American Brittany Lincicome and Kelly Tan of Malaysia finish tied atop the leaderboard after Day One
On a day when the course was playing shorter than usual, few players were able to capitalize as only twelve players could finish the day below par. The early wave of players came into the clubhouse posting scores that indicated that the course was not going to yield too many birdies and low scores.
Gaby Lopez of Mexico and Carlotta Ciganda of Spain were the early leaders, posting scores of 68 (-2). It looked like they might be the only players in the morning wave to finish at the top of the leaderboard until Sweden's Linnea Strom went on a birdie binge in her last nine holes, reaching -3 at one point before a bogey on her 17th hole brought her back to -2 and a final score of 68 for the round. Even three-time KPMG champion, Inbee Park, could only muster a score of 70 ( Even Par) for the round.
With temperatures rising for the afternoon wave, it looked as if the course would start yielding more birdies -- and for the most part, it did. The only problem for the players was that it also showed some of its "teeth" as few players were able to maintain a clean card with out dropping any strokes.
Plenty of anticipation surrounded Group 41, teeing off from the 10th tee at 1:07 pm. The group consisted of three KPMG PGA Champions -- Danielle Kang, Brooke Henderson, and defending Champion, Hannah Green of Australia. Meanwhile, over on the first tee, Group 29 was setting off at 1:01 pm with Lydia Ko, Nelly Korda, and England's Charley Hull.
For the most part, the groups did not achieve the competitive heights expected of them, but perhaps more importantly for Henderson, Korda, and Hull, they did not take themselves out of the tournament with bad rounds. Hull finished her round with an even par 70 while both Henderson and Korda, the two playoff runners up at the ANA Inspiration four weeks earlier, posted rounds of 71 (+1) and a tie for 26th.
Meanwhile, both Danielle Kang and Lydia Ko played solid rounds of golf with both players flirting with the outright lead throughout the afternoon. Lydia even had a share of the lead coming into 18, but an uncharacteristic three-putt resulted in a bogey that dropped her out of a tie for the lead and into a tie with Kang. Both players finished their rounds with scores of 68 ( - 2 ) and a share of 3rd place with four other players.
The rounds of the day came from LPGA veteran, Brittany Lincicome, a 2-time Major winner and Malaysia's Kelly Tan with both players carding final scores of 67 (-3) and a share of the lead after one round. At one point, Tan held the outright lead at -4, after a birdie on18th (her 9th hole of the day), but a bogey on No.1, her first dropped shot of the day, brought her back to -3. Two holes later, Tan dropped another shot with a bogey on No.4, a par 4 shortened to 418 yards, reducing her to -2. A birdie on the par 4, 7th hole brought her back into the lead at -3 where she finished after posting pars on the last two holes for a score of 67.
In the press tent afterwards, Tan spoke to the reporters about carding a 31 on her first nine (holes 10 - 18), "Yeah, shooting 31 on either nine is great. This is a tough golf course, and I just feel like, again, I hit it to the right spot and I could be aggressive on my putts and just really nice to see those long ones go in."
Tan had attended Aronimink to play a practice round before heading to New Jersey for the Shoprite Classic and it paid dividends for her as she was able to familiarize herself with the course, "I feel like Aronimink is one of the courses that you want to see it a few times. There's just so many things to learn about the course. I was very, very grateful that the head pro allowed me to come out, and it was just nice to get a look before the week."
Brittany Lincicome is known for being a player capable of achieving distance off of the tee. Her nickname on tour has been "Bam Bam", so aptly named for her long and towering drives. With Aronimink playing longer and tougher than most courses on the LPGA tour, the course should set up nicely for her long tee shots -- and it did. Lincicome took advantage of her length, allowing her to use shorter or more lofted clubs for her approach shots to the green as she recorded 17 of the 18 greens reached in regulation. Such steadiness from Lincicome resulted in a long string of pars and birdies until she dropped her only shot on the Par 3, No.5 ( her 14th hole of the round ). She recovered well, using her length off of the tee, to birdie the Par 5, 9th hole to finish her round with a score of 67 and a share of the lead with Tan who had finished three groups ahead of her.
Afterwards, Lincicome described how something mentally "clicked" for her the previous week at the Shoprite Classic, setting her up for her round today. "You know, something finally in my mind kind of switched in Atlantic City after I missed the cut. Friday I finally was like aggressive and kind of got out of my own way and made a bunch of birdies on the back nine to miss the cut unfortunately by one, so going into this week it was kind of going back to my Vision 54 days, which I haven't unfortunately worked with them in a while, and it's showing, just because of my brain. I've had so much time off since having Emery and taking time off and COVID. Each week it's just kind of been let's make the cut, let's make the cut, and that's not a way an eight-time winner should play golf.
"Today it was kind of trusting my process, fairways and greens, being aggressive, don't leave the putts short, and kind of just attack the golf course, and it kind of worked, which is really scary because this golf course was not easy. It was really windy, it was cold at times. But yeah, I just trusted my process, and actually Brittany Lang and I were driving back from Baltusrol and we were just kind of talking about, she does Vision 54, as well, so we were talking about just sticking to our process and being aggressive this week, so it worked."
Play was officially suspended at 6:59 pm local time due to darkness. With one group choosing not to finish the play of No. 18, Round One play will resume at 8:15 AM for that group. Round Two starting times will begin as previously published.
Keys for Tomorrow
With the shorter days of October upon us, completing play before darkness will be a challenge. The weather forecast for Friday calls for sunshine and high temperatures of 21ᵒ Celsius or 77 ᵒ Fahrenheit.
As Lincicome stated in her post round comments, ". . . hitting the fairway is great, but the greens are so big that you had to kind of hit it in little spots. At Pinehurst ( 2014 US Women's Open) we kind of picked little areas and we didn't care where the pin was, we weren't going at the pin, we were just trying to get it to that spot. It seemed to work pretty well today, and we had wedges or short clubs we obviously took advantage, and those were the holes we were aggressive and tried to make birdie, . . . ". It was a common refrain from many of the players today and should provide us some insight into how the players will approach tomorrow's round.
Tee Times (select leaders):
Kelly Tan 7:43 am (1st tee)
Brittany Lincicome 8:16 am (1st tee)
Lydia Ko 8:21 am (10th tee)
Danielle Kang 8:27 am (1st tee)