Neumann Quietly in the Hunt at Corning Classic
CORNING, N.Y. (AP) _ Liselotte Neumann has already won twice on the LPGA tour, and is fifth on the money list. Yet barely anyone noticed when she cruised up the leader board at the Corning Classic.
Neumann was one shot behind Amy Benz in the first round of the $600,000 tournament on Thursday, falling out of the lead only after she pushed an approach into a bunker on her final hole and settled for bogey and a 67.
About two dozen gallery members clapped politely, as if they were witnessing a struggling rookie finish a lousy round. Little did they know they were watching one of Sweden’s best.
``It’s OK with me,″ Neumann said about the lack of support. ``Just keep putting my name up there.″
Neumann won twice in the first four tournaments this season, by far her most successful since joining the LPGA tour in 1987. She has seven victories and has earned nearly $2 million in her career.
The 30-year-old Neumann teed off on the afternoon and played under much more windy conditions than Benz, who grabbed the lead with a 66 for her first sub-70 round of the season.
Neumann, who started on the back nine, caught Benz with a birdie on the sixth hole before stumbling. She was tied for second with Rosie Jones and Val Skinner.
``It was getting tough,″ Neumann said. ``You drive in and see the (low) scores, and I thought the course was playing easy. Then the wind started to pick up.″
Benz, starting on the back side, made four consecutive birdies on the front and made another birdie on her final hole after sticking a pitching wedge 4 feet from the cup. She had six birdies and one bogey on the front.
Benz is currently an alternate for the U.S. Women’s Open next week. She would receive an automatic exemption with a victory at Corning. She has earned almost $1.4 million during her 13-year career, but has never won a tournament.
``I had a rough year last year,″ Benz said. ``These last few weeks have been very encouraging. I feel like I’m getting back on my game. I have some extra motivation for this week.″
Nine players, including Danielle Ammacapane and Vicki Goetze, were two shots back at 68. Defending champion Alison Nicholas was in a group at 70. Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan was with 15 others at 71.
Nineteen players were within three shots of the lead, and 45 of the 144 players broke par. The winner will receive $90,0000.
Jones and Skinner put together solid rounds and also finished with 67s. Jones made a late charge with three birdies in the final four holes. Skinner was at 5-under after knocking a 2-iron to within 4 feet on the par-5 12th. She followed with a bogey on 13.
``I really didn’t putt that well,″ Skinner said. ``There was 62 written all over that course, but I couldn’t make it happen. The good news is that I had that chance.″