England’s Florentyna Parker recovered from a nervy start to finish on level par at the ANA Inspiration in California.
The three-time Ladies European Tour champion, who earned her place in the Major championship courtesy of her Solheim Cup debut in Iowa, battled for a 72 as Japan’s Ayako Uehara and Spain’s Beatriz Recari shared a one-shot clubhouse lead on six-under-par.
Parker chipped in for birdie on the 377-yard par 4 first-hole but bogeyed the third and fourth and then made a double bogey on the sixth to be three-over par at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.
However, four birdies followed by one further dropped shot ensured a respectable opening to her debut in the first Major championship of 2018.
“I’m really happy with that round, because it could have gone completely the other way,” said Parker, who has former LET and LPGA player Mardi Lunn as her caddie.
“I was looking at four-over-par after seven holes, but I managed to pitch and putt from 70 metres and that was a deciding moment. The fast start to the back nine was good, making a birdie on 10 and limiting the damage. I said that level par would be a fantastic round from there and I did get it to one-under-par after 15, but I’m really pleased with level par.
“The ninth hole was the first time I hit a green in regulation, so I was three-over-par, struggling and then I turned it around and I was putting really well. Although I was missing the greens for the first eight holes, I was holing some great putts and I knew that once I got on the green in regulation I would make some birdies, so that’s what I did, from the ninth hole onwards.”
“I’ve played in loads of majors so far, but more on the European side, so I think I was a bit nervous because I was hitting it awfully and I needed a few holes to calm down. You might not feel the nerves, but sometimes your body realises it and you get a bit tense.
“I hope I’m representing the LET well! I’m not used to playing in America as a pro and it is a Major, so it’s a great atmosphere and a bigger event than normal for all the players.”
The 2017 Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open champion, who defeated Anna Nordqvist and Carlota Ciganda in a play-off to win the Spanish title, will start her second round six shots adrift of Recari, who had six birdies and Uehara, who made eight birdies and two bogeys in her impressive 66.
Uehara, who started with a bogey on the 10th hole, said: “In the beginning I had a three-putt and kind of played tight, but at the end of the back nine I had a birdie on 18 and from there I had three birdies in a row, so maybe I changed my mood and had a good finish.”
Swiss amateur Albane Valenzuela, Jessica Korda of the United States and Ha Na Jang of South Korea returned five-under-par 67s in the 33C heat of the Californian desert, while United States pair Cristie Kerr and Brittany Altomare carded 68s.