BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Lydia Ko tried to conserve her energy after her victory last weekend in the LPGA Tour's season opener, but she clearly did enough to keep her game sharp.
The former world No. 1 shot a 6-under 65 on Thursday to share the first-round lead with Nelly Korda at the LPGA Drive on Championship.
Nanna Koerstz Madsen was one shot back, and second-ranked Ruoning Yin was part of a big group at 67 that included another past major champion, Sei Young Kim.
Ko's victory on her home course at Lake Nona was her first since 2022. She had a 45-minute lesson with her Korea-based coach on Monday, then made the roughly 2 1/2-hour drive to Bradenton Country Club on the Gulf Coast.
"Yeah, you are obviously coming in with good momentum, and it's nice that we're going from Florida to Florida. It's not like we're in Florida and then we're having to go to Houston or anything like that," Ko said. "So it's nice that we can play a couple weeks and it's a drive for me, because I live in Orlando. Just makes the start of the season stress free."
Ko, who started on the back nine, made the turn in 2 under — thanks in part to a chip-in birdie — and closed with consecutive birdies to match Korda, who played in the morning. She said the wind died down late in the day, making the closing stretch easier.
Korda is another former No. 1 who went winless on the LPGA Tour last year — a campaign that was interrupted by a back injury. She opened with a bogey but played her next nine holes in 6 under.
Playing in front of enthusiastic galleries in her hometown, Korda birdied the second and third holes to get into red figures, then stayed aggressive in gusty wind. Her second shot into the par-5 eighth hole was as good as it gets.
"Gosh, I think I had 257 into the pin and hit my 3-wood really good," she said. The wind "was helping off the left. Played it nicely off the slope to a tap-in."