Korean veteran Eun-Hee Ji, who finished second to Lydia Ko here in 2015, remained focused and composed in rainy and windy conditions in the first round of the 2017 Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship en route to shooting an impressive 6-under 66 to take a three-shot lead.
American Megan Khang, Korean Sei Young Kim and Rolex Rankings No. 7 player Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand share a three-way tie for second at 69. Taiwan's Min Lee is one shot back and tied for fifth with four players including Lydia Ko.
Ji, who is making her seventh straight appearance this year in the LPGA Taiwan Championship, seemed to be playing in a different golf course today. "I didn't play well last week (at Hana Bank), so I work a lot on my swing. When I swung, I was a little bit nervous," said Ji, who had a bogey-free round after making some timely adjustments to her upswing.
Min Lee, a regular on the US LPGA tour whose best finish this season was T30 at Women's Australian Open in February. "We have been mentally prepared for the weather condition here, so it's not as tough as expected. But it's still difficult to get the ball out of the rough under such rainy condition," said Lee, who shot four birdies against two bogeys. Lee hosted a pre-tournament golf clinic yesterday, and said she seemed to see her younger self when she shared her experience with young junior golfers. "I started to learn more about golf and fell in love with it after attending golf clinics," revealed Lee.
Buoyed by supportive family members who drove up from Kaohsiung and walked 18 holes in the rain to cheer for her, Taiwanese LPGA veteran Candie Kung closed with a one-under 71 to sit at T10 along with four players. Kung said, "I hit lots of fairways and greens in regulation today, and was able to convert one 15 footer and one 10 footer to birdies," said Kung, whose lone bogey came at hole 15 after her approach shot was plugged in a greenside bunker.
Taiwan's Wei-Ling Hsu finished the first round with one birdie against one bogie for an even-par 72 and tied for 15th with seven players, including Chinese ace Shanshan Feng. Hsu said she was very grateful that Swinging Skirts could come out to sponsor this tournament and herself because "Swinging Skirts has made tremendous contributions to golf in Taiwan over the past few years."
Taiwanese hero and 2011 LPGA Taiwan Championship winner Yani Tseng rebounded nicely with a closing birdie on the 18th hole after dropping three shots during a three-hole stretch, before closing the opening round with a 1-over 73 to tie for 23rd with players including Rolex Rankings No. 1 So Yeon Ryu and popular Korean player Na Yeon Choi.
"In all honestly, I played fairly well today, but my putter seemed to fail me because I was a bit nervous and my head seemed to be out of sync with my putting stroke," said Tseng, who narrowly missed a 30-foot eagle putt on the 18 hole after reaching the green in two.
Incidentally, 13-year-old Taiwanese amateur player Chia Yen Wu, the youngest player to ever play in this prestigious tournament, was disqualified after signing on an incorrect score card for the first round. Wu burst out in tears after the unfortunate event, but her father was on hand to cheer her up.
Round 2 of the 2017 Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship will tee off tomorrow from 8:15am at the Miramar Golf Country Club. Starting times for leading Taiwanese players: Yani Tseng (8:48am; hole 1); Wei-Ling Hsu, Candie Kung (9:54am; hole 1); Min Lee (10:27am; hole 1). The leading group made up of Eun-Hee Ji, Megan Khang and Sei Young Kim is set to tee off at 10:38am from the first hole. Live TV coverage of round 2 action will be providedby FTV between 12:00 and 16:00.