Welsh golfer Becky Morgan is tied for the lead with the defending champion Inbee Park of South Korea after the opening round of the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in China.
With first rounds of four under par 69, the pair hold a two stroke lead over four other players. The leading Chinese player Xiyu Lin, South Korean Shin Ae Ahn and Thai duo Nontaya Srisawang and Pavarisa Yoktuan are all on two under par.
Morgan and Park made the most of the more favourable afternoon draw, playing under overcast skies in drizzly conditions after a wet and windy morning.
Morgan, who is still awaiting her first Ladies European Tour victory, was pleased with her game after making five birdies and one bogey on the Blackstone Course. She said: “I had a really good finish and birdied the last three holes, but I played really steady and hit some really good hybrids into the longer par fours and missed a couple of putts early on so all in all I was pretty happy.
“I three putted the par 3 15th and gave myself a talking to and birdied the last three. 16 is a short par four and you’ve got sand wedge going in, so that was a good way to get a birdie back and I holed a 12 feet putt. On 17 I hit a good shot to five feet and I was happy and on 18 they’ve moved the tee up so it’s very birdie-able.”
Five-time major champion Park was less impressed with her four birdies and two bogeys, despite an eagle on the par-5 18th.
She said: “I didn’t have as many opportunities as I would have liked as the iron shots were a bit off today and I only eagled one par five and had par on the others. They key to this golf course is making birdies on the par fives so if I can do that tomorrow I think it will be a great round.”
Park’s main rival, Norwegian World No.5 Suzann Pettersen, who won the 2013 event and finished second in 2014, opened with a level par 73 to share 14th place.
She said: “I played pretty good. Just, gosh, way too many putts. You’ve got to hit these putts so firm and hard to get it to the hole and I didn’t seem to pick that up at all through the round so a little bit of work to do, but overall decent. I’m playing okay, just not executing when I have a chance.”
The World Ladies Championship is unique in golf in that three titles are contested simultaneously in one event, with an individual professional stroke play, amateur and professional team aggregate prize, for the leading pair representing their country.
In the team competition, South Korean pair Park and So Yeon Ryu set the pace with their combined score of five under par to lead by three over the China A team of Xiyu Lin and Weiyao Lu and Thai pair Srisawang and Yoktuan.
In a share of seventh place on one under par, China’s Lei Ye holds a two stroke lead in the amateur race over compatriot Xiang Sui.
Collated scores after round 1:
69 - Inbee Park (KOR) , Becky Morgan (WAL)
71 - Xiyu Lin (CHN) , Nontaya Srisawang (THA) , Shin-Ae Ahn (KOR) , Pavarisa Yoktuan (THA)
72 - Rebecca Artis (AUS) , Yu Yang Zhang (CHN) , Lei Ye (CHN) , Trish Johnson (ENG) , So Yeon Ryu (KOR) , Linda Wessberg (SWE) , Alexandra Vilatte (FRA)
73 - Suzann Pettersen (NOR) , Mireia Prat (ESP) , Patricia Sanz Barrio (ESP) , Cathryn Bristow (NZL) , Jade Schaeffer (FRA) , Titiya Plucksataporn (THA) , Ssu-Chia Cheng (TPE) , Melissa Reid (ENG) , Pamela Pretswell (SCO) , Wanyao Lu (CHN)
74 - Caroline Afonso (FRA) , Yu Liu (CHN) , Holly Clyburn (ENG) , Nicole Broch Larsen (DEN) , Yan-Hong Pan (CHN) , Malene Jorgensen (DEN) , Felicity Johnson (ENG) , Yuting Shi (CHN) , Ursula Wikstrom (FIN) , Pei-Yun Chien (TPE) , Florentyna Parker (ENG) , Sophie Walker (ENG) , Cai Zhu Guo (CHN) , Xiang Sui (CHN) , Tzu-Chi Lin (TPE) , Jienalin Zhang (CHN) , Stefania Croce (ITA)
75 - Valentine Derrey (FRA) , Eleanor Givens (ENG) , Vikki Laing (SCO) , Yu-Ling Hsieh (TPE) , Carin Koch (SWE) , Caroline Martens (NOR) , Qi Tian (CHN) , Klara Spilkova (CZE) , Panpan Yan (CHN) , Noora Tamminen (FIN) , Sophie Giquel-bettan (FRA)
76 - Marion Ricordeau (FRA) , Ye-Na Chung (KOR) , Whitney Hillier (AUS) , Zi Li (CHN) , Gwladys Nocera (FRA) , Fabienne In-albon (SWI)
77 - Marianne Skarpnord (NOR) , Ann-Kathrin Lindner (GER) , Bomi Suh (KOR) , Stacy Lee Bregman (RSA) , Camilla Lennarth (SWE) , Jing Yan (CHN) , Isabelle Boineau (FRA) , Heather Macrae (SCO) , Wichanee Meechai (THA) , Christine Wolf (AUT) , Krista Bakker (FIN) , Chloe Leurquin (BEL) , Hye In Yeom (KOR) , Michelle Koh (MYS)
78 - Beth Allen (USA) , Kelsey Macdonald (SCO) , Maria Balikoeva (RUS) , Kylie Walker (SCO) , Becky Brewerton (WAL) , Pennapa Pulsawath (THA) , Hannah Burke (ENG) , Ji Hae Jang (KOR) , Amy Boulden (WAL)
79 - Su Oh (AUS) , Connie Chen (RSA) , Bree Arthur (AUS) , Leigh Whittaker (GER) , Saraporn Chamchoi (THA) , Ziqi Ye (CHN) , Wei Wei Zhang (CHN)
80 - Stephanie Na (AUS) , Karolin Lampert (GER) , Liz Young (ENG) , Sophie Gustafson (SWE) , So-Young Jang (KOR) , Holly Aitchison (ENG) , Wannasiri Sirisampant (THA) , Babe Liu (TPE) , Sally Watson (SCO)
81 - Meng-Chu Chen (TPE) , Sophie Sandolo (ITA) , Ajira Nualraksa (THA) , Carly Booth (SCO) , Hsuan-Ping Chang (TPE)
82 - Chantelle Cassidy (NZL) , Nina Holleder (GER) , Pimpadsorn Sangkagaro (THA)
83 - Steffi Kirchmayr (GER)
84 - Dan Ting Cai (CHN)
85 - Kusuma Meechai (THA)
photos Janos Schmidt