Americans Danielle Kang and Amy Olson are tied for the lead along with Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn and Germany’s Caroline Masson after each shot 6-under-par rounds of 66 during the first round of the Volvik Championship in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Thursday.
Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free round during the morning wave at Travis Pointe Country Club, where she was paired with Masson.
“We had a lot of fun out there,” said Jutanugarn, who earned her first career LPGA Tour victory earlier this year at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. “I had fun, too, seeing the people make the putts. It’s really fun to see the ball go in the hole, and then it’s something that drives you to play good as well.
“It was a really solid day for me. I hit a lot of good shots out there, and trying to stay patient.”
Olson is ranked 114th in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but said this is her favorite stretch of the season. The North Dakota native tied for ninth at this year’s ANA Inspiration and holds the NCAA individual record with 20 victories while starring at North Dakota State University.
“It’s a lot of fun obviously to make some birdies out there and be in this position,” Olson said. “Honestly, I didn’t feel quite confident with my swing out there. Hit a lot of great shots, but definitely going to go work on some things.”
Kang’s bogey-free round included a trio of birdies on both nines.
“Today went really steady,” she said. “I think this golf course suits my game just because I can stay aggressive, and I’m a very aggressive player. I’m just attacking a lot pins and trying to put some good rolls on the ball and hope that it drops.
“My favorite type of golf is aggressive golf, so if I can keep that going, I like it.”
A logjam of seven players one shot off the lead includes Japan’s Nasa Hataoka and Americans Megan Khang and Jessica Korda, who leads the LPGA Tour in scoring average this season. Jutanugarn’s sister, Ariya, is tied for 18th at 3 under. She won the inaugural Volvik Championship in 2016 and is coming off her first victory of the year at the Kingsmill Championship.
Christina Kim, who holds the 18-hole scoring record of 8-under set in 2016, is also at 3 under.
Defending champion Shanshan Feng, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings, struggled to a 2-over 74 on Thursday and the Chinese star is tied for 104th. Fourth-ranked Sung Hyun Park from Korea is another shot back at 3 over.
NOTES: This is the final week for players to earn a spot in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. Five spots remain open in the 156-player field, with this week’s winner earning a full exemption. The top 50 players in the world rankings after this week will also receive spots in the year’s second major if not already exempt. … The winner will take home $195,000 of the $1.3 million purse. … Feng set the tournament scoring record with her winning total of 19-under 269 last year. … Ariya Jutanugarn leads this year’s money list with $771,390. She also leads the Tour with eight top-10 finishes. … The first 12 tournaments this year have been won by 12 different players.
–Field Level Media