AMERICANS ON TOP EARLY
In exactly three months, the 2017 Solheim Cup will return to U.S. soil at Des Moines Golf & Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa. The American contingent had a strong outing in the first round of the Kingsmill Championship on Thursday, taking up the top four spots on the leaderboard.
Lexi Thompson’s round of 65 puts her one stroke ahead of fellow Americans Gerina Piller, Brittany Lincicome and Angel Yin, who are tied for second at 5-under. When asked what her goal was this week in Williamsburg, Thompson said, “I want to win every week. One week isn’t more than another. It’s always the same attitude: I want to win. Everybody does.”
Through 10 events of the 2017 season, two American players have taken home tournament titles: Brittany Lincicome (Pure-Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic) and Cristie Kerr (LOTTE Championship). During the 2016 season, Thompson (Honda LPGA Thailand) and Brittany Lang (U.S. Women’s Open Conducted by the USGA) were the only Americans to win a tournament.
WITH PRESSURE ON, KO OFF TO GOOD START
Lydia Ko has held the World No. 1 ranking for the last 82 consecutive weeks. Now, with So Yeon Ryu and Ariya Jutanugarn nipping at her heels, the 20-year-old from New Zealand opened her weekend at Kingsmill with a first-round 67 and sites tied for fifth with Sarah Jane Smith and Giulia Molinaro.
“Obviously that’s a really good start to the week,” said Ko, who carded five birdies and one bogey on Thursday. “I am just going to try and give myself as many opportunities as I can. I don’t think I was hitting the ball fantastic, so there is a little bit of improvement to do there.”
That 4-under round ties Ko’s lowest round ever at Kingsmill, and bests her previous-low first round, a 70 in her first tournament appearance in 2014, by three strokes. She has several good looks at birdie on her inward nine, but watched several putts trickle just past the hole.
“At the end of the day, all I can do is trust my read and put a good stroke on it,” said Ko. “It’s out of your hands from there. So hopefully few more will drop. But overall I thought I played really solid. Hopefully I can continue that for the rest of week.”
Ryu, who trails Ko by only .23 points, opened with a 1-under 70, while defending Kingsmill champion Jutanguarn, who sits .25 points behind Ko, carded a 1-over 72. With a win at Kingsmill, Ko will hold onto the World No. 1 ranking, but there are numerous scenarios that forecast Ryu or Jutanugarn taking over the top spot.
- If Lydia Ko wins, she will remain No. 1
- If either So Yeon Ryu or Ariya Jutanugarn win, they will become No. 1
- If Ko, Ryu and Ariya finish T2, Ko will remain No. 1
- If Ko and Ariya finish T2 AND Ryu finishes 3rd or worse, Ko will remain No. 1
So Yeon Ryu could take over No. 1 if any of the following scenarios (12th or better finish) occur:
- Ryu is T2 with Ariya AND Ko finishes 3rd or worse
- Ryu is 2nd alone AND Ko and Ariya finishes T3 or worse
- Ryu is 3rd alone AND Ko and Ariya finishes T4 or worse
- Ryu is 4th alone AND Ko finishes 6th or worse AND Ariya finishes 5th or worse
- Ryu is 5th alone AND Ko finishes 11th or worse AND Ariya finishes 6th or worse
- Ryu is 6th alone AND Ko is not in top 14 AND Ariya is not in top 6
- Ryu is 7th alone AND Ko is not in top 18 AND Ariya is not in top 7
- Ryu is 8th alone AND Ko is not in top 24 AND Ariya is not in top 8
- Ryu is 9th alone AND Ko is not in top 30 AND Ariya is not in top 9
- Ryu is 10th alone AND Ko is not in top 40 AND Ariya is not in top 10
- Ryu is 11th alone AND Ko is not in top 50 AND Ariya is not in top 11
- Ryu is 12th alone AND Ko is not in the top 61 AND Ariya is not in the top 12
Ariya Jutanugarn could take over No. 1 if any of the following scenarios (7th or better finish) occur:
- Ariya is 2nd alone AND Ko and Ryu finish T3 or worse
- Ariya is 3rd alone AND Ko is not in top 5 AND Ryu is not in top 3
- Ariya is 4th alone AND Ko is not in top 8 AND Ryu is not in top 4
- Ariya is 5th alone AND Ko is not in top 14 AND Ryu is not in top 5
- Ariya is 6th alone AND Ko is not in top 21 AND Ryu is not in top 7
- Ariya is 7th alone AND Ko is not in top 29 AND Ryu is not in top 8
“The only way I would jump out of a perfectly good plane is with a SEAL on my back. There was nothing like it. Words can’t describe the feeling. It was just like a feeling of freedom jumping out.”
- Lexi Thompson on skydiving into her pro-am on Wednesday
“It’s spreading out here.”
- 2017 LPGA Tour rookie Angel Yin on the popularity of players using a 2-iron (i.e. Ariya Jutanugarn, Anna Nordqvist and herself)
FIRST-ROUND STATISTICAL NOTES
- While no player hit all 18 greens in regulation, Lexi Thompson hit the most with 17
- Three players hit all 14 fairways – Mo Martin, Jane Park and Jenny Shin
- Thompson led the field with seven birdies in the first round, followed by Gerina Piller, Angel Yin, Sadena Parks and Madelene Sagstrom with six apiece
- Three players carded eagles on Thursday – Brooke Henderson (No. 15), Celine Herbin (No. 3) and Ally McDonald (No. 7)
- At 308 yards, Joanna Klatten led the field in first-round average drive distance, followed by Jessica Korda at 287 yards
Lexi Thompson hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation in the first round. The only green she missed was at No. 12, which was her third hole of the day. Through the first 10 events of the 2017 season, Thompson ranks second on Tour in greens in regulation at 79.5 percent, behind So Yeon Ryu’s 81.5 percent.
Thompson’s first-round 65 is her lowest round ever at Kingsmill. Her previous low was a 66 in the second round in 2014 and the fourth round in 2016
Gerina Piller and Brittany Lincicome both returned rounds of 66 for the third time at Kingsmill. Piller did so in the fourth rounds in 2013 and 2015, while Lincicome’s marks came in the first rounds in 2007 and 2015.
Lincicome is looking to become the first repeat winner of the 2017 season after she won the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. With 10 different winners so far, this is the longest the Tour has gone without having a repeat champion since 1991.
In her seventh season on Tour, Piller is seeking her first LPGA victory. She has 33 career top-10s, including two this season (Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, Kia Classic) and three in her five career starts at Kingsmill.
LPGA rookie Angel Yin’s first-round 66 is the second-lowest round of her LPGA career. She shot a 65 in the third round of the 2017 Bank of Hope Founders Cup, where she went on to finish T19.
Entering the Kingsmill Championship, Yin is second in the Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year standings, 181 points behind leader Sung Hyun Park.
Giulia Molinaro was bogey-free through 16 holes on her way to recording a 4-under 67, which marks her lowest round in three starts on the River Course.