Ko comes out blazing at Canadian Women's Open
EDMONTON — Teen golfing sensation Lydia Ko served notice Thursday she doesn’t plan to give up her CN Canadian Women’s Open crown without a fight.
The 16-year-old New Zealander fired a 5-under 65 in the first round at Edmonton’s Royal Mayfair Club to tie for the early clubhouse lead with American Angela Stanford.
American Paula Creamer finished third, one shot back, while Canadian Jessica Kirby of Paris, Ont., was a surprising fourth, two shots off the pace after the morning rounds.
Ko stunned the golf world last year when she won the Canadian Open event in Vancouver at age 15.
She came out firing Thursday, birdying four of the first seven holes, followed up by two birdies and a bogey on the back nine under blue skies and calm winds.
She said that, ironically, when she birdied the 417-yard first hole, she figured she was in for a bad day.
“When I start off with a birdie I haven’t really played that well, so yeah I was kind of nervous that I did make a birdie on the first,” she said.
She added she felt a bit of pressure coming in as the one to beat.
“Because you’re the defending champion, people are going to expect more,” she said.
“(But) I called my dad a couple of days ago and he just said, ’Relax. You can’t control everything. Just play the game that you want to play.”’
Kirby, who turned pro earlier this year, said playing in the LPGA’s Manulife Financial Classic last month in Waterloo, Ont., (finishing tied for 41st) helped ease the nerves in front of crowds in Edmonton.
“I felt very comfortable out there and ended up making a few putts and a good round,” said Kirby. She is ranked 560th in the world, but tabbed as one of the future stars of Canadian golf.
Stanford was steady from start to finish, hitting 13 of 18 greens in regulation, carding three birdies on the front nine and two on the back.
The 35-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, is looking for her sixth LPGA win and has been playing her best golf of the season to date.
She ended up tied for 17th at the Women’s British Open earlier this month, and finished in the top five in the three events prior to it.
Not all the news was good out of Texas Tuesday.
No. 2 ranked Stacy Lewis of The Woodlands, near Houston, had a day to forget. She had five bogeys over her first seven holes and finished with a round of 4-over 74.
Lewis, winner of the British Open, saw her U.S. team taken apart last weekend by the Europeans at the Solheim Cup, in Denver.
It was the first time the Euros had taken the trophy on U.S. soil, and Lewis said the letdown crept into her game Thursday.
“I played terrible all day,” she said. “I didn’t make any putts. I didn’t hit the ball very good and the start just didn’t help.
“I was tired out there. Mentally I wasn’t in it. Just coming off the last week is still tough.”
Anything to work on prior to Friday? she was asked.
“No, honestly I need to get away from it right now. Probably the best thing I could do is walk away.”
Like Stanford, Creamer is also playing some of the best golf of the season.
The 27-year-old from Mountain View, Calif., started her day with a bogey out of the gate, but made a late charge after the turn, carding four birdies on the back nine to move into contention.
There are 156 players vying for US$2 million in prize money, with $300,000 going to the winner.
With Ko still classified as an amateur, she is not eligible for the prize money. Should she win Sunday, the cash would go to the second-place finisher.
Notes: Canadian Lorie Kane of Charlottetown carded 1-over 71, good for six strokes back. In 14 events this year, Kane has missed the cut nine times and never finished higher than 41st.