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China's Liu Yu in the Mix at Mission Hills World Ladies Championship
Liu Yu leading mainland Chinese player in the clubhouse

Liu Yu put herself in contention on the opening day of the US$800,000 World Ladies Championship on Thursday (March 10, 2015) when the China LPGA Tour alumni fired an even-par 72 over the Olazabal Course at Mission Hills Dongguan Resort.

With play suspended after wet and cold conditions, the 20-year-old Beijinger, a two-time winner on the China LPGA Tour as an amateur, managed to finish her early-morning round with three birdies and three bogeys to sit four shots behind provisional leader Ji Han-sol (68) of Korea.

The 72-hole tournament is co-sanctioned between the China LPGA Tour, the LPGA Tour of Korea and the Ladies European Tour, the first time the event has been tri-sanctioned.

“Today, I teed off very early this morning. It’s like most of time playing in the rain. It seems the weather turn to be very cold suddenly.

Even though I have preparation I still feel a little bit of struggles,” said Liu, winner of the 2012 Chongqing Challenge and 2013 Srixon XXIO Ladies Open.

“After I finished 15 holes it started to rain heavy and even my shoes were wet. We saw the lightning and thunder. Then the tournament was suspended. We moved to the emergency area beside the fairway and waited for nearly one hour before getting back to the course.

“The cold and rain have more influence on the clubs. I heard the Olazabal Course is a challenge for its long distance and so many bunkers. But I feels the course is not that long at the practice days; it became longer and greens become slower after the rain.”

The past few years have been a whirlwind for Liu. After helping the Duke University women’s team win the US national championship in 2014, she left the Blue Devils and academic life behind after only one year to turn pro.

After failing to earn her playing card at the US LPGA Tour qualifying school, she played last year on the Symetra Tour, her best finish being a tie for 14th at the season-ending Tour Championship.

In her only appearance on the US LPGA feeder circuit this year, Liu was equal 18th at the IOA Championship last month.

After struggling with her swing since last year, she hoped to rectify that after a move to a new coach in famed swing guru David Leadbetter.

“When you go through a struggle like that it kind of affects your confidence as well,” said Liu.

“My swing and confidence is coming back. I think I’m recovering now. WLC is my second tournament this season, we will see how it goes.”

Pan Yanhong was the top Chinese player at one-under through seven holes, while US LPGA Tour regular Lin Xiyu was one-over after 10 holes.

Out of the 126-player field, 54 players did not finish their first round. The projected cut is three-over.

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