(Reuters) – Defending champion Anna Nordqvist overcame a poor start with nine birdies in her last 12 holes for a seven-under-par 64 and a share of the first-round lead at the Shoprite LPGA Classic on Friday in New Jersey.
Nordqvist bogeyed two of her first three holes after starting out on a breezy morning by the shore but ran off four birdies in a row from her seventh hole, sandwiching two six-footers with a pair of one-foot tap-ins.
Tied with the Swede were Japan’s Ai Miyazato and South African Paula Reto, with Haru Nomura of Japan, Scottish veteran Catriona Matthew and American Casey Grice one shot back on 65.
The 54-hole event looms as a wide open battle as many top players, including world number one Lydia Ko and red-hot Thai Ariya Jutanugarn, winner of the last three LPGA tourneys, are taking the week off ahead of the Women’s PGA Championship.
Nordqvist, whose five LPGA titles include the 2009 LPGA Championship major, said the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, Bay Course in Galloway suited her game.
“This place obviously has a lot of good memories for me, being the defending champ,” the Swede told Golf Channel.
“I like this place. My iron game is my strength and the greens here are pretty small and it’s usually windy, so it fits my game.”
Miyazato, ranked 85th, is feeling good about being in contention and about her game, which yielded an eagle on the par-five third hole.
“Since the beginning of this year, my game was in good shape and all I can do is just to be patient,” she said. “But finally I could see some momentum in my score.”
Reto, looking for her first LPGA Tour win, was delighted after closing with birdies on four of her last five holes.
“I’m really excited,” the South African said. “I played good today, steady, especially with irons and putting…
“I’m really happy and I’m excited to come back out tomorrow morning.”
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)