ANN ARBOR, MI – What a difference a year makes.
In 2016, warm temperatures made for a firm and fast Travis Pointe Country Club, site of the inaugural LPGA Volvik Championship.
12 months later, conditions couldn’t be more different.
Thursday, a mix of rain and clouds, along with 60-degree temperatures, made for a much different and tougher test than players faced last season. Weathering the cold and intermittent showers, Ilhee Lee, Sung Hyun Park, Suzann Pettersen and Sarah Jane Smith took the early lead on day one in Michigan at five-under par.
Pettersen, who finished tied for 20th last season, was quick to acknowledge the change, telling LPGA.com she made an effort to erase anything she remembered from last year’s event because the conditions were so different.
“If you're in the middle of the fairway, the greens are quite receptive with all the rain, so it's kind of throwing darts, but hit some good putts and stayed patient,” Pettersen said about her opening round, 67.
Pettersen went out in even par, starting her day on the back nine. But she caught fire at the turn, posting a bogey-free, five-under 31 on her inward nine to move into a share of the early lead.
“You've still got to drive the ball pretty good. The rough is deep enough that if you do miss it, some good holes out there as well, some good long par 3s. The course is playing very soft,” said Pettersen. “I gave myself a lot of good looks, so that's all I can ask.”
Like Pettersen, Lee was quick to adapt to the change in conditions from 2016. She relied heavily on her course management on Thursday and took advantage of the soft greens. Her five-under, 67 was a vast improvement over her opening round, 77 at Travis Pointe last season.
“It was completely different last year,” Lee told the media. “The good thing was green was softer. The green holds the ball okay, so it wasn't too bad to play. Last year wasn't, it was really firm.”
Thursday, Lee who ranks 124th in Putts Per G.I.R. and 109th in Putting Average, made it around in just 26 putts.
“I tried to hit middle of the green each shot and tried to not too aggressive to make a putt,” Lee told the media. “Try to play smart.”
Smith, who has struggled with her putting of late, got the ball rolling on Thursday with just 26 putts en route to an opening round 67 that moved her to the top of the leaderboard.
“I've been playing nicely, but just haven't been rolling a lot of putts in. And then on the back nine I had four nice putts go in for me,” Smith told the media. “I wasn't really happy with how I putted on Sunday in Kingsmill so I did a little more work on my putting this week and it feels nice.”