In a previous life, Michelle Wie West would’ve headed over to the practice green after an opening 81 at the Kia Classic. Instead, she was headed to bath time with daughter Makenna.
As far as comebacks go, it was a rough day given the cold and rainy conditions in Carlsbad, California. Wie West birdied the first hole at Aviara Golf Club and then a slew of bogeys followed.
“I hit a lot of great shots today,” said Wie West, who last competed on the LPGA in June of 2019. “Just felt like I had a couple unlucky bounces here and there that could have made a big difference.
“At the same time, just couldn’t get my putter going.”
Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said there have been many times after a round when Wie West talked about hitting a lot of good shots and Rankin was left shaking her head. This time, however, it rang true.
“I’m going to tell you she hit a lot of good shots today,” said Rankin, who raved about Wie West’s swing throughout the broadcast.
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Coupled with a good attitude, Rankin seemed quite positive about what the future might hold for Wie West, noting that it’s hard to remember how to score after a long break.
“I had a big smile on my face all day today,” said Wie West, “because life is good. I’m out here playing again; I have a beautiful daughter.
“Life is great.”
While most of the day’s attention was focused on Wie West’s return, there was another player making her 2021 debut who made it all look rather effortless. Hall of Famer Inbee Park carded a bogey-free 66 to top compatriot Hyo Joo Kim by a stroke.
Because the fairways were not overseeded at Aviara, officials opted to institute preferred lies for all four rounds due to poor course conditions.
Inbee Park tees off the 10th hole during the first round of the 2021 KIA Classic at the Aviara Golf Club on March 25, 2021 in Carlsbad, California. (Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
“I know it’s going to be, you know, test of some patience this week with the putting green and obviously being my first week out I am probably a little bit rusty,” said Park, “so I’m just trying to get the tournament feeling going for next three days.
“If the results are good it’s great, but if not, I mean, I’m just warming up. It’s a good warmup for a first day.”
This marked Kim’s first tournament on the LPGA since November 2019. Kim, currently No. 8 in the world, said her transition back to the U.S. has been frustrating and awkward at times because she hadn’t communicated much in English for well over a year. She won twice while competing on the Korean LPGA in 2020.
“Actually before coming here during the pandemic,” said Kim, “I didn’t really go out other than for workouts or practice, and so when I started packing to finally come to the U.S. my mom was a little bit flustered and asked me, ‘Where are you going?’ I told her, LPGA, most of the tournaments are overseas, so I should go now.
“So I packed my bags and I’m here, and happy to be here.”
Sophia Popov, In Gee Chun, Stephanie Meadow and Mel Reid hold a share of third at 4 under.
“I haven’t seen the sun in a while,” said Popov, who had two of her five college wins come in San Diego. “It was kind of brutal. The back nine was pretty rainy and windy; the front nine was kind of a roller coaster back and forth, birdie, bogey, birdie, bogey.”