STRONG START IN NAPLES FOR FLORIDA NATIVE NELLY KORDA
Bradenton, Fla., native Nelly Korda is one of three players tied for second at -5 after 18 holes at the CME Group Tour Championship. The 21-year-old used five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 17th to shoot 67 at Tiburon Golf Club this afternoon.
“I started off 1-over through [four] holes then made three birdies in a row,” said Korda. “Kind of hit the brakes on the back nine, but then finished nicely. Not complaining about that birdie-eagle-birdie finish. It is a tough golf course and Bermuda grass, I’ve grown up on that. I feel like I’m at home. I love playing in Florida and coming to this event. My entire family is here, so it feels great.”
Across her last 10 starts going back to the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, Korda has played 37 rounds and only carded scores over par in two of them. She will look to continue the great momentum in the second round of the season finale starting at 10:51 a.m. ET tomorrow off the first tee.
SO YEON RYU LEARNING FROM “WORST SEASON”
Two-time major champion So Yeon Ryu was quite blunt when asked to describe her 2019 season. “This year is one of the worst seasons I've ever had,” she said with a wry smile. So to find herself two strokes off the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship – with an LPGA-record $1.5 million payday on the line – is a welcome change of pace for the 29-year-old Korean.
“If I can win this tournament, it's going to be awesome to finish the season and then I'm not going to complain about this season,” said Ryu, who has three top-three finishes at the CME Group Tour Championship. “I think just overall, I feel like I just learn a lot about (golf). Not just about the golf, about myself as well. I want to do my best to finish the season strong as a golfer and as a person as well.”
Ryu is staring down her first winless season since 2016, having last reached the winner’s circle at the 2018 Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. She’s continuing to work closely with coach Cameron McCormick on all aspects of her game, but she also admits that she got lost in too many technical details.
“Beginning of this year I was not really happy with my ball striking, and then I just keep looking at my golf swing and then my coach keep saying, So Yeon, it's not really a problem. It's just a matter of tempo,” said Ryu. “I should have listened better, but I just tried to find a problem, so just keep digging the problem even though I didn't really have it. And then that one became a problem and I just couldn't figure it out what it was.”
To simplify her thoughts, Ryu and McCormick decided to focus on one single aspect of her swing. This week’s focus? Ryu said she’s paying close attention to the midsection of her downswing.
MARINA ALEX ENJOYING MAJOR-LIKE NERVES
It’s been a major storyline this week, the first time in LPGA Tour history that players are competing for a $1.5 million winner’s check. For Marina Alex, the nerves that come with competing for such a large prize are a welcome motivation on the golf course.
“There's always been a lot on the line here the past few years. (CEO) Terry Duffy and CME Group makes this such a premier event,” said Alex, who is playing in her fifth CME Group Tour Championship. “So, yes, yes, the $1.5 (million) is a huge deal, but even before that the first-place check was quite a big check, pretty on par with the majors. So I think everyone comes into this week a little bit edgy. You feel like you're playing for a lot more money. It's good to test the nerves.”
Alex channeled those nerves to a bogey-free 4-under 68 on Thursday and sits three strokes off the lead after 18 holes. After a season that saw her earn five top-10 finishes and make her Solheim Cup debut for Team USA, Alex is using her four years of experience at Tiburon Golf Club to hopefully notch her second career LPGA Tour victory.
“Just patient and waiting for some good things to happen,” said Alex of her first-round mentality. “Been nice to have a week off. Practiced and felt like my game was a little bit better coming into this week. Like middle of that Asia stretch I was losing it a bit, so good to get things back.”
VARE TROPHY UPDATE
After the first round, Jin Young Ko holds a significant lead for the lowest scoring average of the 2019 LPGA Tour season ahead of Hyo Joo Kim by 0.334. Kim recorded a 1-over 73 while Ko finished the day at 1-under 71. Ko remains in good position to earn the Vare Trophy. Kim would need to improve her performance for the remaining rounds of the CME Group Tour Championship to have any chance at the award, as she needs to be 22 to 23 strokes better than Ko.
|Player||Entering the Week||After Round 1||Difference|
|Jin Young Ko||69.052||69.077||-|
|Hyo Joo Kim||69.361||69.411||0.334|
Rolex Rankings No. 11 Sei Young Kim (65)
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens, with 27 putts
- Kim is in her fifth season on the LPGA Tour; she has nine career victories, most recently at the 2019 Marathon Classic presented by Dana
- This is Kim’s 25th event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she has nine top-10 finishes, including victories at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship and the Marathon Classic for Simply Give
- She is competing in her fifth CME Group Tour Championship; her best finish is T10 in 2018
Rolex Rankings No. 3 Nelly Korda (67)
- She hit 14 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, with 25 putts
- Korda is in her third season on the LPGA Tour; she has three career victories, most recently at the 2019 Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA presented by CTBC
- This is Korda’s 20th event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she has 11 top-10 finishes, including victories at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA presented by CTBC
- She is competing in her second CME Group Tour Championship; she was runner-up in 2018 and tied for eighth in 2017
Rolex Rankings No. 18 So Yeon Ryu (67)
- She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens, with 27 putts
- Ryu is in her eighth season on the LPGA Tour; she has six career victories, including major wins at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open (as a non-Member) and the 2017 ANA Inspiration
- This is Ryu’s 20th event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she has four top-10 finishes, with a best finish of T2 at the U.S. Women’s Open
- She is competing in her eighth CME Group Tour Championship; she was runner-up in 2012 and 2016 and tied for third in 2018
Rolex Rankings No. 43 Georgia Hall (67)
- She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, with 25 putts
- Hall is in her second season on the LPGA Tour; she has one career victory, the 2018 AIG Women’s British Open
- This is Hall’s 24th event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she has three top-10 finishes, with a best finish of T4 at the Volunteers of America Classic
- She is competing in her second CME Group Tour Championship; she finished 65th in 2018