Richdale in contention at Canadian Women's Open
Samantha Richdale was among select company after the opening round of the CN Canadian Women's Open.
The second-year LPGA player from Kelowna, B.C., fired a career-best 6-under 66 to sit alone in third place, one stroke behind co-leaders Ai Miyazato and Pernilla Lindberg in excellent afternoon scoring conditions Thursday at the Hillsdale Golf Club.
"Just over a month ago I went to see [coach] Dave Stockton to work on my putting and today, my caddie [Tom Konopacki] and I just read some really good and I made them," the 27-year-old Richdale said.
"It's special. I had my brother [Josh] in the crowd, which was really nice. We had great weather in the afternoon and it's a nice ending to the day."
Richdale had made the cut in only two of seven events this year and her best round was a 70 in March when she finished tied for 19th at the LPGA Founders Cup.
The five-time winner in lower-tier events will look for her veteran caddie's support again in the second round Friday as she plays from an unfamiliar spot near the top of an LPGA leaderboard.
You can follow Tim Wharnsby on twitter from the Canadian Women's Open @WharnsCBCSPORTS
"We started working together a year ago and he's great for me," said Richdale, who was part of the winning group with 1973 Canadian Open champ Jocelyne Bourassa in the pro-am tournament on Monday.
"He's very calm, collected.
"He knows when to calm me down."
Five-players were tied for fourth at 5-under 67, including defending champion Michelle Wie, Angela Stanford, Jenny Shin, Song-Hee Kim and Mi Hyun Kim.
There were nine tied at 4-under 66.
Miyazato held the world No. 1 ranking three times in 2010, when she won four of the first nine tournaments of the season and later added a Safeway Classic title.
Yani Tseng, who survived three bogeys to shoot 1-under 71, has stormed into the No. 1 spot with five wins this year, while Miyazato was distracted for much of the early season by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck her home country on March 11.
She has since rebounded with her second Evian Masters victory July 24 and had another top-10 last week in Portland, Ore.
"I did have expectations coming into this season but there was the earthquake and it had a bit of affect on me on and off the golf course," she said. "But since around June I started feeling very good about my game and I was able to win at Evian, so I'm feeling very relaxed now."
She capped her bogey-free round by curling in an 8-foot putt on 18.
"I had a really good feeling with my swing tempo and that's why I had so many birdie opportunities," said Miyazato, who alternates between using a translator and answering questions in English herself in post-match interviews. "My distance control was really good and my putting as well, so I think that's why I shot seven-under."
Lindberg also shot a career low.
"I was driving it great, barely missed a fairway, and felt easy with my irons," said Lindberg, who has missed five of eight cuts this year. "But the best part was my putting."
Wie, defending the title she won last year at the St. Charles club in Winnipeg, showed she is getting the hang of a new long putter by sinking two lengthy ones.
The 21-year-old holed a 60-foot birdie on the par-5 fifth and closed with a 45-foot birdie on her 18th.
She began using the belly putter after the U.S. Open in July.
"You know, I like my putter," said the former teenage phenom who has split her time between golf and studies at Stanford University. "Over the last couple of weeks I've been toying with different grips and different ways to do it.
"But it's feeling pretty good and I've got to keep working on it. Putting is something I always need to work on. Obviously, making two long putts helps the score. Hopefully I can make a couple more of them over the next couple of days."
Wie is defending an LPGA title for only the second time in her career.
'A long way to Sunday'
The Hawaii native grabbed the first-round lead with a 7-under 65 and rode it to victory at the 2010 Canadian Women's Open. That opening round featured a hole-in-one.
There was no ace this time, but she said it was good to get off to a fast start again.
"It's a long way to Sunday, and I've just got to be patient like I was today," she said. "Some shots may not turn out the way I want to, but I've got to keep moving along. I think that is the key for me this week."
Brittany Lincicome, whose caddy this week is Canadian A.J. Eathorne, who has taken a break from her own LPGA career, was in the group at 68.
Adrienne White of Red Deer, Alta., also had a good start with a 3-under 69. Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., finished at 2-under 70.
"It felt good — I hit the ball well early in the week and kept it going into today," said 27-year-old White. "We played preferred lies and that rewards a good tee shot. I hit the ball well off the tee and ended up using that a lot."
White has played mainly on the Futures Tour, but she got into her first LPGA event of the year last week in Portland, Ore., and it proved to be a good tune-up for the Canadian Open.
"I've had conditional LPGA status the last two years, so it's hard to get a rhythm," said White, an all around athlete who played Ringette for Alberta at the 2003 Canada Winter Games. "Courses out here are set up a little different than on the Futures Tour — a little more difficult, the green speeds are a little quicker.
"It was nice to get out there and get in the environment again."
Heavy rain overnight left the course wet enough that players were allowed to lift and place balls to remove mud. Black clouds hung over the course from time to time, and there were occasional short, hard bursts of rain.
It left the fairways welcoming and the green soft for landing balls close to the pin.
Lorie Kane of Charlottetown and Lisa Meldrum of Montreal shot 1-under 71, while amateur Jisoo Keel of Coquitlam, B.C., Sara-Maude Juneau of Fossembault, Que., Stephanie Sherlock of Barrie, Ont. and Jessica Wallace of Langley, B.C. were at even par.
It was a tough day for LPGA Tour veteran Alena Sharp of Hamilton, who shot five-over 77.