Kiwi Lydia Ko got off to a successful start in her title defense at the Canadian Women’s Open, firing a five-under par 65 to grab a share of the lead on Thursday.
The 16-year-old defending champion is tied for the lead after the first round at Royal Mayfair Golf Club with American Angela Stanford and Cristel Boeljon of the Netherlands.
“It was a pretty special week last year ... so to kind of have that kind of week again this week would be like a double miracle for myself,” New Zealander Ko said.
Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr carded matching four-under 66s to share fourth, while world No. 1 Inbee Park, Choi Na-yeon, Karine Icher and 22-year-old Canadian Jennifer Kirby, who played alongside Ko, all shot three-under 67s.
“I felt very comfortable out there and ended up making a few putts, and good round,” Kirby said.
Ko was paired with 17-year old and European Solheim Cup team member Charley Hull (69) and Kirby. She said that when everyone in the group is playing well, like on Thursday, it usually translates into more birdies.
“I started off really well with a birdie, but when I have a birdie on the first hole I haven’t really played that well,” Ko said.
“I was kind of nervous that I did make a birdie on the first,” she said. “I think I played pretty solid today, but I think I played good because the whole group seemed to play good and make lots of birdies, so we were in a really good rhythm as a whole group.”
Ko became the youngest winner in LPGA history last year at 15 years and four months when she captured the crown in Vancouver.
This season, South Korean-born Ko has played in nine prior LPGA events, including four majors.
All but one of the players in last week’s Solheim Cup will be playing this week, with Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall having entered after becoming the first player to go 5-0 in a Solheim Cup in helping Europe defeat the USA women 18-10. Hedwall opened with a 68 on Thursday.
Park finished second to Ko last year, even though she collected a winner’s check because Ko was an amateur.
Taiwan’s Amy Hung was tied for 33rd after an even-par round of 70, while compatriot Candie Kung was tied for 59th a shot further back and former world No. 1 Yani Tseng shared 78th place on two over.
Additional reporting by staff writer