Lydia Ko is not a typical LPGA Tour rookie and the 16-year-old showed that on Thursday, shooting a 5-under 68 to tie for the first-round lead with South Korean Meena Lee at the 2014 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. Ko, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour as an amateur, got her rookie season off to a strong start with six birdies and just one bogey in her opening round at the Ocean Club Golf Course on Paradise Island.
A late-round charge helped Ko surge to the top of the leaderboard as she birdied two of her final three holes. The New Zealander 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.
“I thought I was playing much better than my scores,” Ko said. “3‑under was a great score during the middle of my round, but I thought I was playing even better. I gave myself opportunities and I hit my putts on the line that I wanted to hit them, and sometimes it would just dive off to the left or right. So I had a couple close ones, but like I said, the grain can definitely affect the ball.”
Lee credited a strong putting day and her eagle on the par-4 14th for her solid 5-under-par score. She holds a share of the first-round lead for only the fourth time in her career but the two-time LPGA Tour winner is feeling very confident in her game following a strong offseason.
“I had a wintertime working hard, so that's why I have confidence more than last year,” Lee said after her round on Thursday. “That's why I feel very good and happy to play in the first tournament.”
Ko and Lee have plenty of challengers right on their heels after the first day of play. Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis finds herself right in the hunt after firing a 4-under 69 that put her in a 10-way tie for third. Lewis got off to a solid start with three birdies on the front nine and she got to 5-under thru 13 holes before a bogey on the 14th slowed her momentum. Lewis was able to finish steady over her final few holes to finish just one shot out of the lead.
“I thought I'd be a little bit more rusty than I was,” Lewis said. “But I got off to a good start, and really just hit the ball really solid and was able to control some shots in the wind and the shots that I saw I was able to pull off. I was really happy with the way I hit the ball.”
Lewis and Ko were paired together for Thursday’s opening round. Ko joked that it was pretty cool to see her name next to Lewis’ name for the first round of the tournament. But while the No. 4 ranked Ko still seems unaware of her own prowess, the woman right in front of her in the rankings couldn’t help but rave about the 16-year-old. Lewis was once again amazed at the composure and poise shown by the 16-year-old phenom, saying that nothing seems to faze Ko.
“I think our games are very similar, just the way we play,” Lewis said. “We both hit it solid and make some putts. She rolled it great today. For the first seven, eight holes, she made everything she looked at.
“I think she's really good. Gosh, when she gets some confidence and really figures that out, watch out for the rest of the Tour. I mean, it's nice to see [her modesty], but at the same time you want to see her kind of really believe in herself and believe that she is one of the best players in the world.”
Topics: Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic