INDIANAPOLIS – Lizette Salas’ waited 77 minutes to line up her 4-foot putt to take the lead Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
She refused to let the weather delay get to her.
When the 29-year-old California player returned to the course, she quickly rolled in the birdie putt, finished her round with another birdie at No. 18 and took a two-shot lead over Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka with a course record-tying 10-under 62.
“I didn’t even think about it the entire time,” Salas said. “I was hanging out with Danielle (Kang) and she was giving me her silly dad jokes. So it definitely kept my mind off of it. I was really excited to be back and to finish off with a birdie, from off the green, was the icing on the cake.”
It’s the lowest score by a female player at the Brickyard Crossing.
Defending champion Lexi Thompson opened last year’s inaugural tournament with a 63, one shot off of Mike McCullough’s 62 in the PGA Champions Tour’s 1999 Comfort Classic.
But the way the saturated 6,456-yard course played Thursday, Salas needed virtually every putt of her career-best round to reach the top of the leaderboard.
The morning starters took advantage of overnight rain by shooting right at the pins.
And nobody made a bigger early splash than Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who finished second in last year’s rookie of the year race.
She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine. Only a par on No. 6 prevented her from becoming the sixth LPGA player to shoot 27 on nine holes. South Korea’s Mi Hyang Lee did it most recently at the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup.
Yin also tied the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.
Her only bobble came with a bogey on No. 13 and she closed out her best career round with a birdie on No. 18.
“I have never done that before,” she said. “I had nine putts, I think, on the front nine, which is incredible. I’ve never had that many little putts. But it just felt good. Everything was working.”
Last year’s runner-up for rookie of the year has never won an LPGA Tour title in her home country though she did win in a playoff at Dubai on the Ladies European Tour.
Everybody seemed to find their groove Thursday.
Eighty-eight of the 143 players shot under par and 54 were 3-under or better.
And with more rain in the forecast Thursday night and Friday, the scores could go even lower as a star-studded cast chases down Salas, Yin and Hataoka.
Four players, including Kang and Jane Park, are three shots behind.
Seven players, including last year’s tournament runner-up Lydia Ko, are four shots back. Ko was tied with Yin for the lead – until she knocked her tee shot on the par-4, 16th into the water. She wound up with a double bogey and birdied the final hole to finish with 66.
After taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion, Thompson looked relaxed and comfortable in her return to the course. She shot 68.
“It was hard for me to take the break because I didn’t want to show weakness,” she said. “But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you’re in the spotlight like this.”
Salas, meanwhile, started fast with an eagle on the par-5 second and finished with a flurry.
She birdied three straight holes on the front side to get to 5-under, added birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 to get to 7-under and then birdied the final three holes – around the approaching storm – to put herself in contention for her first title since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.
“I have been just striking the ball really well this entire year, and just glad some more putts dropped today,” she said. “I was really refreshed. I didn’t practice at all last week, and I was just really eager and excited to be back.”
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