HENDERSON, JI CO-LEAD AFTER OPENING ROUND
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With 18 holes in the books at Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Orlando, the anticipation for the start of the 2019 LPGA Tour season has settled as Brooke Henderson and Eun-Hee Ji are tied for the lead at 6-under par.
Henderson bounced back from a bogey on the second hole by carding seven birdies the rest of the way to shoot 65.
“Playing this tournament the past two years really helps a lot,” said Henderson, a past Symetra Tour champion at the 2015 Four Winds Invitational. “I recognized a lot of the people, they recognized me. It’s something that makes me a little more comfortable and knowing that I played well on this golf course also gives me some confidence.”
Meanwhile, Ji recorded a bogey-free effort this afternoon, using six birdies to get to the 65 mark. In the process, the four-time LPGA Tour winner debuted a new putting stroke as she worked during the offseason to change the angle of her back.
“I was forcing on the left side, but I'm trying to make it more flat, make it straighter,” said Ji, winner of the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open. “That makes me feel a lot different.”
Second round action begins at 7:30 a.m. ET tomorrow with players going off No. 1 and No. 10 tees.
ALEX KICKS OFF LPGA SEASON WITH FIRST TEE SHOT
Stepping onto No. 1 tee box this morning, 2013 Symetra Tour graduate Marina Alex had the honor of setting the 2019 LPGA Tour season in motion and the pressure did not get to her.
“I was nervous, not going to lie,” said Alex. “The first nine holes I was a little shaky and rusty. You never know what it’s going to be like the first day back on the job.”
After a 1-over par 35 going out with three bogeys and two birdies, Alex found a groove stringing together four birdies over a five-hole stretch to finish the day tied for 12th at 2-under par. Her celebrity playing partners Roger Clemens and Toby Keith also helped keep the mood light, which allowed Alex to play more relaxed.
“Roger and I were talking a little bit about getting back in season and kicking the rust off,” Alex said. “There’s a lot of overlap in any sport. And Toby was singing us some songs. They had great energy and it was a ton of fun.”
LEE ENJOYS COMPETITION WITH PAIRING OF PITCHERS
She’ll be the first to tell you about her affinity for the sport of baseball, so playing in the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions first round with Tim Wakefield and John Lackey was a dream come true for Mi Hyang Lee.
“I was really honored to play with them because I love baseball and heard they are legends,” Lee said. “When I saw the pairings I Googled and then both were baseball players so it was really cool. It was an honor.”
The Republic of Korea native grew up as a fan of the game, rooting for SK Wyverns of the KBO League. They also just so happen to be the reigning league champions.
Lee worked her way to a 3-under par 68 in round one, recording four birdies and hitting 15 greens in the process. The 2012 Symetra Tour graduate heads off No. 1 tee tomorrow at 8:10 a.m. ET paired with Wakefield again, as well as another pitcher in Derek Lowe.
SUWANNAPURA REMAINS STEADY AFTER ROCKY START
It may not have been the best start out of the gates by Thidapa Suwannapura with a double bogey on the par-5 10th, but the 2012 Symetra Tour graduate remained calm and fired a 3-under par 68 to sit in a tie for eighth through 18 holes.
“It was kind of weird to start the season with a double on the par-5, but whatever it is I was just trying to play my best,” said Suwannapura, who still managed to shoot 1-under par 36 on her opening nine. “I think because we’re playing with celebrities and they’re having fun playing, it is more like a friendly tournament. The golf course was perfect and greens rolled really good.”
Following her early stumble, Suwannapura managed six birdies and only one bogey to right the ship. She’ll head off No. 1 tee tomorrow at 8:20 a.m. ET looking to start strong.
FISH OUT OF WATER
In the celebrity competition of the event, two-time Diamond Resorts Invitational champion Mardy Fish leads the way with 39 points.
“I birdied some holes that I probably shouldn't have, par or bogey on some holes that I probably shouldn't have,” said Fish, who won six ATP Tour titles and captured a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. “It probably evened itself out fine.”
The field of 49 celebrities is playing a Modified Stableford scoring system. A double eagle earns 10 points, an ace earns eight points, an eagle earns five points, a birdie earns three points, a par earns two points, a bogey earns one point and a double bogey or higher earns zero points.