A tournament already missing many of the top players lost one more before the first shot was hit Wednesday morning. Three-time major champion Anna Nordqvist pulled out of the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play.
Nordqvist posted on Instagram that she started to feel poorly during Tuesday’s pro-am, tested negative for COVID, but was experiencing symptoms that night and withdrew as a precaution.
“It breaks my heart to have to withdraw for the LPGA Match Play, especially given this is one of my favorite weeks out of the year,” she wrote. “I love match play and I am proud to be an MGM ambassador, and they do such an amazing job hosting this event.”
She was replaced by first alternate Gemma Drybergh, who got the call at 9 p.m. Tuesday night that she was in the field. Drybergh lost her opening match 2 and 1 to Cheyenne Knight.
Talley’s fast start
Emma Talley had never seen Shadow Creek before arriving in Las Vegas this week, but you’d never know it based on her first competitive round on the course.
Talley made five birdies on her front nine, built a 4-up lead, then held on for a 2-and-1 victory over Solheim Cup star Jennifer Kupcho, who won the year’s first major last month in Rancho Mirage, California.
“I was telling my dad I love match play,” Talley said. “I’m not sure what it is. I’m very competitive. It kind of gets me in a good frame of mind of like every hole is a new hole. Instead of keeping score you’re trying to win every single hole.”
Maybe match play is what’s needed to jump-start the professional career for Talley, who won the NCAA individual title in 2015 while at Alabama. The top amateur player in the country when she turned pro, Talley has yet to find the winner’s circle on the LPGA Tour.
While she was dominating the college women, Justin Thomas was doing the same for the Crimson Tide against the men. Talley said the two have always taken similar paths until recent years.
“I think he has 15 wins now, and I have zero, so I have a lot of catching up to do,” she said.
Change of fortunes
It wasn’t the start Ally Ewing was hoping for as the defending champion got steamrolled 6 and 5 by Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who won seven holes in a nine-hole stretch to put things away early.
It was also a loss for last year’s other finalist, Sophia Popov, who fell to Las Vegas resident Jenny Shin 2 and 1. Shin took control of the match by winning holes 6, 7, 9 and 10.
Late start Friday
Tee times have been pushed much later Thursday to accommodate TV broadcast windows. The first match doesn’t go off until 10:05 a.m., with the final tee time at 3:15 p.m.
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.