WEST LINN – Flags with the faces of the last 49 winners of the Portland Classic Line on the driveway to the Oregon Golf Club and in front of the driving range with Mount Hood as a backdrop, a large “50” stand made of roses for spectator photos.
This tournament has history and the organizers made sure fans were aware of it. The course didn’t play anything like the old Portland Classics, however.
In its 50-year history, the Classic has been held 42 times at Columbia Edgewater Country Club. However, organizers moved the event from Edgewater to OGC 12 weeks ago, citing safety concerns related to a nearby homeless camp along Northeast 33rd Drive in Portland. And while Edgewater is relatively flat, Oregon Golf Club winds through hills and Douglas fir forests. Mix in the morning wind which ushered in drastically cooler temperatures than the beginning of the week and yes, it was a challenging stretch for the world’s best.
“It’s a new course, quite hilly and it was very cold this morning,” said the Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, who shot a 68 with a black knitted hat over her ears throughout the lap. “Quite happy with 4-under on this golf course.”
Ciganda, who tee-off at 7:33 a.m. with just 48 degrees, ended the day in a three-way battle for the lead with Pajaree Anannarukarn and Gemma Dryburgh. Ciganda said she lost about “10 to 12 meters” on her strokes in the cool morning temperatures, although those teeing off later in the day struggled with increasing winds lashing through the course. Dryburgh, who also tied early, had the most adventurous lap of the opening day, posting three bogeys, five birdies and an eagle in seventh place when she hit with a gap wedge from 98 yards.
“Hit it perfectly,” said Dryburgh. “I thought it was going to be long, but it landed perfectly, just before the pin and rolled in like a little putt, so it was perfect.”
And it was also necessary to draw up a score that would keep up with Anannarukarn in the afternoon. The 22-year-old Thai won her first LPGA tournament in Northern Ireland a month ago, finishing her opening round here in Oregon with birdies on two of her last five holes and ending the day with part of the lead.
“To be honest, I was just telling myself to finish 18,” said Anannarukarn, noting the tiredness walking the slopes of the course. “I’m just trying to be patient out there. It was a really hilly course and I just try to stay on the fairway, take a couple of good shots and try to get a good speed on the green. ”
It was a lap that also put some distance between her and world number 2, Jin Young Ko, who looked dominant for much of the afternoon before stumbling in the late lap. Ko was 5 under through her first 14 holes before three consecutive bogeys torpedoed a nearly flawless lap. Her 3 under 69 puts her in fourth place.
“It was disappointing to get three bogies on my last four holes,” said Ho, “but finishing the last hole with a birdie is good.”
University of Oregon junior Tze-Han Lin, who entered the tournament as an amateur, carded an 11-over-83.
Since wet weather is expected at the weekend, the second round on Friday will become more important. The Portland area is designed to stay dry and give golfers the best chance of setting their numbers on a course that is already building a new reputation for the 50-year-old tournament.
“It’s really hard to judge a course that you’ve never competed on, so I had the feeling that it played a little harder than I expected,” said Canadian Brooke Henderson after her 2-under 70. “I’m excited. Tomorrow afternoon it should be a little warmer than this morning, so hopefully get out there and keep hitting it well and do a lot of birdies. “
– Tyson Alger for The Oregonian / OregonLive