Spain’s Azahara Munoz fired six birdies in a flawless six-under-par 65 on Thursday to share the first-round lead with the US’ Austin Ernst at a blustery Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour’s Kingsmill Championship.
Ernst’s blazing round included an eagle at the par-five third hole along with five birdies and a bogey for her best round since she posted a 62 at the Safeway Classic last year.
“Gave myself a lot of looks,” Ernst said. “Hit a lot of greens and made it really easy on myself out there on a day when it was pretty windy and it could kind of get away from you a little bit.”
Munoz said the winds were “tricky,” even though they did not seem to bother her.
“The pins were somehow accessible,” Munoz said. “Obviously the course is playing much shorter than normal because it’s warmer and drier. The greens roll nice, so it’s really nice to putt. If you hit a good putt, it’s going to go in.”
Munoz said the closest she came to a bogey all day was at her second hole, the 11th. She was in a bunker and got up and down, draining a 10-footer for par.
The leading duo were one shot in front of South Korean Park Hee-young.
Yet it was a further stroke back to Thailand’s Thidapa Suwannapura and the US’ Brittany Lang, Cristie Kerr, Kathleen Ekey, Danielle Kang, Lizette Salas and Lexi Thompson, all on 67.
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng shot a three-under 68 for a share of 11th place, while Kaohsiung native Candie Kung carded an even-par 71.
Park’s 66 was her best round of the year, during which she has battled a painful wrist.
She took eight days off after her last start at the North Texas Shootout earlier this month and said physical therapy, acupuncture and ice treatment have her feeling better.
“Everything is pretty good,” Park said. “I made a lot more putts. I practiced a lot of long-distance putts and I made quite a bit of long putts.”
Kerr, the defending champion, was determined to tee it up, even after she had to withdraw from Wednesday’s professional-amateur contest because of illness and ended up in hospital.
She was diagnosed with heat exhaustion and a possible infection and received intravenous fluids.
Even though Kerr’s preparations were disrupted, she coped admirably with the rising winds to put herself in contention.
“I hung in there, made some good birdies and kind of got it going in the right direction after the 10th hole,” Kerr said.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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