DALY CITY, Calif. – Karine Icher and her caddie husband, Fred, evaluated the conditions and course at challenging Lake Merced and decided on a Day 1 strategy: stay short of the pin and putt uphill.
The move worked beautifully and Icher delivered the most consistent performance on a day there weren’t many in the debut of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.
“I think it’s the key on this course,” Icher said. “It’s a tough golf course, especially with the wind and temperature. It gets so cold. You try to stay warm and try to catch the right wind and go with it and make some putts.”
The Frenchwoman birdied four of her first seven holes and finished with a 6-under 66 on Thursday to take the lead, two strokes ahead of Lydia Ko and several others. Afterward, Icher was off to pick up nearly 2-year-old daughter, Lola, from the tour’s children’s care.
The start was delayed two hours because of fog and play was suspended because of darkness with 24 players still on the course.
Icher had a bogey-free round and hit all but one green in regulation. Many struggled off the tee or with their putters on speedy, tricky greens on a cool day with plenty of wind and hovering fog not far off the Pacific Ocean.
The gallery sang “Happy Birthday” to Ko on her 17th birthday as she started from the first tee, and Ko came through with a 68 on a day she was also named among TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people. Ko’s group barely beat the horn for darkness.
“I wanted to finish today,” she said, acknowledging the birthday song was “kind of embarrassing” but much-appreciated.
Morgan Pressel birdied four of her first eight holes and was among the players sitting three strokes back at 69.
Mo Martin also shot a 69 after warming up four times before finally hitting her first tee shot following the fog delay.
Pressel, whose round began on the back nine, went to 4 under at the turn.
Top-ranked Inbee Park opened with a 73 in the $1.8 million event, while second-ranked Suzann Pettersen had a 70 in her first tournament since missing three events with a back injury. On the par-4 11th, a frustrated Pettersen made an 8-foot putt for triple-bogey to fall from 3 under to even par before bouncing back.
Michelle Wie, coming off her first win in nearly four years last week in her home state of Hawaii, finished at even-par 72.
Those who were still on the course will resume their rounds Friday morning, so many will have a quick turnaround after a short break.
Angela Stanford and Se Ri Pak withdrew Thursday, and neither have yet to provide a reason to tournament officials.
Canadians were not immune to the challenging opening-round conditions.
Alena Sharp opened with a 2-over 74.
Langley, B.C.’s Sue Kim had yet to compete her round, but was 2-over thru 15 holes of her first round.
Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont. was 7-over thru her first 11 holes, but rallied with two birdies to get to 5-over.
Mississauga, Ont.’s Brogan McKinnon, playing in her first LPGA Tour event after Monday qualifying, was 6-over after a 78.