Match play is officially back on the LPGA Tour with Wednesday’s Day One matches at the inaugural Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play Hosted by Shadow Creek. As always, the format brought excitement and extreme highs and lows to the day’s competition.
Perhaps the biggest upset came in Group 4, where No. 61 Jenny Coleman knocked off No. 4 Brooke Henderson, 1 up. Coleman, playing in just her second match-play event and first since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, carded only four birdies, but they all came at opportune moments. After dropping the first three holes to Henderson, who was runner-up at that same Women’s Amateur, Coleman’s birdie at No. 5 cut the deficit to two holes. She tied the match with a birdie at No. 11 and took her first lead with a third birdie at No. 16. Her final birdie at No. 18 sealed the big win.
“I think we were both pretty even keeled,” said Coleman. “I just came off to a sloppy kind of start, and she kind of had a rough patch in the middle, and then I started capitalizing on it and kept moving all the way through the back nine pretty good. Just stayed patient, but also playing smart.”
No. 5 Danielle Kang cruised to a 7-and-6 victory over No. 60 Albane Valenzuela, Wednesday’s largest margin of victory. Her American Solheim Cup compatriots Lizette Salas and Stacy Lewis followed close behind, notching 5-and-4 wins over Madelene Sagstrom and Mi Hyang Lee, respectively. The win was particularly sweet for Lewis, who is chomping at the bit to get back onto Team USA after missing the 2019 competition with a back injury.
“I really want to be playing. I want to be a part of the team. I want to help the team win,” said Lewis. “Pat [Hurst, USA Captain] is out seems like almost every week right now watching, so just trying not to pay attention if she is hanging around, but I know she's watching and paying attention.”
No. 1 Jin Young Ko, despite admitting no love for the match-play format, earned a 4-and-2 victory over No. 64 Natalie Gulbis. No. 2 Inbee Park went the distance with 2020/21 LPGA Tour rookie Jennifer Chang, who took a 1-up lead to the final hole. With a white ribbon on her hat in memory of her grandfather, who died on Monday, Park got up and down for birdie from the back of the green to tie the match.
“Just feels really weird playing in the hometown and waking up in your own bed and going to the tournament. I mean, it's something I've never done before,” said Park, who has lived in Las Vegas since she was a teenager. “So today was how I kind of felt a little nervous and I wasn't able to perform as well as I wanted to perform. Hopefully the rust is off today and the next few days I'll be playing better.”