Change is a good thing.
At least that was the case for Inbee Park, Brittany Lang, Ai Miyazato and Jodi Ewart Shadoff who all credited changes they’ve made to their game to their success on day one of the Kia Classic. The group opened with 5-under par, 67’s to lead by one on Thursday.
Inbee Park has struggled in her start to 2016 but showed signs of returning to form on Thursday in Carlsbad, carding a bogey-free 5-under par, 67 to move into a share of the lead. For Park, getting her putter going is something she hasn't been able to do in recent weeks and when the world No.2 is rolling the ball well, she's nearly unstoppable. Park made it around in 27 putts on day one.
“Yeah I mean everything went really well out there today, especially I dropped some good putts today so that’s why I was able to shoot a good round. It’s always good to have a good round like this going into a major,” Park told the media. “The greens are actually in much better shape than in previous years. I was quite comfortable on the greens today and obviously getting some confidence on the greens was huge, so.”
Building on the momentum of her last two starts, Lang opened with an eagle at the par 4, 1st hole, where she holed her approach from the fairway to get off to a quick start and says the change she’s made to her alignment is beginning to pay off.
“Yeah, since it worked last week, I've just been working on alignment with putting and swing and just really getting behind the ball and getting a nice picture and trying to commit, commit 100 percent to my shots,” Lang told the media. “I didn't do as good of a job today, which is really cool to shoot 5-under and know that you can still really work on that.”
Lang opened with a 63 at last week’s JTBC Founders Cup and was in the hunt throughout much of the week, finishing T-4 after a final round 4-under 68 wasn’t enough to keep pace with winner Sei Young Kim’s 62. She’s had mixed success in Carlsbad, three times having missed playing the weekend with her best finish coming in a T-20 in 2012.
Lang shares the first round lead with former world No.1 Miyazato, who has struggled in recent years including a missed cut last week in Phoenix, but is happy with the changes she made this week with her putter, which resulted in her low round of 2016 on Thursday.
“My loft wasn't enough last week. It was only like two degrees or something. So I switched to the four-degree, and my ball running is so much better than last week's. Probably that helped,” Miyazato said. “I'm still in the process I think. It's just the first round I played, and especially these greens, Poa annua is a little bit tricky. But like I said, I feel my ball rolling, if I keep it in the right position, it's going to go in. I want to keep that the next three days, too.”
Ewart Shadoff is coming off a series of changes of her own, having overhauled her swing with David Leadbetter and Dr. Bob Winters who is working with her on the mental aspects of the game as well as her short game. Through it all she battled a back injury, missing 11 cuts in 2015, her best finish coming in a T-23 in her penultimate event of the season at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic.
“Yeah, just over the past year and a half or so, making a lot of swing changes and improvements, and last year wasn't my greatest year but we were going through a lot of swing changes,” Ewart Shadoff told the media. “Finally they were starting to make a good impact. I'm gaining a lot of confidence working with my sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Winters, and everything is just really starting to gel together now and every part of my game has improved a lot over the past six months or so.”
World No.1 Lydia Ko, Jane Park and Mi Jung Hur are T-5 at 4-under par. Michelle Wie carded her best round since the Coates Golf Championship, posting a 2-under par, 70 to sit T-14 after day one. Defending champion Cristie Kerr finished with a 1-over par, 73 to finish T-56 for the day.
Alison Lee withdrew from the Kia Classic before completing her opening round and did not give a reason. Lee missed the cut at last week’s JTBC Founders Cup at 8-over par, her first missed cut since the 2015 RICOH Women’s British Open.