Sweden’s Linda Wessberg continued her strong record in France with an opening round of six under par 66 at Paris International Golf Club on Thursday.
The 2007 champion mixed seven birdies with one bogey to lead the Open de France Féminin by a stroke ahead of Italian Diana Luna, Germany’s Caroline Masson and South African Stacy Lee Bregman, all on 67.
Wessberg, who claimed the second of her three Ladies European Tour victories at Le Golf D’Arras three years ago, said: “I’ve never really been to France apart from Arras and my boyfriend and I went to Paris last year during the Arras tournament. It’s a nice country. I don’t know why I play well here.”
Wessberg thrives in tough, wet conditions and she was in her element on the Jack Nicklaus designed course, which took heavy rainfall on Wednesday.
“It’s a great golf course. It’s playing pretty tough, I think, especially now that it’s soggy in the ground. I think we’ve been very lucky today with the weather,” said the 30-year-old from Gothenburg, who has posted six top ten finishes on the Ladies European Tour this year and lies in 24th place on the Henderson Money List.
“We got some rain but it was funny because the sky was still blue but it was a little haze and it was raining for about a hole and a half. It’s playing pretty long and you don’t get anything extra out of drivers but you have to place your shots and play with your head a little bit. I love that.
“I played pretty solid; hit a lot of fairways and 15 greens. I played great last week as well but I couldn’t hole one putt so finally I got a few putts to drop, which was nice.”
Masson, who won the LET’s Qualifying School in December, opened with three straight birdies and also birdied the last two holes.
The 21-year-old had an eagle chance at the 491-yards par-five 18th hole, which plays downhill to an island-style green, when she hit a super shot with a rescue to 10 feet, but just missed the putt.
She said: “I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens; 17 greens actually. I didn’t make one bogey so I had a lot of chances and made good putts. I hit good putts they just didn’t go in. It’s a great score for a first round and you know you’re up there so everything is possible for the next day.”
Bregman, playing in the same group as Masson, birdied the first and third holes, bogeyed the fifth and birdied the eighth for an outward total of 34.She dropped a second shot at the 10th but recovered with further birdies on holes 11, 14, 15 and 18 to come home in 33.
Like Masson, the 23-year-old from Johannesburg is seeking her first victory and she said: “I played good. I putted really well today and when I hit greens I hit them close. My putter was really good today and I felt that there was a low round coming.”
Solheim Cup star Diana Luna, who won twice on Tour last year, has taken a few weeks’ break from the Ladies European Tour to spend time with her young daughter.
Her score was helped by three sand saves at the fourth, fifth and 15th holes and she dropped just one shot at the 374-yard par-four ninth, which she played last.
She said: “I practised a little bit but not much for the last 10 days. I’ve been on holiday in Italy. I’m very pleased. I played very well in the middle of the round, very solid, nice shots, and hit lots of greens.”
England’s Laura Davies, who claimed her third title of the season in Austria last week, had a promising start to the tournament. The 75-time tournament champion carded four birdies for a 68 and shared fifth spot with Ireland’s Rebecca Coakley, Denmark’s Iben Tinning, Hannah Jun of the United States and Caroline Afonso from France.
Second round play commences at 8am on Friday before the cut to the leading 60 professionals and ties.