Karen Stupples, Maria Hjorth and Shin-Ae Ahn shot five under par 67s to share the first round lead at the Evian Masters, presented by Société Générale, in France.
Stupples and Hjorth had to contend with changeable weather and frequent heavy showers in the worst of the conditions on Thursday morning at Evian Masters Golf Club.
Stupples said: “Obviously the weather was pretty grim to start with. I think it took a while to get used to that.”
The 2004 Women’s British Open champion went to the turn in one over 37 after taking a double bogey seven at the ninth hole, but she immediately struck back with six birdies on the back nine.
“I just hit it out of bounds,” explained the 38-year-old from Deal in Kent, “but I knew it wasn’t going to hurt me too bad because I was hitting my irons well and I just figured that I would make it up.”
Stupples, who bases herself in Orlando, revealed that the course was playing longer and softer than in previous years and preferred lies were in place up to one club length.
“The rain has made the greens a bit like dart boards, so you can fire at the pins,” admitted the three-time tournament winner. “And even though some of them were cut pretty close to the edges, you could still have a good crack at them. I was hitting my irons well, so feeling very confident with them and with my putter too. I feel really good rolling the ball right now. The greens are perfect. For me, it’s just a pleasure rolling the ball.”
Hjorth played best in the heaviest rainfall. The 37-year-old Swede grabbed five birdies on the front nine with some silky putting and picked up further shots at the 11th and 12th, but finished with three straight bogeys. She felt that long-hitting and only 26 putts were the keys to her solid round.
“I think it’s obviously playing a bit longer because the ball is obviously not going, you know, very far once it lands on the fairways,” said Hjorth, who claimed her sixth career victory in May at the AVNET LPGA Classic.
“I played very solid. Obviously it’s hard with these greens, because they spin a lot, or I spin the ball a lot, so it’s difficult to get the ball close to the hole.”
Sharing the lead, Ahn, of South Korea, mixed seven birdies with two bogeys, while six players were a shot further back.
Japan’s Ai Miyazato, who won the tournament in 2009, shot a 68, along with compatriots Ritsuko Ryu and Miki Saiki, Americans Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome and Shanshan Feng of China.
The defending champion, Jiyai Shin of South Korea, opened with a solid 69 to share 10th spot with six other players including World No.1 Yani Tseng from Chinese Taipei and Virginie Lagoutte-Clement from France.
Evian Masters, presented by Société Générale
Evian Masters Golf Club
21-24 July 2011
Scores at the end of round 1:
67 – Karen Stupples (ENG), Maria Hjorth (SWE), Shin Ae Ahn (KOR)
68 – Ritsuka Ryu (JPN), Ai Miyazato (JPN), Brittany Lincicome (USA), Cristie Kerr (USA), Miki Saiki (JPN), Shanshan Feng (CHN)
69 – Jiyai Shin (KOR), Virginie Lagoutte-Clement (FRA), Ran Hong (KOR), In-Bee Park (KOR), Eun Hee Ji (KOR), Stacy Lewis (USA), Yani Tseng (TPE)
70 – Ayako Uehara (JPN), Angela Stanford (USA), Pat Hurst (USA), Natalie Gulbis (USA), Sandra Gal (GER), Paula Creamer (USA), Alexis Thompson (USA), Ji-Woo Lee (KOR)
71 – Seon Hwa Lee (KOR), Mika Miyazato (JPN), Karrie Webb (AUS), Meena Lee (KOR), Paige Mackenzie (USA), Sophie Gustafson (SWE), Song-Hee Kim (KOR), Yuri Fudoh (JPN), Shiho Oyama (JPN), Rikako Morita (JPN), Hee Young Park (KOR), Stacy Prammanasudh (USA), Ryann O’Toole (USA), Se Ri Pak (KOR), Morgan Pressel (USA), Catriona Matthew (SCO)
72 – Hye-Youn Kim (KOR), Na Yeon Choi (KOR), Julieta Granada (PAR), Jimin Kang (KOR), Melissa Reid (ENG), Mayu Hattori (JPN), Mariajo Uribe (COL), Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA), Cindy LaCrosse (USA), Hyun-Ji Kim (KOR), Azahara Munoz Guijarro (ESP), Heather Bowie Young (USA), So-Yeon Ryu (KOR), Iben Tinning (DEN), Akane Iijima (JPN), Jee Young Lee (KOR)
73 – Katie Futcher (USA), Hee-Kyung Seo (KOR), Suzann Pettersen (NOR), Chella Choi (SKO), Christel Boeljon (NL), Caroline Afonso (FRA), Ji-Na Lim (KOR), Sun Young Yoo (KOR), Amy Yang (KOR), Caroline Hedwall (SWE), Lindsey Wright (AUS)
74 – Florentyna Parker (ENG), Candie Kung (TAI), In Kyung Kim (KOR), Momoko Ueda (JPN), Becky Brewerton (WAL), Wendy Ward (USA), Akiko Fukushima (JAP)
75 – Trish Johnson (ENG), Hiromi Mogi (JPN), Haru Nomura (JPN), Rui Kitada (JPN), Kumiko Kaneda (JAP), Kyeong Bae (KOR), Ashleigh Simon (SA), Jennifer Song (USA), Seul-A Yoon (KOR), Christina Kim (USA), Yukari Baba (JPN), Mindy Kim (SKO), Juli Inkster (USA), Grace Park (KOR), Brittany Lang (USA), Beatriz Recari (ESP)
76 – Caroline Rominger (SWI), Kristy McPherson (USA), Michelle Wie (USA), Gwladys Nocera (FRA), Amy Hung (TAI), Laura Davies (ENG), Sun Ju Ahn (KOR), Lee-Anne Pace (SA)
77 – Anna Nordqvist (SWE), M. J. Hur (KOR)
78 – Amanda Blumenherst (USA), Vicky Hurst (USA)
79 – Seung-Hyun Lee (KOR), Hee Won Han (KOR), Zuzana Kamasova (SVK)
80 – Kristie Smith (AUS), Alena Sharp (CAN)
81 – Diana Luna (ITA), Maria Verchenova (RUS), Sharmila Nicollet (IN)
84 – Sophie Giquel-Bettan (FRA)