Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand hits her second shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Kingsmill Championship presented by Geico on the River Course at Kingsmill Resort on May 17, 2018 in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand hits her second shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Kingsmill Championship presented by Geico on the River Course at Kingsmill Resort on May 17, 2018 in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Ex-champion Ariya falls a short behind pack of leaders

sports May 18, 2018 09:10

By The Nation

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2016 champion Ariya Jutanugarn carded an opening 66 to trail leaders by one stroke after the first round of the US LPGA's Kingsmill Championship on Thursday.



The 22-year-old Ariya who won one of her first three LPGA titles at the Kingsmill Resort River Course fired seven birdies before stumbling to a double bogey on the 16th hole to share the sixth spot with Nasa Hataoka of Japan.

American Jessica Korda, who teed off in the morning session, took advantage of calmer conditions and sits atop the leaderboard with Spain's Azahara Munoz, Annie Park, South Korea's Chun In-gee, and Jaye Marie Green, each with six under-par- 65.

“I feel really good. I didn't make many putts at the back nine, but at the front my putting worked pretty good,” said Ariya who beat Su Hyun Oh of South Korea by a stroke for her second LPGA crown here two years ago.

“When I stand up on 18 it always brings like all the great memories,” she added.

 It rained off and on for much of Thursday and weather forecasters were predicting poorer weather over the next few days.

"You knew if the wind wasn't blowing and the greens were soft you could be really aggressive. I just needed some birdies to drop, and that's exactly what happened," Korda said.

A total of 29 players posted rounds of three-under or better on the River Course.聽

Korda started quickly by making birdie on three of her first five holes. She hit a long drive down the centre of the fairway and then followed up with a sand wedge to four feet for another birdie on her last hole.

"I felt good," said Korda, who has finished in the top 10 six times this season and has finished no worse than tied for 26th overall. "I stuck to my process. I'm working on a couple of things before the US Open so I just stuck to that and it worked."

Korda is still recovering from offseason jaw surgery that included using 27 screws to fix a problem that was giving her frequent headaches.

Despite the lengthy rehab she managed to win in her first start of the year in Thailand and if she is victorious this week, Korda would become the first two-time winner on the Tour so far this season.

Former Kingsmill champion Ariya posted her best opening round of any tournament so far this year with a five-under 66.

Like Korda, Ariya, who is ranked sixth in the world, has been one of the most consistent players on the Tour this season but she is still looking for her first win of 2018.

Ariya drained seven birdies including three of four, beginning on the par-three fifth hole. Her only blemish was a double bogey on the par-four 16th.