Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Desert Ridge
Partial First Round Notes and Interviews
March 19, 2015
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko (-6)
Rolex Rankings No. 97 Kim Kaufman (-6)
Rolex Rankings No. 491 Sophia Popov (-6)
Rolex Rankings No. 172 Tiffany Joh (-6)
Rolex Rankings No. 100 Moriya Jutanugarn (-5)
Rolex Rankings No. 199 Amy Anderson (-2)
Rolex Rankings No. 336 Giulia Molinaro (-1)
Four players sat tied atop the leaderboard at the JTBC Founders Cup at 6-under-par when first-round play was called for the day due to darkness at 6:30 p.m. PT on Thursday.
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko, Tiffany Joh, Kim Kaufman and Sophia Popov were tied for the first-round lead after each shot 66 in the first round in Phoenix. Tee times were delayed four hours on Thursday morning due to rain that caused unplayable conditions on the Wildfire Golf Club course at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.
Ko continued her strong play of late. Her 66 on Thursday extended the 17-year-old’s streak of consecutive rounds-under-par to 21, a streak that dates back to the first round of the CME Group Tour Championship last November.
Popov, a 22-year-old rookie, didn’t seem to be affected by the flu bug which had kept her in the hospital until Sunday. She was the last player to earn a spot in this week’s field when Azahara Munoz withdrew late last week. And Popov certainly took advantage of the opportunity to play, shooting her career low round in just the second LPGA event of her rookie season.
Joh birdied six of her first 10 holes to get off to a hot start before paring her way into the clubhouse. Kaufman bogeyed her first hole of the day, the 10th, but then caught fire as she shot consecutive 33s to put herself in a tie for the first-round lead when play was suspended.
PLAY TO RESUME TOMORROW
For those 66 players not completing their rounds on Thursday, the resumption of round one will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning.
Round 2 is scheduled to begin at 10:30am off of the 1st and 10th tees.
KAUFMAN RALLIES FOR 66
Kim Kaufman’s day didn’t get off to the best start having to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and arriving at the course to the news of a two hour rain delay followed by another two hour delay..
“I got up at 4:30 and had an hour drive,” Kaufman explained. “I’m staying in South Phoenix with some friends, which now is a bad idea I think. I got here and I slept in the dining room, and then warmed up a bit and then slept in the restaurant for the next one and then we finally went out and played.”
Kaufman killed some time at the course with a pair of naps, one of which was captured on social media by Demi Runas.
“But it is hard, when you’re sitting there and you’re sleeping on a table
somewhere, the last thing you want to do is go warm up on the range,” Kaufman said. “But you do, you go out there and get going and get into it, and everyone did it.”
Kaufman also had to rally from a bogey on her opening hole.
“I had a poor start, and I told myself, I’m not going to have this long day,” Kaufman said. “But it had been a long morning already so wanted to get something going. I was patient, rolled in a few birdies, hit it close on a couple holes and played pretty steady after that.”
POPOV GOES FROM HOSPITAL TO TOP OF LEADERBOARD
When Sophia Popov got the news that she would be replacing Azahara Munoz as the final player in the field at the JTBC Founders Cup she was in a hospital bed in Naples, Florida.
“At first I thought, I can’t play,” Popov said. “I was about to call my agent and say, you know what, there’s no way. But I was kind of feeling better going into Friday, and then the doctor said, yeah, no, you’re not going anywhere. Tough luck pretty much. He wasn’t really sympathizing with me a lot. He’s pretty mean. But I thought, you know, how I felt, I was like, I think I could give this a shot.”
“I said, I have to see how I feel by Sunday, Monday and that’s how I decided,” Popov continued. “Sunday, I was still in the hospital and then they had me go home and get another infusion outside of the hospital and then I said, you know what, we’re going to fly Tuesday. This was after I already rebooked my flight a million times. I said, that’s it, we’re going, and I feel okay.”
Popov was only able to get nine holes of practice in on Tuesday and walked the back nine while following her friend Jaye Marie Green’s pro-am group.
“I kind of went in and just said, you know what, we are going to, it’s not like an exam and you’re like, let’s wing it,” she said. But you kind of go in and just say, try to hit the shots you’re able to, kind of trust the game that you had before you got sick, and then just kind of see what happens.”
What happened was a 6-under round of 66 and a tie for the lead.
“No, definitely not,” Popov said when asked if she’d reccomend the sickness approach to her fellow players. “I hope everyone stays healthy here because I don’t wish that on anyone. But it does lower expectations a little.”
JOH TAKES ADVANTAGE OF DELAY
The four-hour delay Thursday was a disruption to many players getting ready to hit the course. For Tiffany Joh, she saw the delay as an opportunity, an opportunity to hit the snooze button.
“I was in my car when I got the e-mail alert, I popped a U-y and went back straight to bed,” Joh said. “Didn’t affect me at all.”
Joh’s original morning tee time ended up turning into an afternoon time, but she was one of the 66 players that were able to finish her round today. Although she shot a 66 and is currently tied for the lead, she admits that it is not a place she feels comfortable.
“To be honest, not comfortable at all,” Joh admitted. “It’s only the first day and not even all the players have finished their rounds. And especially with conditions as good as they are right now, I can see this being kind of a horse race.”
Considering half of the field has yet to finish their first round, Joh is right about it being early in the tournament. Joh will have a late tee time tomorrow and plans on not overthinking where she sits on the leaderboard.
“I honestly don’t even think about it at all and when I leave the golf course, I leave it at the golf course. That just means more time tomorrow to go catch a matinee or something.”
COUNTDOWN IS ON
Lydia Ko won’t turn 18 years old until April 24 but she already has six LPGA Tour victories under her belt. Perhaps another one could be right around the corner following Ko’s opening-round 6-under 66 that had her tied for the first-round lead at the JTBC Founders Cup, where she finished runner-up last year.
The current No. 1 player in the world has been setting records for accomplishments at such a young age. But it was a record that will take many more years to accomplish that had Ko leaving the media members laughing about following her round on Thursday.
After Ko’s win in Australia earlier this year, LPGA Tour legend Patty Sheehan tweeted to the 17-year-old star. Sheehan congratulated the youngster on her ninth professional win and asked “You know who Kathy Whitworth is, right?”
Of course Whitworth is the all-time LPGA career victories leader with 88 – more wins than any other professional, male or female. And yes, Ko was well aware of the record.
“I’ve got 82 more to reach there,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s a long way and I say I would like to retire when I’m 30, and I don’t know how it all divides and how many I need to do.”
“They have got such amazing records and they feel so far away. I’m trying to concentrate on one tournament at a time and that’s all I can do. It’s just hard to be those kind of people. I’ve still got a lot to work on my game to get even halfway near their record.”
MOLINARO WINS CAR
As the sun started to dip below the clouds, Giulia Molinaro stepped to the tee at the par-3 17th and noticed
“I hit second and when Ryann (O’Toole) was hitting I actually stared at the car and thought ‘that’s a really nice car’ but then i didn’t think of it and I hit an 8-iron.“
Molinaro’s 8-iron traveled the 148 yards and found itself in the bottom of the cup for the ace and the keys to a 2016 Kia K900.
“I saw it hit and go in and my first reaction was oh great a hole-in-one and then it clicked that it was actually for a car and then I think I screamed ‘car!’ in Italian,” she said.
The hole-in-one was the fourth of Molinaro’s life and second on the LPGA Tour.
“It’s been a good week,” Molinaro said. “Monday qualified in and won a car so it’s been pretty good. I can’t complain.”
Molinaro won’t have to drive the car far as she is a Valley resident and graduate of Arizona State.
“Of course it means more,” Molinaro said of playing in her hometown. “i love living here, especially with how close I am to ASU. It’s always a great feeling to play at home. It’s an honor to play in any event but when it’s at home then it’s a bit more special.”
As players sat in the dining room during Thursday morning’s four-hour rain delay, there were plenty of interesting discussions taking place. For Amy Anderson, the most prominent question from her fellow LPGA Tour players: “Can you help me with my taxes?”
Anderson, who was an accounting major at North Dakota State University, reached a big personal accomplishment last week when she passed her final CPA exam. It was the last of four tests she had to take over the past year and a half to get her certification.
“I’ve taken four tests in four different testing locations: I took it in Orlando; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota, and West Palm Beach, Florida,” Anderson said.
Anderson was playing golf with some members at her club in Florida last Wednesday when she received the news that she had passed the exam. The members were unaware of Anderson’s second “career” and so she tried not to show her excitement over the news.
“I didn’t want to freak out and brag on myself,” Anderson said sheepishly. “So I just kind of giggled to myself in the cart.”
Among those in the gallery watching Anderson in Thursday’s opening round of the JTBC Founders Cup was her accounting professor from North Dakota State, Nancy Emerson, who helped her throughout the entire CPA process. After going out and shooting a 2-under-par 70 Thursday, Anderson was asked if the exam or the round she had just played was more challenging.
“Golf is always more difficult,” Anderson said. “I think studying is actually pretty easy compared to golf because the harder you work at it, I mean, the smarter you get. Golf doesn’t always work that way. So honestly, I thought that studying was a good reprieve from golf and it was almost relaxing.”
Studying may have been relaxing but if Anderson was to take up all of the requests for tax help, she might be left with little time left to practice for her actual job.
“I have made so many new friends since I passed my CPA,” she said with a laugh. “And they all need taxes done.”
ACE ACE BABY
Ai Miyazato had a hole-in-one Thursday on the fourth hole. Miyazato used a 5-Rescue to go 168 yards and ace the par-3. The ace was the 12 year veteran’s first in professional competition.
The day was up and down for Miyzato, besides her ace, she had five birdies combined with five bogeys. Miyazato shot a first round 70, finishing two-under for the day.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
2 - Number of hole-in-ones tallied on Thursday, matching the total made on the LPGA through the first five events
66 - 66 golfers finished their rounds and 66 golfers remain on the course after play was suspended
14 - 14 players are within two strokes of the lead
21 - Lydia Ko has played 21 straight rounds under par
70 - Number of players Giulia Molinaro had to beat to earn her spot in the field
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s pretty cool to hear it on the tee when you’re teeing off, and at announcer says, “Rolex Rankings world No. 1.” But I’m probably still not used to it. I never will be. “
-Lydia Ko on being Rolex Rankings No. 1