FIVE SHARE LEAD TO OPEN HONDA LPGA THAILAND

Jennifer Kupcho of United States tees off at 1st holeduring the first round of the Honda LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on February 23, 2023 in Chon Buri,Photo Credit: 2023 Getty Images

PATTAYA, Thailand (AP) — Jennifer Kupcho of the United States fired a bogey-free 7-under 65 to share the lead alongside four other golfers after the opening round of the LPGA Thailand on Thursday.

The crowded leaderboard was no surprise on the Pattaya Old Course: The average winning score over the past 10 years is 21 under par.

Kupcho’s round was highlighted by a birdie-birdie finish and an eagle on the par-5 10th hole at Siam Country Club.

Of her eagle, she said, “I hit a really good drive and had a pretty short club in. Still hybrid but pretty perfect club, and it hit just short of the green and rolled up really close to a tap-in.”

With her in the lead were 2014 champion Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, six-time USLPGA Tour winner Nasa Hataoko of Japan, local hope and tour rookie Jaravee Boonchant, and last year’s runner-up, Xiyu Lin of China.

Three-time major winner Nordqvist birdied her first hole, the 10th, and had eight in all against a lone bogey on the fourth.

Hataoka bogeyed the 13th but finished her round with four consecutive birdies.

Nasa Hataoka of Japan watches her shot on the 1st hole during the first round of the LPGA Honda Thailand golf tournament in Pattaya, southern Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Kittinun Rodsupan)

Boonchant, who earned her tour card through LPGA Q-Series last December, also started on the 10th and birdied her first two holes. She sparked Thai fans’ hopes for a local victor after former world No, 1 Ariya Jutanugarn won in 2021.

“Amazing,” Boonchant said of her day.

Jaravee Boonchant of Thailand reacts after her shot on the 9th hole during the first round of the LPGA Honda Thailand golf tournament in Pattaya, southern Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Kittinun Rodsupan)

Lin started on the back nine and birdied six holes coming in for her 65. Last year, she opened with a 64 and reeled off 66s before losing to Nanna Koerstz Madsen of Denmark on extra holes. Koerstz Madsen has begun her title defense at 1 over.

World No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand, leading 26 of the top 30 at the event, had an error-free round of 68. She has won three of her last four starts.

Lydia Ko of New Zealand watches her shot on the 1st hole during the first round of the LPGA Honda Thailand golf tournament in Pattaya, southern Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Kittinun Rodsupan)
Honda LPGA Round 1

*Credit Information and images to www.lpga.com

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