CARLSBAD, CA – In Gee Chun, Cristie Kerr and Mo Martin share the first round lead at the Kia Classic. The trio sits at six-under par, two-strokes clear of Moriya Jutanugarn, Hyo Joo Kim, Marissa Steen, Alison Lee, Karine Icher and Mirim Lee at four-under par.
Despite two bogeys on her outward nine and a 15-footer to par save at the last, Chun still managed a 66 to move into a share of the lead with Kerr and Martin, who went out in the morning wave. She’s making just her second start in Carlsbad where she finished T-50 in 2015.
“This course is really good. I like here. Course is really pretty and challenging, so I'm very happy to be back here,” Chun told the media. “Greens are a little bumpy this afternoon so I stay my patient, so I made a good round today.”
The 2016 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year is coming off her best finish of 2017, having posted a T-2 last week at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, where she also held a share of the first round lead. Chun has new caddie Dylan Vallequette on the bag. He previously looped for world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn.
Martin Putts Her Way to the Top
Thursday, Martin posted her low round of the season with a bogey-free, 66 to jump to the top of the leaderboard. It’s been a slow start to the season for the major champion who has been patient in waiting on the putts to drop – which finally happened on Thursday.
“I had a ton of really good shots today, which I had been doing pretty much for the last year,” Martin told the media. “Just had a really good putting day. I've been waiting for a good putting week and I had a good putting day today. It was great.”
Martin made it around in 30 putts on Thursday and the RICOH Women’s British Open Champion loves a good test. She says she got one on Thursday, relishing the tough pins on day one.
“Coming out here on Monday it was like the grass is healthy and lush, which makes the fairways and the greens super nice. It also let's the rough be a little bit thicker than we've seen it before,” Martin said. “I like it. I love it when it's playing tough. We had a couple Sunday pin placements out there today. It was a fun day.”
Adding to the fun was the large gallery the California native had following her on day one. Her ever-growing fan base wore “Go Mo” buttons and vocalized their support as Martin hit 13 of 14 fairways on Thursday.
“Today I probably had about six people with Go Mo buttons on. We had Go Mo button sign made. That was pretty good. Had one made every year. It's been fun to add to the collection of friends and family out here.”
Martin’s best finish at the Kia Classic came in a share of third in 2013 when she finished one-stroke outside a playoff with Beatriz Recari and In Kyung Kim.
Kerr Keeps It Simple
Getting back to the basics is what propelled Kerr to the top of the leaderboard on day one of the Kia Classic. The world No. 35 carded a six-under par, 66 to move into a share of the lead in Carlsbad. She’s struggled in her start to 2017 and arrives this week in California after missing the cut in Arizona at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but a chat with her instructor helped change her perspective heading into her fourth start of the year.
“Honestly, I had some long talks with my coach, and I just needed to simplify my game. Like I needed to simplify my swing feel and not overcomplicate things,” Kerr told the media. “So kind of went back to some simple feels and played awesome today.”
Kerr has fond memories to lean on this week at Aviara Golf Club where she captured her first win after becoming a mother in 2015 – an emotional victory punctuated by her son waiting for her behind the 72nd hole. The victory was the first of two for Kerr that season, her second coming at the season ending CME Group Tour Championship – her last on the LPGA Tour.
Defending champion Lydia Ko struggled to a two-over par, 74 on Thursday.