England’s Florentyna Parker completed an opening round of five-under-par 67 on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday to take a one stroke lead over Frenchwoman Sophie Giquel-Bettan and Cheyenne Woods of the USA at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
Parker, who is ranked fourth on the LET Order of Merit, had posted seven birdies on the back nine on Wednesday morning before play was suspended due to the tragic sudden death of caddie Maximilian Zechmann, for which there was a minute’s silence at noon on Thursday.
After returning to the course, Parker played the front nine in 38, with a pair of birdies against two bogeys and a double-bogey on her last hole, the ninth, where she played her second shot short of the green and then took a chip and three putts.
“Yesterday I started so well. I had seven birdies on the front nine and gave myself nine chances,” said Parker, a two-time winner on the LET, at the 2010 ABN AMRO and 2014 Italian Ladies Opens.
“The last three years I’ve missed the cut (in Dubai) and it’s been very disappointing. I was thinking back to 2010 (when I finished fourth). I think I started with a five or six-under on the back nine, which was my front nine. And I said, ‘I need to get that feeling back and somehow do the same.’ It was good that I made back-to-back birdies and obviously I struggled on the last two holes.”
Cheyenne Woods, who held a share of the lead on seven-under-par after 11 holes, briefly took the outright lead on six-under-par, despite a bogey on the fourth hole, but her double bogey on the eighth hole saw her drop behind Parker.
The winner of the 2014 Volvik RACV Ladies Masters in Australia, Woods said: “I thought I played really well. The two nines were a little different. I thought I played a really solid round, hit the ball well and gave myself a lot of chances for birdies and my putter felt great, so I’m really happy with today.”
Giquel-Bettan, (above), who earned her sole LET title at the 2007 Ladies Open de Portugal, had a flawless 68 featuring birdies at the second, 10th, 13th and 17th while fellow Frenchwoman Jade Schaeffer, the Xiamen International Ladies Open winner Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands, Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark, Nuria Iturrios from Spain, Ashleigh Simon of South Africa and Laura Jansone from Latvia all returned 69s.
The defending champion and world number four, Shanshan Feng, from China, opened her campaign with a level par 72, which was her worst score since the first round of the 2013 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, where she finished fifth, having won the title in 2012 and then in 2014 and 2015. World No.18 Charley Hull, who sealed the 2013 Rookie of the Year and 2014 Order of Merit titles in Dubai, also carded a 72, while world number 16 Suzann Pettersen had a 74 to sit just inside the projected cut mark, three strokes better than social media star Paige Spiranac on 77.
Meanwhile, the shot of the first round was a hole-in-one by Australian Whitney Hillier, using a 6-iron at the 171-yard fourth, on Wednesday morning. It was the fifth ace in the history of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, dating back to the first hole-in-one, recorded in 2009.