SINGAPORE (AP) — Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa began her season by firing six birdies to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the inaugural $2 million HSBC Women’s Champions tournament on Thursday.
Ochoa had no bogeys to finish 6-under 66 at Asia’s richest women’s golf event at Tanah Merah Country Club.
“It was one of those days that I was getting the ball and making good contact especially, had a lot of birdie chances,” Ochoa said. “It was a great start.”
Ochoa was confident of her form after taking a break in December and starting practice in January.
“I am 100 percent ready to go,” she said. “It’s why I took a few more weeks to practice and why I am here.”
American Paula Creamer and Japan’s Ai Miyazato both had six birdies and a bogey to share second place, a stroke behind Ochoa.
Creamer, who won the Fields Open last weekend, compensated for some missed putts with impressive birdies from 15 and 20 feet.
“I missed a lot of putts … but the ones that I holed were fairly big breakers,” she said. “There’s not many straight putts that you have out there.”
Miyazato also noted that the par-72, 7062-yard Garden course was challenging.
“It’s pretty tough,” Miyazato said. “The fairways are narrow and the greens are sloppy, but the good thing is I can concentrate on hitting my shots. The shots felt really nice.”
The tournament’s field of 78 players features 18 of the top 20 players in the world vying for a top prize of $300,000.
Linda Wessberg of Sweden was two strokes off the lead at 4-under 68, along with South Koreans Kim In-kyung and Lee Jee-young.
Former No. 1 Annika Sorenstam had three birdies and two bogeys to finish 1-under 71 and shared 19th place.
Sorenstam won her 70th LPGA Tour title at the SBS Open this month in Hawaii, ending a 17-month title drought and vaulting her two spots to No. 2 in the world.
Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who had a breakout season last year with five wins including the LPGA Championship, had one birdie and a bogey to finish even par, six strokes off the lead.
Australia’s Karrie Webb had a 3-under 69 and shared seventh place.