SO YEON RYU, JODI EWART SHADOFF SET THE PACE IN THE GARDEN STATE
Fast starts are not required, but highly recommended at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer.
Eleven of the last 15 winners on the Bay Course at Seaview, a Dolce Hotel have fired 67 or better in the first round. Nineteen players fell into that category on Friday in Galloway, N.J., led by 6-under par 65 performances from So Yeon Ryu and Jodi Ewart Shadoff.
“I made birdie-birdie start, after that it was a bit slow,” said Ryu, making her first start in the ShopRite Classic since 2017. “I did make an eagle on No. 3. To be honest, the eagle putt I think was a little bit too much speed, but I was able to hit the center of the cup. That one really picked me up.”
Ewart Shadoff not only matched Ryu in score, but she also carded an eagle on the par-5 third to reach the mark.
“I hit a really good hybrid from about 200 yards and was about 10 feet away. Yeah, it was nice to get one to drop early. I think that really started [getting] the momentum going for me,” Ewart Shadoff said after her first opening round under par since the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana in July. “Holed a lot of putts today. It was very steady. Got up and down from the back of the green [on No. 9 for birdie]. I had a good one on No. 5, too. Tough pin on that ridge. Then a good closing birdie on the last hole.”
A group of eight players are one shot back of the lead and tied for third at 5-under. That includes Rolex Rankings No. 2 Jin Young Ko, LPGA Hall of Fame member Inbee Park, 10-time LPGA Tour winner Brooke Henderson and Matilda Castren, a Rolex First-Time Winner in 2021 at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.
“I played this tournament in 2018 when I was a rookie and I did not play good, so I want to play better than 2018,” said Ko, a two-time champion on Tour this year. “This course is not too long, so I have to get a lot of birdies. Even par 5s, you can get hybrid or iron to the green from second shot.
“I had great round today and lot of birdies. But I had two bogeys, so had to stay patient, good attitude.”
For Park, it was her first LPGA Tour start since the AIG Women’s Open in August.
“I took a good couple of weeks off,” Park said. “Played one event in Korea. It was nice to have good rest. Didn’t play a lot of golf the last couple weeks, so I was a little bit worried. But I played really good.”
Defending champion Mel Reid (70) shares 70th and 2019 winner Lexi Thompson (68) is just three shots back in a tie for 21st. Local amateur and tournament sponsor exemption Megan Ganne shot 1-under. A total of 89 players shot even par or better.
JODI EWART SHADOFF CREDITS MENTAL GROWTH FOR TODAY’S SUCCESS
2021 has not been a year to remember for Jodi Ewart Shadoff. The Englishwoman enters the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer on a streak of five consecutive missed cuts, missing the weekend 10 times on the season. Outside of a tie for ninth at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in June, Ewart Shadoff hasn’t finished better than 25th this year.
“This year hasn't been the greatest for me,” said Ewart Shadoff, now in her 11th year on Tour. “Been working on a lot of breathing just to settle me down.”
She’s been working hard with mental coach Seth Pepper to calm her mind on the course and set a routine to keep her game in balance.
Ewart Shadoff saw a glimmer of daylight last week, shooting a second-round 69 at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. And in today’s first round on the Bay Course at Seaview Golf Club, it all came together. Ewart Shadoff carded four birdies and an eagle to leap to the top of the leaderboard at -6. Her 65 is the lowest round of her 10 ShopRite appearances. This marks her first 18-hole lead since the 2020 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
“Just staying in my routine today was really important. I did that,” she said with a clearly relieved smile on her face. “I have to give myself a pat on the back for doing that today. I stuck to the process, and it paid off.”
Beyond the mental aspect of her game, Ewart Shadoff has also been tinkering with her play on the greens. Just today, she switched from left-hand low to what she termed the Tommy Fleetwood Claw pencil grip. “It's just helping me release the putt a lot better, and it's given me a lot more consistency with that 6-feet range,” she said.
Numbers show that the change quickly benefitted Ewart Shadoff. She needed just 28 putts on Friday, a significant improvement on her season average of 32.2.
HENDERSON TURNING THE TABLES ON ANOTHER OLD NEMESIS
In April, Brooke Henderson won the HUGEL-Air Premia LA Open at Wilshire Country Club, a track that her game didn’t necessarily agree with a few years ago when she missed the cut. It’s a similar story on the Bay Course at Seaview, A Dolce Hotel for the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer. Although she played the weekend in each of her six previous appearances, including a tied for sixth finish in 2020, it started out as a course she didn’t look forward to playing.
The 10-time LPGA Tour champion opened with a 5-under 66 on Friday in Galloway, N.J. It is safe to say, Henderson has turned the tables on another old nemesis.
“Yeah, like L.A. and this course, you have to learn how to play them,” Henderson said after a first-round score only bested by her moving-day 65 in the 2020 ShopRite Classic. “It goes against a lot of my natural instincts to hit [fairway] woods off tees and to lay up in certain spots. I think once I learned to play it like that and just trust it, then you start to have good scores. I think that's sort of what happened with me over the last few years here and definitely the case in L.A.”
Henderson recorded six birdies in the first round with only one hiccup at No. 15. It was a par save on No. 12, however, that the 24-year-old Canadian pointed to as the turning point for her solid start.
“I was 2-under and things were kind of at a tipping point, could go either way,” said Henderson. “I got a really bad lie, had to wait for a rules’ official and things were just getting a little bit more out of control than I would have liked. I was able to get up and down, which was great and made a birdie on the next hole.
“[Caddie and sister] Brit did a good job keeping me in the moment and we made a lot of birdies coming in.”
WORLD’S GREATEST PUTTER MAKES EARLY RUN AT SHOPRITE LPGA CLASSIC
Those of us who have watched have always believed it to be true. Anytime there’s a 19-hole discussion of the best putters in the world, names like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw and Bobby Locke come up. Among younger active players, talk always turns to Jordan Spieth with honorable mentions given to Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen and, because people’s best-of memories only go back a year or so, Jon Rahm. What you won’t hear unless you have an LPGA Tour fan in the discussion is the name Inbee Park. It’s an egregious oversight. Because Park, the youngest person ever to earn a spot in the LPGA Hall of Fame, has been the best putter in the world for the better part of a decade.
In the past, that sort of declaration would earn you a few snorts and a side-eyed look or two. Now, thanks to data from KPMG Performance Insights, we know it’s true.
We’re still early in the data-collection process. But at the moment, the numbers are staggering. Park makes 64% of her putts from 10 to 15 feet. The best putters on the PGA TOUR over the last three years made 41% from that range. In fact, Park has been better from 10 to 15 feet than the average PGA player is from 5 to 10 feet. Of course, additional data will add more clarity. But, if you think she’s good now, you should have seen her in 2015. That year, Park won three majors in a row and rolled in 20 footers like they were tap-ins.
To keep the data train rolling, Park opened her week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer with a 5-under par 66. In so doing, she made 145 feet of putts, including a 36- and 45-footer and two 12-footers.
“I felt a little bit rusty, didn't play a lot of golf the last couple weeks, so I was a little bit worried,” Park said after her opening round at Seaview’s Bay Course. “But I played really good out there. The putter was really hot today, so I was glad to see that.
“Obviously, my stroke and my speed were good.”
To read the full story from Steve Eubanks on LPGA.com, visit:
MUNI HE LOOKS TO RETURN TO EARLY SHOPRITE SUCCESS
On the power of two first-round eagles, Muni He carded one of the lowest rounds of her 2021 LPGA Tour season on Friday at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer. Her 4-under par 67 featured a chip-in eagle at No. 9 and a round-closing 18-foot eagle putt at 18, this week’s Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole. It was her best individual round since a second-round 67 at the Marathon LPGA Classic in July and puts her in a tie for 11th, two strokes back of the lead shared by So Yeon Ryu and Jodi Ewart Shadoff.
“I think the course can be quite tricky with the kicks and bounces, so it's just a matter of if you can get yourself going and get the good kicks and bounces,” said He, in her third season on Tour. “It's not easy but it's manageable.”
He has previously seen success at Seaview’s Bay Course, opening her ShopRite LPGA Classic career with a 7-under 64 in the first round of her tournament debut in 2019. But her rounds since have not been nearly as low, a cumulative 13 over. So it makes sense that He seemingly has a love/hate relationship with this links-style Donald Ross gem.
“I would say it's quite intimidating. But it's a course you kind of have to respect and play with it,” said He, who is looking for her first career top-10 finish. “Keeping that in it mind, I think I've done it well on this course before. I wouldn't say I'm a fan, but, yeah, I mean, I enjoy playing here.”