Leona Maguire’s bid to keep her Rookie of the Year hopes alive got off to a solid if unspectacular start after a two-under 70 in her opening round at the BMW Ladies Championship in Busan, Republic of Korea.
The Cavan ace mixed three birdies with one bogey at LPGA International Busan, although she will be frustrated by carding nine straight pars in her front nine to leave her tied-27th after day one, six shots back of leader Na Rin An.
Maguire needs to finish in the top-six in order to pick up enough points to keep the race alive, otherwise ANA Inspiration champion Patty Tavatanakit will secure possession of the Louise Suggs Trophy with two events to spare, with sixth place currently six-under.
The 26-year-old would have wanted to get off to a hot start, but instead she had to settle for the most consistent and solid of front nines – nine straight pars taking her back to the clubhouse exactly where she started the day.
But it was after the turn that the World No.46 sparked into life, back-to-back birdies to start her back nine getting her under-par and, despite a dropped shot at the 14th, she finished with a confidence-boosting birdie at the 18th to sign for a 70.
While there is no doubt Maguire will be going for the win first and foremost, it also leaves her having to make up a good bit of ground if she wants to get into the top-six, although she will not be panicking just yet given there is no cut in Busan and therefore she has three rounds to claw back the deficit.
The woman they’re all chasing is An, who rattled off nine birdies and just the one dropped shot at LPGA International to hold a one-shot advantage over In Gee Chun and Ju Young Pak after day one with an eight-under-par 64.
The World No.76, who is a regular contender each week on the Korean LPGA Tour, leads a locally-dominated leaderboard which has 13 Korean players inside the top-20 at the only event in this year’s LPGA Fall Series due to the impact of the coronavirus.
Chun and Pak are tucked in right behind the overnight leader after both fired 65s, while America’s Danielle Kang, whose father was born in Busan, is tied for fourth alongside A Lim Kim and Hae Ran Ryu after shooting a 66.
Meanwhile, it was a disappointing day for Jin Young Ko who saw her hopes of setting an LPGA Tour record for rounds in the 60s fall one round short following a one-under 71 in her opening round in South Korea.
Coming into the event, Ko had 14 straight rounds in the 60s, tying her with Annika Sorenstam and So Yeon Ryu for the most in Tour history, but while three birdies would have been enough for the record on her own, she also had two bogeys and will have to settle for a share of it instead.
Defending champion Ha Na Jang, who won the tournament in 2019, opened with a two-over 74.