Amy Olson leads, Jutanugarn, & Shibuno One Back – Tavatanakit and Saso Two Back
It may be December on the calendar, but the 75th U.S. Women's Open started off like any other U.S. Women's Open, challenging players to not only think their way around the course, but to back it up with their shot-making. Despite the field playing on two courses, there was not much of a discrepancy or noticeable difference at the top of the leaderboard. Playing on the Cypress Course, LPGA veteran, Amy Olson, finds herself at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the day. Riding an Ace (Hole in One) on the par 3, 16th Hole -- her 6th hole of the day, Olson managed to post a -4 under 67 for the solo lead.
Olson’s ball-striking was impressive, managing 15 of 18 Greens in Regulation on the larger greens of the Cypress Course. Her putting was solid all day, recording 29 putts, while not committing a single three-putt all day. The only blemish on her scorecard coming on the par 4, 11th hole – her second of the day, where she missed the green in regulation, while two-putting for a bogey. Olson tees off on the Jackrabbit course on Friday at 10:26 am local time with her same group consisting of past major winner, Morgan Pressel and Jennifer Song.
Filipina Golfer Makes a Run
Thursday’s First Round saw a player from the Philippines make a run for the first-round lead. However, instead of the player being Bianca Pagdanganan, it was her compatriot and amateur teammate, Yuka Saso, who flirted with the lead on Thursday. Playing the Cypress Creek course, she managed to shoot the lowest nine-hole round, carding a -4 under, 32 on her front nine. Her only imperfections were two bogeys on the back nine, taking her out of the lead, dropping her to 5th place with six other players. She sits 2-strokes back of Olson.
Playing well on the Japanese LPGA, Saso won twice in the shortened season and she has managed to bring her solid play with her to Houston. For the most part, her play today was steady with most facets of her game firing on all cylinders. Off the tee box, Saso was driving the ball well, averaging 266 yards, but she only managed to find 9-nine Fairways in Regulation (FIR). Fortunately, strong iron play limited the damage from the missed fairways, as she managed to hit 14 of 18 (78%) Greens in Regulation (GIR), 11th best on the day. Once on the greens, Saso did not blink – taking only 29 putts for the round, sinking one putt from 5-10 feet and another putt from over 20 feet.
As for Bianca Pagdanganan, she sits in 37th spot with 18-other players at +1 for the round. Regardless, she is within 5 shots of the lead after day one, and that margin has not been insurmountable in past US Women’s Open events. Given Bianca’s performance at the KPMG, she has demonstrated that she can make up ground in a hurry and will have the confidence from Aronimink to draw upon.
Playing in a group with two other notable long hitters, Pagdanganan played intelligently. Rather than getting drawn into a long drive competition, she focused on playing her own game and she finished the round with the lowest score in the group. In her group, she hit the most Fairways in Regulation with 9-nine, while hitting 12 of 18 Greens in Regulation (67%). She was hitting her irons so well that she had an average “proximity to the hole” of 23 feet, good for 21st in the field.
Her putting was very good as she finished the round with 29 putts, good for 15th overall (T15) along with Yuka Saso and several other players. Additionally, Bianca was also 1 for 1 with putts between 5 – 10 feet, 1 of 6 putts between 10 – 20 feet, and she was 2 of 8 on putts greater than 20 feet.
If Bianca can harness the confidence that she had at the KPMG, she is very capable of going lower on Friday, which should ensure that she makes the cut and climbs up the leaderboard. Bianca plays the Cypress Course on Friday, teeing off the 1st hole at 11:10 am (Central Standard Time). Yuka Saso starts her Friday round on the 10th hole of the Jackrabbit course, teeing off at 11:32 am.
Japanese LPGA Players Well Represented
In addition to the strong play of Yuka Saso, another JLPGA player had a good day in Houston. Hinako Shibuno, the 2019 AIG Women’s Open Champion, finished the day in second place alongside Moriya Jutanugarn and A-Lim Kim from South Korea. Often known as the “Smiling Cinderella”, Shibuno posted a -3 under 68, with a statistically solid performance. Shibuno was 5th overall today hitting 86% of the Fairways in Regulation (12 of 14) and even more impressively, 83% (15 of 18) Greens in Regulation, second overall on the day. Her strong iron play resulted in an average proximity to the hole of 25 feet, 4 inches and a total of 30 putts on the day.
As well as she played statistically, Shibuno will have felt some disappointment as she burned the edges on several putts that could have dropped her score even further. Regardless, at the outset, Shibuno would have been satisfied with sitting in a tie for second place at -3 under for the first round. Going into Friday’s round on the Jackrabbit course, she is in a solid position to make the cut for the weekend and she will want to keep herself within striking distance of the leaders, or better yet, move into the lead herself. Shibuno tees off at 10:37 am on the 1st tee of the Jackrabbit course.
Thai Players in the Top 5
Moriya Jutanugarn finished the round at -3 under, placing her in second spot with both Shibuno and A Lim Kim. One stroke back, at -2 under is LPGA rookie and fellow Thai player, Patty Tavatanakit. Jutanugarn, the older sister of Ariya, played a solid round on Thursday, hitting 14 Greens in Regulation (GIR) to go along with 29 putts and 3-three birdies. Her iron play was exceptional as she averaged 18 feet, 10 inches in the proximity to the hole category, 8-eighth overall on the day.
Tavatanakit, who shares the same hometown of Bangkok with the Jutanugarns, had her best outing the season, carding a score of 69 (-1), with 5-five birdies on the day. Her iron play, like Moriya’s was solid, also recording 14 GIRs but with 31 putts.
Moriya Jutanugarn starts her second round at 10:59 am on the 10th tee box of the Cypress Creek course. Tavatanakit’s tee time is 10:04 am and she too starts on the 10th tee of the Cypress course.
The weather will change overnight going from a sunny day today to a Friday forecast of cloudy with showers (approximately 2-4 mm of precipitation) and a daily high of 22˚ C / 72˚ F. Scoring conditions will not be as optimal as they were on Thursday and could pose additional challenges for the players.
Post Round Comments - Yuka Saso
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