World No 1 Ariya Jutanugarn topped the leaderboard with four other golfers at the conclusion of today’s first round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
On a day when several of the big names struggled, the Thai showed her class to shoot a bogey free four-under-par 68 at Sentosa Golf Club’s New Tanjong Course. She shares the lead with France’s Celine Boutier, China’s Yu Liu, American Amy Olson and Australia’s Minjee Lee.
Comparing the course with last year’s championship, Ariya noted that it is playing a lot tougher. “Actually, the greens have been pretty fast, but it’s tough because it’s really firm. It’s so tough to hit close to the pin … especially my front nine because I didn’t realise that they played that firm,” she said.
Teeing off in the last flight of the morning alongside Jutanugarn was Lee, who had a colourful round featuring three bogeys, five birdies and an eagle on the par-five 8th hole.
World No. 3 Lee, who finished in second place at last week’s Honda LPGA Thailand said: “I had a bit of an up-and-down front nine. I think I made three bogeys, and I made one eagle and two other birdies on the front nine. So, I turned 1-under. I was a little bit more consistent on the back nine and I finished with three birdies. Yeah, it was nice to finish with birdies.
Alongside the duo is China’s Yu who was the story of the day as she birdied the 18th. The 23-year old, who came through the ranks of the tournament sponsor’s CGA-HSBC Junior Programme, explained what her round meant to her:
“It meant so much because ten years ago, I got this opportunity playing as a junior golfer with two other girls from China to come play in the pro-am. I just had a blast and that really kind of set my career goals. Before that, I didn’t really know what to expect playing golf. But afterwards, I just felt like this is really something that I wanted to achieve. From then on, I’ve been working pretty hard,” she said.
Boutier, who claimed her maiden tour victory at this year’s ISPS Handa Vic Open had a quiet first nine holes, dropping one shot on the 11th but lit up after the turn, shooting consecutive birdies on the first three holes followed by two more on the seventh and eighth.
Playing for the first time on the course, Boutier said: “I think it fits my game more than last week. So I was kind of happy when I played it because I could see myself playing well on this course. I kind of like the layout and just the way you have to play it. It’s better for my game I guess.”
Tied in sixth place one shot further back are Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Moriya Jutanugarn, Shanshan Feng, Carlota Ciganda, Jin Young Ko, Nasa Hataoka and Sung Hyun Park.
Defending champion Michelle Wie endured a tough return to the course on which she had triumphed so spectacularly last year. Clearly struggling following her wrist operation last October, the American withdrew on hole 15 at 10-over par.
Singapore’s Amanda Tan also had a tough round. Unable to repeat the kind of form she showed in the regional qualifier a month earlier, Tan shot 11-over par but is already focused on round two.
“I didn’t play good. I didn’t score well. I didn’t putt good at all. I also didn’t hit a lot of greens which didn’t help, and then when I missed it, I missed it on the wrong spots. So overall, not a good round, and hopefully a better three days,” she said.
For more information, visit the tournament website at www.hsbcgolf.com/womens