Round one of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Westchester Country Club is in the books, and the afternoon wave certainly lit up the golf course, with Jenny Shin posting an impressive bogey-free seven-under 66 to take the lead.
“I started the round feeling a little uncertain,” said Shin. “I didn’t know how I was going to play, I really didn’t know. I talked to my psychologist last night about how I was freaking out for this round, so I tried to play as comfortable as I can, just like any other tournament. I tried not to think of it as a major and it turned out great. I had a couple bogey-free rounds last week, so I think I’m on a good run here.”
17-year-old Canadian Brooke Henderson, who was given a sponsor’s exemption, was also at seven-under heading into her final hole of the day, the par-5 9th, but she three-putted to drop a shot and had to settle with a six-under 66. (As you can see above, I caught up with her briefly following her round.)
However, she had two fantastic up-and-downs from behind the green on nos. 7 and 8 to contain any further damage.
“It was important to get those up-and-down and I was able to do it, even though they were very difficult shots, and extremely fast, the green, like once the ball got onto it,” said Henderson. “I was very happy coming away with two pars. I shouldn’t have been over the back on both holes, but it’s going to happen out here and you’ve just got to learn from it and try to do your best and move on.”
Henderson is a very aggressive player, not to mention a long-hitter, but she also has great touch around the greens.
“Today I felt really comfortable with all parts of my game, especially around the green, the putter felt really good in my hands and I was able to make a few putts out there,” she said. “I think over the last couple years, the short game has definitely been a major point where I’ve been trying to focus on and trying to get better because I noticed it wasn’t quite up to the same level as a lot of the best girls out here and I’m definitely trying to fix that. I think putting is something I can still work on and I’m continuing to do that.”
I caught up with Charley Hull, who is tied for third at five-under.
I also chatted with former world no. 1 Stacy Lewis, who is getting back on track after going through some swing issues. Lewis posted a three-under 70.
Brittany Lincicome and Jessica Korda were off to slow starts and two-over through seven holes. That’s when they decided they needed an incentive and agreed to play their $5 birdie game to try and turn things around in the right direction.
“On the front nine Korda and I were like, this is ridiculous, let’s start a $5 birdie game,” said Lincicome. “We were both 2-over. So we could sing the $5 foot-long song from Subway. We were like, the purse is probably like $500,000 but we don’t care about that. She birdied the last two, so we were even. Then we shot 3-under so we were like, oh, okay. I don’t know if that’s a strategy for tomorrow. Weird out here, superstition.”
Lincicome and Korda each shot four-under on the back nine, with Korda holing birdies on nos. 17 and 18 after Lincicome eagled no. 15. So, their side bet ended in a draw and no blood was shed.
“We just kind of needed something to kind of motivate us to get back in it,” said Lincicome. “We weren’t out of it by any means, but obviously being a major, you never know if you’re going to birdie that many holes coming in. If you’re already over par, it’s hard to get it back. It was just fun.”
The third member of the threesome, Cristie Kerr, also finishing 3-under-par, wasn’t part of the money game. “We didn’t let Kerr in because she was already making too many birdies,” said Lincicome. “She doesn’t need any motivation.”