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Lin soaks up Pebble Beach views and takes early lead at US Women's Open

Xiyu Janet Lin Xiyu Janet Lin - The Canadian Press

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Xiyu Janet Lin soaked up the views of Pebble Beach while letting her putter do the work Thursday for a 4-under 68, giving her the early lead in the first U.S. Women's Open held at one of America's most famous courses.

With only mild wind and a marine layer over the Monterey Peninsula, this was the gentle version of Pebble Beach. This also is a U.S. Open, and it didn't take much to take a toll.

The biggest surprise was Jin Young Ko, the No. 1 player in the world who made only one birdie in her round of 79. She had plenty of company.

Linn began her round on the tough par-4 10th hole, and she saved par on four of her opening five holes before holing an 8-foot birdie putt on the 15th. The Chinese player's lone bogey came at the end when she failed to get up-and-down from short of a bunker on No. 9.

“At the beginning, putting definitely save me,” said Lin, who took only 25 putts and was leading the field in the key putting statistic. “Making those short putts really kind of boosted my confidence, making me feel more comfortable to attack when I needed to.”

Irish amateur Aine Donegan didn't get her clubs until Tuesday — only to find her driver damaged — and had a 69 that included a wedge she holed out from 96 yards on the 15th. Also at 69 were Nasa Hataoka and Hae Ran Ryu.

Rose Zhang, the 20-year-old Stanford sensation who won in her first start as a pro, was among those playing in the afternoon.

This has been among the most anticipated events of the year for women's golf because of the location. Pebble Beach is the most iconic of U.S. Open venues, and the most recognizable with its seaside views on half of the holes.

Lin said she got the best advice from the person working on her clubs.

“He just told me, ‘Whatever hole you’re at, just take 30 seconds to look up at the view and you will be very grateful where you are.' I think it's absolutely right,” she said. “We're part of history. It's really cool. So I think I told myself this is going to be a memorable week.

“Yeah, even today when there was some stressful shots coming up, I just kind of tell myself how grateful I am to be actually hitting a shot on this hole.”

She was most grateful for her short game — the 12-foot par save on the 10th, her up-and-downs from bunkers on the 11th and 13th holes, and her last great save from short of the wicked 14th green, going up a steep slope from the fairway grass to 5 feet and another one-putt par.

Lin also holed a couple of long putts, from 30 feet on the par-5 18th and from 18 feet on No. 4, the short par 4 with Stillwater Cove to the right.

The leading stars on the LPGA Tour didn't fare so well. Ko was already losing ground when she pulled her tee shot left and over the cliffs onto the beach at the par-3 17th, leading to double bogey. In 24 previous rounds in the U.S. Women's Open, she never had worse than a 75.

She played alongside Nelly Korda, the No. 2 player in the world who missed the cut at the Women's PGA two weeks ago. Korda began her big day at Pebble Beach by sending her opening drive over the cliff and onto the beach at No. 10 for a double bogey. She opened with a 76.

Lexi Thompson, who lost a five-shot lead in the U.S. Women's Open at Olympic Club two years ago, did well to post a 74.

Michelle Wie West and Annika Sorenstam are playing what likely will be their last U.S. Women's Open, both drawn back by the lure of playing Pebble Beach. Both are likely to be leaving earlier than they wanted.

Wie West had her husband — Jonnie West, director of basketball operations for the Golden State Warriors — as her caddie. She failed to make a birdie, missed several putts from about 4 feet and took a triple bogey on the 18th hole for a 79.

Sorenstam played alongside her and shot 80, including a triple bogey on the third hole.

Donegan's biggest excitement was just getting to Pebble. She played in the Vagliano Trophy in Scotland last week and then had no clubs to start U.S. Women's Open week. She used a backup set of Pings and started to like the new driver, wondering if she should switch.

When her clubs arrived Tuesday and the driver was broken, the choice was easy. And after a bogey-bogey start, she made Pebble look easy with an eagle and five birdies.

Donegan chose not to stress about her club situation, and the location helped.

“Look at the view. Look at the all people out here watching, supporting women's golf,” she said. “For such a big tournament to be played at such a big place, it’s difficult not to enjoy it out here. It’s important to not take things too seriously around here, and luckily I didn’t today.”


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