On a breezy day in paradise, Paula Creamer, Alison Lee, Charley Hull, Ashlan Ramsey, Catriona Matthew, Haru Nomura and Mika Miyazato showed the wind is no obstacle for good golf, nor is the rust of an offseason that stretched eight weeks. Each fired a 5-under-par 68 in their first round of the 2016 season to surge out to a seven-way tie for the first-round lead at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic.
Matthew, Nomura, and Miyazato jumped out into the lead after the morning wave, but Creamer, Lee, Hull and Ramsey all got hot late to join them at the top of the leaderboard. Creamer played Nos. 6-8 in 4-under-par and Lee did as well to turn around their round and take a share of the overnight lead.
This is the first time Creamer’s held a share of the lead after the first round since the 2014 Kia Classic and her 5-under round tied her lowest round in relation to par of 2015. But the 10-time career LPGA winner feels like her game is in a much better place heading into 2016, and she saw further validation of that Thursday.
“Oh, I mean, this is obviously a great start. Of course I would take this in a heartbeat,” Creamer said. “I have worked really hard. I’m really enjoying the game, I’m enjoying practicing. I’m in a really good place and I hope I can keep it going. I know I can and we have a really good plan, my team and I, and continue to keep doing that.”
Lee and Hull were grouped together along with 2014 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic champion Jessica Korda, going off the back nine on Thursday. Hull took advantage of the late tee time to figure out the conditions.
“Yeah, it was quite windy in the actually afternoon,” Hull told the media. “I was hitting balls on the range because you're hitting balls on the range left‑right wind and then you get up on the first hole and it's off the right and you're like, oh, even though I teed off at 10.”
Playing alongside Hull, Lee had a rollercoaster day that included six birdies, an eagle and one bogey and was surprised to learn she was leading when she walked off the ninth green at the end of her day. Lee posted an 80 on this course during the opening round just one year ago and went on to miss the cut.
Lee, who is making a serious surge for the United States UL International Crown and Olympics teams, posted a 5-under-par 68 despite what she says feeling underprepared entering the week. With class going on back at UCLA, Lee quickly found that her course load, catching up with old friends and sorority events took over her time at home in Los Angeles.
“I mean, I’m really happy with how I played today, to be honest,” Lee said. “I had no idea I would play this well. Like after my round I just looked at Jason and kind of laughed like ‘oh, my God, I shot 5 under, wow, that’s great.’ Honestly, I don’t feel like I did enough to prepare.”
In her second year, Lee isn’t the newbie anymore and helped an old Curtis Cup teammate, Ramsey, by offering advice and taking her to the Pro-Am party on Tuesday night to meet people with her. Ramsey, a 2016 rookie that made her way onto the LPGA Tour through an impressive performance (tie for eighth) at the LPGA Final Qualifying School two months prior, looked right at home and at ease Thursday after a bogey at the first.
“I bogeyed the first hole but didn’t feel like it was because of nerves,” Ramsey said. “I felt like I managed my game pretty well and stayed confident, just kept swinging how I know how and it turned out all right.”
During Thursday’s morning wave, island lovers, well seasoned in navigating windy conditions, made their way to the top of the leaderboard, including Hawaii resident Nomura, Scotland’s Matthew, and Miyazato, a native of Japan.
Miyazato started her day on the back nine and got off to a quick start with six birdies on her outward nine.
“Always excited first tournament of the year, this tournament,” said Miyazato after her round. “Always windy so I need to more focus in the one shot at a time.”
Miyazato is in search of her first win since the 2012 Safeway Classic. She looks to build on the momentum she found last season, posting five top-10 finishes.
“My big goal is Olympics, but so many tournaments after the Olympics but focusing the one tournament each tournament,” Miyazato told the media.
The Olympics are also a goal for LPGA veteran Catriona Matthew, who successfully navigated the wind to card four birdies, an eagle and one bogey in round one.
“I think you just can't try to hit it too hard,” said Matthew. “The harder you try to hit your shots in the wind, there's more spin, so always just taking an extra club if you can.”
Having posted a final round 66 at The Ocean Club Golf Course in 2014, Nomura was already familiar with what it would take to navigate Thursday’s windy conditions. She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens to take a share of the lead. This week Nomura begins her sixth season on Tour, still in search of her first LPGA victory.
Defending champion Sei Young Kim posted an opening round 2-under par, 71 to sit three-strokes back of the lead.
Michelle Wie got yet another unlucky break in round one, this one coming in the form of a bee sting at the 16th hole. Wie is allergic but was able to complete her round, posting a 3-over par 76.
World No.2 Inbee Park withdrew from the tournament following an opening round 7-over-par, 80. She has also withdrawn from next week’s event, the Coates Golf Championship Presented by R+L Carriers.