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.
The change made no difference to first round co-leader Stacy Lewis, who didn’t play in the LPGA Volvik Championship last season. She played her first competitive round at Travis Pointe on Thursday. With a birdie and a fist pump at the 18th hole, she capped off a seven-under, 65 to take what was at the time the outright lead. Wei-Ling Hsu caught Lewis in the afternoon and both share the first round lead, one ahead of Nelly Korda at six-under par and a group of five players at five-under par.
“It's a ball striker's golf course and if you can hit the greens, they're pretty small to begin with, you can make some putts,” Lewis said. “That's what I did a lot of today was hit a lot of good shots and then made some good putts as well.”
Lewis is working with her instructor on simplifying her thoughts on the course and not over reading putts. That practice was well executed Thursday as Lewis made it around in 26 putts.
“I did a really good job today being decisive and being confident in my decisions, so that's something I'm going to look forward to tomorrow and this weekend, just being more confident,” said Lewis.
The two-time major champion has three top 10s in 2017 and is in the hunt for her first victory since 2014.
Two eagles and two birdies – that’s how Wei-Ling Hsu started her day. Beginning her round on the second nine, Hsu made eagle at the par four, 10th followed by a birdie at the next. She then made par on her next two holes before making eagle again at the par five, 14th followed by another birdie at the 15th to go out in 30.
“It was really great starting. I mean very first hole, I don't think too much on that hole,” said Hsu. “I think I got 155 shot and a little downwind. I had my 7-iron and I just hit it right at the pin. I don't see very well, I just hear my mom and gallery on the side, they all just cheering.”
Hsu proved to be mortal with a bogey at the par three, third hole but backed that up with two more birdies on her closing stretch to finish her day in a share of the lead with Lewis at seven-under par.
"I kind of just want to like focus on every shot because sometimes when you're thinking too much it will just destroy everything. Especially when I make the turn, I started thinking too much, you know, like 6-under after six holes,” Hsu said. “I didn't play that well when I make the turn, but I still just telling myself, h'ey, coming back, one shot at a time.' I got two birdies on the back, which is good.”
Her remarkable round is 13-strokes better than her opening round last season at Travis Pointe when she posted a 78 and went on to miss the cut.
Rookie Nelly Korda finds herself in a position in which she is becoming quite familiar – atop the leaderboard. But the day wasn’t without its struggles. Korda scrambled to save par early in her round and again at the par five, 18th hole where her tee shot ended up in the hazard. Despite hitting just 8 of 14 fairways in round one, Korda posted a bogey-free, 66 to sit just one-back of the lead.
“18 was a great par. And then beginning of my round, it was a slow start and I saved a couple of long par putts on 2 and 4,” Korda told the media. “Just getting those, making those two pars and just getting my round rolling really helped.”
The rookie has two top 20s in 2017, including a tie for fifth at the season opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic.
Brittany Lincicome, Ilhee Lee, Sung Hyun Park, Suzann Pettersen and Sarah Jane Smith sit in a tie for fourth at five-under par.