SAGSTROM, KANG LEAD AFTER 18 HOLES AT ISPS HANDA VIC OPEN
After 18 holes at the ISPS Handa Vic Open, Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom is back in a familiar place – at the top of an LPGA Tour leaderboard. Sagstrom, who two weeks ago became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio, shot a bogey-free 8-under 65 on the par-73 Creek Course at 13th Beach Golf Links and is tied for the lead with Republic of Korea’s Haeji Kang.
Both players took full advantage of the morning’s calm winds and prime scoring conditions, with Kang joining Sagstrom with eight birdies and no bogeys on Thursday. Starting on No. 10, Sagstrom opened with birdies at five of her first seven holes and rolled in with three more birdies over her closing three holes.
“I think currently I'm really working hard on my patience. Today I came out with a really hot start and then in the middle kind of just got dry there for a little bit. Just stay patient, stay patient,” said Sagstrom. “Then I finished off with three birdies. So I think that's what's really working out for me, and obviously I'm hitting the ball very nicely, putting nice.”
Making her debut as an LPGA Tour Member, rookie Haley Moore shot a 7-under 66, a round highlighted by an eagle at No. 18. She is tied for third with second-year player Linnea Strom, who eagled holes 2 and 18, and Peiyun Chien, the only player in the top 14 to play her first round on the par-72 Beach Course.
“I played very steady all day and did not make a lot of mistakes at all and just continued to do one shot at a time and yeah, just enjoy it out there,” said Strom, who made her LPGA Tour debut at this event in 2019. “It was fun to have one eagle in the beginning and then also to finish on 18 with an eagle.”
Proving once again that age is just a number, 56-year-old Dame Laura Davies is tied for sixth at 6-under 67. Davies’ last LPGA Tour victory came at the 2001 Wegmans Rochester Invitational, while she captured the Senior Slam in 2018 with victories at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and the Senior LPGA Championship.
Defending champion Celine Boutier opened with an even-par 72 on the Beach Course and is tied for 80th.
MADELENE SAGSTROM CONTINUES EARLY-SEASON SUCCESS
On Jan. 26, Madelene Sagstrom’s biggest dream came true when she joined the ranks of LPGA Tour winners with her victory at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio. Just 11 days later and the 27-year-old Swede has continued her roll of success, shooting a bogey-free 8-under 65 in the first round of the ISPS Handa Vic Open to sit tied for the lead after 18 holes.
“I think after my first win there definitely added confidence to everything, just knowing that I can compete out here, knowing that I can win on Tour,” said Sagstrom, who represented Europe at the 2017 Solheim Cup. “I think that is definitely helping me out. It's also created kind of a little bit of a calmness; just okay, it's going to be fine, it will all work out, it's the beginning of the season.”
Sagstrom has her regular caddie David Buhai back on the bag, after her boyfriend’s father looped during her victory in Florida. This is Sagstrom’s third appearance at the ISPS Handa Vic Open; she missed the 36-hole cut in 2019 and finished 18th in 2017, when the tournament was a stop on the Ladies European Tour.
SAGSTROM’S #DRIVEON STORY
On Monday, the LPGA debuted a new #DriveOn social video featuring a poem written by Madelene Sagstrom to her younger self. To watch Sagstrom’s video, visit https://twitter.com/LPGA/status/1225158402898382857.
HAEJI KANG LOOKING FOR VIC OPEN REDEMPTION
In 2012, Haeji Kang nearly made a miraculous comeback at the Vic Open, held that year in Melbourne. With Joanna Klatten in the clubhouse with a two-stroke lead, Kang holed out for eagle on the 72nd hole to force a playoff. Klatten quickly abandoned her celebration and headed back to the course, officially capturing the win when Kang bogeyed the first playoff hole.
“I should have just played slower and made her drink a little more,” Kang said with a laugh.
Australia is a truly comfortable place for the 29-year-old Korean, who moved to Queensland’s famed Gold Coast for three years in high school to focus on her game. She won numerous elite amateur events during her time here and calls the area her second home. She really looked at home during Thursday’s first round on the Creek Course. Playing in the first group out, she carded a bogey-free round of 8-under 65, tied for the third-lowest round of her LPGA Tour career.
“I usually play better when I go off quite early in the morning” said Kang. “There was not much wind, so I think it was – that was one of the keys on this golf course, when there's no wind, then we just go for the flag and we just roll it in.”
LAURA DAVIES STILL HAS COMPETITIVE FIRE
“Still couldn't win the group.”
Ever the competitor, Dame Laura Davies couldn’t help but laugh that her opening-round 67, her best round since 2018, was outdone by her playing partner Madelene Sagstrom’s 65. Today’s walk around the Creek Course at 13th Beach Golf Links was her first competitive round since August 2019, when she tied for 24th at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open.
“My mum wasn't very well and I just stayed at home with her. Just kept entering tournaments and had to withdraw, withdraw because she wasn't getting any better,” said Davies, who has more than 80 professional victories to her name, including 20 on the LPGA Tour. “It just worked out that I had six months off and now I turn up here not knowing what I'm doing. I've been on Tour 35 years and I didn't have a clue what to do. It was a bit weird, but a good result.”
A good result, indeed. Playing in what she called one of her favorite tournaments, the 56-year-old from England said her putting today was some of the best of her illustrious career. She gave much the credit to good friend and former LPGA Tour player Rebecca Artis, an Australia native who is caddying for Davies on this Down Under swing.
“She's a really good green reader; she does that AimPoint, which bamboozles me. I haven't got a clue what she's up to, but she got the lines right,” said Davies. “If I keep striking it like that and she keeps reading it like that, we might have a chance making the cut and make the weekend and see what happens, which when I got here I wasn't too sure about.”
WHAT AN OPENING ROUND FOR HALEY MOORE
Thursday made for an auspicious LPGA Tour debut for rookie Haley Moore. Starting on the 10th hole, the 21-year-old from Escondido, Calif., opened her LPGA Tour career with a birdie on her first hole, made the turn with an eagle-3 at No. 18 and carded four other birdies en route to a 7-under 66 on the Creek Course. She sits tied for third heading into Friday’s second round on the Beach Course.
“I was just trying to stick with my game plan all day and not worry about looking at a scoreboard and seeing where I was,” said Moore, a 2019 graduate of the University of Arizona. “I was just like everything's going my way and just keep putting the pedal down and just get ready, just keep doing this tomorrow and the next days will be good.”
Coincidentally, the last time a player won in her Membership debut also came in Australia. In 2018, Jin Young Ko captured the ISPS Handa Australian Open in her first appearance as an LPGA Tour Member. Only one other player – Beverly Hanson (1951 Eastern Open) – won in her Membership debut.
Rolex Rankings No. 55 Madelene Sagstrom (65C)
- Hit 13 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens, with 29 putts
- Sagstrom is in her fourth season on the LPGA Tour; she has one career victory, coming two weeks ago at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio
- Member of the 2017 European Solheim Cup Team, posting a 1-2-0 record
- Member of Team Sweden at the 2018 UL International Crown, posting a 1-3-0 record
- Won the Epson Tour’s 2016 Volvik Race for the Card to earn LPGA Tour Membership for the 2017 season
- Was the 2016 Epson Tour Player of the Year and Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year with three wins and 12 top-10 finishes
- A 2015 graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in psychology
Rolex Rankings No. 157 Haeji Kang (65C)
- Hit 12 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens, with 27 putts
- Kang is in her 12th season on the LPGA Tour; she has 14 career top-10 finishes, with a best showing of third three times, most recently at the 2018 Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open
- Finished fourth at the 2019 LPGA Q Series
- Winner of the Epson Tour’s 2009 Greater Richmond Duramed FUTURE Classic
Staged at 13th Beach Golf Links on Australia’s Bellarine Peninsula, men and women play on the same courses, at the same time, for equal prize money of $1.1 million USD. For the second consecutive year, the ISPS Handa Vic Open is jointly sanctioned by the LPGA Tour, the ALPG, the European Tour and the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia.
A field of 144 men and 144 women will play one round on each of the first two days across the Beach and Creek Courses. After the second round, the field will be cut to the leading 60 players plus ties for both men and women. A second cut will be made after the third round to the leading 35 players plus ties for both men and women. The third and fourth rounds will be conducted on the Beach Course.
Tournament: @VicOpenGolf (Twitter and Instagram), #VicOpen
LPGA: @LPGA, @LPGAMedia (Twitter), @lpga_tour (Instagram)
TV TIMES (all times Eastern on Golf Channel)
Thursday, Feb. 6 to Friday, Feb. 7 – 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Friday, Feb. 7 to Saturday, Feb. 8 – 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Saturday, Feb. 8 to Sunday, Feb. 9 – 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.