Lydia Ko addresses changes
In her first round as a 20-year-old, Lydia Ko – who shot a 1-under-par 70 Thursday at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout presented by JTBC – addressed questions around her seemingly revolving door of caddies, and her swing changes.
“I mean obviously the number of caddies I've had is not a small number. With every person I felt like I've learned a lot. My first year I technically didn't fire a caddie. Being your rookie year, you don't -- I don't even know exactly what I want and what I need in a caddie,” said Ko. “Obviously I'm trying to figure out exactly what I want, and I've realized how big a personality is kind of big for me, especially because I'm not really loud and I never get so high or low when I don't play well. I kind of felt like I needed somebody that would say, hey, it's okay, we can make birdie on the next hole, or we can bring it back the next round. I kind of need somebody with a little bit more positive kind of thing and more of that kind of nice confident energy. That's what I was looking for and hopefully that will happen.”
Ko’s new caddie is fellow LPGA Tour member Jane Park’s husband, Pete. Park is one of Ko’s “big sisters” on Tour, so the switch was easy, having gone out together for dinners a lot and had a good time, according to Ko.
She’s been working with her new coach, Gary Gilchrist, for the balance of 2017. Specifically, Ko said they’ve been working mostly on her rhythm.
I try and do it as simple as possible. Gary's been giving me a lot of drills that I'm doing, without thinking about which position to put, you know, my arms or whatever in. That way it becomes less technical. And when I'm on the road, if something doesn't feel right, I know what to go back to and what drill to do. I think that's a really good thing going forward because I can't, you know, have my coach with me every single time,” she explained. “When I come off the golf course, take a swing and send it to Gary. So I think the drills have been really good.”
Ko parred her first nine holes in a row Thursday before making two birdies and a bogey on the back nine. She sits tied for 32nd.
Katherine Kirk makes an ace; sits tied for second
For Australian Katherine Kirk, the first round in Texas was a memorable one.
Kirk sits at 4-under-par, and tied for second behind Mi Jung Hur (just two shots back) but on her fourth hole of the day, after bogeying the par-4 2nd, she made an ace – her third on the LPGA Tour and fifth overall.
She hit a punch 7-iron and didn’t even see it go in the hole, unfortunately.
“I hit it so well, so I bent down to pick up the tee, then (someone) in the group said, ‘get in the hole,’ and I’m like, ‘What?’ and it went in. I didn’t even see it, to be honest,” explained Kirk.
She said the hole-in-one helped kick-start her round.
“I played all right on the front but just couldn't get anything going,” said the Australian. “Really happy with the start, especially with the conditions this afternoon. We had a bit more breeze I think than the morning did. So yeah, good start. Got to build on it.”
Mi Jung Hur off to a blazing start
Mi Jung Hur has only notched one top-10 finish so far this year, but it was her day Thursday, firing a bogey-free 65, her 6-under-par total led the pack.
She pointed to her putter as the key tool in her arsenal Thursday.
“I dropped a lot of birdie putts. Lots of chances for birdie as well,” she said. “I (was) really satisfied with my round today.”
Hur, who sits 20th on the Race to the CME Globe, admitted the winds were swirling Thursday in Dallas, which eventually let her 6-under total remain as the low score for nearly the whole of the afternoon.
“The winds are swirling every hole, so it made me (have) a little bit of a headache,” she explained. “I was talking to my caddie Daniel a lot, which helped me.”
Hur said, despite the high winds, she didn’t have to change her swing. She leads by two heading into Friday.
“These days I’m working on my backswing, trying to make it more stiff. I focused on that drill, and didn’t think too much about my swing. That helped me focus on the ball,” she stated.
Song goes bogey-free
Jennifer Song, in her seventh year on the LPGA Tour, is still searching for her first victory. But Thursday in Dallas she took one step towards challenging for a title, after a bogey-free 4-under-par 67 has her just two shots back of the lead.
“I had a good round today and I’m very happy,” she said. “Overall it was a bogey-free round, so can’t complain about that.”
Song admitted it’s a challenge every week on the LPGA Tour as the quality of the fields are so deep, but she’s hoping to keep up her good play over the next three days.
“There are a lot of great players out here, and I just have to have a very strong game. I need to hit some good tee shots, get on the green, and make a lot of putts,” she said.
Song made two birdies on her front nine, and then made back-to-back birdies on No’s 11 and 12 on the back nine to come in at 4-under-par for the day.
“Whenever I had a birdie chance, I made it,” she explained. “I left a lot of them out there, so hopefully I’ll make some more tomorrow.”
Jutanugarn aiming for No.1
With a win this week, Ariya Jutanugarn can usurp Lydia Ko at the top of the Rolex Rankings (as long as Ko finishes outside the top-seven on the leaderboard). With the first round complete and Jutanugarn tied for second while Ko is tied for 31st, that scenario is still in play.
Jutanugarn fired a 4-under-par 67 Thursday – thanks to three birdies on the back nine. Despite the fact that she is so close to the world no.1 ranking, she didn’t let that impact her play.
“I’m not thinking about that because I just feel like it’s more important for me to have fun and be happy on the course,” she said.
Clearly it was another day chalk full of happiness for Jutanugarn, who said she hit the ball well on Thursday, and her putter heated up on the back nine.
A year ago in May Jutanugarn went on a near-unprecedented hot streak on the LPGA Tour. After finished sixth at this event, she went on to win three tournaments in a row. She’s trying not to compare herself, though.
“Last year I (gained) a lot of confidence after I started to play good. But, I start to not really compare myself to last year,” she said.