Following the first round of the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, three players are knotted at the top at 5-under 67. 2019 LPGA rookie Anne van Dam and major champions So Yeon Ryu and Eun-Hee Ji set the early pace, sharing a one-shot lead over Chinese Taipei’s Peiyun Chien and 2019 winners Celine Boutier and Amy Yang.
The first-round scoring average at Lake Merced Golf Club was 74.072, the highest single-round scoring average among par-72 tournaments in the 2019 LPGA season. The trio at the top each found different ways to cope with the tough golf course.
“Just before the tournament started, I really nervous about it,” Ryu said of playing Lake Merced Golf Club. “When I'm nervous about it, I guess my concentration level is really high. I guess maybe that's the attitude I need to have, like every round.”
Ji echoed Ryu’s sentiment, saying “I think I focus more if I come to a tough golf course.”
Van Dam, on the other hand, felt right at home at Lake Merced once she settled in. “I love this course, I love playing it,” said the rookie, who leads the Tour in average driving distance at 289.125 yards. “I was too caught up after four holes, not enjoying myself, so I said, just play your game and hit free shots. And that's what I did after that, so happy with that.”
CONFIDENCE IS KEY FOR SO YEON RYU
So Yeon Ryu is a six-time LPGA Tour winner, a two-time major champion, the 2017 Rolex Player of the Year and the 2012 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year. A player with that resume doesn’t sound like someone who would be lacking confidence, but that’s exactly what the former World No. 1 player says she has been battling with this season.
Despite her self-proclaimed confidence issues, Ryu got off to a hot start on Thursday at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship carding seven birdies on her way to a tie for the first-round lead at 5-under 67. Ryu said she was able to fight off most of the negative thoughts on Thursday.
“Every time when I missed a shot a little bit, or missed a putt a little bit, I have been a little harsh to me, even though I promised myself I wasn't going to do it,” Ryu said. “Then I was like, you know what, I already promised myself I wasn't going to do it, be harsh on myself, but that's what I did the last few holes. And let's just free up, and then let's enjoy it. And then I guess that mindset really helped me out to make a lot of birdies.”
Two exercises Ryu has been using to help her confidence are reading and journaling. She recently finished reading Michelle Obama’s book ‘Becoming’ to pick up some inspiration.
“After I read a book, I always try to write in a journal like what I'm thinking,” said Ryu. “Then if I think anything negative, I just write it down and then I just try to think that's necessary think or not. And then I sort of can realize myself what I'm thinking about these days, and then if it's necessary, I'll take it. If it's unnecessary, I just throw it away. So reading a book and writing a journal helped me a lot to being more confident and positive.”
REBUILT SWING DRIVING JI’S SUCCESS
For the third time this season, Eun-Hee Ji holds a share of the lead following the first round of an LPGA tournament. Her opening-round 5-under 67, which featured six birdies to a lone bogey, continued Ji’s renewed on-course success. After winning the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, the 32-year-old Korean has reeled off three additional top-10 finishes, the best opening stretch in her 13-year LPGA Tour career.
“I changed my swing a lot so that makes it help a lot,” said Ji, who said she made her backswing more compact. “That makes me more confident.”
Since 2017, Ji has enjoyed a career resurgence. After winning twice in her first three seasons, including the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, Ji had to wait 203 starts between wins. She finally revisited the winner’s circle at the 2017 Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship and claimed victory twice in 2018.
Rolex Rankings No. 9 So Yeon Ryu (67)
- She hit 13 of 18 greens and 8 of 14 fairways with seven birdies in the first round
- Ryu is in her eighth season on the LPGA Tour; she has six career victories, including major titles at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2017 ANA Inspiration
- This is Ryu’s seventh event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she finished T9 at the LOTTE Championship and T19 at the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open
- At the inaugural LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in 2018, she finished T18
- At the 2016 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, a separate LPGA event held at Lake Merced Golf Club, Ryu finished solo fifth
Rolex Rankings No. 16 Eun-Hee Ji (67)
- Ji’s first-round 67 is her 15th round in the 60s this season
- She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens
- This is Ji’s ninth start of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she won the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions and has three additional top-10 finishes, including a runner-up finish two weeks ago at the LOTTE Championship
- Ji is in her 13th season on the LPGA Tour; she has five career victories, including a major win at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open
- At the inaugural LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in 2018, she finished T43
- Ji finished T15 at the 2014 and 2016 Swinging Skirts Classics, a separate LPGA event held at Lake Merced Golf Club
Rolex Rankings No. 69 Anne van Dam (67)
- She hit 11 of 18 greens and 15 of 14 fairways with five birdies and an eagle in the first round
- van Dam is a 2019 LPGA Tour rookie; her best career finish is a tie for 17th as a non-Member at the 2018 Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open
- This is the first time in her career she has held a share of the lead following any round on the LPGA Tour
- This is van Dam’s fifth event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is T28 at the Kia Classic
- She is playing in her first LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship
- van Dam is also a member of the Ladies European Tour, where she won the 2019 ActewAGL Canberra Classic, the 2018 Andalucia Open de Espana, the 2018 Estrella Damm Ladies Open and the 2016 Xiamen International Open
- van Dam currently leads the European Solheim Cup standings, putting her in prime position to play in her first Solheim Cup this September in Scotland
- No player from the Netherlands has ever won on the LPGA Tour