ROGERS, Ark. – Stacy Lewis was able to turn the 18th green at Pinnacle Country Club into another gathering point of University of Arkansas fans.
The former All-America at Arkansas made a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th to cap a 5-under 66 that tied Yani Tseng, the world’s No. 1 player, for the first-round lead at the LPGA Northwest Arkansas Championship.
When the putt dropped, the Arkansas fans responded with “Woo Pig Sooie!” a chant usually heard at Razorback football and basketball games.
“Normally toward the end of the day we get crows sort of dwindling a little bit,” Lewis said. “So everybody hung around and it was – I mean, I don’t know, you can’t get the smile off my face right now.”
Tseng, the defending champion, eagled the 18th with a downhill 6-foot putt to cap her round. Lewis, playing one group behind, then made her closing birdie.
“I got off to a slow start for the tournament, but today I played good,” Tseng said. “I’m in very good position and I still have two days.”
Tseng said the par-4 14th was a mental boost during her round because of how her approach shot went straight at the pin. Tseng said until then her approach shots were wayward, leaving her two long putts.
“I felt very comfortable, confident after that hole,” Tseng said. “I was hitting my shot straighter than I saw it because I kind of worked on my shot. And my caddie kept telling me, ‘Your swing is good, don’t think too much.’ That helped a lot.”
Lewis hit 17 of 18 greens during the round, but took 30 putts.
She said the pressure of finishing well and appeasing fans in her “hometown tournament” was tough to handle during the opening round.
“I can just feel it in people,” Lewis said. “They want the putts to go in, they want the shots close and I have to kind of take a step back and kind of relax a little bit. I think I told myself on one of those last two putts, ‘You’re here by yourself. There’s nobody else here, you’re on the putting green just trying to make these putts.’ I know if I’m near the lead towards the end, I’m definitely going to have the advantage.”
Karen Stupples, Taylor Leon and Jin Young Pak were all at 4 under. Suzann Petterson, the world’s No. 2 player, was another stroke back in a group of nine that included Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel.
Leon birdied the first two holes and held the lead for most of the day at 4 under.
Pettersen went to the 18th tee tied for the lead, but she made a bogey after landing in a green-side bunker in two shots and then taking three putts.
Michelle Wie, who finished second here last year, had six bogeys and a double-bogey in a 78.
Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg, who finished at 2 under, started with a par on No. 10, aced No. 11, had a double-bogey on 12 and birdied 13.
The hole-in-one on the 190-yard 11th was the second professionally for the second-year pro and third in her golfing career. She hit a rescue club for the ace and she finished with a 69, tied for 15th
“It was right at the pin the whole way, but since it was early in the morning, the sun was pretty low and I couldn’t see anything,” said Lindberg, 25. “I saw a bounce that was pretty straight to the pin. They were kind of excited up there, but not hole-in-one excited.”