China’s number two ranked golfer Xiyu Lin overcame a rocky start in wet and windy conditions to post a two under par 71 and grab the early lead on day one of the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in Hainan, southern China.
Although the 19-year-old Sanya Ladies Open champion took a double bogey seven on the second and dropped a third shot on the fourth, she hit back with five birdies on the sixth, ninth, 14th, 15th and 18th holes on the long and challenging Blackstone Course.
She said: “I had a really tough start today and my first tee off went way left. On the second hole I hit two balls to the left and I couldn’t find my first one. I had the second one but took free relief and hit from round and had a double. After two holes I had another bogey and it was tough at first, because it was pretty windy and a little bit rainy and I’m not very used to playing in those situations. I’m glad I had a good back nine, because I kept telling myself, ‘the back nine should be easier so I should make a couple of birdies.’ It was good to make a couple of birdies before I turned to the back nine.”
With world No.2 Inbee Park of South Korea, who started on the 10th, at four under par after 14 holes, Lin is well placed to contend this week, in both the individual and team event for pairs running simultaneously over four rounds.
“Last year I played with Shanshan (Feng), and we finished second, but actually we were pretty far from Korea,” Lin said. “This year I’m playing with Lu Wanyao, who is also a pretty talented young girl, so hopefully we can do better than last year and maybe try to stay closer.”
In last year’s team competition, the Korean pair of Park and So Yeon Ryu recorded an aggregate score of 40-under-par, putting them a whopping 28 strokes ahead of the China A duo of Feng Shanshan and Lin.
Ryu finished third as an individual last year and she is now hoping to follow Park as the individual winner, her opening round of one under par 72 putting her right in the hunt.
“This morning the weather was quite bad so it was really hard to play, but I shot one under, which is not bad with that horrible weather,” Ryu said. “I was a bit disappointed with my putting. I had a lot of birdie putts but I still missed quite a lot. I need to get used to the green speed because I played in Singapore and Thailand where the greens were really quick, so these greens are a bit slower and I am struggling a bit with the speed control. Now I’m working on it, so I’m looking forward to putting better the next three days.
“On the back nine, the wind stopped and blew away, but it’s an island, so the wind is always quite strong. Another thing: where we hit the ball and where it lands it can be a different wind so that was hard to judge and that was the hardest thing on the golf course.”
Australian Rebecca Artis and Alexandra Vilatte from France also shot one under par rounds of 72 on the first morning, Artis finishing with a satisfying eagle on the par-5 18th.
The 2013 Helsingborg Open champion, who finished second in last week’s New South Wales Open on the Australian Ladies’ Professional Golf tour, said: “It was nice because I hit the ball so good today. I knocked it in so close and gave myself some really good chances. I didn’t putt very well at all so it was just nice to get one to drop, because it felt like I deserved one in a way, if you can say that about golf.”
On her eagle, she added: “I hit 4-iron in from 185 metres to the pin and it was probably about four and a half or five metres, so it wasn’t a massive putt. It was a putt that I was definitely thinking about holing. I think it’s a good finishing hole for the tournament. I love the golf course, I think it’s great. It’s in really good condition. It was a little wet out there this morning but it’s a great golf course.”
Vilatte, who is yet to win on the Ladies European Tour, added: “The course is very long and with the wind it’s harder but I like this course: it’s a good one and you have to play well to have a good score. My long game was very good. I hit all of the fairways with my driver so it’s good here. I played well: I hit 15 greens in regulation but missed the birdie on the 17th and 18th so I’m a little disappointed but I know it’s a good score.”
The first round continues under cloudy but dry skies.