5 Things: Choi leads; Lewis' new shoes; more
Saturday, January 25, 2014
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas –– If Mike Whan could bottle up the leaderboard on Saturday at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic and give it to every tournament director, he’d be a happy man.
The stars are stacked on the leaderboard here in paradise, where the LPGA began its season in January for the first time since 2001. American favorites Jessica Korda, Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie joined up-and-comer Lizette Salas, the proven Na Yeon Choi and phenom Lydia Ko on an ever-changing leaderboard.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic:
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1. BALANCING ACT: Na Yeon Choi didn’t win in 2013, something that hadn’t happened since her rookie year in 2008. So when she sat down with her coach to figure out why she had lost some of her consistency, they decided she needed more balance in her swing.
As a result, Choi spent much more time this offseason in the gym and at the chiropractor in Dallas than she did on the range.
“I spent like six years on LPGA, and every year I've played like 28, 30 tournaments,” Choi said. “For my big goal like 2016 (the Olympics), I still have to play well three, four more years. So I needed more kind of like reset for my body and just keep it going for next three, four more years.”
So far she’s pleased with the results, and hopes to get back in the conversation of being No. 1. Though this time around, she’ll handle it differently.
Choi hit 18 greens on a windswept second round and put together a bogey-free 66 on Saturday to sit in prime position for her eighth career title. She hasn’t hit a chip shot in the last 36 holes. She leads Salas by one stroke at 15-under 204.
“When I started the season for 2013, I was like No. 2 in the world,” said Choi, “and like so much focus on being No. 1 that I forgot like what I have to do on the course or on the range.”
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2. WILD AND WACKY: It was an eventful day for the marquee pairing of Creamer and Korda, who anchored the day’s play. Korda began Saturday with a one-stroke lead and plummeted as far down as a tie for ninth after a shank out of bounds on the 13th led to a double bogey.
“What bad shot?” Korda asked with a laugh. She believed it was her first time hitting the s-word during competition.
As for Creamer, she battled the greens throughout the round but really hit the brakes with a triple-bogey on the par-5 15th after losing a tee shot left in the hazard.
Both Creamer and Korda made up for their hiccups, however, with two fine shots on the par-5 18th hole. Creamer knocked a 5-wood from 227 yards to within three feet. Korda, wanting a piece of the action, followed with a 5-iron to tap-in range. Both polished of their eagles to finish in a tie for third, three strokes behind lead Na Yeon Choi. They’ll be back together in the penultimate group on Sunday.
“I’m proud of the way I finished with my attitude,” said Creamer, who shot 2-under 71.
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3. THEY COST HOW MUCH? Stacy Lewis needed an emergency pair of golf shoes after the pump broke on her new FootJoys. Because another pair couldn’t be shipped to her in time, she went into the pro shop at the Ocean Club and bought a new pair. The price: $337.
“Someone said, ‘You could fly to Miami and back and get golf shoes cheaper than that,” Lewis said with a laugh.
Island livin’ ain’t cheap.
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4. GOOD SHOTS FOR A GOOD CAUSE: Eagles poured in at the Ocean Club rather than the torrential rain that wrecked last year’s inaugural event. Saturday marked the first day of the Wounded Warrior Project Weekend, a season-long charity program that’s part of the CME Race to the Globe. CME will donate $1,000 to Wounded Warriors for every eagle that’s recorded.
On the project’s opening day, there were 12 eagles, including an ace from Karine Icher on the fifth hole from 172 yards.
“This golf course today was set up for eagles,” said Lewis, who holed one out from 94 yards on the 13th. Moments later, Creamer eagled the par-4 11th.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Lizette Salas battled the flu this week and said she felt 75 percent physically today and “awesome” between the ears. Salas, searching for her first LPGA victory, battled a bad case of the nerves in the past when in contention but feels her experience in 2013, the Solheim Cup in particular, will make a difference for the third-year player. “She's a player that should be winning,” said Lewis, “should have won by now, and I think it's just a matter of time.” . . . Amelia Lewis, the lesser-known Lewis on the board, has never cracked the top 10 while on the LPGA but heads into Sunday tied for fifth with Stacy Lewis and Jenny Suh, who Monday-qualified for this event. Amelia Lewis eagled the fourth and 18th holes in the third round and played the last three holes 4 under par to shoot 66. She finished last season 109th on the money list. . . . Ko, the 16-year-old Kiwi making her rookie debut, is five shots back in a tie for eighth with Wie.