Welsh golfer Becky Morgan is tied for the lead with the defending champion Inbee Park of South Korea after the opening round of the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in China.
With first rounds of four under par 69, the pair hold a two stroke lead over four other players. The leading Chinese player Xiyu Lin, South Korean Shin Ae Ahn and Thai duo Nontaya Srisawang and Pavarisa Yoktuan are all on two under par.
Morgan and Park made the most of the more favourable afternoon draw, playing under overcast skies in drizzly conditions after a wet and windy morning.
Morgan, who is still awaiting her first Ladies European Tour victory, was pleased with her game after making five birdies and one bogey on the Blackstone Course. She said: “I had a really good finish and birdied the last three holes, but I played really steady and hit some really good hybrids into the longer par fours and missed a couple of putts early on so all in all I was pretty happy.
“I three putted the par 3 15th and gave myself a talking to and birdied the last three. 16 is a short par four and you’ve got sand wedge going in, so that was a good way to get a birdie back and I holed a 12 feet putt. On 17 I hit a good shot to five feet and I was happy and on 18 they’ve moved the tee up so it’s very birdie-able.”
Five-time major champion Park was less impressed with her four birdies and two bogeys, despite an eagle on the par-5 18th.
She said: “I didn’t have as many opportunities as I would have liked as the iron shots were a bit off today and I only eagled one par five and had par on the others. They key to this golf course is making birdies on the par fives so if I can do that tomorrow I think it will be a great round.”
Park’s main rival, Norwegian World No.5 Suzann Pettersen, who won the 2013 event and finished second in 2014, opened with a level par 73 to share 14th place.
She said: “I played pretty good. Just, gosh, way too many putts. You’ve got to hit these putts so firm and hard to get it to the hole and I didn’t seem to pick that up at all through the round so a little bit of work to do, but overall decent. I’m playing okay, just not executing when I have a chance.”
The World Ladies Championship is unique in golf in that three titles are contested simultaneously in one event, with an individual professional stroke play, amateur and professional team aggregate prize, for the leading pair representing their country.
In the team competition, South Korean pair Park and So Yeon Ryu set the pace with their combined score of five under par to lead by three over the China A team of Xiyu Lin and Weiyao Lu and Thai pair Srisawang and Yoktuan.
In a share of seventh place on one under par, China’s Lei Ye holds a two stroke lead in the amateur race over compatriot Xiang Sui.