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Amundi Evian Championship: A leader with no luggage, a local trying not to care and two other Day 1 takeaways

July 27, 2023
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Paula Reto grabbed the opening-round lead at the Amundi Evian Championship with a seven-under 64.

Stuart Franklin

Soaking in the picturesque views of glistening Lake Geneva from the hillside Evian Resort Golf Club during the Amundi Evian Championship never gets old. Paula Reto, a 33-year-old making her fifth career Evian start, carded a seven-under-par 64 to claim a two-stroke lead with an eye toward the serene water.

"I had so much fun," Reto said. "This golf course is so fun, and the views and everything, it's just awesome to be here."

As the South African who won the 2022 CP Women's Open last August for her maiden LPGA title sits atop the leaderboard, a number of past tour winners are lurking after Day 1. New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, the 2015 Evian champ, and France’s Celine Boutier, a three-time LPGA winner, are two behind. Major champions Eun-Hee Ji and Yuka Saso are three back. The previous two Evian winners, Minjee Lee and Brooke Henderson, trail Reto by five strokes.

With drama already starting to bubble, here are our three takeaways from the first round of the Amundi Evian Championship.

Beware the golfer missing her luggage

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Stuart Franklin

Alison Lee might be going through a nightmare travel week, but it didn’t stop her from getting into contention with a five-under 66 Thursday. That score matched a her career-best major round, coming previously at the Evian in 2015. Lee tweeted on Tuesday that her luggage was stuck in Detroit for 40 hours and shared that she is still waiting for her clothes to arrive after her first round.

"I'm going to go track my suitcase [this afternoon] and make sure everything is there," Lee said. "Maybe take a little nap. I slept through the night last night so I might not have to do that. But I'm going to send Delta a pretty nasty email."

Lee, 28, credited her success at the Evian Resort to increased confidence on the greens. After last month’s KPMG Women's PGA Championship, where she finished T-52, her team noticed she was 15th on tour in strokes gained/tee to green but struggled with her flat stick. The American is 131st on tour in putting average this season. Lee hired a putting coach before the U.S. Women's Open, focusing on her mental approach over putts, speed and feel.

Despite dealing with nerves from seeing her name near the top of the leaderboard, Lee delivered with 25 putts and seven birdies Thursday, matching her season's best putting performance. "Making a few good putts gave me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the round," Lee said. "Every time I had a birdie chance, I really looked at it as if I can make this. That's what I said to myself."

The local who’s taking a foreign approach

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Stuart Franklin

Celine Boutier's five-under 66 Thursday is the best score in the first round by three strokes for the Frenchwoman at the Evian in seven career starts. Boutier sees the most significant difference this time around coming not from any technical change she made with her game but rather a mental one. Boutier purposely altered her mindset for her homeland's major this time, insisting she look at it as just another week rather than giving it more weight.

"You play mind games with yourself," Boutier said. "You just tell yourself you're not at home."

The new, more relaxed approach has Boutier sitting T-2, a jump compared to her past performances. In Boutier's six previously Evian starts, her best finish is T-29, done in 2014 and 2021. The Evian is the only major Boutier has not had a top-10 finish in her seven-year LPGA career.

Expectations for Boutier, 29, increased this year when she became the winningest French player in LPGA history with her third career victory in March at the Drive On Championship. She delivered with a consistent Thursday, hitting 15 greens in regulation and carding only one bogey to begin the championship.

There are, however, benefits to playing in a home major. Boutier felt the support of the local fans in Evian-Les-Bains, France, enjoying the additional cheering compared to a typical week on the LPGA. Boutier's family is watching this week, with her twin sister Christie attending for just the second time.

"I definitely feel like I haven't performed my best in the past at this tournament, so I'm just really eager to like try to change that this year," Boutier said.

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Stuart Franklin

Star turns in her best round of 2023

When you’re the No. 3 player in the Rolex Women's World Ranking, a bogey-free five-under 66 shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. The same holds true if you’ve had seven top-10s in nine starts at the Evian. Yet Lydia Ko’s year has been anything but predictable, as she’s posted just one top-10 (back in February) after being the LPGA’s Player of the Year in 2022.

Returning to a familiar course let Ko lean on positive thoughts, which translated into Ko shooting her lowest score of the year and her first major round in the 60s.

"I think the longer you play at a golf course you realize you make so many different memories, whether it's good or bad, and I think I try and draw on the good memories," Ko said.

Ko credited numerous par saves, such as a 10-footer on the 17th, to maintain her momentum. But it wasn't with her usual flat stick, as to her husband's surprise, Ko took her old Scotty Cameron putter out before the U.S. Women’s Open.

Ko's renowned short game remains immaculate, as she posted a clean card despite only hitting 11 greens in regulation and six of 13 fairways Thursday. The performance puts her in contention for her third major title, which in turn would lock up the last two points she needs to earn her spot in the LPGA's Hall of Fame.