ORLANDO (REUTERS) - Lydia Ko of New Zealand birdied three of the last five holes to seize a two-stroke lead at the Gainbridge LPGA tournament on Thursday (Feb 25).
Looking confident on her home course at the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, she opened with an eagle at the par-four first hole and closed with a long birdie putt at the par-four 18th for a seven-under 65. A bogey at the par-four seventh was her round's only blemish.
"Obviously went off to a perfect start, you know, holing out for my second shot on the first hole," Ko said. "I think I hit the ball really well today.
"To be on the fairways is key, because (they) have just done a great job of growing the rough and making it tough."
It has been nearly three years since the 23-year-old won her 15th and most recent LPGA Tour title at the LPGA Mediheal Championship in April 2018.
"It's a bit of an advantage," Ko said of playing on her home turf. "But at the same time I feel like you still need to hit good shots and be committed out there. I feel like I was able to do that pretty well."
Nelly Korda and Denmark's Nanna Koerstz Madsen are two strokes back after carding rounds of five-under 67. Each had six birdies and one bogey on the day.
Seven golfers are tied at four under, including Jennifer Kupcho, Ryann O'Toole, Megan Khang, Mexico's Gaby Lopez, China's Xiyu Lin, Denmark's Nicole Broch Larsen and Jin Young Ko of South Korea.
World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, competing in her first LPGA Tour event in 13 years, posted a triple bogey at the par-four fifth hole and finished with a round of 75. The eight-time LPGA Tour Player of the Year's last win came at the 2008 Michelob Ultra Open at Kinsgmill.
Fellow Swede and defending champion Madelene Sagstrom shot a 77 that included double bogeys at Nos. 15 and 18.
"Just playing with Annika, it's amazing," Sagstrom said of her first-round partner and countrywoman. "Her wedge game is so stupidly good still. I'm going to get some advice and then go from there."
Jessica Korda, who opened the 2021 tour calendar with a win last month at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, is tied for 29th at one under.