Written by V Krishnaswamy@Swinging_Swamy

Linda Wessberg is no stranger to India. The veteran Swede, who has been on the Ladies European Tour since 2004, has been to the country no less than eight times for the Hero Women’s Indian Open and what’s more, she has never missed the cut.

The Swede opened with a superb seven-under 65 that included an ace on the 139-yard fifth, which fetched her Rs. 200,000 (~USD $ 2,500) and gave her the early lead at DLF Golf and Country Club.

Just one shot behind Wessberg sits Anais Meyssonnier of France, who holed eight birdies on the way to an opening round score of 66 (-6), while while India’s Amandeep Drall and Finland’s Noora Komulainen share third spot on -5 after starting with rounds of 67 (-5).

Wessberg, who found the cup from the tee box with her 8-iron in the early stages, had six other birdies and just one blemish on the Par-4 10th.

She said, “I felt like I wasn’t playing great actually, but I gave myself some really good chances and I rolled in some good putts and I took advantage of those. Obviously, the hole-in-one on hole five, which helped the score.”

On the hole-in-one, she said, “Well, we couldn’t really see it because we thought it was very close to one of the other girls’ ball. So, just when we walked up, we could pretty much see that.”

“I got here only late Monday night, so I played in the afternoon on Tuesday. I think in the afternoon tomorrow the greens will be a little bit slower. But, I think the course is holding up really well.”

The former Solheim Cup star started the day with a birdie on the first and then had a stunning ace on the fifth, followed by a birdie on the ninth as she turned in four-under 32.

On the back nine, she dropped a shot on the 10th, before picking up a shot on three successive holes from the 12th to the 14th, and then finished the day off with another birdie on 16.

The 41-year-old, who has three wins on the LET, comes into the week ranked 99th on the Race to Costa del Sol, and is hoping a good week in India can see her finish 2022 on a high.

Talking of her season, she said, “I haven’t had a great year. I’ve been playing pretty decent but haven’t been putting good at all so when you finally see the balls drops in the hole it, it always helps and it’s good for the confidence.”

Meyssonnier sits one shot behind Wessberg after day one, with the Frenchwoman rolling in eight birdies on the way to an opening round score of 66 (-6).

After starting with a birdie on the first, the 25-year-old dropped shots on holes two and six to sit at one-over par in the early part of her round, only to pick up shots on the seventh and ninth to reach the turn in 35 (-1).

And she continued that good form into the back nine, with two more birdies on holes 10 and 12 seeing her move up the leaderboard, before picking up three shots in as many holes between holes 15-17 to put herself one shot off the lead after the opening day.

“I felt nice about my entire game today. I think I hit 16 greens in regulation and 11 fairways. So from the tee to the green, it was perfect,” the French star said.

“The only thing that was not so nice today was my chipping. My pitching was good too, I hit a lot of shots near to the pin. It was just a good one with a lot of good shots. Just like play one zone and after you go for the green.”

India’s Drall holed a fifth birdie on the 18th for a bogey-free round that put her in a share of third with another India regular, Finland’s Komulainen, who has never missed a cut in her previous five starts in the Hero Women’s Indian Open.

A delighted Drall said, “I’ve been playing well of late. I’ve been hitting well so there were very little errors. I just missed one green on the 17th and I hit it quite close on a couple of holes.

“I holed two mid-length putts, the rest were all really close. I was really in my zone. I was really calm and composed, and I was just taking it one shot at a time. And it’s three more rounds to go, so it’s a long journey ahead. But to have a good start is always helpful.”

The highest ranked Indian after day one also admitted that she had learnt a lot playing a lot on the LET this season: “When you’re playing more on the Ladies European Tour, the girls are so good, so you know every shot, it really matters. You know you can’t relax on any shot and have to be 100%.”

Tied in the fifth spot were Swedish compatriots Caroline Hedwall, the 2011 champion, and Elin Arvidsson on four-under par after the first 18 holes, with the pair rolling in five birdies apiece on the opening day, with the only blemish on the scorecard coming on the seventh and tenth respectively.

South Africa’s Nicole Garcia is one of four players to have scored 69 (-3) in her first 18 holes with four birdies and a single bogey in her day, with the Spanish duo of Ana Peláez Trivino and Luna Sobron Galmes for company in a tie for seventh, as well as home favourite Tvesa Malik.

There will be plenty of home interest as the week continues with Drall and Malik – who is playing on her home course – in contention, while 2016 winner Aditi Ashok (70) is in T11 and Gaurika Bishnoi (71) ended the day in T16.

Wessberg wasn’t the only player to have a hole-in-one on the opening day of the tournament, with Scotland’s Gabrielle MacDonald also acing the 145 yard 16th using her seven-iron on the way to an opening round score of 76 (+4).

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