Laura Diaz started her day at the Marathon Classic with 5 straight birdies and never looked back, finishing with a 9-birdie 62 on the par-71 Highland Meadows course. And she left the field in the dust.
With that early number staring them in the face, not many American big names played all that well. World #1 Stacy Lewis needed 2 birdies in her last 4 holes on the front to post a 70, while fellow Americans Lexi Thompson (71), Paula Creamer (72), Angela Stanford (72), Morgan Pressel (72), Gerina Piller (73), and Michelle Wie (74 with 3 straight bogeys to close out her round) had even tougher days. Even those who started hot cooled off fast: Brittany Lincicome eagled the par-5 17th as she prepared to make the turn, but played the rest of her round birdieless and +1 as she settled for a 69; Cristie Kerr was -3 and bogey-free after a hole in 1 on the par-3 6th, but ended up with a 70 after bogeying 2 of her last 3 holes.
International stars did somewhat better. Lydia Ko birdied 3 holes in a row on the front and finished with consecutive birdies on the closing par 5s for a 67. So Yeon Ryu went out in 31 and posted a bogey-free 68. Ai Miyazato got off to a hot start (-4 through 11) and hung on for a 68 of her own. Na Yeon Choi bounced back from an awful start by going -5 over her last 11 holes for a 69, while Caroline Hedwall went -3 over her last 12 holes to join NYC at -2. Defending champion Beatriz Recari bounced back from a bogey-double run as she made the turn from back to front with 3 birdies in her last 6 holes to post a 70. Chella Choi had an up-and-down 71. The only exception to the general good vibrations from the international big names was Azahara Munoz, who made 5 bogeys and a double on her way to a 77.
With so many great golfers struggling to find their rhythm today, the door was open for the rest of the field, and several walked right through it. Probably the most exciting and gratifying one of them was Women's British Open champion Mo Martin, who fired a bogey-free 67. She wasn't quite in 2nd place at the end of the day, however. Early in the day, LET star Lee-Anne Pace fired a 6-birdie 66, while late in the day American Austin Ernst made an eagle on the par-5 18th and sprinkled 5 birdies through her round to join her at -5. Rookie Marissa Steen birdied 4 of her last 5 holes and fellow American Katie Burnett birdied 3 of her last 4 holes to post 67s of their own, while Mariajo Uribe matched them with the most adventurous round of the day despite hitting 17 greens in regulation, which included 8 birdies in all and only 1 par on the front 9, where she fired a 30. And in the very last group of the day, Lindsey Wright put together a bogey-free 67 of her own. With Julieta Granada, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Paola Moreno, Emma Jandel, and Kelly Tan also at -3, it was a good day for the LPGA's less-heralded golfers.
I was happy to see solid rounds from Danielle Kang (69), Harukyo Nomura (69), Mina Harigae (70), Moira Dunn (70), Hee-Won Han (71), Jeong Jang (71), Chie Arimura (71), Ayako Uehara (71), and Tiffany Joh (71). I'm hoping that Meena Lee (72), Eun-Hee Ji (72), Jenny Shin (72), Jane Park (73), and Jennifer Song (74) can bounce back and make the cut tomorrow. All in all, 32 players broke 70 and 73 shot par or better. Meanwhile, NYer Laura Diaz has built herself a big cushion. Let's see how she follows up on her amazing round!