Olivia Mehaffey has work to do if she’s to compete in Saturday’s final round of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Masters after returning a one-over par 73 on day one in Georgia.
Although every player is guaranteed a practice round on Friday upon Augusta’s hallowed turf, only the top-30 and ties qualify for the final round of the 54-hole tournament at Augusta on Saturday so stakes will remain high in round two.
The Banbridge star and current world amateur number 20 currently finds herself in a share of 21st at plus-one with the first 36-holes of the Championship being played at the Champions Retreat Golf Club.
Mehaffey’s destiny is still very much in her own hands but the Arizona State star will be disappointed that she managed just two birdies and three bogeys considering her form of late that included a career low round of 65 last week.
Still, despite being in 21st, she remains just five shots from the summit with Jennifer Kupcho and Zoe Campos leading the way at the top of the leaderboard at four-under par.
Kupcho, a 21-year-old senior at Wake Forest, who has deferred joining the LPGA despite finishing second in the Q-Series last year, has been in fine form coming into the championship. She won the individual titles at the Tar Heel Classic and Bryan National Collegiate in the last two weeks and was a combined 26 under par for her last six rounds entering today.
At Champions Retreat, she followed it up with what she called a “perfect round” – all 18 greens hit in regulation and no bogeys.
“I think this is the first time ever when I had no bogeys and hit 18 greens together. So probably the first perfect round I’ve played,” said Kupcho, who made just one birdie on her first nine, courtesy of a laser-guided 5-iron shot to seven feet on the par-3 eighth, and three on the tougher second nine.
“Obviously, I could have made a few more putts. I had a lot of pretty decent putts, like 20 feet and in, so I could have made more, but you can’t ask to make everything on these greens. They are really hard to read.”
“I have always struggled with three-putting,” added Kupcho. “That was one of the big things when I was a freshman and sophomore. I was looking at Leona Maguire, and every time she would have less than one three-putt, she won a tournament.
“Campos, from Valencia, Calif., made two bogeys, but six birdies ensured that the 2016 and 2018 AJGA Alison Lee Championship winner finished on top of the leader board.
“I had a slow start with my putting, but I got it going during the middle and towards the end. I also felt like my swing was on point today,” said Campos.
“My first birdie was on the par-3 sixth hole where I hit a really good shot right at the pin and made a 10-footer. That was when I knew I was going to have a good day. I just kept rolling my putts and everything felt really good.”
Thursday, April 4: Round 2 at Champions Retreat (Cut to top-30) Friday, April 5: Practice round at Augusta National (all play) Saturday, April 6: Final round at Augusta National (only top-30
For the winner:
Provided the winner remains amateur, she will earn exemptions into the next five Augusta National Women’s Amateurs while also receiving invites to the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open, 2019 Women’s British Open and any USGA, R&A and PGA of America amateur championships for which she is eligible for one year. Some would say that given Augusta’s dark past, this bright new venture is a winner for everyone involved.
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