Korea’s So Yeon Ryu, a fifth-year pro with two LPGA Tour wins on her resumé, served notice early in the first round of the 2016 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic that she would be a force to be reckoned with this week. The tournament, played April 22 to 26, is being contested on Lake Merced Golf Club’s par-72 layout. A tight, hilly course that has been considered for a U.S. Women’s Open venue, Lake Merced nevertheless lay at the South Korean woman’s feet Thursday morning as she carded an unblemished 63 on a rare sunny, mild morning at the Daly City, CA, course.
Ryu’s 63 is a new tournament record for the Swinging Skirts, and a women’s course record for Lake Merced, eclipsing the 65 that was shot last year in the third round by Canadian rookie Brooke Henderson. The previous record, a 6-under 66, was set by Livermore’s Casie Cathrea during the 2012 USGA Girls’ Junior Championship.
Despite going off in the first group on the 10th tee at 7:00 a.m., Ryu credits the morning’s perfect conditions as a factor in her record-setting round.
“Well, I was kind of lucky to tee it off really early. I had a really fresh green, no wind. Also San Francisco is really cold in the morning, but this morning it was just perfect temperature,” Ryu said after the round, adding, “Also, you know, I didn’t get any light until 6: 20, so I had a short warmup before I’m going to tee it off. I think just everything worked out really well.”
Ryu carded seven of her nine birdies in her opening nine holes, the course’s back nine, closing out the side with a string of five straight birdies.
The record round was a perfect storm of great shots off the tee and on approach – Ryu hit 17 greens in regulation in the round – coupled with terrific putting. Ryu has been working with Jordan Spieth’s coach, Australian Cameron McCormick, as well as 1991 Open Championship winner Ian Baker-Finch. She credits a change in her putting routine – adding a practice stroke behind the ball before setting up to the ball – with helping her visualize the shot.
Japan’s Haru Nomura and Taiwan’s Candie Kung trail Ryo by two strokes, at 7-under, with Xi Yu Lin of China and Christel Boeljon of the Netherlands a further two stroke back at 5-under. Two-time Swinging Skirts champion Lydia Ko is one of a group of four players at 4-under after the opening round. Former tournament record holder Brooke Henderson finished the day at 1-under.
The top-scoring American in the first round was Rachel Rohanna of Morgantown, West Virginia, who has just moved up to the LPGA this year from the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit. Among local favorites San Jose’s Christina Kim and Pleasanton native Paula Creamer both finished at even par; Stanford alum Michelle Wie fired a 1-over 73; 2015 and upcoming 2017 Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster, a Santa Cruz native who now lives in Los Altos, sits at 2-over; and Monterey’s Mina Harigae was 4-ver on the day.
Friday’s round promises to be a different story, with rain, some wind, and lower temperatures – in other words, a typical San Francisco spring day – in the forecast.