Jutanugarn shoots 66 to lead in Shanghai

Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under-par 66 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead in the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

The No. 2 player in the Rolex Rankings carded six birdies during a bogey-free round in the inaugural event at the Qizhong Garden Golf Club. Jutanugarn leads by one shot over American Danielle Kang and South Korea’s Sei Young Kim.

Jutanugarn leads the LPGA Tour’s money list with $2.36 million, leads the Tour in scoring average (69.384) and leads the CME Race to the Globe as she attempts to catch South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park for the No. 1 ranking by the end of the year. Park is tied for 41st after shooting a 73 on Thursday.

“I always have so much fun when I play in Asia,” Jutanugarn said. “Really looking forward to come back here again. What the key I think just not expect anything. Just go out have fun and enjoy everything.”

Creamer taking advantage

American Paula Creamer, playing on a sponsor’s invite, is one of six players tied for fourth place at 4 under.

“I have had so many up and downs, but it was good out there and play good golf,” said Creamer, who has fallen to No. 214 in the rankings.

The top 62 players in the LPGA Money List qualified for the event, followed by 15 players from the China Ladies Professional Golf Association (CLPGA) and four sponsors invites — the other three being amateurs.

Shanshan Feng, who became the first player from China to claim the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings last year, entered this week at No. 9 but struggled to an even par 72 on Thursday. Wenbo Liu, a 17-year-old who plays on the CLPGA, carded the best round by a Chinese player and is in the group at 4 under, while LPGA Tour rookie Yu Liu is one of seven players another shot back.

“I used to like watching LPGA a lot because the Golf Channel in China, they have coverage every week,” said Yu Liu. “I used to be the one sitting in front of the TV.”

Packed leaderboard

Americans Brittany Lincicome, Annie Park and Jane Park, Australia’s Su Oh, Tapei’s Wei-Ling Hsu and former No. 1 So Yeon Ryu of South Korea are also in the group at 3 under.

Kang is coming off a tie for third at last week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, where the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA champion was tied for the lead entering the final round. She has shot in the 60s in four of her past five rounds.

“Today’s round went very smooth,” Kang said. “Coming off a very good momentum after last week and I’ve been hitting the ball really well, playing great. Just been trusting my game and just kept giving myself birdie chances. They kept rolling in. Excited for this week.”

–Field Level Media