Shanghai, May 13 (IANS) Ladies European Tour (LET) players topped the leaderboard during the opening round of the Buick Championship as England’s Melissa Reid, Wales’ Becky Morgan and South African Nicole Garcia shot rounds of four-under 68 to share a one-stroke lead at the China LPGA Tour co-sponsored tournament.
Chinese amateur Ji Yifan was one shot back at 69 on Thursday with compatriot Yang Taoli, American Beth Allen, England’s Liz Young, Swede Lina Boqvist, South African Stacy Lee Bregman, Russian Maria Verchenova and South Korean star Choi Yeon-na at the $600,000 championship being held at Shanghai Qizhong Garden Golf Club, reports Xinhua.
Defending champion Feng Shanshan, the world No. 10 and highest ranked player in the field, struggled to a 71 with three bogeys over her final eight holes, tied for equal 15th with fellow Chinese and US LPGA Tour regular Lin Xiyu.
After arriving on Wednesday and having little preparation for the 72-hole tournament, Reid, a winner of five LET tournaments, shook off her jet-lag and held it together to post an erratic round that featured seven birdies and three bogeys.
“My goal today was to have clarity on every single shot and I felt like I did that quite well. I backed off a couple of shots, which was good and got the putter going,” the 28-year-old Derby native said.
“I missed a couple of short putts coming in but overall I’m satisfied. I woke up at 4am so I was asleep at 8.30pm last night because of jet-lag. It’s the way forward.”
Garcia, a third-year pro who is looking for her first win on the LET circuit, carded a birdie three at the last hole to grab a share of the lead.
“I haven’t shot under par for a long time so I’m really happy. I started well and got a bit of momentum. I really like the course and it suits me,” the 26-year-old said.
“The greens are fantastic. I haven’t been putting well lately but today it was better and I was at least starting it on line. On these greens, if you hit it on line, it’s going to go in. I’ve been working really hard on my putting and it’s only starting to get better now.”
Morgan, who plays full-time on the US LPGA Tour, put together a strong back nine that included five birdies after posting two bogeys in her opening four holes.
“The front nine today was a learning experience, which was fine. I played okay but it was playing long for me because I’m not one of the longer hitters. I was hitting hybrids into some of the par fours but hit good shots,” said the 41-year-old who is still looking for her first pro win.
China No. 1 Feng started her day from the 10th hole at Shanghai Qizhong and was two-under 34 through nine holes. After consecutive bogeys on holes two and three, she bounced back with birdies at six and seven and then dropped another shot with a bogey five at the eighth.
“The greens are harder than last year, it’s difficult to approach the edge of the hole. There are some problems for reading the greens that resulted in missing some putts,” said Shanshan, China’s top Olympic hope at the upcoming Rio Games.
“I have many times experienced defending a title. I learned a lot. The opening round result is acceptable. There are three more days to go, anything could happen. I will keep my patience and focus on my game.”
Yang, winner of the 2009 Order of Merit, rolled back the clock to show some of her old form that helped her dominate in the early years of the China LPGA Tour. The 33-year-old is playing in only her second tournament since returning from a three-year absence where she took time off to get married and have a child.
The Sichuan native, who carded four birdies and bogey, said she didn’t feel physically and mentally ready for her return at the Zhuhai Hengqin Phoenix Tree Building Challenge in March and had since been training at home to take her comeback more seriously.
“I tried to do more training after going back to home. It did work and my state is getting better, which makes me have more confidence,” said the three-time winner on the China LPGA Tour.
“It feels good to see my name on the leaderboard again and to recall the old times what I experienced. Hope I can keep this up through the week.”