LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida - It's an exceptionally red, white and blue board early on at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. Danielle Kang tops the field of 25 at 7-under 64 while sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda sit one back along with 2020 TOC champion Gaby Lopez.
Mothers Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome trail by two strokes at 5 under; Lexi Thompson and Angela Stanford are three back.
Two exposures to COVID-19 kept Kang from preparing for the TOC like she wanted, but the good vibes from her usual celebrity pairing made for a fun day.
"Besides what I shot," said Kang, "I had a blast. Like I do, I really love playing with Lee (Brice) and Cole (Swindell)."
The Kordas have never been paired together in a final group on Sunday. Jessica said they've moved on from having year-long bets for hand bags, but she did catch a peek at the leaderboard on the ninth (her last hole) and took a little motivation from seeing Nelly's name at 6 under.
"I was like, dang, I got to make this," she said, smiling. "Glad I did."
When asked what a final round together might be like, Nelly reflected on a situation from her rookie year.
"We've played together twice my rookie year," she said. "I remember her making at Blue Bay, either like she made like a pretty long putt for like eight or nine. … I don't know what she did on that hole. I was like, 'Do I talk to her? Do I not talk to her?'
"But she just burst out laughing after. So we talk, and it's like playing with anyone else. You talk, you chitchat here and there, but at the end of the day, you know, you're trying to get to business."
Jessica said her debut in last year's TOC was a learning experience. This year, she felt more prepared for the mentality of the pro-am format. The highlight, she said, is meeting the celebrities.
"My brother always makes me take a bunch of selfies with people because he's so upset he's not here," said Jessica. "I was like, alright, so I had to do one today. He's like the biggest fan of "The Office," so I was like walking around the range (looking for Brian Baumgartner), 'Can I get a selfie? My brother is a big fan.' "
Mardy Fish, a two-time winner of the TOC celebrity division, sits two points ahead of Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks after the first round of the Modified Stableford format. Fish, who was grouped with Nelly in the first round, is quite familiar with the Korda family.
"I'm the Davis Cup captain for the U.S.," Fish said, "which is like tennis' Ryder Cup, and Sebastian is certainly on the short list of players in Madrid for later in the year. I've followed the past couple years his career, and trajectory is pretty incredible. Yeah, amazing family."
Annika Sorenstam, a Diamond Resorts ambassador, played alongside Lopez and John Smoltz in the opening round. The LPGA Hall of Famer had a good look at birdie on the first hole after striping her tee shot but was mostly disappointed in her opening effort.
"I was so nervous. I've been actually hitting it really well and I was so excited and I got out here and it was paralysis by analysis. I was tight, there were a lot of things I haven't felt in a while because I haven't played. I couldn't really get comfortable at all."
Sorenstam FaceTimed with her son Will immediately after the round. He'd just gotten out of school and looked at the points online - "Mommy, you tied for seventh" - and is eager to come out over the weekend with his sister Ava to watch mom compete. (Sorenstam ultimately finished solo seventh for the day, seven points behind Fish.)
"The first hole it kind of looked like I knew what I was doing," said Sorenstam. "It's golf. Hopefully I have a good night's rest, I come out and I feel more relaxed. I want to really enjoy it."