Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko each fired a six-under-par 65 to share the lead after Thursday’s opening round of the LPGA Drive On Championship.
New Zealand’s Ko, coming off her 20th career LPGA Tour triumph last weekend at the season-opening Tournament of Champions, fired a bogey-free first round while 25-year-old hometown hero Korda had six birdies, two bogeys and an eagle at Bradenton Country Club.
“Overall pretty happy in pretty tough conditions,” Korda said. “The greens are very difficult. When you have kind of gusty 20mph winds it definitely makes it a little harder.
“Sometimes clubbing up two clubs and trying to hit a punch shot to stay under the wind was key. Just got to take it as it goes, try to give yourself as many opportunities as possible.”
Ko (26) needs only one more win to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame and she made a great start at claiming that crown.
“I played really solid, especially in the first half,” Ko said. “The wind was really strong. The wind plays a huge factor around here … it makes it a lot more difficult.”
Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen was third on 66.
China’s second-ranked Yin Ruoning and South Korean rookie Minji Kang were on 67 after bogey-free rounds, level for fourth with South Korean Kim Sei-young, American Lucy Li and Thailand’s Chanettee Wannasaen.
South Africa’s Paula Reto carded a 70 that included two birdies and a bogey.
World No 4 Korda followed an opening bogey with back-to-back birdies at 2 and 3 then birdied the par-five 6th and eagled the par-five 8th before making back-to-back birdies at the par-three 9th and par-four 10th.
The daughter of former Australian Open tennis champion Petr Korda answered a bogey at the par-five 15th with a birdie at the par-five 17th hole.
“I hit just a loose tee shot on the 1st hole, and then didn’t hit a bad putt,” Korda said. “Gave myself some good opportunities.”
Ninth-ranked Ko birdied the 4th and 6th holes, closed the front nine with back-to-back birdies and birdied 14 and 17 to seize a share of the lead.
“Coming in with good momentum and it’s nice it’s a drive for me because I live in Orlando,” Ko said. “Just makes the start of the season stress free.”
Madsen followed a birdie at the 2nd with a bogey at the 5th then birdied the par-three 7th and par-five 8th, the par-three 11th as well as 13 and 14.
“It was a good day. I played steady golf,” Madsen said. “My approach was just being a little patient out there because it was a grind. But I was happy with the round.”
Kang (24) made birdies at the 4th, 8th, 9th and 17th holes in her first career LPGA Tour round.
“It’s very exciting for me. I can’t believe I’m right here right now,” Kang said. “I have confidence and I know I can play well.
“Since this is my first week as a rookie, I’ll just go for it. It’s exciting and nervous in the same way, but I’ll just enjoy.”
© Agence France-Presse
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