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Chevron Championship

Defending champion Lilia Vu withdraws from the Chevron Championship before she tees off

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Andy Lyons

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — The Chevron Championship's defending champion didn't even get to the first tee Thursday. Lilia Vu withdrew from the Chevron ahead of her 1:10 p.m. tee time with back spasms. Vu's playoff opponent at last year’s Chevron, Angel Yin, also withdrew after her first round today. The LPGA explained that after a first round six over 78, Yin will not continue playing due to her foot injury.

“I am so sorry to have to withdraw from the Chevron Championship, as I was really looking forward to defending my first major title,” Vu wrote. “I have been dealing with a back injury for a while now. Some days are better than others, and today was unforutantely not a good day. During my normal warm-up routine, I had severe discomfort in my back and I felt that I could not compete up to my standards and made the decision to withdraw from the tournament ahead of my tee time. I am planning to return home to see my doctors immediately to determine the best appropriate next steps.”

Today marks the third withdrawal of Vu's injury-marred 2024 campaign. Vu, 26, suffered from back spasms while in Southeast Asia, exiting the HSBC Women's World Championship after the third round, and the Blue Bay LPGA after her first 18.

The Southern California native returned at the Fir Hills Se Ri Pak Championship, where she lost her spot as the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women's World Rankings when Nelly Korda won her second consecutive tournament. Vu's last start on the LPGA was at the Ford Championship three weeks ago, when she also played in all four rounds, including an opening 64, for a T-21 finish.

"The only goal today was to hit the ball solid," Vu said. "It's been kind of difficult the past couple weeks just playing through pain and trying to make contact with the golf ball."

The two-time major champion met with the media Tuesday at Carlton Woods, explaining that she felt close to full strength. Vu had started working out last week and felt fine, with nightly stretching helping her recover. Feeling comfortable exercising instead of just doing physical therapy was a significant improvement from the previous months, when Vu would sometimes cry on the range because her back wouldn't hold up.

"I definitely feel a lot better than I did at PV and Phoenix," Vu said. "I would say we're basically 95 percent there. If I stay healthy this week I think I'll be able to do what I need to do."

The early exit ends the first major title defense of her career.

Yin, meanwhile, made the second start of her 2024 campaign this week after taking the start of the season off due to breaking her foot. The 25-year-old returned to the LPGA at the T-Mobile LPGA Match Play in Las Vegas, making it through the three-round stroke play cut to the top 8 for match play before losing to Nelly Korda in the quarterfinals at Shadow Creek.