New Zealand golfer Lydia Ko has started her 2021 LPGA Tour season in superb style, firing a stunning opening round at the Gainbridge Championship.
Ko, who finished a challenging 2020 tour with four top-10 finishes, posted an eagle, six birdies and a bogey in a seven-under round of 65 to lead the field by two shots.
Two players sit in a tie for second place - Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Nelly Korda - while seven players are in a share of fourth place at four-under in a stacked leaderboard.
After a pre-season that included a six-week break in South Korea where she had surgery on a deviated septum, Ko's performance at her home course – the Lake Nona Golf and Country Club - was both surprising and encouraging ahead of a 2021 season she hopes will include a trip to the Olympics.
Ko says despite the lack of preparation, she did manage to get some specific practice which shone through with a hole-out for eagle on the opening hole.
"I tried to work on my ball striking a little bit. I obviously didn't have a lot of time coming into this week. I wish I had like a month plus to make sure that my whole game is there.
"I felt like we were moving in the right direction, but I was talking to [coach] Sean [Foley], and he said 'just be patient out there'. I think that's going to be a big key."
Despite Lake Nona being her home course, Ko believed her opening round was the best she'd played on what was a challenging set of holes.
"Hands down. I think this is probably my best score around here.
"But I think it's a pretty tricky golf course and the greens are subtle in some areas. I think that makes it extra tricky."
Ko's drought without a victory, which she went close to breaking last year in finishing runner-up at the Marathon Classic in Ohio, will be three years in April.
But with today's impressive opening round, her chances of breaking that drought have been significantly raised.