Angela Stanford birdied her last three holes to join Catriona Matthew atop the leaderboard on eight-under par 63 on Thursday after the first round of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic.
Scotland’s Matthew had nine birdies and one bogey in her round at the Grey Silo Golf Course, while Stanford played without a bogey on a layout that was softened by heavy rain earlier in the week.
World No. 1 Inbee Park, seeking her fourth victory in as many LPGA starts, led a chasing group of five players on six-under, that included fellow South Koreans Park Hee-young and Meena Lee, Spain’s Belen Mozo and American Irene Cho.
Matthew teed off at the par-four 11th. After a bogey at the 12th she gradually gained steam, with five of her birdies coming in her last six holes.
“I hit it close all day, which gives you a lot of chances, and then obviously I putted well,” Matthew said.
She hit all 14 fairways in regulation, which gave her a chance to attack the pins.
“The ball was just stopping pretty much where you hit it in, so you could get it quite close if you were on the fairways,” Matthew said.
Stanford also opened her round at the 11th, later in the afternoon.
Three off the pace with three to play, she birdied eight, nine and 10 to tie the lead.
“I kind of thought about it on the eight tee box, that I had three holes left and I knew one of them is a par-three and the other two par-fours — I might have a wedge in,” she said. “I really just tried to hit quality shots into the greens and had the opportunities I wanted and made them.”
Park, coming off the whirlwind of publicity sparked by her historic US Women’s Open triumph earlier this month, was pleased with her effort.
“It was an excellent round,” she said. “I had a really good start this morning, five-under through seven holes. I missed a couple opportunities on the back nine, but I’m pleased with the way I played today. I hit the ball great, I putted great. The greens look like they’re getting a little bit faster ... looking forward to playing the next few days with a little bit more speed on the greens.”
Park, who won the Kraft Nabisco in April and the LPGA Championship last month, joined US sporting legend Babe Zaharias as the only women to win the first three majors in a season with her US Open victory.
She will have a chance to become the first man or woman to win four major golf championships in a calendar year at the Women’s British Open at St Andrews from Aug. 1 to 4.
A victory this week would make her the first player to win four straight LPGA starts since Lorena Ochoa in 2008. She said putting together that kind of streak seemed impossible for her back when she was watching golfers like Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam win week-in and week-out.
“I thought they were so good, that I would never be in that kind of position, never be able to win like four, five tournaments in a row,” Park said. “I thought that was toughest thing to do and I’m getting really close to that. I’m not as good as them yet, but I’m still learning now, just starting.”
While Taiwan’s Candie Kung was on three-under par after a round of 68, her compatriot and former world No. 1 Yani Tseng struggled to a one-over par 72.
Additional reporting by staff writer