Thai hope Moriya Jutanugarn shot an opening six-under 66 to join Americans Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda and Australian Minjee Lee on top of the leaderboard at the Siam Country Club in Pattaya.
“I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,” said world No.21 Moriya, who was seventh here last year.
“I just tried to have fun and didn’t have any expectation. So overall I’m pretty happy with the score today.
“Being among leaders won’t change anything. My goal this week is to enjoy the game and try to do my best,” she added.
Moriya was the only player among the four leaders to end the day without a bogey. Her sister Ariya was also in contention after a solid start of four-under 68.
The expectations are sky high for Moriya this year after an impressive year in 2017 that saw her collect 11 top-10 results. She is still winless on the LPGA Tour.
Three-time tour winner Lee finished with a superb 45-foot eagle putt to be among the leaders.
“I just hit the collar. I didn’t know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I’m glad it caught the hole,” Lee said.
“It’s a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that’s going to help.”
Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She shot four more birdies.
“It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,” Thompson said.
Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.
South Korea’s Amy Yang, who won the tournament in 2017 and 2015, and world No.2 Park Sung-Hyun, who is making her debut in Thailand, shared a crowded second-place position with four other players.
World No.8 Ariya, a runner-up in 2013, started off with an eagle at the par-five first hole. She birdied the second and fourth but had a bogey on the fifth. The Thai had another birdie on the 16th to end the day on four under.
“I’m happy with my round today. I played my best,” said Ariya, who shared 11th place with American duo Danielle Kang, Michelle Wie, South Korea’s Ryu So-Yeon, Japan’s Misuzu Narita.
“My putting was solid today. I missed a few holes but overall it was a good round.”
China’s world No.1 Feng Shanshan ended the day nipping at the heels of the front pack with a three-under 69. She shared 16th place with former top-ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand, another hope home Pornanong Phatlum and three other players.
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