Lilia Vu, Nelly Korda, LPGA stars shine at inaugural Ford Championship

Lilia Vu, Nelly Korda, LPGA stars shine at inaugural Ford Championship

Some of the biggest stars on the LGPA Tour are shining brighter than the Arizona sun thus far at the inaugural Ford Championship.

Taking place at Seville Golf and Country Club outside of Phoenix, Pajaree Anannarukarn fired a bogey-free 63 and leads by herself at 9-under.

But one stroke behind is Lilia Vu, who, like Wyndham Clark, continues to battle through a back injury. And yet, Vu persevered and sits in a tie for second with four others, including Australian Gabriela Ruffels and Solheim Cup hero Carlota Ciganda.

“I think I did pretty well. I’ve been recovering from a back injury, and my only goal today was to hit the ball solid,” Vu said.

“It’s been kind of difficult the past couple of weeks just playing through pain and trying to make contact with the golf ball. But today, that was my only focus, and it turned out really great.”

Lilia Vu, Ford Championship

Lilia Vu plays a shot during the first round of the 2024 Ford Championship.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Vu, like Anannarukarn, made nine birdies on Thursday but stumbled on the par-3 8th with a bogey.

“I think I was really excited to pull off shots that I saw in my head,” Vu added.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been able to hit a shot that I see, so I think it was super fun to be like, okay, I can hit a nice little draw here. It ends up maybe like 10 or 15 feet, and go and try and make it.”

The former UCLA Bruin hit 13-of-14 fairways and needed only 24 putts, a pretty impressive round considering her ailing back.

Nelly Korda, meanwhile, signed for a 6-under 66. Of course, with Korda’s victory last week, she overtook Vu in the Rolex Women’s Rankings. Korda now sits atop the rankings as the top female player in the world.

“Played pretty well, but completely different weather compared to that last week,” Korda said.

Nelly Korda, LPGA, Ford Championship

Nelly Korda lines up a putt.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“I know Arizona has been getting a good bit of rain throughout the winter. I knew there would be low scores out there, so I needed to be aggressive.”

Blustery weather produced brutal conditions at last week’s Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship, but that did not stop Korda from prevailing in a playoff over Ryann O’Toole. As such, Korda has kept it light so far this week. Last week put a toll on the entire field, both physically and mentally.

“I took Monday off and then came out here really early on Tuesday and just kind of got off the golf course and got out of here by 11:00 and gave myself the afternoon off,” Korda explained.

“Then, I had an afternoon pro-am on Wednesday. I kept it pretty light at the beginning of the week, knowing I needed rest, and that was the most important thing.”

Other contenders include Celine Boutier of France, American Alison Lee, and Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark.

Celine Boutier, Ford Championship

Celine Boutier at the 2024 Ford Championship.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Boutier, who had a remarkable 2023 season, shot a bogey-free 7-under 65, while Lee and Pedersen sit at 6-under.

“It was pretty calm today. I definitely felt like the scores were going to be low, so I just tried to take advantage of the chances that I got,” Boutier explained.

“Especially the par-5s, which are mostly reachable, so I feel like it was definitely a big advantage to have a very calm day today. I managed to get a lot of birdies, so that was pretty fun.”

The weather for Friday calls for similar conditions, with temperatures in the mid-80s and winds not exceeding eight to ten miles per hour. More low scores should emerge, and the stars will—in all likelihood—continue to shine.

It should be a great weekend in the desert.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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