SAN DIEGO – They’d all watched on TV as Tiger Woods claimed his epic win in the U.S. Open last year. Starting Thursday, 20 elite LPGA golfers got their turn to try to tame Torrey Pines.
Not only did they recognize the place, but they had an easier go of it in the opening round of the Samsung World Championship. There were favorable pin placements, the wind stayed down on the blufftop municipal course overlooking the Pacific Ocean and, of course, there was less yardage to play on the normally tough South Course.
Song-Hee Kim and Jiyai Shin of South Korea each shot a 6-under 66 to share the lead.
Kim was the runner-up in this tournament last year, losing by one stroke to Paula Creamer at Half Moon Bay in Northern California. Kim started strong, with five birdies in her first eight holes on the South Course. Shin, coming off her tour-leading third victory of the year at the NW Arkansas Championship, had four birdies on the back nine.
Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa of Mexico and Sophie Gustafson of Sweden were one stroke behind the leaders on a perfect, calm day.
Shin even had a Tiger moment on the par-5, 480-yard 18th. She said she couldn’t reach the green in two shots during two practice rounds, but the pin was moved forward 18 yards on Thursday and she reached in two, then two-putted for birdie.
“So last year Tiger won, I watched on the TV, and then he made a great birdie,” she said, recalling the hole where Woods made a 12-foot birdie on the final hole to force an 18-hole playoff with Rocco Mediate, then made a 4-foot birdie in the playoff the next day to force sudden death.
Kim said she had an “easy birdie. So I was really surprised. It’s an easy 18 holes.”
Gustafson had an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys.
“Well, I certainly recognize most of the holes, for example the seventh,” she said. “That’s where they finished the U.S. Open, and they must have been, you know, way back.”
Eleven players were under par and three were even. The main reasons were the lack of wind and pin placements, Ochoa said.
“It’s set up for a low day. I’m just glad I took advantage of that and I am right there where I should be,” Ochoa said. “You never know, tomorrow the wind gets a little more and the combination with tough pin placements, maybe even par is a great round.”
Yardage was listed at 6,721, but some holes were shortened, particularly some of the par 5s.
By comparison, the U.S. Open scorecard read 7,643 yards, but the course actually played between 7,400 and 7,500 yards because the tee boxes were switched up every day.
“I think we all watched the U.S. Open, and we hear so many good things about this course,” Ochoa said. “For all of us it was a new place. So I guess that’s fair and even for everybody.”
This is the LPGA Tour’s first stop in San Diego since 1993 and the first at Torrey Pines since the 1983 Inamori Classic.
Ai Miyazato of Japan and Juli Inkster were tied for fifth at 68. Inkster, a three-time winner, received an exemption.
Creamer was seventh with a 3-under 69. She’s still looking for her first win of the season after battling a mystery illness. She said she got sick after going to Mexico in November for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, and that doctors weren’t able to figure out what was wrong.
Ochoa, playing with Creamer, bogeyed the par-4 No. 1 after driving into a bunker, then picked up the pace with birdies on four of the last five holes on the front nine.
Ochoa finished her round with a two-putt birdie on the 480-yard 18th.