28, February, 2019: No. 1-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn‘s 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole gave her a 4-under 68 and a five-way share of the first-round lead at the HSBC Women’s World Championship on Thursday.
Tied with Jutanugarn were No. 3 Minjee Lee, Amy Olson, Yu Liu and Celine Boutier, who won her first LPGA tournament three weeks ago at the Vic Open in Australia.
No. 2 Sun Hyun Park bogeyed 18 after hitting her approach into a bunker for a 69 to drop into a seven-way tie for sixth, one stroke behind the leaders.
After an eagle on the eighth, her second-last hole, Olson just missed a 30-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole.
“It’s not a long par 5 but it’s a very challenging approach shot from that far,” the American said of the eighth. “You can’t be short because you’ll be in the hazard, and then it’s a really tough bunker shot for that pin if you go over the green.
“I hit a really nice, high shot, so it would come in soft and it just ended up being perfect.”
Scoring conditions on Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong layout were difficult most of the day Thursday due to gusty winds and slick greens.
“They have been pretty fast, but it’s really tough because it’s really firm,” Jutanugarn said. “It’s so tough to hit like close to the pin. I missed lots of putts but also made a few putts.”
Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot 72, as did Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr. Nelly Korda, who won the Women’s Australian Open two weeks ago, had 74. Brooke Henderson dropped four shots in two holes on the eighth and ninth and had a 75.
A firm, fast and bouncy New Tanjong Course proved to be a tough test for the players in the first round on Thursday, but Minjee Lee and Ariya Jutanugarn rose to that challenge in the final grouping of the day. Rolex Rankings No. 3 Lee and No. 1 Jutanugarn, paired with second-ranked Sung Hyun Park in a heavyweight trio, matched one another by carding four-under 68s to end a sweltering afternoon in Singapore in a five-way share of the lead.
Despite the tough conditions, the long-hitting Jutanugarn delivered a sparkling display of golf from tee to green as she carded two birdies on each nine without making a single blemish.
Yu Liu is making a brilliant name for herself as a second-year LPGA Tour player. As a rookie, Liu finished in the top 10 three times with a career-best finish of third at the 2018 Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic. After the first round on Thursday, Liu holds a share of the lead with several top-ranked players in the world.
In fact, it was at this tournament 10 years ago, where Liu had her first glimpse of what would become her dream job—to be a professional golfer on the LPGA Tour.
Back then, Liu played a par-3 hole with some of the biggest names in the female game—former world number ones Lorena Ochoa and Yani Tseng and with that memorable experience as a youngster, Liu is making strides in growing the game for young children in China.
Amy Olson, the 26-year-old from North Dakota, carded a first-round 4-under-par 68 to finish on top of the leaderboard. Olson was 2-under after 16 holes before making a late move with an eagle on No. 8, her second-to-last hole of the day.
Course knowledge isn’t always a major advantage, and Celine Boutier proved that in impressive fashion on Thursday as she surged into a five-way tie for the lead with a birdie blitz on her back nine. The 25-year-old Frenchwoman, who had never seen the New Tanjong Course at Sentosa Golf Club until this week, reeled off five birdies in eight holes to shoot a four-under 68 in the opening round.