South Korean pair Park Sung-Hyun (above) and Chun In Gee made a major statement when they opened with a pair of eight-under-par 63s to hold a one-stroke lead at the Evian Championship in France on Thursday.
The 2015 US Women’s Open champion Chun and Korean LPGA money list leader Park both impressively fired eight birdies on a day of sunshine and showers at Evian Resort Golf Club.
China’s Shanshan Feng, who won the Buick Championship before collecting an Olympic bronze medal last month, shares second with Annie Park of the United States on seven-under, but Park and Chun were the latest South Korean names to lead on the Ladies European Tour.
The 22-year-old stars hit 16 and 18 fairways respectively and Chun said: “Before the round I felt really nervous today and it was windy and there was a thunderstorm this morning, so I tried to focus more on my game.”
Speaking through translation, Park said: “Everything went well. The fairways are narrow and greens small, so it’s a very tough course.” She added that she had been inspired to take up the game by former US Open champion Se Ri Pak.
England’s Dame Laura Davies is the leading European player in a share of 15th position on two-under-par and the two-time Evian Masters champion was all smiles after making three birdies on the back nine.
Before heading off to the local stadium to manage the caddies’ team at the annual charity football match, Davies said: “It was a dodgy old start with a double and then one three putt bogey and the rest of it was great. I had a few really good up and downs. I missed a few greens today but I really did putt well today, so it was nice. I had a nice bunker shot on 17. I had a really horrible number, 100 yards and it was halfway between clubs and I ended up hitting a poor second shot but a great up and down. On 18, I hit a lovely 7-iron to about four feet.”
Of the other notable players, Spain’s Solheim Cup star Carlota Ciganda was a stroke further back on one-under-par, in a group with the defending champion Lydia Ko. The world number one from New Zealand said that she was scrambling for pars and only made two birdies against one bogey. “It was tricky for me because on the back nine I wasn’t hitting fairways. I was making up and downs. It was a good thing my wedge shots or chip shots were good enough where I was able to get off with par.”
England’s Charley Hull was flying high on four-under-par after 15 holes but hit her nine-iron tee shot from the par-3 16th into the lake protecting the green. After walking off with a triple bogey six, she signed for level par round of 71 and said: “I’m playing pretty well. It was a shame about the last couple of holes but I’m still quite happy with my round. I’m out early tomorrow so hopefully I can go out and post a low one. Hopefully the rain holds off. Everything is going well. It was just one bad shot on the 16th hole. Other than that, pretty solid. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win.”
Hull is in a group sharing 39th place along with the recent Tipsport Golf Masters champion Nanna Koerstz Madsen from Denmark. Madsen said: “I’m a little disappointed by my three-putt on 17 but I didn’t play very well so even par is a good score for me today. After the rain started it wasn’t that hard, it was score-able because there was no wind, but my swing wasn’t there so I’m happy with even par.”
The Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open winner Isabelle Boineau from France had the honour of hitting the first tee shot and made a solid start with a one-over 72, which put her into a group including the 2014 champion Kim Hyo Joo, the 2015 Lacoste Ladies Open de France champion Céline Herbin and Hero Women’s Indian Open champion Emily Kristine Pedersen from Denmark.
Boineau said: “I was happy to tee off first in a Major in France. I wasn’t the first to hit the fairway but I was the first to hit. I’m happy about the score. It was pouring with rain when I started so it was hard playing the first hole and I made a bogey but I reached well with a tap-in birdie on number two and was back in the grind. My caddie helped me to stay focused all day because I had a hard time with my swing. He took care of the distances and where to land the ball and I focused on the shape of the shot and kept my mind as free as I could instead of getting mad and carrying that around the course.”
Of the other recent LET tournament winners, the Lalla Meryem Cup champion Nuria Iturrios from Spain opened with a two-over par 73 and ended the day just inside the projected cut mark.