Amy Olson leads CME Championship after opening-round 63

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Amy Olson leads CME Championship after opening-round 63

LPGA Tour

Amy Olson leads CME Championship after opening-round 63

NAPLES, Fla. – Amy Olson never imagined that golf could be so painful. Recording a double-bogey on the 72nd hole to lose a major championship can do that to a person. But on the flip side, Olson got over that tough loss at the Evian Championship far quicker than she ever imagined too.

“I just got so much good advice from Betsy King, Dave Stockton, you know, major winners, people who have been out there,” said Olson. “They’re like the people that go through a little adversity early in their career, that lights a fire that lasts a long time.”

The fire’s still burning in Naples, Fla., where Olson opened with a career-best 9-under 63 to lead the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. Forty-five of the 72 players in the field broke par on a day when overnight storms made for softer conditions.

CME ambassador Brittany Lincicome birdied the first five holes and trails by one stroke along with Nasa Hataoka, a two-time winner in 2018 who would claim the $1 million bonus with a victory.

Lexi Thompson has won at least one time each season since 2013 and has one final chance to keep that streak alive. The top-ranked American sits alone in fourth at 7 under, two shots back. 

Lincicome said playing alongside a couple of youngsters early in the week helped give her a more stress-free approach. First, it was the philosophy of eight-year-old Riley that got her inspired at a nine-hole event on Monday. 

“She was just the sassiest little thing as can be,” said Lincicome. 

Then on Wednesday, Lincicome teed it up with Karoline Tuttle, a University of Florida commit, in CME’s official pro-am. Tuttle was automatic off the tee. 

“They play carefree,” said Lincicome, who won the season-opening event in the Bahamas and would love to make it bookend victories in 2018. “There is no stress. They’re not worried about money or rankings or anything. I really just wanted to go back to my 10-year-old self, and I think I accomplished that.” 

Olson and older brother Nathan Anderson have a great memory together from their junior days – when Amy won the U.S. Girls’ Junior with Nathan on the bag. They almost had a Sunday to top it in Evian this year with Olson’s fantastic run. 

After caddying for Olson in China last week, Nathan flew home to Minnesota to put in three days of work at Deloitte before arriving in Naples at midnight on Wednesday for his vacation job. 

This latest whirlwind marks Nathan’s 10th week on the bag this year for Amy. He typically works remotely four to five hours each night back at the hotel during events. 

“I don’t let him retire,” said Amy with a smile. “… I’m super comfortable with him on the bag. We just have a great time out there.”

World No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn opened with a 2-under 70 despite a bogey on the last hole. The 2017 CME champ already has locked up the Rolex Player of the Year award and 2018 money title. On Thursday, she took a step closer to clinching the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average as well. 

Jin Young Ko, Jutanugarn’s nearest pursuer heading into the week, carded a 78 and dropped to third in the rankings. Jutanugarn entered the week leading Ko by a margin of 0.165. She’s now 0.209 ahead of Minjee Lee, who also opened with a 70. 

Both the Vare Trophy and Rolex Player of the Year award are worth one point toward the LPGA Hall of Fame. A player needs 27 points to qualify. Jutanugarn, 22, currently owns 14.

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