Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic Early Leaders: Karin Icher & Lydia Ko

The first round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic began, amid much fun and frolic that included LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan outfitted in a kilt, with a two-hour fog delay followed by wind and the bone-chilling temperatures familiar to anyone who’s ever played a round of golf in the Bay Area in April and then, with four groups still on the course at 7pm local time, suspension because of darkness.  First round play will resume this morning, concurrent with the beginning of the second round.  Frenchwoman Karin Icher, Rolex Ranked No. 30, carded a 66 and is holding a -6 clubhouse lead going into the second round, two strokes ahead of a group of five who will start their second round at -4 and in the very crowded second slot on the board.  But the weather isn’t going to cooperate.  The Bay Area forecast calls for morning temperatures in the 50s and light winds, with the showers beginning around lunchtime and the winds picking up.

With its narrow, tree-lined fairways and tricky greens, Lake Merced Golf Club provides a near-perfect setting to showcase the the field’s technical skills.   Icher, who plays on both the LET and the LPGA Tour, played her bogey-free way around the course with 28 putts and made it look easy.

Challenging Icher’s Lead

Among the top four players in the Rolex World Women’s Rankings, Lydia Ko and Suzann Pettersen finished the first round close to Icher.

Lydia Ko. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Rolex Ranked No. 4 Lydia Ko has had an up and down start to her rookie season.   She’s had three top-10 finishes, two of them within close reach of a win.  But she’s also had some disappointing finishes as she settles in to the rhythm of the Tour, including a tied 32nd place finish at the LPGA LOTTE Championship last week and tied 29th place finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

However, Ko looked like she was in control of the course and her putter as she played her way around the Lake Merced course on her 17th birthday.  She carded a 68 and is going into the 2nd round trailing Icher by two strokes and holding a share of 2nd place on the board.

Like Lydia Ko, Koreans Ilhee Lee and Jenny Shin, Swede Maria McBride, and the Netherlands’ Dewi Claire Schreefel carded 68s and are also starting the second round two shots off the lead and sharing second place.

Stacy Lewis. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Stacy Lewis, Rolex Ranked No. 3, carded a first round 69 and will start the second round trailing the lead by three strokes.  Lewis is playing consistently.  She has five top-10 finishes in six starts and looked to be getting a firm fix on the Lake Merced course.  If she can put that knowledge to work in today’s round, she’ll stay in the mix at the top of the board.

Lewis has some good company at three shots off the lead, Americans Morgan Pressel and Mo Martin and the Netherlands’ Cristel Boeljon.  Californian and Rolex Ranked No. 83 Martin has a fabulous round.  She gave back no strokes and needed only 25 putts to get around the course!  If she can do that again she’ll stay near the top of the board.  Pressel, who struggled with the Lake Merced fairways, was pleased with her flat stick. 

My short game and putter kept me in the game today.

Morgan Pressel

Suzann Pettersen. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Suzann Pettersen, No. 2, hasn’t played since late March after sustaining a back injury and was obviously taking care as she teed up her balls and retrieved them from the cup in order to avoid re-injury.  She played well and carded 70.  Pettersen could have been challenging the top of the board but a triple on the par 4 11th hole set her back a bit.  If her back holds up, I look for Pettersen to get in closer contention in the second round.

Huii-Ju Shih and Wei Ling Hsu, playing at the invitation of the Swinging Skirts, are starting the second round alongside Pettersen at -2, as is Korean Hee Young Park.  Spaniard Carlota Ciganda is also at -2, but will begin Friday completing her first round.  For Ciganda, play was suspended on the 16th hole, so she may move up the board a bit for her second round start.

Inbee Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Inbee Park, No. 1 for a 54th consecutive week, carded 73 in the first round.  Park’s problems with the Lake Merced course revolved around course management off the tee and on the fairways.  Like Icher, she needed only 28 putts to complete her round.  Park’s putter, which heated up at the LOTTE Championship, seems to be working.  But she hit only nine out of fourteen fairways off the tee and made only ten out of eighteen greens in regulation.  Let’s see if she learned enough about how to play Lake Merced during her first round to improve those stats and get her score down today.

Park won’t be the only player in the field working hard to get to the red numbers.  Michelle Wie, coming in hot from her LOTTE Championship victory, and Gerina Piller, who’s been consistently playing strong golf and is hustling to claim a win, are starting today at even par.  Like Inbee Park, teenage phenoms Charley Hull and Ariya Jutanugarn are also starting their second rounds at +1.  Hull took several scenic tours of Lake Merced yesterday.  She needs to stay out of the trees today if she wants to play the weekend.  Jutanugarn stayed in the fairways but couldn’t get her putter going.

Struggling to Stay for the Weekend

Brooke Pancake will start today’s round at +3, and hometown favorite Paula Creamer, who seemed to be at war with the greens, will start her second round at +4, alongside Azahara Munoz, who also had putting troubles.

First round play at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic resumes at am local time.  Second round play begins at 9:05am local time, and Golf Channel Coverage of the 2nd round will begin at 6:30pm ET.  With predicted deterioration in weather conditions, players with early tee times will have the advantage today on the golf course where Babe Zaharias won the San Francisco Women’s Open Match Play in 1941, the first professional women’s event held in California.  Everyone will be following some very large footsteps as they make their way around the course!

Tags: Golf Karin Icher LPGA Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic

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