Nicole Castrale of the US scored birdies by the pair on Thursday to post a seven-under-par 65 for a one-shot lead after the opening round of the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock.
Castrale, with one title to her credit since first joining the tour in 2002, registered four sets of back-to-back birdies on an overcast day at the soggy course where players were allowed to lift, clean and place.
Castrale suffered a blip at the last hole. She drove into the right rough and put her second shot in rough right of the green. Her chip ran 22 feet past the cup and she took two putts for her only bogey of the day.
“The front nine all of my iron shots were going right at the pin,” said Castrale, who made six birdies on the front nine. “It was a great feeling.”
LPGA Tour rookie Anna Nordqvist of Sweden was one shot back, completing a 66 when she holed out from 40 yards to save par at the 18th in the season’s second major championship.
Another stroke back among the early finishers was China’s Feng Shanshan, who had six birdies against one bogey for 67.
Pre-tournament favorites did not fare so well.
Yani Tseng (曾雅妮) of Taiwan, who won last year as a 19-year-old, registered a one-over 73, one stroke worse than her compatriot Candie Kung (龔怡萍) and multiple major winners Lorena Ochoa of Mexico and Australian Karrie Webb.
Taiwan’s Amy Hung (洪沁慧) posted a 74, while Teresa Lu (盧曉晴) was at 76.
Ochoa bogeyed her last two holes, the eighth and ninth.
“Obviously, I did not have a good finish,” world No. 1 Ochoa said. “I am going to go practice some right now before it starts to rain and hopefully have a better day tomorrow.”
Michelle Wie, seeking her first LPGA title, was in a large group at two-under 70 along with Park Inbee of South Korea.
“It was an interesting start,” Wie, 19, told reporters. “I missed some short ones early on. But it was fun.”
Wie thought better rounds could be coming.
“I left a lot out there,” she said.
Nordqvist missed just one fairway and took only 22 putts in her first major championship round as a professional.
“It’s good momentum for tomorrow,” Nordqvist told reporters about her spectacular par-save on the final hole. “It’s disappointing if you end bad.”
■ST JUDE CLASSIC
The US’ Brian Gay shot a six-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead over compatriot Jimmy Walker after the first round of the St Jude Classic on Thursday.
Gay, who produced just one bogey, won the Heritage Classic in April and is looking for his third career win on the PGA Tour, while Walker has spent most of his career on the Nationwide Tour and has yet to win on the top tour.
“Obviously six-under is great almost any time so I’m pleased,” Gay told reporters. “It has been a little bit of a struggle lately. My ball striking hasn’t been there really since I won. I’ve had some minor injuries and I haven’t played that much — I am just looking to get something going.”
Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal, without a win in the US since 2002, carded a bogey-free round at the TPC Southwind and is one of five players, including Sweden’s Mathias Gronberg and Britain’s Graeme McDowell, two shots off the lead on four-under.
Olazabal has struggled with injuries over the past two years, battling rheumatism and the side-effects of the medication he received.
“It’s been a tough two years, very painful ... I couldn’t do much for a year and a half, just lay down and — you know, quite unpleasant. It’s something that I don’t wish on anybody,” he said after his round.
Another Swede, Fredrik Jacobson, Britain’s Richard Johnson and Australian Robert Allenby were among those a shot further adrift on three-under.
World No. 2 Phil Mickelson, who withdrew from the Tour last month after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, made a two-under 68 on his return to action.
Mickelson made six birdies but double-bogeyed the 18th to leave him in the chasing pack four shots behind Gay.
World No. 4 Sergio Garcia of Spain shot an even-par 70 but Irish triple major champion Padraig Harrington staggered to a disappointing two-over-par round with four bogeys.
John Daly, returning to action in the US for the first time since October, also made two-over after carding three bogeys in a row on the back nine.
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