Asia loop. She has recorded a tie for sixth at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and a tie for 17th at last week’s LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship.
Karine Icher has 8 top-10 finishes this year but no victories. Ranked 22nd by Rolex, Icher has been up and down during the LPGA Asia loop. She finished in a tie for 23rd at the Reignwood, moved up the board to a tie for 6th at the Sime Darby, and then plummeted down to a HanaBank finish tied for 44th place.
Improved Conditions & A Crowded Field
The 2nd round at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship will be played under cloudy skies with winds gusting to 20 mph, but the rain seems to have ended. As the course dries out we can expect to see an improvement in the scores. With 14 players within 4 strokes of the lead, Suzann Pettersen will face some stiff competition from some skilled and determined challengers as she defends her championship and chases Inbee Park.
In addition to the crowd that’s bunched up at -1, Korean Chella Choi and Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, both at even par, are equally capable of firing off a string of birdies and catching Pettersen during the 2nd round.
Golf Channel will provide daily delayed coverage of the Sunrise Championship, noon-3pm ET, and I’ll provide a daily wrap-up of each round as it unfolds.