Mehaffey just five back after solid Portland opener

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Mehaffey just five back after solid Portland opener

Olivia Mehaffey (Photo By John Dickson/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Olivia Mehaffey looked right at home on her first LPGA Tour appearance as a professional on U.S. soil, holding her own with a one-over par 73 on a tough opening day at the Cambia Portland Classic.

Looking to take advantage of an invite to the $1.4million tournament being played at Oregon Golf Club, Mehaffey opened her account with an impressive birdie at the first before bogeys at 7 and 8, birdies at 11 and 12 and bogeys at 15 and 16 all added up to 73, leaving the Royal County Down and Tandragee star sharing 42nd spot, just five strokes from the lead.

It’s a solid start for Mehaffey who has already impressed since turning pro at the tri-sanctioned World Invitational held at Galgorm Castle and Massereene where she delighted home crowds with a tied-17th finish before safely advancing through to Stage Two of LPGA Q-School set for October.

Her one-over par start also outshone compatriot Stephanie Meadow by two strokes in Oregan with the Jordanstown professional bookending her round of 75 with birdies. Meadow finds herself on the projected cut-line at plus-three, however, having also carded three bogeys and a double.

Meanwhile, on a picture-perfect fall day in Portland, three players shot to the top of the leaderboard after round one. Fresh off playing for the victorious European team at the Solheim Cup two weeks ago, Spain’s Carlota Ciganda continued her winning ways, shooting an opening-round 68 to join Pajaree Anannarukarn and Gemma Dryburgh for the lead at Oregon Golf Club, playing in the first non-major LPGA Tour event since the first week in August.

Ciganda’s 68, which tied the best opening round of her eight appearances in Portland, featured seven birdies to go with one bogey and one double bogey. She admitted to still feeling fatigued from the week in Toledo, but after a week of rest at home in Phoenix, she was ready to get back on the course.

“I only played here on Tuesday, no Pro-Am, so I think it was nice to have the day off yesterday as well. No golf on the course,” said Ciganda, who is winless since taking two victories in 2016. “I feel good. Trying to take that momentum from the Solheim and have that here, hit good shots, and try my best.”

Prior to today, Dryburgh had not hit a ball in competition in three weeks, last teeing it up at the AIG Women’s Open. Buoyed by a hole out for eagle on No. 7, the Scottish player holds a first-round lead for the second time this season, joining the ISPS Handa World Invitational in August.

“Just hit a little gap wedge. Hit it pretty perfect,” said Dryburgh of her shot on the seventh hole. “Actually I thought it was going long when I saw it on the green, but it just landed perfectly just short of the pin and rolled right in like a little putt, so it was perfect.”

While Dryburgh was the first-round leader in Northern Ireland, it was Anannarukarn who ultimately took the win. She again finds herself in contention in a chilly climate, battling through a blustery afternoon with five birdies and one bogey on Thursday.

“I definitely learned a lot from today. I miss some fairways out there. I try to probably be more focused and concentrate on my tee shots,” said Anannarukarn, who has been in Portland for three weeks visiting a friend and enjoying the break from competition. “Hopefully will hit some better drive tomorrow and give myself some really good opportunities out there.”

Six players are tied for fourth at -3, including Rolex Rankings No. 2 Jin Young Ko, who is playing for the first time since representing Korea at the Olympics in August. Two-time Cambia Portland Classic winner Brooke Henderson is one of five players tied for 10th at -2, a group that includes 57-year-old Laura Davies.

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