NAPLES, Fla. — Lydia Ko started her quest for the biggest prize in girls’s golf historical past by hitting a tree and making bogey on a par 5. The remainder of Thursday within the CME Group Tour Championship could not have gone higher.
Ko responded with eight birdies, together with 4 in a row late within the spherical at Tiburon Golf Membership, that despatched her to a 7-under 65 and a one-shot lead within the LPGA Tour season finale.
A lot as at stake this week, even past the $2 million prize to the winner.
Ko has a one-point lead within the race for LPGA Tour participant of the yr. She would seem like a lock to win the Vare Trophy for the bottom scoring common. Each are value a degree in her bid to qualify for the LPGA Corridor of Fame.
“If I am holding the trophy, holding all of the trophies or no trophy … I simply wish to have a very good week,” Ko mentioned. “These alternatives do not come alongside fairly often. I wish to attempt to seize it when it is there.”
It is all proper in entrance of Ko, who has two wins in what she considers her most constant yr on the LPGA Tour.
And proper behind are loads of challengers.
Danielle Kang and Pajaree Anannarukarn of Thailand had been at 66, Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland and Hyo Joo Kim of South Korea had been at 67 and the group at 68 included Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson.
Korda missed 4 months earlier this yr due to surgical procedure for a blood clot in her left arm. She lastly is again to full energy, and her victory final week up the coast at Pelican Golf Membership allowed her to return to No. 1 within the girls’s world rating.
Henderson needed to withdraw final week with again ache, and the Canadian wasn’t even certain she would be capable to play. However she made an adjustment in her swing, and it allowed her to get round Tiburon with a good 68.
Henderson has an out of doors shot at participant of the yr, although she must win and have Ko and Minjee Lee end third or worse.
Lee, who already has set an LPGA Tour file with $3.7 million in earnings this season, opened with a 71. Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand, the 19-year-old who reached No. 1 on this planet till Korda took it again, had a 73.
Ko might solely snicker at her begin of the event by hitting a tree.
“It is nearly like I had two tee photographs,” he mentioned. “Though I bogeyed a par 5, I knew loads of holes had been going to play downwind. I attempted to not get too pissed off. The primary 4 holes into the wind are a beast. I knew if I might grasp on and be affected person, there could be numerous alternatives.
“I used to be capable of seize numerous them on the again 9.”
And that began with a par. She was fast on a chip from simply off the thirteenth inexperienced and watched it run some 12 toes by the outlet. Ko made the par putt, and he or she was off and working, making 4 straight birdies. It helped that two had been par 5s.
Korda gave up a straightforward birdie likelihood on the par-5 seventeenth when she drove it so lengthy she had solely 159 yards left. However she got here up nicely quick and didn’t get up-and-down. That was a product of what she known as getting fooled too usually by the top.
Korda had an opportunity in any respect the awards final yr till Jin Younger Ko beat her, making it the third straight yr the South Korean star had received at Tiburon.
Making it 4 in a row can be troublesome. Jin Younger Ko opened with a 72 as she continues to take care of an ailing left wrist.