A steamy day in French Lick, Ind., saw fiery starts from the field at the Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank. England’s Trish Johnson led the way with a 5-under 67 with her only dropped shot coming on the 15th hole.
“I just did everything pretty well,” said Johnson. “I hit one poor shot on 15 and I even hit that quite well it just went the wrong direction which was not ideal because you don’t want to miss that one on the left, but that was the only poor shot I hit.”
Johnson was closely followed by Becky Morgan of Wales who fired a 4-under 68 on Friday. Morgan had a clean card going until a bogey on the final hole of the day but was pleased with her overall performance.
“I hit quite a few fairways but had a lot of 9 irons and wedges into the par 4s,” Morgan said. “It was quite an easy round until I got to 18 and then made a bit of a mess of it so that’s a bit annoying. It was target golf because the greens are really soft so you just sort of hit the number and get it close.”
The Pete Dye Course, which already received significant rain earlier in the week, was further softened after a severe thunderstorm halted play at 4 p.m. ET with two groups left to finish their final holes. Play resumed at 5:48 p.m. ET, allowing the full field to complete the first round. Round Two gets underway Saturday at 9 a.m. ET.
“GOOD VIBES” HELP TRISH JOHNSON TO EARLY LEAD AT FRENCH LICK
There’s something about the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort that Trish Johnson (Bristol, England) just likes. Winning memories certainly help — Johnson took home the inaugural Senior LPGA title in 2017 — but so does good energy, something that the Englishwoman feels playing in Indiana.
“I think when you play well at a golf course you just have good vibes,” said Johnson after carding six birdies in the first round. “I have really good vibes and that gives you confidence and we all know confidence is everything. I just did everything pretty well. I drove the ball well. I hit my irons beautifully. I putted quite nicely. It sounds a bit daft shooting 5 under but it could have been a lot less. It’s the best I’ve played in a long time.”
The 5-under 67 gives Johnson a one-shot lead and she knows that around a quirky track like this one, managing your misses is key. Though she made the Pete Dye Course look somewhat easy on day one, it’s a venue where mediocre golf becomes punishingly penal.
“It’s a weird one, this golf course,” said Johnson. “It’s very scorable if you’re playing really well, but if you’re playing a little bit badly it’s bloody impossible. If you drive the ball well, you can have a lot of short (approach) shots. I had a lot of short shots in today and it gives you every chance. I obviously like this place. It just suits my eye. It suits my game. So I enjoyed it but a long way to go."
PIN-SEEKING, SOFT CONDITIONS HELP MORGAN TO A FIRST-ROUND 68
Flag-hunting isn’t something that’s typically rewarded by Pete Dye designs. With small, undulating green complexes, most players aim for the center and just hope to have a chance at birdie, delighted to even find the dance floor. But in the first round of the Senior LPGA Championship, Becky Morgan (Abergavenny, Wales) went pin-seeking and was handsomely rewarded with a 4-under 68.
“I had a lot of short irons in that I hit really close so I had a lot of three and four-footers for birdie,” said Morgan. “I actually missed a couple of them early on. I hit quite a few fairways but had a lot of 9 irons and wedges into the par 4s. It was quite an easy round until I got to 18 and then made a bit of a mess of it so that’s a bit annoying. It was target golf because the greens are really soft so you just sort of hit the number and get it close.”
The soft greens took a little bit of fire out of a normally tough Pete Dye Course and it’s something that Morgan and the rest of the field are using to their advantage.
“You can fire at most of the pins if you’ve got a short iron in,” said Morgan. “It’s not really going anywhere. A few times it was backing up so that was the nice thing because obviously, you don’t have to account for the release. If you hit it in the fairway, you’ve got a good chance at birdie on most holes.”