LPGA: Ilhee Lee Sets Pace at Sime Darby Malaysia


South Korean Ilhee Lee has set the pace at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.  A bit of a surprise, 39th ranked Lee shot a bogey-free 1st round and went to the clubhouse with an impressive 64, 7 shots under par.  However, with half the field tailing by only 5 shots going in to the 2nd round, Lee’s lead is tenuous.  It’s an open and dynamic tournament at this point.

"My goal was 3 under par every day this week, so I feel like I’m okay for the next couple days, I think . . .Ilhee Lee, 1st Round Leader at the Sime Darby"

Ilhee Lee has been playing on the LPGA Tour since 2010 but has stayed in the middle ranks.  In 2012 Lee entered 22 events, made the cut in 16 and recorded 2 top-10 finishes, which included a 4th place tie at the US Women’s Open.  Prior to the Sime Darby she’s entered 20 events in 2013, made the cut in 13, won the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic in May, finished in the top-10 at the Kingsmill Championship, and tied for 11th place at The Evian Championship.  Last week Lee finished the Reignwood LPGA Classic in a tie for 29th.

Lee will have some intense competition going in to the 2nd round at the Sime Darby Friday morning.  American Solheimer Brittany Lang signed her 1st round scorecard at 65, 1 shot off Lee’s lead.  Lang, ranked 56th by Rolex, is still chasing a 2013 victory.  Lang won the 2012 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic and her only top-10 finish this year came with a 7th place tie at the US Women’s Open.

Lang’s been struggling with her putting, but she used only 25 putts for today’s round.  In her post-round interview she said she just tried “to commit to my lines today, and really got off to a hot start. I felt really comfortable out there.”  Lang actually had a share of the lead at 7-under-par with Lee heading to her final hole on the par 4 9th. But she pulled her tee shot and then failed to convert on her 30-foot par putt to drop her one shot back.

Quite a crowd has gathered 2 shots off Lee’s lead.  South Korean Eun-Hee Ji, American Paula Creamer, Brit Jodi Ewat Shadoff and Spaniard Beatriz Recari all carded 1st round scores of 66.  Any of them could easily slide past Brittany Lang and Ilhee Lee and take the lead on Friday.

Creamer, Rolex Ranked #11, comes to Kuala Lumpur this week fresh off a three-week break that included a week-long trip in Europe with stops in Italy, Monte Carlo and Monaco.  She sent her clubs home with her parents and took some vacation time before she joined the LPGA Asia loop.

Jun. 8, 2012; Pittsford, NY, USA; Suzann Pettersen during the second round of the Wegmans LPGA championship at the Locust Hill Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Rolex Ranked #2, Suzanne Pettersen also took a bit of personal vacation time before joining the LPGA Asia loop.   Although she shot a bogey-free 1st round and carded 67, 3 shots off the lead, she started the day dizzy and nauseous.  But her round didn’t seem to suffer.

"It’s a good start. You can’t win a tournament on the first day, but you can definitely play your way out of it. So this is a good start.  I left a few out there, but a little tweak on the putting green there and hopefully I can be as sharp tomorrow morning.Suzann Pettersen, Anticipating the 2nd Round at the Sime Darby"

Defending champion and Rolex Ranked #1, Inbee Park, shot 70 in the 1st round.  Her putter’s cooled off again.  And Park, like a number of other players, is struggling with the Malaysian heat and humidity.   The weather forcast for Kuala Lumpur includes heat, scattered showers and more humidity for Friday and Saturday, so Karrie Webb’s advice holds: drink lots of water and don’t worry about how much you’re sweating.

The Golf Channel daily coverage, 12:30-3am ET continues and I’ll provide a daily wrap-up as well.