With an 8-under 63, tied for the second-lowest round in Amundi Evian Championship history, Japan’s Ayaka Furue holds the lead after the first round at Evian Resort Golf Club. Furue, a 22-year-old LPGA Tour rookie who has seven victories on the JLPGA Tour, carded nine birdies and one bogey on Thursday to surge into the lead at a major championship for the first time.
Her round ties three other 63s as the second-lowest round in Evian, behind 61s carded by Hyo Joo Kim (2014), Jeongeun Lee6 (2021) and Leona Maguire (2021). It is also tied for the third-lowest round in the history of women’s major championships.
“I like the course, and with the good vibes from last year I thought I would play good,” said Furue, who finished fourth in her Evian debut in 2021. “I played very well today.”
Major champions Nelly Korda and Brooke Henderson are tied for second at 7 under with matching 64s. Korda was bogey-free on Thursday, choosing to wade into the water at No. 18 to secure a clutch up-and-down with her ball at the edge of the hazard. “I was in between clubs there. It was either a 7 or a 6, and I didn’t really want to go long, but didn’t really think about if I didn’t hit that 7 good it would go in the water,” said Korda, who said her feet felt very slimy after the shot. “I had a decent chance of getting it out on the green, so I just went for it, and saved par. Better than taking a drop, that’s for sure.”
After saying she had struggled for years on the Evian greens, with a best performance of a tie for 19th in 2021, Korda was thrilled with her first-round performance. “I’m striking it really well. I had a lot of good numbers and I was hitting it close,” she said. “Honestly what made the difference from today to the years past is I was just rolling them in. That was really nice to see.”
After starting on No. 10, Henderson closed her round with a long eagle putt at No. 9. She also had six birdies on the day to go with a single bogey at No. 8. “I feel like ball striking I gave myself a lot of really great opportunities, which is always good, and then I was able to make some putts,” said Henderson. “Any time that happens, you usually can go pretty low. This golf course, it can be so tricky. It plays really difficult. But sometimes when you make a bunch of birdies you can get momentum, and that’s kind of what happened today.”
American Cheyenne Knight shot the low round of her career on Thursday, carding a 6-under 65 to hold solo fourth through 18 holes. She is followed closely by a pack of five players tied for fifth at -5, including past Evian champions Jin Young Ko and Lydia Ko.
2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner In Gee Chun, who took the Evian title in 2016, is tied for 10th at -4. 2021 Amundi Evian champion Minjee Lee opened her title defense with a 1-under 70 and is tied for 39th.
KORDA HAS WET RIDE ON WAY TO OPENING 64 AT AMUNDI EVIAN CHAMPIONSHIP
Nelly Korda is just trying to enjoy herself at the Evian Championship after a four-month injury layoff that has given her more perspective about her golf.
Not that she felt so great taking a shot while standing barefoot in a slimy lake.
“I’ve never done anything like that and I must say, it was really gross,” Korda said about her adventure at No. 18 midway through an 7-under 64 that left her a stroke behind first-round leader Ayaka Furue on Thursday in the fourth major of 2022.
Korda’s approach shot at the par-5 18th hole — her ninth of the day after starting at No. 10 — ended up rolling down a bank on the front right of the green and into the water. Her caddie ran up to the green and saw it was possible to make contact with the ball, so Korda removed her golf shoes, waded into the lake, and splashed out to the edge of the green.
Korda went on to make par.
“It was really slimy,” Korda said, making a face before laughing.
The American missed a 12-foot birdie putt at her last hole but still shot her lowest round of the year, continuing her impressive comeback after time out following surgery on a blood clot in her arm.
This is her fifth event since returning to competitive action on June 16 and she has three top-10s in that time. She was No. 1 in the world when she stopped playing and now is No. 3.
“I think I’m a little more chill about it all,” she said. “I’m trying to enjoy myself as much as possible on the golf course.
“I don’t know if my caddie will agree because I do obviously get frustrated here and there but I am trying to remind myself that I’m lucky to be out there. Just enjoy every moment.”
That’s pretty much what Furue did.
A seven-time winner in her native Japan, the No. 31-ranked Furue is looking to back up a fourth-place finish at the major in France last year and rolled in nine birdies after her solitary bogey, at No. 13.
She responded by making birdie at six of her next eight holes and then three of her last four. The one at No. 9, her last hole, was from 8 feet and ensured she shot 63 for her lowest round at a major.
Korda was tied for second place with No. 10-ranked Brooke Henderson of Canada, who posted 64 by holing a double-breaker for eagle at No. 9, also her last hole.
American golfer Cheyenne Knight was in the clubhouse in fourth place at 6 under, a stroke ahead of top-ranked Jin Young Ko and another two-time major champion, Lydia Ko.
In Gee Chun, who won the Women’s PGA Championship last month, was in a tie for 10th place at 4 under.
HAPPY HENDERSON HAVING GREAT TIME AT EVIAN
Anxiety is golf’s greatest enemy. You can always find a different reason for a slump if you look hard enough, something in the swing or stroke – the clubface is here or there; the plane is too this or too that – but the World Golf Hall of Fame is full of funky golf swings. On the other hand, there are mini-tour ranges around the world littered with people you’ve never heard of who have picture-perfect moves. The difference is confidence and mental freedom. How secure are you? How happy?
Brooke Henderson is happy again. Finally. Not that she was ever miserable. If you spent only a passing amount of time with her, the 24-year-old would have always come across as carefree and bubbly, living the dream with her sister by her side, playing the game she loved. What you didn’t see was the worry and anxiety bottled up inside, hidden like a secret diary under the mattress of a successful career.
For starters, COVID scared her. For the better part of a year, Henderson was cut off from most of her family, the people she’d had by her side for her entire life. She had five top-10s in 2020 but, for the time in her career, went an entire season without a win.
Then, she struggled with her putter. It wasn’t a technical issue. She had just heard she wasn’t a good putter often enough that she began to believe it. Henderson won once in 2021 at the DIO Implant LA Open and had five other top-10 finishes, but as great as that season seemed, the worry remained.
She entered last fall knowing that she had to change drivers. Henderson was the only woman of note that used a 48-inch driver. In 2022, the USGA put a stop to that. Henderson put the new, shorter club into play at this year’s Chevron Championship.
The struggles manifested with back-to-back missed cuts in Los Angeles, the first at Wilshire Country Club where she was defending champion, and the next in Palos Verdes. But something happened in those weekends away. Returning to Canada, she spent four of five weeks with family in the Great North ahead of the U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica. The refreshing break in her homeland sparked memories of the six-footers she’d made instead of the ones she missed. And in an instant, the shorter driver no longer felt new and different.
Then she looked at the numbers – 7th in greens in regulation, 3rd in scoring average, 2nd in rounds in the 60s, 4th in rounds under par – and she realized that 2022 had the potential to be one of her best years yet.
On June 10, Henderson shot a closing 64 in New Jersey to win the Shoprite LPGA Classic presented by Acer. The next week she finished tied for 9th at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give.
Now, happier than she has been in some time, Henderson is 7 under after the opening round of the Amundi Evian Championship, a course she knows well and one that requires the kind of imagination she mastered as a child.
“It’s so beautiful here,” Henderson said, the sparkle in her eyes back after a long absence. “I love being in France and seeing the views of Lake Geneva and this golf course. It’s so tricky and so challenging, but it’s a lot of fun to play. Especially when you get on those birdie runs it can be a lot of fun.
“Getting off to a fast start at a major feels really good,” she said. “It’s been a while since I’ve done that.”
It’s also been a while since we’ve seen Henderson so happy.
“Yeah, it feels nice,” she said of her round, but it could have been for so much more. “But lots can happen over the next three days. Hopefully just keep her going.”
* Information and images credit to www.lpga.com