Britons Melissa Reid and Becky Morgan and South Africa’s Nicole Garcia shared the first round clubhouse lead after opening rounds of four under par 68 in warm and breezy conditions in the Buick Championship at Shanghai Qizhong Garden Golf Club in China on Thursday morning.
Last year’s ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters winner Beth Allen shot 69 and lies in a share of fourth place with China’s Tao Li Yang.
Defending champion Shanshan Feng of China started her first round from the 10th hole at 12.24pm local time and played her first 11 holes in one under par.
Reid played well, without a practise round. She fired three straight birdies from the 12th, bogeyed 16 and birdied 18 before carding three more birdies against two bogeys on the front nine.
“I actually felt a little bit uncomfortable out there, it was weird, but I tried to play every shot quite clear and I’m very happy with my 68,” said the 28-year-old from Derbyshire, who has earned five titles on the LET.
“I think I’m a little bit jet lagged since I only got here yesterday but my goal today was to have clarity on every single shot and I felt like I did that quite well. I backed off a couple of shots, which was good and got the putter going. I missed a couple of short putts coming in but overall I’m satisfied. I woke up at 4am so I was asleep at 8.30pm last night because of jet-lag. It’s the way forward.”
Morgan had a steady front nine of one over but then fired five birdies on the back nine. “I hit a lot of good shots but I did hole some good putts on the back,” said the 41-year-old, 16-year LET member, who was born in Abergavenny, Wales.
“Hole 10 was playing really long for me and I holed a 35 footer on 10, then 11 from 20 feet and on the par fives I hit it close: tap-in on one of them and six feet on the other. 17 I birdied and I had a good chance on 16 that I missed from eight feet, so it was a solid back nine. I think I missed one green, so it was good.
“I like the golf courses here but I’m not generally a huge fan of Asian golf courses on the LPGA Tour. The ones we play on the European Tour I seem to like. This is the first time I’ve been here so I played the Pro-Am but only played nine holes. The front nine today was a learning experience, which was fine. I played okay but it was playing long for me because I’m not one of the longer hitters. I was hitting hybrids into some of the par fours but hit good shots.”
Third year LET player Garcia, who claimed her maiden professional title last year at the South African Sunshine Tour’s Chase to Investec Cup at Glendower, was delighted with her first sub-par round since the Xiamen International Ladies Open in China in October.
“I haven’t shot under par for a long time so I’m really happy,” said the 25-year-old from Benoni Gauteng, who recently changed to a claw grip with her putter. “I started well and got a bit of momentum. I really like the course and it suits me. The greens are fantastic. I haven’t been putting well lately but today it was better and I was at least starting it on line. I think on these greens, if you hit it on line, it’s going to go in. I’ve been working really hard on my putting and it’s only starting to get better now. I had 29 putts today.
“I wasn’t keen to go to the claw because I always thought that’s for people that struggle, but I was struggling! I’ve just started to get confidence with it so hopefully it sticks. I started using it about a month ago so it’s really neat. I struggled with the pace in Morocco so when I got here all I did was pace putts, which I think really helped.”