The Race to the CME Globe is on, and it started with a bang! If the first round of the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic was a preview of the LPGA 2014 season, we need to buckle our seat belts because it’s going to be a wild up and down ride! Welshwoman Becky Morgan had the lead for a few holes early in the day and was still looking good at the turn. Danish rookie Line Videl looked good for a run at the top through the 8th hole. Stacy Lewis, the top ranked player in the field, and Lydia Ko, the rookie who isn’t really a rookie, strolled down the fairways side-by-side, smiling and chatting and more or less matching each other shot-for-shot. In the end, the difference between them was one birdie and one putt. Ko went to the clubhouse at 5 under par and Lewis at 4 under.A late-round charge helped Ko surge to the top of the leaderboard as she birdied two of her final three holes. The Kiwi sank a four-foot birdie putt after missing a long eagle chance on the 18th, which moved her into a tie for the first-round lead. Ko was a model of consistency throughout the day, giving herself many chances at birdie during her round. And while a 5-under-par round would certainly be considered a great day for any player, Ko knew that she missed some opportunities to go even lower.
But it wasn’t as simple as a race between the two top contenders, Lewis and Ko. From the 75th Rolex Rank, Meena Lee pulled an amazing game out of her bag and went to work, sliding past sister South Koreans Hee Young Park and Mirim Lee, who carded first round scores of -4 and joined Stacy Lewis in a 10-way tie for 3rd. For Meena Lee, an eagle on the par-4 13th hole was the edge she needed to slip past the crowd and pull up beside Ko for a share of the lead.
In addition to Stacy Lewis, Americans Brittany Lang, Austin Ernst, Jessica Korda, Danah Bordner, and Amelia Lewis had fine first rounds. All finished a -4 and a share of 3rd place. For Bordner, who’s Rolex Ranked at 266 and has had no wins or top-10 finishes in her three years playing on the Tour, today must have felt like a breakthrough! Like Stacy Lewis, she had 5 birdies and a single bogey on her card. Ernst, who struggled through her 2013 rookie year, also looked good today with an impressive eagle on the par-5 18th hole.
Further down the board there were difficult moments for some of the players. Defending champion Ilhee Lee, who went to the clubhouse at +1, struggled to find fairways from off the tee and simply couldn’t get her flat stick warmed up.
Solheim teammates Lexi Thompson and Lizette Salas both stumbled a bit although Salas, like Austin Ernst, eagled the 18th hole. But with more bogeys and doubles than birdies, Salas finished at one shot under par and Thomson at even par. Both have some work to do tomorrow if they’re going to mount a serious challenge to the leaders.
Going into the 2nd round, the Pure Silk-Bahamas is still anybody’s tournament to win. There are 35 players within 4 shots of Ko and Lee, and some of them are strong, aggressive, persistent competitors. Paula Creamer, who plays a steady, consistent game and never gives up is 3 shots off the lead. Azahara Munoz, who’s even more aggressive than Creamer, is only 2 shots behind the leaders. This is still anybody’s tournament.
The weather on Paradise Island is perfect for a round of golf, the course is playing very good, and the field is rested and ready. With a top-heavy leaderboard and everybody’s mind on that million dollar purse that’s waiting for them at the end of the season, Friday’s 2nd round promises another day of fine golf on the LPGA Tour.
Golf Channel will provide live 2nd round coverage beginning at 11:30am ET and I’ll be back tomorrow evening with a wrap-up as well.