Florentyna Parker opened the Lacoste Ladies Open Open de France with a sparkling seven-under-par 63 to lead by one stroke over Beth Allen in St Jean-de-Luz.
Parker, aiming for her third Ladies European Tour title, carded four birdies on the front nine at Golf de Chantaco, on the second, third, fifth and seventh holes. She dropped a shot at the 10th but quickly recovered with four more birdies at the 12th, 14th, 15th and 16th.
“Seven under was good and eight birdies is always nice,” said the Hamburg-based Englishwoman, who finished fifth in the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España a fortnight ago.
“I played well in the last round in Spain and I played quite aggressively that day, as I thought I had nothing to lose. I felt like I should play the same again and today I just went for things. I’ve got nothing to lose and I play better when I play more aggressively,” she said.
Allen also carried her strong form from Spain, where she ended as the runner-up to Azahara Muñoz after making a bogey on the final hole. The LET No.2, who is €62,971 behind Shanshan Feng in the race for the 2016 Order of Merit title, was pleased with seven birdies, including three in a row from the first hole, despite a three-putt bogey on the 17th.
She said: “It was really solid and I only had 28 putts and I hit 15 greens, so that’s always good.”
Reflecting on her performance in Spain, she added: “I was kind of happy we had a week off so that I could get my mind right again. I was really disappointed. I need to keep putting myself in that position and things will hopefully go my way more often than not. It was a good result but obviously I was disappointed.”
A stroke further back in third place is Diana Luna, also in a rich vein of form after a tie for eighth place in Marbella. The five-time Ladies European Tour winner has an excellent record in the French Open, having finished second three years running from 2010.
In 2012, the first year that the championship was played at Chantaco, Luna missed a putt of five feet to tie with the eventual winner Stacey Keating, but the heart break is a distant memory now and she is making a strong comeback after the birth of her second daughter in February 2015.
“I’m very happy,” said Luna, after her opening 65, which included six birdies, three bogeys and an eagle at the 15th. “It was an up and down start and then I started playing more solidly and the putts went in.
“It’s going much better. My irons are back to the normal standard. I’d been struggling with my approach shots over the last year, which weren’t as good as they were before. Now I’m back at my standard and the putts are easier as the ball is closer to the hole.”
There are two French players, Alexandra Vilatte Farret and Jade Schaeffer, two strokes back in a share of fourth place with Spain’s Marta Sanz Barrio and the defending champion Céline Herbin is a stroke further behind in a share of seventh with the 2011 champion Felicity Johnson, Whitney Hillier, Georgia Hall and Nicole Broch Larsen on two-under-par.