American Beth Bader shot a four-under 68 on Wednesday at windy Ko Olina to take a one-stroke lead over top-ranked Yani Tseng and three other players in the LPGA LOTTE Championship.
Winless on the LPGA Tour, the 38-year-old Bader birdied Nos. 5, 6 and 7 to reach five-under, but dropped a stroke on the par-four ninth — her final hole — with her lone bogey of the round played in 48kph gusts.
“It feels good,” the 401st-ranked Bader said, making her first start of the year. “Been awhile since I’ve been here. Been awhile since I actually teed it up in an event, but it’s good.”
“I practiced hard. I played some Grasshopper Tour events in Phoenix to get ready and keep going. So it was nice to be able to transition back into target golf, because I haven’t done that for a while. So, I’m very pleased,” Bader said.
Taiwan’s Tseng, who has won three of the first six events this year, was second along with HSBC Women’s Champions winner Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang of the US and South Korea’s Shin Ji-yai.
“Overall, I stay patient and I make lots of good putts,” Tseng said. “I still miss some, but I hung in there. It’s only first day of the tournament, so I’m pretty happy today. Still on the leaderboard, still can see my name up there, so very happy.”
Tseng played the front nine in four-under 32, then bogeyed the first two holes on the back.
“On No. 12, I made a tough 12-footer for par. That’s the big turning point for today. If I make another bogey, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I save par there and make birdie the next hole, so it’s a good turn for me,” Tseng said.
Stanford also bogeyed her final hole. She won the previous LPGA Tour event played in Hawaii, overtaking Michelle Wie in the 2009 SBS Open at Turtle Bay.
“Flying over, all those positive memories came flooding back,” Stanford said. “I love Hawaii. I love being here. I love just the atmosphere, the people. It is always windy, usually, so I’m just comfortable.”
Lang had only 24 putts.
“That wind is crazy,” Lang said. “I hit the ball fantastic. When you hit pure, solid shots, the wind does not affect it as much. I hit the ball really solid and gave myself a lot of chances, and I putted really well with my new putter.”
Yoo Sun-young, coming off a playoff victory over Kim In-kyung on April 1 in the Kraft Nabisco, was two stroke back at 70 along with Suzann Pettersen, Brittany Lincicome, Cristie Kerr, Elisa Serrama and Park In-bee.
Kim, devastated by a missed one-foot putt on the final hole of regulation in the Kraft Nabisco, shot a 71.
Wie had two early double bogeys in a 78 that left her 10 strokes back. She has missed the cuts in her past two starts.
Taiwan’s Candie Kung scored one-under 71, while compatriot Amy Hung hit a six-over 78.
Additional reporting by staff writer