In her debut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Stephanie Kyriacou shined with a bogey-free 65 to hold her first 18-hole lead on the LPGA Tour at -6. The Australian’s round is not only the lowest opening score in her Tour career but also a career-best since participating in her first LPGA Tour event, the 2019 ISPS Handa Vic Open. The 65 is only her second sub-70 round this season, with her first in the JTBC Classic.
“I just took three weeks off, so I think being able to just take some time off, work on some things, and then come out with a bit more confidence was definitely part of it,” said Kyriacou, who made six birdies on the day, including four on Nos. 3-9. “But I don't know, I just didn't really make a mistake. When I missed the green I made up and down. It was just fun to play today.”
Kyriacou, a two-time Ladies European Tour winner, came into Galloway, N.J. having missed the cut in her last three events and hasn’t played since the Cognizant Founders Cup. Her season-best result is a tie for 26th at the LOTTE Championship. Heading into the week, the 2022 Tour rookie got some tips from 2013 ShopRite LPGA Classic champion and LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member, Karrie Webb.
“I kind of just asked what she did when she struggled with nerves in her prime, because you tend to get a bit nervous, like everyone does,” Kyriacou said. “I just asked how she coped with it and she gave me a few tips and looks like it worked out there.”
One stroke back of the lead is Epson Tour winner Frida Kinhult at -5, who finished in a tie for 24th at last week’s U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica, her second-best result of 2022. Kinhult started on No. 10 and posted four birdies, one bogey and concluded her round with an eagle on the par-5 ninth.
“It was really good tee-to-green all day. Felt really good to finally drop that one on the last. I had I think three lip-outs today, so I felt good to pin with one in the middle of the hole,” said Kinhult, who hit a 3-wood about 230 yards to about 13 feet to make the eagle. “No, it's great. I played really, really solid out there. So I hit a lot of fairways and greens and managed to make a couple putts.”
Major champions Brooke Henderson and Jin Young Ko, as well as New Jersey native Marina Alex and Dottie Ardina, are in hot pursuit of Kyriacou and Kinhult in a tie for third at -4. Henderson recorded her first bogey-free score since the third round of the Chevron Championship and said she feels comfortable at the Bay Course, having never missed a cut in the event in seven appearances.
“Today was a great start. Birdied the first hole, and that always helps you settle in a little bit.
It was fun. I was just trying to make as many birdies as I could. No bogeys on card, so that's also a bonus,” said Henderson, who finished in a tie for second in 2021 at Seaview. “Hopefully tomorrow can go out and continue similar game plan, try and make some birdies, and see what happens.”
There are 13 players tied for seventh at -3, including major champions Cristie Kerr, Jeongeun Lee6 and Pernilla Lindberg, along with LPGA Tour winners Meaghan Francella, Nasa Hataoka and Caroline Masson. Defending champion Celine Boutier and 2020 winner Mel Reid are among those in a tie for 35th at -1.