Yuka Saso, Shanshan Feng and the ‘English Army’ of Charley Hull and Bronte Law amongst early leaders
After coming off of a disappointing inaugural rookie season, Patty Tavatanakit spent her off-season working on her game with the goal of ensuring that she started 2021 much better. In the off-season, she has been working on her swing, trying to keep her hands on a more consistent path helping her with more consistent shot-making.
“ I just kept doing the same thing … to get me to where I want to be. I was working on my hand path a lot. I was coming across and then shallow down, which is not good. – a lot of deviation there. Grant (her coach) just kind of straightened out my path, just up and down a little better, which makes it always nice to hit just a straight kind of baby draw, baby fade shots.
But it may have been her mental practice and preparation in the off season that has been the biggest contributor to her early season success.
“I have been working a lot on that, and Pia (Nilsson) and Lynn (Marriott), too, Vision 54. Just thought process throughout every shot was clear and light and easy, nothing too complicated. But mainly I feel like what I improved as a player compared to last year was course management. Grant and I have been just really, really strict on that when we go play or practice together during the off-season.”
Her round today was textbook – she carded 6-birdies with the rest all pars in posting a -6 under round of 66 to put her into the clubhouse with the early lead. Her approach game was exceptional. She hit 17 of 18 Greens in Regulation and she managed to get onto all four par 5’s in two shots – all the more remarkable when you consider that she only managed to hit 8 of 14 fairways.
“I feel like the thing out there today, I was pacing myself really well. Wasn't getting too fast on the course. Not getting greedy. Respect the pins that are tucked and go to the water side, which I did that the whole day today, and eventually the putt would drop just because you're always on the green. I think I missed one green today, which is pretty good.”
Very good indeed. With the crossover in tee times for the field, Tavatanakit will start on the 10th tee at 1:28 p.m. (LA/Pacific time).
It's been approximately 14 months since we last saw Shanshan Feng play a round of golf on the LPGA Tour when she finished the season ending CME Tournament with a share of 25th place. Today, she finished her morning round as the early clubhouse leader with a score of 67 ( -5), until Patty Tavatanakit came in at noon with her -6 score of 66.
Shanshan having posted a blemish free round, hit 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 “Greens in Regulation” to go along with 27 putts. In many ways it was a remarkable performance given the duration in which she did not play any competitive rounds. The 31 year old Shanshan Feng credited her performance today to being mentally fresh and feeling youthful.
“I would say that I'm mentally very fresh because this is my first tournament in, I don't know, 13, 14 months I guess. So, I am mentally very fresh and I feel like my body is maybe back to like 25. Not quite 18, but back to maybe like 25, so able to get through the 18. I'm feeling good, yeah.”
It’s good to have Shanshan back on tour.
The player from Manila picked up where she left off at the 2020 US Women’s Open, continuing her strong play in her first ever ANA Inspiration. In December, Saso finished the US Women’s Open with a share of 13th place in her professional debut in North America. After her early morning round, she carded a -3 under score of 69, with 4 – birdies and a single bogey, to put her into the clubhouse with a share of 3rd place. Her score did not necessarily reflect a great day of ball striking.
Though she averaged 288 yards off of the tee, she did struggle with finding fairways, hitting only 8 of 14 Fairways and that performance was not lost on her. Her iron game was a little better as she hit 12 Greens in Regulation to go along with 29 putts. “My driving was a little off on the back nine ( holes 1 – 9) . . . I think that made me a little – made it difficult for me.” As for what she will do to prepare for tomorrow’s round Saso will try to iron out any wrinkles from her driving and then just rest up for Friday.
For Round Two, Saso tees off in the afternoon wave at 12:00 noon from the first tee.
As for the English contingent of Charley Hull and her Solheim Cup teammate Bronte Law, the pair finished with identical scores of 69 ( -3), good for the early morning share of third place, along with Yuka Saso. In the crossover tee times for Friday, both Law and Hull go off the 10th tee box, with Law at 12:55 p.m. and Hull in the group following at 1:06 p.m..