Gal goes low to take Wegmans lead
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Germany’s Sandra Gal kept loose over a game of chess during a rain delay and shot an 8-under 64 Thursday to lead Jiyai Shin by one stroke before darkness suspended first-round play at the Wegmans LPGA.
An afternoon storm packing hail, lightning and torrential rain interrupted the tournament for three hours at the tree-lined Locust Hill course in suburban Rochester. Poor light then ended play at 8:37 p.m. with 30 players unable to finish their round.
Becky Lucidi was in third place at 6 under through 15 holes. Kristy McPherson and Michele Redman were tied for fourth place with 5-under 67s. Tiger Woods’ 18-year-old niece, Cheyenne, carded a 75 in her first professional tournament start, which came courtesy of a sponsor exemption.
The 24-year-old Gal, in her second year on tour, finished with a 15-foot birdie putt for a career-best round. Her best finish was a tie for fifth at last month’s LPGA Corning Classic.
“This year I think I’m improving every month and, yeah, it’s just a way up there,” Gal said. “Sometimes it doesn’t go quick and you got to take one step at a time.”
Starting on the back nine, Gal ran up five consecutive birdies before play was suspended. She said she joked with her caddy, then played chess with her father, Jan.
“We’re not done yet,” she said. “I had a few checks there from him but I got out of it.”
When play restarted, she two-putted for another birdie on No. 17 and sank an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 1.
“At first I thought, it’s a pity we’re stopping. But then I said, come on, it’s just a new start, a fresh round, and see how low we can go.”
“I just got something to eat and talked to a few people,” said Shin, who picked up four birdies on her back nine. “I just felt really confident because my putter was very good today.”
Shin picked up her first LPGA victory at the HSBC Women’s Champions event in Singapore in early March and was runner-up behind Karrie Webb in the J Golf LPGA International three weeks later.
Tied for sixth at 68 were Diana D’Alessio, Morgan Pressel, Brandi Jackson, Haeji Kang and Stacy Lewis, who three-putted from 7 feet on No. 18. Michelle Wie was among a dozen players at 3-under.
Defending champion Eun-Hee Ji bogeyed nine of the first 14 holes and carded an 8-over 80.
Lewis, the former NCAA champion from Arkansas who tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open last summer, reached 6-under with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17, then missed a tap-in for bogey on the last hole.
“To throw one away like that, it makes me pretty mad,” she said.
Woods, ranked 93rd in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, finished with a bogey but was still bullish about making amends Friday.
“I gotta prove myself out here,” she said with a smile strikingly similar to her famous uncle’s. “So tomorrow I’ll have to come back out and do a little better. My goal is to make the cut.”
The $2 million tournament drew 18 of the season’s top 20 money winners, including No. 1 Cristie Kerr, who shot 75. Absent is Lorena Ochoa, the world’s top-ranked player, and Suzann Pettersen, who was runner-up here last June.