Shin tames wind, leads ShopRite

Jiyai Shin tamed the wind better than anyone, firing a 5-under 66 for Friday’s 1st round lead at the ShopRite LPGA Classic

Jiyai Shin tamed the wind better than anyone, firing a 5-under-par 66 in Friday’s first round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic to take a 1-stroke lead over Germany’s Sandra Gal.

“I was a little worried about the wind because when I came for practice, it was pretty strong,” said the 23-year-old Korean World No 3, “so I’m guessing, oh, today my goal is maybe even or just 1-under par because when I was putting, the wind took the ball a long way.”

The wind appeared especially brutal for the morning starters, only four of whom broke par.

In the afternoon, however, nine players went under par, including the top three finishers – Shin; Gal; and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, who carded a 68 to finish just three shots off the pace

Still, the meagre total of 13 sub-par scores paled in comparison to last year’s opening round, when 60 players finished better than 71.

“That’s probably the toughest it’s played in all the years I’ve played here,” said US No 1 Cristie Kerr, whose 69 tied Lindsay Wright for the best score in the morning.

“This course is playing much harder than it has in years past.”

The wind, combined with some newly-planted rough made up of deep, fescue grass and faster, firmer greens described by Kerr as “really bouncy;” certainly produced the toughest ShopRite battleground ever – even though the ground staff did syringe some of the greens around mid-day to keep them from getting overly firm.

The fescue was a problem for players who couldn’t keep it on line, and contributed to the fact that rounds were taking well over 5 hours to complete.

Yet the elements didn’t seem to affect Shin, who said her round was sparked by a curling, 30-foot birdie putt at the tough second hole.

The little Korean then added five more birdies against a single bogey.

“I’ve been practicing my putting a lot this week,” she said. “Today my putting was great – and it helped that I didn’t miss any fairways.”

Gal, 26, who made a birdie on the final hole to defeat Shin and win her first career LPGA event at the Kia Classic last March, also did not allow the wind to affect her focus. Playing in the same group with Shin whom she matched, almost birdie for birdie.

“At the Pro-Am [Thursday], we had the same strength of wind,” said Gal who is a graduate of the University of Florida, “so I kind of knew what we were going to get in the afternoon.”

Matthew, 41, in her 17th LPGA season, found herself somewhat at home with the conditions, as her four birdies would attest.

“This week it’s been exceptionally windy here,” she said.

“I’ve not known it as windy as this in the past. The course has a slightly (Scottish) linksy look to it, so, yeah, it does make you kind of feel at home a little bit.”

Europe’s second strongest first-round finisher was England’s Karen Stupples, who was a shot behind Matthew in a six way tie that included Kerr.

The Top 10 leaderboard

66 Jiyai Shin (Kor)
67 Sandra Gal (Ger)
68 Catriona Matthew (Sco)
69 Vicky Hurst, Lindsey Wright (Aus), Karen Stupples (Eng), In-Kyung Kim (Kor), Anna Grzebien, Cristie Kerr
70 Gerina Piller, Mika Miyazato (Jpn), Karrie Webb (Aus), Amy Yang (Kor)