2015 Blue Bay LPGA
Sanya, Hainan Island, China
October 29, 2015
China’s Xi Yu Lin took the first-round lead at the Blue Bay LPGA after carding 5-under 67 in tough scoring conditions at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course. American Austin Ernst (68) sits just one shot off the lead in solo second. A group of four including Jane Park, Jenny Shin, Sei Young Kim and Ryann O’Toole are tied for third at 2-under par and three shots back.
Lin has had plenty of success in Sanya in her young career and has three professional wins in the town on Hainan Island. She won the Sanya Hills Ladies Classic on the CLPGA in 2013 and successfully defended her title in 2014 and also won the Sanya Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour here last season. She’s scheduled to defend her title there next week.
“I don’t know really how to explain it,” said Lin. “I’ve been doing very well on this island and in this area…The weather is very similar to Guangzhou, my hometown. And two, the course is very similar to in Guangzhou where I usually get my training done. And thirdly, maybe there is some uncertain factors which I myself can’t even explain right now. But obviously, I feel very comfortable being here. I feel very, very relaxed being on this island and also in the area of Sanya.”
This is Lin’s second time in her two-year career on the LPGA to have at least the share of the first-round lead, the first time just three weeks ago at the Sime Darby Malaysia. Lin is a high-profile player in China but said she doesn’t feel any extra pressure to perform well when she returns home. She’s coming off a tie for sixth finish last week in Taiwan.
“Actually it’s always nice for me to play in my hometown, because last time I won an LET tournament here, so I like Hainan a lot,” said Lin. “Also my mom is here with me this week, so I don’t really feel much pressure, because I’ve been doing pretty good these couple weeks. And my game’s pretty good, as well. So just tell myself, just enjoy every putt and enjoy all the good things here, the good condition, good hotel, good food, everything.”
Ernst, who won her first LPGA title last year at the Portland Classic, said her goal to finish out the season is to get one win. She has four top-six finishes in 2015 and said a few rounds in the Asian swing have kept her from strong finishes.
“I guess it would be six weeks, I wanted to get at least one win,” said Ernst. “I felt like my game was there. And then I’ve had -- I’ve just been sloppy the first three weeks. I’ve had decent rounds that I’ve let get away from me where I shoot a couple over instead of shooting a couple under.”
New world No. 1 Lydia Ko struggled on Thursday and carded 5-over 77, her highest round of the year and since her round of 80 last season in the final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open.
Defending champion Lee-Anne Pace was one shot better at 4-over par. Rolex Rankings No. 2 Inbee Park was 3-over par and is in a tie for 33rd.
ROLEX RANKINGS PROJECTIONS
Just a year ago, it was after this event that Inbee Park retook the No. 1 ranking in the Rolex Rankings and unseated Stacy Lewis who was then in the top spot. Both Lewis and Park were not in the field last year at Blue Bay but this time around, the two players battling for No. 1 are in action. Park has a chance to take back No. 1 after Lydia Ko bumped her to No. 2 with a win in Taiwan last week. She needs at least a runner-up or a win.
After 18 holes, Park is T33 and eight shots back and Ko is T56 and 10 shots off.
Here are the scenarios in which Park and move back on top:
• Park will move to No. 1 with a win regardless of where Ko finishes
• Park finishes second and Ko finishes seventh or worse
IT’S TOUGH OUT HERE
Only 10 players broke par in the first round and the combination of wind and small landing areas on the undulating greens posed a challenge for the field of 81.
“I think the approach shots will be the hardest part because the greens are pretty firm,” said Xi Yu Lin. “Yes, some of the pin positions pretty hard. I had to play really smart and also I think there’s a couple holes, pretty windy today. So just need to be really careful.”
Jane Park, who sits three shots off the lead, put her greens in regulation stat in perspective.
“I think I hit four or five greens today because it was -- you have a three-yard landing area to get perfect, and that’s pretty hard to do,” said Park. “The greens are hard, like very rock-hard, so you can’t really hit it close. Kind of have to strike bombs.”
TAKE IT EASY
Austin Ernst hasn’t cracked the top-30 yet in her first three stops in Asia and said by week four she’s learned that rest may turn out to be the biggest help. She took off playing the course on Monday and Tuesday and didn’t get out on the track at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course until Wednesday in the pro-am. She said she probably would never have done that in her rookie year in 2013 but has figured out how to manage her practice and when to grind. Ernst finished T11 here last year.
“I think seeing the course helps a lot. I played it last year and then obviously Drew (her caddie) went and walked,” said Ernst. “He goes, say, nothing’s really changed; this tee, that tee. But yeah, in my rookie year, I probably wouldn’t have done that. Last year, you just kind of knew -- I played four weeks in a row last year over here, too. You kind of know the course and you kind of know what you can handle. Sometimes it’s better just to go take it easy and go play and not really get anything out of it.”
It looked like the R&R was just the thing she needed. Seems like a day at the pool didn’t hurt.
“Monday was a pool day,” said Ernst. “Tuesday was a chipping and putting and basically hang out day.”
WORKING FOR A VACATION
CLPGA member Panpan Yan made a hole in one on the 17th hole and her 8-iron from 136 yards earned her a vacation. She won a seven-night stay in a Renewal Oceanfront Suite at The Westin Blue Bay Resort & Spa. It was Yan’s third hole-in-one but first in competition.
“I didn’t expect it off the tee. I didn’t see it because of the pin position,” said Yan. “After my swing, the observer caddie said it might into the hole. I said it’s impossible. But you know, we walked up over there. My partner Chella Choi said it is real. We all were excited!”
TV TIMES FOR THIS WEEK - BLUE BAY LPGA
2:30-5:00am ET - Round 2 (Tape Delay)
11:30am-1:00pm ET - Round 2 (re-air)
8:00-10:30pm ET - Round 2 (re-air)
8:00-10:30pm ET - Round 3 (Tape Delay)
8:00pm-12:00am ET - Final Round (Tape Delay)
All four rounds will be streamed LIVE from 12:00-4:00am ET starting tonight on the Golf LIVE Extra app and golfchannel.com