It’s a tight leaderboard at the end of the first round of the ISPS HANDA World Invitational Presented by AVIV Clinics with four players in a share of the lead.
Switzerland’s Kim Metraux, England’s Gabriella Cowley, Sweden’s Ellinor Sudow and Australia’s Karis Davidson all fired rounds of 69 (-4) at Castlerock to be out in front.
It was a steady day for Swiss star Metraux, who only had one dropped shot on her card and rolled in five birdies.
“Just overall a really solid day,” said Metraux. “I started off well with a birdie on one and that kind of got me going through the round.
“I managed to not really miss many greens. The only one I missed was when I made bogey on 15. I was a bit unfortunate to make a bogey on a reachable par-five, but overall I was just really solid from tee to green and managed to drop a few putts, which was really nice.
“Links is definitely something different than what we play year long, but we did play Scottish two weeks ago. That kind was good preparation I guess for today and most of the tournaments we play on LET, although not links courses, we've had quite a windy season.
“Galgorm is very different from here. It's like two completely different worlds. A lot softer course with thick rough, so it’s definitely a different challenge, but if I keep hitting fairways and greens we'll be in good shape.”
England’s Cowley got off to a solid start making birdies on the third, eighth, 10th and 11th holes.
The 27-year-old dropped a shot on the 13th but soon bounced back with birdies on 15 and 17, but unfortunately found trouble on the last and ended with a bogey for her round of four-under.
Cowley explained: “For my birdie on 10, it was playing quite tough into the wind. I hit a really good drive and hit 5-iron and it was just perfect; I holed a good putt. I made a few birdies today which was nice.
“Being on a links course it was windy this afternoon, so I was just trying to manage the ball flight and the kind of shots that we're trying to hit. I think the course was playing tough, but there were obviously a few par-fives that we can reach which was good for us.
“I like Galgorm. I played there for the last few years, so looking forward to tomorrow. My plan is similar to today. Trust what I'm doing and hit the shots that I need to hit and play good golf.
“Obviously completely different course, completely different style. It's not so much managing how much it runs out and how much the wind will affect it. It's about picking a good number and committing to it.”
LPGA Tour rookie Sudow was part of the morning wave and made the most of the better conditions at Castlerock.
The Swede began with a birdie at the first and made another at the fifth before dropping a shot on the sixth.
Sudow rolled in birdies on eight and 12 but also dropped shots on 10 and 13, however, she finished with a flourish making three birdies in her last four holes for her round of 69.
“I loved my birdie on 15,” said the 25-year-old. “I went for it in two and end up really nicely there and it was a two-putt for birdie. That was a good one. A lot of good putting overall, so that was really fun.
“I love links golf. This is my second time playing links golf. I just think it's so much fun with the wind and everything. It's beautiful. You get an advantage if you drive it well and then putting is just great. I love it.
“I haven't been playing great this year so this is really nice. I kind of need it both for confidence. At Galgorm, it's going to be a little bit quicker greens and thicker rough. The rough is going to be really, really hard.
“I think it's going to rain as well, so then it's going to be tough if you don't drive it well. It’s just about making smart decisions, picking good lines. That will be the key to playing good there.”
While Australia’s Davidson began her round with a birdie before dropping a shot on the second, but she soon made another birdie on the third.
The 25-year-old then rolled in back-to-back birdies on holes five and six before making another on 17th to be a co-leader after 18 holes.
Davidson said: “The back nine was quite windy so it was just grinding away. Front nine I holed a couple long putts, which was nice, and obviously teeing off we got a little bit fortunate that the wind wasn't too strong. The birdie on 17 was really good as well.
“Galgorm is playing really soft so you can definitely be a little bit more aggressive at pins. The greens are a little bit quicker, so it's quite a different golf course. I'm looking forward to the challenge.”
One shot further back are four players with France’s Anne-Charlotte Mora, Wales’ Chloe Williams, England’s Bronte Law and Sweden’s Daniela Holmqvist all on three-under-par.
Much like the first four names on the leaderboard, the next four all played their opening round on the Links Golf at Castlerock.
It was quite the round of 70 (-3) for Williams who made one bogey in her first nine holes, before making another on hole 10.
However, the Welshwoman bounced back with a birdie on 11 followed by birdie-birdie-eagle on holes 15, 16 and 17 to be three-under-par.
Williams explained: “It got really windy out there towards the end. Judging downwind was quite strong so I just stayed patient. I knew there were a few par-five chances that were going to play a lot shorter, so I took advantage of those.
“For the eagle on 17, I went with driver off the tee, which was kind of risk-reward, but I knew if I could get it as far down there as possible, I would only be going in with like a 9-iron.
“I ended up hitting a small wedge into there, which was obviously a lot easier with a fuller shot, but having the spin so I could stop it downwind. It was quite an in-between kind of shot, so I just fully committed and came up nicely there. It pitched like 20 yards short of the pin and released up to about three feet.”
There are four players in a share of ninth place with Sweden’s Moa Folke, Germany’s Patricia Isabel Schmidt, American Marissa Steen and Thailand’s Wichanee Meechai on two-under-par.
In the men’s competition, England’s Daniel Brown leads the way after firing a round of 64 (-7) at Castlerock with four players two shots behind in a tie for second place.
The second round begins at 7.30 am (local time) where the players will compete on the course they did not play today.