Rookie Torres sets pace

Maria Torres, the clubhouse leader yesterday on eight under, was still with her family in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean island last year.
Maria Torres, the clubhouse leader yesterday on eight under, was still with her family in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean island last year.PHOTO: TWITTER/LPGA

First Puerto Rican woman with full playing Tour status takes halfway clubhouse lead

EVIAN (France) • Maria Torres never thought she would make it past qualifying school, let alone play at a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Major.

But on Thursday at the Evian Championship, the fifth and final Major of the year, she was joint top after a opening six-under 65 that included six birdies and an eagle for her lowest round this term.

She was among the early starters yesterday and began with back-to-back bogeys before recovering and shot a 69 to take the clubhouse lead at eight under. The second round did not finish by press time.

The 184th-ranked rookie said: "It started out a little rocky but I hung on. I tried to give myself opportunities, hit the fairways so I had chances for the greens.

"Something similar happened on Thursday so I told myself, 'Just relax and you have 16 more holes to play.' I'm just grateful for the opportunity. What more could you ask for? I'm in France, it's sunny and I'm playing golf."

On how she was going to prepare for the pressures of the weekend, she said: "Just going to retouch everything, see all my misses, practise and get some rest."

The recent University of Florida graduate has had quite an introduction to professional golf. A year ago, she was still with her family in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean island.

Torres, who won a three-way play-off to earn the last Tour card on offer to become the first Puerto Rican woman to get full playing status on the LPGA Tour, has endured a challenging baptism, missing the cut in 11 of her first 16 events.

She has since found her feet with two top-10 finishes at Thornberry Creek and the Canadian Open.

Carlota Ciganda is also enjoying the pleasant conditions at the Evian Resort Golf Club. The world No. 21 birdied her final two holes for a first-round 65 at a course where she feels "at home".

"I love this place, love being in Europe. My parents are here, some friends, so I really like the atmosphere," she said on Thursday.

The Spaniard, 28, won two Tour titles in 2016 and has been knocking on the Majors door this season, finishing third at the US Open and seventh at the British Open.

"I like tough courses and I like playing the Majors," added Ciganda, who has never finished in the top 10 at Evian. "I know I have to be mentally tough."

Former world No. 1 Ryu So-yeon of South Korea shot 69 yesterday and was lurking at six under, with American Austin Ernst (70), Chinese Taipei's Hsu Wei-ling (67) and England's Georgia Hall (68), who won the British Open last month.

Hall, who was tied-seventh last year, said that despite the morning rain, "the greens were still hard and the tricky pin positions meant you have to put the ball on the right side of the green".

They were one shot ahead of seven-time Major winner Park In-bee (69) of South Korea. She said: "I already have my name on the trophy once but it would be nice to get my name on there again."

Compatriot and top-ranked Park Sung-hyun followed her 77 with a 71 and was six over and likely to miss the cut.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

EVIAN CHAMPIONSHIP

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2018, with the headline 'Rookie Torres sets pace'. Print Edition | Subscribe