Three players are tied for the lead after 18 holes of play at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout, and a day that looked like it would be weather-filled and full of delays turned out to be the opposite. Mystic Creek Golf Club was able to avoid the weather, and all 108 players were able to finish their first rounds with the sun still shining. Over 10 players can clinch their LPGA Tour cards this week depending on where they finish, with one currently tied for the lead.
Natasha Andrea Oon is one of the three players who carded a 5-under round to grab a share of the lead early in round one. Oon has one hand on her LPGA Tour card for the 2024 season, needing to finish solo 60th or better to clinch her card for next season. The gameplan was solid for the rookie, who started her tournament on the back nine and turned at 5-under, with an eagle on No. 18. Oon played her next nine holes in even par, but just a solid finish will get her to the biggest stage in women's golf.
"I was playing smart, hitting my shots, and putting really well," said Oon. "I kind of had a gameplan going into today and I executed it pretty well and things went my way. I was a little anxious on my second shot into No. 18, but I hit it close, and I made the 6-footer for an eagle. I was just really trying to carry my momentum throughout the day."
Mystic Creek Golf Club offers up one of the biggest challenges of the year on the Epson Tour, with the cut being made at 5-over in 2022 and 8-over in 2021. The week's theme from the field was to play smart and take advantage when you can, with Oon being no different. The 22-year-old was able to do it better than 106 other players in round one and will look to do the same again tomorrow.
"I am really proud of myself for keeping it together out there," said Oon. "I was actually pretty excited to play a tough course this week. It is a course where you can play smart and get away with not going super low. You don't need to attack every pin and I love thinking my way through the course, so I had a fun time out there."
Robyn Choi joined Oon at the 5-under number later in the day. Choi has had a remarkably consistent season, making the cut in every tournament she has played on the Epson Tour this year. The 25-year-old is still searching for her first career Epson Tour victory but has put up 15 top-10 finishes in her career, with five of them coming this season. The 5-under opening round was one of Choi's best first rounds of the season and her 24th round in the 60's in 2023. Choi made the bold play of putting a new putter in the bag with only three tournaments to play and being just outside the top 10 in the Race for the Card, but the switch seems to be the right one through 18 holes of play.
"I putted really well today, and I just switched to a new putter this week, so I wasn't 100% sure about it, but after I rolled in a good putt on the first hole, I decided it can stay in the bag," said Choi. "It was just steady golf and taking the opportunities when I could. I was kind of relieved when the round was over because this is a tough course, but I had good momentum going towards the end of my round and am very happy with how I played."
Kirstin Coleman is the last of the players to shoot 5-under in her opening round in El Dorado. Coleman only had one mistake on the day, with a bogey on No. 11, but rolled in six birdies on her way into a tie for the lead. The veteran is coming off back-to-back missed cuts but feels like she has the right gameplan to compete this week at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout and her game is backing it up.
"You just have to place the ball well when you play out here," said Coleman. "I was just trying to give myself the best chance at an easy par and rolled in a few birdies along the way. I just need to keep hitting fairways and putting the ball on the right shelf on the green and hopefully just keep it rolling."
A group of six players are in a tie for fourth at 4-under round out the top of the leaderboard at the Murphy USA EL Dorado Shootout. Round 2 will start at 7:30 a.m. CT off holes 1 and 10.
Karen Chung (-4, T4) on Mystic Creek Golf Club:
"This golf course is probably the toughest course we play all year so I am really happy with how I finished, especially because it looked like we might catch a little weather; luckily, we didn't. You just can't get ahead of yourself out here; sometimes you just have to shoot for pars and if you make some birdies, then thank you, God.”
Kaleigh Telfer (-3, T10) on the pressure coming down the last stretch of tournaments:
"This golf course is just all about playing smart golf. I was just hitting the middle of greens and eliminate as many mistakes as I could. I am trying to get into that top 35 so I can go straight to Q-Series. I have put a little bit of extra pressure on myself, but I feel like I am trending in the right direction."
Laura Wearn (-2, T12) on her hole-in-one and first round:
"As crazy as it sounds, I felt like I was due for a hole-in-one, so when it went in it was really exciting. I didn't expect it on that hole at all, but I had to calm myself down on the next few holes because I started to hit a few crazy shots. Overall, it was really good. I played really well today as well, but I left a lot of putts out there. Hopefully I can get a few more of those putts to drop tomorrow."