Thailand’s emergent star Ariya Jutanugarn opened her Olympic bid and continued pursuit of an LPGA player of the year award with a six-under par 65 to take the early lead in the women’s competition.
Jutanugarn, whose four victories on the LPGA this year include the Rico Women’s British Open, had seven birdies and an eagle on the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro.
“Today was pretty good,” she said. Have double [bogey] on number four, one bad tee shot. Really excited, but just really want to focus on what I have to do, so I’m not really nervous.”
Korea’s Inbee Park, meanwhile, isn’t usually a surprise contender in a Hall of Fame career, but her round of five-under par 66, one back of Jutanugarn, is an exception. It was the lowest score of the year for Park, who trails leader Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand by a stroke at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro.
Park was playing only her fifth competitive round in four months and first since missing the cut in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on June 10 in a year in which her starts have been limited by a thumb injury with which she still has to deal.
“I’ve prepared very hard for this event,” Park said. “Obviously it was a great round. My ball-striking was really good today. I probably left a couple of putts out there. My confidence level is much better after today’s round."
Her fellow Korean Seiyoung Kim also posted a five-under par 66.
Lydia Ko, No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings, posted a two-under par 69 that included her holing a 9-iron from 135 yards for eagle on her second shot on the 15th hole.
Lexi Thompson was the low American, posting a three-under par 68 that has her tied for seventh. “Overall I played pretty well,” she said. “I had a stretch of holes where I didn’t hit it so good and had to scramble to make pars, but I also had a good stretch where I hit it very well.”
Gerina Piller, meanwhile, shot a two-under par 69, while Stacy Lewis had a one-under 70.