France’s Karine Icher fired a five-under-par 67 to seize the lead before high winds halted Thursday’s opening round of the LPGA ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major women’s event.
Icher birdied three of four par-three holes at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, to stand one stroke ahead of American Michelle Wie, the 2014 runner-up, and South Koreans Ryu So-yeon, Park Sung-hyun and teen amateur Seong Eun-jeong.
The 38-year-old French standout has four wins on the Ladies European Tour, the most recent in 2005, and has never won an LPGA event, despite 43 career top-10 efforts over 14 years; her best in a major being a share of sixth at the 2005 US Women’s Open.
“I’m probably the player with the most top 10s without winning, so I’m used to it,” Icher said.
“I’m going to keep focused and keep my game on and try to sink some putts, and we’ll see from there,” she added.
There were 51 players still on the course when play was halted for severe wind, with the first round scheduled to resume yesterday morning.
Icher birdied the par-five second and ninth holes and answered her bogeys at the fourth and 16th holes with birdies on the next hole each time, taking only 27 putts.
“I’m an accurate player, so I just aim for the fairway and then for the green,” Icher said. “I try to work on putting to put more putts in. That’s the secret. If you have good putting, you score well.”
Third-ranked Ryu worked with coach Cameron McCormick on ball striking and it paid off with a 68.
“The one thing I really wanted to change is my ball has been starting to the left, so I really wanted to have a nice push draw, and it looks like that push draw is working right now,” Ryu said.
“I know it sounds weird after I shot 68, but still my shot wasn’t really sharp compared to the last few weeks. I really want to get the really sharp shot and hopefully have a really good round for the next three days,” she added.
LPGA rookie Park fired a bogey-free 68.
“This is my second time here, but usually this course is always good,” Park said. “If I just play the way I play, I think the score will come out very well.”
Seong opened her first major with back-to-back birdies and added a hole-in-one at the par-three fifth, the first ace by an amateur in the event’s history coming from 182 yards with a six-iron.
“I cannot see my ball, but my partner said: ‘Oh, hole-in-one. Oh my God.’ This is my second hole-in-one in tournament. That’s why I’m really excited,” Seong said. “My hands shake a little bit, but I was just playing very well, and my hole-in-one today, that’s a good memory.”
Kaohsiung-born Candie Kung of the US completed her round, carding a two-under to finish tied for eighth.
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng and Chien Pei-yun were in a group tied for 80th on two-over. Tseng was on the ninth hole when play was suspended, while Chien had completed the fifth.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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