South Korea’s Ji Han Sol fared best in tough conditions to take a one stroke lead before first round play was suspended at 6.15pm due to darkness at the World Ladies Championship in China.
Ji carded a four-under-par 68 on the Olazabal Course at Mission Hills Resort Dongguan after torrential rain and thunderstorms delayed play by two hours and 40 minutes from 11.20am, meaning the first round will be completed on Friday morning.
Second year Korean LPGA member Ji, 19, is targeting her first win as a professional following a career best finish of second at the 2015 Doosan Match play Championship on the Korean LPGA Tour.
She started from the 10th hole and birdied the 13th and 17th before dropping a shot on 18. She picked up three more birdies at the third, fourth and seventh to hold a one-shot lead over compatriots Chung Ye-Na and Oh Ji Hyun after eight and 13 holes respectively and Anne-Lise Caudal of France after 11.
Ji admitted the cool and breezy conditions were very tough and said, through translation: “I am really happy to get a great score even though it was raining a lot. I was trying to be relaxed mentally and it helped me to finish as the leader.
“The first time I played this course in the practise round, I thought it was not that difficult. To be honest, it felt easy for me at that time. However, when I played today in the first round of the competition, I realised that this course is not easy at all.
“Today my shots were not the best and I made many mistakes. I will practise my ball striking and short game more for tomorrow so that I can lift the winner’s trophy.”
Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen is a stroke further behind on two-under-par alongside South Korean trio Ko Jin-young, Lee Jung-Min and Cho Yoon Ji.
Céline Herbin, winner of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on home soil last September, is the leading European in the clubhouse after making birdie on the ninth for a round of one-under-par 71 to share ninth spot with South Koreans Park Ji Young and Lee Seung Hyun as well as China’s Pan Yan-Hong and Lin Tzu-Chi from Chinese Taipei.
Herbin said: “Of course I’m very happy. It was tough out there, cold and windy at times with a rain interruption. The ball was not flying at all like in the practice rounds and the course was playing a lot longer. I’m happy I had five birdies, two doubles and one bogey.”
Another Ladies European Tour player, Klara Spilkova from the Czech Republic, is a shot back on level par 72 and she said: “I was freezing on the golf course because I just came from Phuket, Thailand, where it was 40, 45 degrees. I felt very cold and my hands were freezing so it was hard to hit good shots and the grass was very wet, so I didn’t know what would happen.
“I had 28 putts so that was much more helpful than two weeks ago when I was struggling with my putting. I really like the golf course. It’s a beautiful course so I hope the weather will be better tomorrow.”
The forecast is for cool and cloudy conditions on Friday with a few passing showers and highs of 13C.
In the team competition, South Korea has a combined score of four-under-par midway through the first round, with a three stroke lead over China and Chinese Taipei.