KUALA LUMPUR: Amy Yang took the honours on the first day of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia after the South Korean golfer grabbed a two-stroke lead on Thursday at TPC Kuala Lumpur.
Yang fired a superb bogey-free eight-under 63 to move past early club house leader, Marina Alex of the United States, who had seven birdies and a bogey in her 65.
Six players sat three shots off the lead on 66, including China’s Feng Shanshan who held the lead at seven-under until her round was undone by two consecutive double-bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes.
Americans Michelle Wie and Mo Martin, South Korean Jenny Shin, Spain’s Azahara Munoz and Suzann Petersen of Norway were also on five-under with Feng.
World No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, in a close race with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko for the US LPGA Player of the Year and money list honours, returned a three-under 68, while top-ranked Ko struggled to an even-par 71 after a double-bogey on the second hole.
Defending champion Jessica Korda of the United States was level with Ko on 71, alongside Malaysia’s Jean Chua, the best performer on the opening day of the nine local golfers in the 78-woman field.
Yang, who won the 2015 Honda LPGA Thailand for her last success on Tour, birdied three of the last four holes to open a two-shot lead.
“The last four holes, I hit it really solid, close to the pin,” said Yang, who had four birdies on each nine.
“Like all day, my putting was good. Just happy to shoot a bogey-free round.”
Chua, meanwhile, was delighted with her round after shaking off jet-lag to cancel two early birdies with bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes.
“My irons were good,” said Chua. “My driver towards the end warmed up a little bit, was good. So I was really happy with my irons. Putting saved me quite a bit on the back nine.”