Lilia Vu and Brooke Henderson, the only players from the top 10 in women’s golf to enter the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play, both delivered victories Wednesday at Shadow Creek in the opening session of pool play.
Vu never trailed in a 4-and-3 victory over Lauren Hartlage, winning two holes early and closing her out by winning four straight holes at the end.
Henderson took the lead for good with a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole and relied on mistakes by Yaeeun Hong and won, 3 and 2.
Vu reached the semifinals a year ago during her rookie season on the LPGA Tour, a tournament that sparked confidence in her the rest of the season. She returns as the No. 1 seed with two victories this year, becoming a major champion last month at the Chevron Championship.
“I think deep down I believed that I could get to this point, but I always tend to get in my own way,” Vu said. “I did that at the end of last season, which was a big lesson for me, which is really good now. Because if I fall into that and I feel myself putting a lot of pressure on myself, I know, like, ‘Hey, you’re not going to play good golf if you keep doing this.’
“I’m able to flip a switch and go back to free golf.”
Danielle Kang is a member at Shadow Creek with plenty of match play experience from the Solheim Cup and the recent International Crown. That didn’t help her Wednesday, falling to Muni He in 17 holes.
He birdied the ninth hole and never trailed again in a 2-and-1 win.
“Going up against Danielle, a great friend of mine, a great player, and also with this being her home course it was kind of like, ‘Well, you know, go out there, play your best golf, and just see what happens.’”
Her next match in group play is against Alison Lee, another Shadow Creek member.
Lee had control of her match against Maria Fassi of Mexico when she birdied the 12th to go 3 up with six holes to play. Lee was still 2 up through 15 holes until she bogeyed the 16th and 18th hole to halve the match.
Henderson made only two birdies, both on par 5s, and her score was the equivalent of 4 over. That wasn’t unusual on a difficult course in hot weather.
“This is a really tough golf course,” Henderson said. “Sometimes par is good and you’re going to win with par. Sometimes you have to remind yourself of that, because sometimes the holes will really sneak up and bite you if you’re not paying attention.”
Janet Lin, another top seed in her pool, was 2 up over Karis Davidson of Australia until making bogeys on six of her next 10 holes. Davidson won, 5 and 4.
Jennifer Kupcho, who won the final version of the Chevron Championship last year in the California desert, lost 4 and 3 to Carolina Inglis.
There are three days of round-robin play until the winner from each of the 16 groups advance to the knockout stage on the weekend.
Among the top seeds who won opening matches were Maja Stark of Sweden, who was 4 up through 10 holes only to lose the next four holes against Emma Talley. Stark went back ahead with a par to win the 15th and held on for a 2-up victory.
Celine Boutier, the No. 3 seed, was taken to 18 holes and won when Min Lee took double bogey on the 18th. It was among 13 of the 32 matches that ended on the 18th hole.
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