Seventeen-year-old Ariya Jutanugarn fired an 8-under 64 on Wednesday to take the first-round lead at the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. Jutanugarn made seven birdies, one eagle and one bogey en route to tying the tournament record of 64. The Thailand native leads Rolex Rankings No. 6 Suzann Pettersen and 2011 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Hee Kyung Seo by one shot after both fired rounds of 65 at Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, Hawaii.
“I have like really good front nine, but I just want to like make more birdies because my record is 8‑under, so I want to be lower,” said Jutanugarn, who shot 30 on the front nine. “When I have bogey on No. 10 I feel not very confident with my putting. So when I have eagle [on the 14th], it make me like more confidence.”
Jutanugarn is a rookie on the Ladies European Tour and recently won her first professional event on the LET in Morrocco. She earned one of the final two spots in this week’s event by winning the Sunday qualifier with a score of 68. The youngster is no stranger to LPGA fans, as she came within one hole of capturing a victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand back in February. Jutanugarn made a triple-bogey on the 72nd hole to lose to Inbee Park in her home country by one stroke.
Jutanugarn set the pace for the field Wednesday but on a day when the winds were blowing far less than is typical in Hawaii, many players were able to take advantage of the favorable scoring conditions. A total of 77 players finished under par in Wednesday’s opening round and there were 15 players who shot 68-or-lower.
“A bit unusual wind [for here],” Pettersen said of the winds which blew at about 3-5 mph early in the day. “I mean, it's very playable. The wind kind of changed a little bit on the back, on our front nine, which was the back nine, which makes actually the two par‑5s on the back reachable.”
Newly crowned Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park fired a 2-under 70 and sits six shots back of the leader, Jutanugarn. The two other players who have an opportunity to take over No. 1 this week, Stacy Lewis and Yani Tseng, shot rounds of 67 and 71 respectively on Wednesday. Tseng must win this week to have any shot of regaining the No. 1 ranking which she held for 109 consecutive weeks prior to Lewis taking it over on March 18. Lewis, who lost the top spot on Monday to Park, must finish at least sixth or better to have a chance at moving up a spot in the rankings and she would automatically take over the No. 1 spot with a victory this week.
“I think it's good for the Tour when players are going back and forth and creating scenarios of if so‑and‑so wins they could be No. 1. I like that,” Lewis said. “I don't want to say it's easier, but it's fun now. You're checking what Yani is doing, you're checking what Inbee is doing. I think it's a good thing for the Tour.”
Topics: LPGA Lotte Championship