Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018
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Marathon Classic

Laura Diaz sprints to front at Marathon Classic

Veteran opens with 5 straight birdies en route to 62

Mariajo Uribe had a slow start to the day, with a pair of early bogies on the back nine.

Stacy Lewis admitted she struggled with her putting, in particular.

Cristie Kerr hit a hole-in-one early in her first round.

Yet in spite of both hot and cold openings for the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, no one could approach Laura Diaz’s scorching start.

Thursday afternoon at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, the 39-year-old finished the first round of the Marathon Classic with a 9-under-par 62, four strokes ahead of Austin Ernst (66) and Lee-Anne Pace (66) on the par-71 course.

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“I'm very happy to shoot 62,” Diaz said. “I would be lying if I said I wasn't. It's nice to get a good feeling after round one. To see the ball going in the hole, I think that's always a boost. To see it rolling and rolling in and then getting close on the ones that don't go in.”

Diaz opened the first round with five consecutive birdies — four on the par-4 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th holes and one on the par-3 14th hole — and finished the day with nine birdies.

“I've done a lot of work on my mental game, and I know better than anyone that just because you make one birdie doesn't mean you're going to make 18,” Diaz said. “It was great to get out and get five in a row. I had a six, seven‑footer for six in a row. I just kept trying to hit good shots and make good putts.”

Stacy Lewis on the 18th hole at the Marathon Classic from THE BLADE on Vimeo.

Uribe (67) ended the first round as one of six golfers tied for fourth, joining Lydia Ko and Ricoh British Women’s Open champion Mo Martin. Ohio State graduate and LPGA rookie Emma Jandel was one of seven players tied for 10th after the first day with a 3-under-par 68, a group that included 2012 champion So Yeon Ryu.

“It was a great day for scoring,” Ernst said. “I saw Laura posted an early 62, so you kind of knew there were a lot of birdies out there.

“I put myself in the position I wanted to be in. You're going to have to make a lot of birdies this week. It's very score-able. If you're hitting the ball well, you can make a lot out there.”

Forty-seven golfers finished under par, and 73 finished at even par or better, including Lexi Thompson (71). Yet some of the field’s more recognizable names failed to fit into that category, including Paula Creamer, who shot a 1-over-par 72, Morgan Pressel (72), and Angela Stanford (72). Michelle Wie, the No. 6 player in the world, shot a 3-over-par 74.

Lewis, the No. 1 player in the world in the Rolex Rankings, shot a 1-under-par 70 on Thursday but was one of 16 players tied for 32nd, along with Kerr and 2013 Marathon Classic champion Beatriz Recari.

“It was more ball striking today,” Lewis said. “I didn't give myself a lot of good opportunities. I hit some good putts, they just didn't go in. That's just golf. You're going to do that.”

But Lewis maintained some tournament perspective — it’s a long run, not a quick bolt.

“This golf course, it catches up to you pretty quick,” Lewis said. “You're not going to see somebody do it probably even two days in a row.

“You just got to stay patient out there, and hopefully you get one of those days where you go crazy too.”

Pace opened the day by bogeying the par-4 12th hole, her third hole of the day, but regrouped to birdie three of her next five holes.

“You’re going to make some bogeys sometimes, but I try to hit every shot, every time,” Pace said. “My driver’s been pretty straight and my irons have been aggressively better every week, so a good score’s on its way.

“The key is staying patient. Every week it’s staying patient and trying to get into contention.”

The tournament continues with two groups teeing off at 7:15 a.m. — Jimin Kang, Sarah Kemp, and Jennifer Song on the first tee, and Irene Coe, Alison Walshe, and Silvia Cavalleri off No. 10. Diaz will begin at 2:05 p.m. on the No. 1 tee.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

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