Former world number one Nelly Korda survived a “little oopsy” to card a four-under-par 68, four strokes behind surprise leader Elizabeth Szokol, after the first round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore on Thursday.
Olympic champion Korda was in a tie for third place after she managed to scramble a par following a wayward tee shot on the short fourth hole and stay in touch with Szokol.
Korda’s fellow American, who is ranked 153 in the world, shot a superb eight-under-par 64 at Sentosa Golf Club.
The 2021 US Women’s Open champion, Japan’s Yuka Saso, was lying second, three shots back, after a 67 at the $1.8 million LPGA event.
“I played really solid,” said Korda, who is ranked second in the world and was coming off a tie for sixth place at LPGA Thailand last weekend.
“I kind of had one little oopsy, and that was on the par three.”
Szokol put daylight between herself and a star-studded field containing the top five in the world and 18 of the top 20.
Szokol opened with a bogey at the 10th, her first hole, but from there never looked back, carding seven birdies and an eagle to surge to the top of the leaderboard.
“It’s great. I’m really happy about the start,” said Szokol, who is on the comeback trail after sitting out the second half of last season with a herniated disc in her back.
“I was out for about four or five months and I didn’t touch a golf club for about 12 weeks,” the 28-year-old said.
“I was really focused on getting better and feeling healthy. So I’m really happy to be back playing, and especially here.”
Saso, who was born in the Philippines, started her front nine strongly with four birdies to turn in 32, but could add only one more to finish with 67.
The 21-year-old, who models her swing on Rory McIlroy, is still searching for her first LPGA win since her major breakthrough in 2021.
“Winning on the LPGA is not easy,” said Saso. “I just have to keep grinding and give myself chances every week. But it’s tough. I just have to be patient and enjoy the journey.”
The bunched leaderboard saw Lee6 Jeong-eun and Kim Hyo-joo of South Korea also at four-under alongside Japan’s Ayaka Furue, the Thai pair Patty Tavatanakit and Ariya Jutanugarn, and Korda.
“Today was a good day. I feel like I stayed really within the present a lot, didn’t really think about what’s going to happen on the next hole,” said Tavatanakit, who won a major at the 2021 ANA Inspiration but has slid to 65th in the world.
World number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand was in a share of 14th place after a two-under 70 and defending champion Ko Jin-young of South Korea posted a level-par 72.