Lydia Ko has found form at the right time, opening the Evian Championship in France with a five-under 65 to sit in a share of second place after the first round.
Ko, who won the event in 2015 for her first major, has just one top 30 finish this season on the LPGA Tour. But the world No 3 set the tone early in the fourth major of the year to be two shots back from South Africa’s Paula Reto.
Starting on the back nine, Ko was one-under through the turn before picking up four more birdies on the front nine, and praised her new putter, which she started using at the US Open, for vaulting up the leaderboard after a sluggish start.
“On my first nine. I was scrambling to make a lot of pars,” Ko said. “It wasn’t the smoothest start, but when I was in trouble I was able to make good up and downs.
“I didn’t think I would move or change to a different putter. But it kind of looked good and rolled good, and that’s what’s most important.
“Even my husband said ‘I didn’t expect you to have that putter’, but it’s been really good. I know the putter is going to get hot and some days it’s not the case.
“But you try to take advantage of those days that you feel like you’re rolling it good.”
She did that today, and was pleased to be back in the mix.
“All in all it was solid. Even though things may not be 100 per cent, that’s part of the game. You’re trying to shoot the best score you can, and sometimes it may not look pretty on the scorecard.
“I didn’t have the greatest start with my long game, so making those par saves, I wasn’t losing shots even though I wasn’t putting myself in good positions.
“I was really patient out there and that is such a big key at any event, but especially at major championships. It’s 72 holes of golf and it requires a lot of patience.”
Ko is tied for second alongside world No 15 Celine Boutier, No 64 Alison Lee, and No 182 Wichanee Meechai — who recovered from a bogey and a double bogey early on. They’re all chasing world No 81 Reto, whose stellar round was perhaps surprising because she has only won one tournament on the LPGA Tour and has never placed higher than 18th at a major championship.
“I had so much fun,” Reto said. “The views and everything, it’s just awesome to be here. I hit some good quality shots beginning of the round and just gave myself opportunities.
“You never know out here with this golf course. Anything is possible.”
A group of nine players are three shots behind Reto at four-under including Yuka Saso, Hae Ran Ryu, A Lim Kim and Ally Ewing, while defending champion Brooke Henderson, who won in a wild finale last year for her second career major, carded a two-under 69.
Angela Stanford, the 2018 champion, and Minjee Lee, who won the 2021 tournament in a sudden-death playoff, joined Henderson amid a big group all on 69 which also included rising phenom Rose Zhang.
That put them one stroke ahead of world No 1 Jin Young Ko and No 2 Nelly Korda, and Ireland’s Leona Maguire, a recent winner on the LPGA Tour.
Ruoning Yin fared poorly on her Evian debut with 73. Last month, she became the second woman from China to win a major at the PGA Championship but the 20-year-old had a double bogey on the 12th along with three birdies and three bogeys.
On the PGA Tour, Ryan Fox struggled with a two-over 72 to sit in a tie for 122nd at the 3M Open, 10 shots off the lead held by Lee Hodges.