After being played for eight years during the Fall stretch of the LPGA Tour schedule, this week’s Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic has moved to the Spring, creating a different challenge for players complete with new weather and course conditions at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
Thursday’s opening round featured softer conditions with the course taking on more rain than players were accustomed to seeing when this event was played later in the year. The course also played much windier on Thursday, becoming a factor midway through day one.
Capitalizing on the calm conditions Thursday morning, Laetitia Beck went out in one of the first two groups of the day to take the early lead in round one with a seven-under par, 65.
“The conditions are great,” Beck told the media. “The greens are softer than what I played last year; they were softer so we can attack more, so I think that's why it's a scorable course this year, especially because we can just go for it, especially with having short irons. “
Beck began her day at 7:15 a.m. off the 10th tee and carded four birdies in five holes, including three consecutive birdies to make the turn in 32. She made it around in just 26 putts, which Beck says was the key to her success in round one.
“I think here on this golf course it's all putting, because it's a very scorable course, and hitting a lot of greens, hit the right part of the green, and I think I was doing well making putts, even though I did miss birdie opportunities, but I made good putts for birdies and just kept going. “
Beck’s bogey-free, 65 is her low round of the season and just one stroke shy of her career best of 64 which she posted at the 2015 Manulife LPGA Classic where she posted a career best T-19 finish. Should Beck still hold the lead at day’s end, it will mark the first round one lead of her career.
Having made just two of eight cuts in 2016, Beck has been hard at work on her game since the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, when she carded opening rounds of 77 – 78 to miss the cut. While some may be surprised to see this round from Beck, she tells LPGA.com she has been hard at work on her swing and started to see improvement at last week’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout.
“I have been working on my swing in the past month or so,” Beck told LPGA.com via email. “Struggled a bit after Australia but last week my game started feeling better. I felt I was going to do well in Texas but I struggled with making putts and my short game wasn't good at all. That's why I didn't make many birdies last week. Today I gave myself a lot of good birdie opportunities and I finally made putts.”
Making the decision to continue working on her game throughout the season is a sacrifice Beck wanted to make, the opportunity in August looming as she readies to represent her home country of Israel in golf’s return to the Olympic games.
“I decided to work a little more on my swing even though it was during the season. Of course every event is important but I decided to sacrifice part of the season because I'm working on becoming more consistent under pressure. Today everything was a little better. From my tee shots to approach shots and most importantly putting,” Beck told LPGA.com. “Everyday for me is an opportunity to learn and gain more experience. I need to play relax golf and not put too much pressure on myself. Keep enjoying the experience and continue focusing on making birdies.”
Beck holds the early lead in round one, two-strokes ahead of Minjee Lee and Annie Park who both went out in the afternoon wave and carded five-under par, 67.