Thursday morning felt like a throwback for 1999 rookie Laura Diaz, who nearly holed her chip for eagle at the 18th hole to take the outright lead. She’d gone low before in Toledo, where she carded a career best, 62 in 2014. This time, she settled for a four-under par, 67 to hold a share of the early lead on day one of the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I.
“I feel good. First 4-under of the year. You know, it's good. It's always nice to finish with 4-4 and almost chip it in on the last,” Diaz said of her back-to-back birdies on the closing par five’s. “It's a fun week, and we stay in great housing here. I couldn't ask for a better place to come for seven days.”
The past few seasons have been a struggle for the two-time winner, who is making just her third start of the year after missing all of the 2016 season due to a broken leg. If she can continue the form she found on Thursday, Diaz will be on track to make her second cut since 2015 and first cut of the year.
“My career has just been up and down, and you have good days and you have bad days. Hopefully, I can figure out how to make it look the same to me the next three days,” Diaz said. “Working on a few things, and sometimes I have to back away and reconfigure and try it again. I think that today it fit my eye, and just I know it's boring, but one shot at a time and see what I can do.”
Although Diaz couldn’t get the eagle to drop, Brittany Lincicome did, making a three at her final hole of the day to move into a share of the lead with Diaz and 2015 champion Chella Choi. There’s much more than the tournament on the line this week as it kicks off the final three events before teams are finalized for the Solheim Cup. The five-time member of Team U.S.A. currently sits at No. 11 in the point standings, outside the eight automatic qualifying spots.
“I'm kind of right on the bubble, so I'm a little bit stressed, but it was nice to kind of have a good round,” Lincicome said. “Maybe Juli [Inkster] will see that I made some birdies today, and hopefully my clubs will do the talking and get me in.”
Choi has played the most consistent golf of her career in 2017 with five top-11s, including a season best third place finish at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Choi’s first victory on Tour came at this event in 2015 when she defeated Ha Na Jang in a playoff. Confident in her return to Toledo, Choi opened with a four-under par, 67 to sit in a tie at the top.
“This is my favorite tournament, and this is everything good memory and everything good in here,” Choi said. “The course condition is really good, and the greens are a little soft, so sometimes before putting I'm just trying to, okay, past the hole, past the hole. But sometimes just feel a little bit short. But made five birdies today, so good today.”