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Sizzling blemish-free round propels Lydia Ko to second at Evian Championship

That’s more like the Lydia Ko that lit up the LPGA Tour last year. The Kiwi golfer fired a blemish-free 5-under par 66 to grab a share of second after the opening round of the Evian Championship in France on Friday morning (NZT).
Scratching for form since opening the season with a top-10 finish, it leaves the world No 3 one of four players a couple of shots off the pace set by South African Paula Reto.

 

 

Ko knocked in five birdies on her way around the Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, host of the fourth of five majors this year, carding just her third bogey-free round of the season. Not that it was easy going. She had to work for it, utilising her short-game to scramble and save par on numerous occasions on the front nine.

 

 

”No, it wasn’t the smoothest start, but when I was in trouble I was able to make good up and downs, and I think that helped with the momentum. Whereas I feel like sometimes trying to make those par saves are more the momentum taker than birdies at times,” Ko said.

Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko pictured during the opening round of the Evian Championship.

“So nice to finish off on a high birdieing the last and playing really well on the back nine, but hopefully less shaky start tomorrow. But I think all in all it was solid. Even though things may not be 100%, I think that’s part of the game. You’re trying to shoot the best score you can, and sometimes it may not look pretty on the scorecard. But there are no pictures on the scorecard as well.” Just as well the 2015 Evian Championship winner’s short game was on song, highlighted by a couple of classy wedges, including one to within a few feet to set up birdie on the par-5 seventh.

 

 

She also made a couple of sand saves on a day she hit just 6 of 13 fairways, and 11 of 18 greens in regulation. Her putter was also dialled in, needing just 24 putts on the day. Ko went into the event ranked fifth on tour for putts per round (28.78).

Lydia Ko plays her second shot out of the bunker on the 3rd hole during the first round of the Amundi Evian Championship at Evian Resort Golf Club.

“It’s a fairly new putter. I put it in the bag at the US Women’s Open, and I was honestly just messing around with it and trying the length more. I love my Scotty Cameron putter. I didn’t think I would move or change to a different putter,” Ko said. “But it kind of looked good and rolled good, and I think that’s what’s most important. Even my husband said, I didn’t except you to have that putter, but it’s been really good. I know some days are going to be….the putter is going to get hot and some days it’s not the case.”

 

 

The sizzling start will only give the 26-year-old confidence heading into round two as she chases her third major victory, and first since 2016. Particularly during a year that hasn’t gone to plan, and hit a new level of frustration last week after she was hit with seven penalty shots for wrongly playing preferred lies at the Dana Open.

Lydia Ko makes her way to the 18th hole during the first round of the Amundi Evian Championship at Evian Resort Golf Club.

She had been on track for her first top-20 finish since February, only to plummet down the leaderboard on the final day. Ko has openly admitted she has struggled to stay positive at times this season, but has been more upbeat recently, insisting her game was headed in the right direction and no major changes were needed. Amongst those also with a share of second is Frenchwoman Celine Boutier, who enjoyed strong support from her home crowd. As good as she and Ko were, Reto had the round of the day, firing in eight birdies and a bogey en route to a scorching 7-under 64 to start the US$6.5 million (NZ$1.4 million) tournament.

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