EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France — South Koreans In Gee Chun and Sung Hyun Park shot 8-under 63 on Thursday to share the first-round lead in the Evian Championship, the last of the LPGA Tour’s five majors.
Top-ranked Lydia Ko’s bid to defend her title — and win a third career major by the age of 19 — got off to a rocky start with a 70.
“It was tricky for me because on the back nine I was not hitting fairways,” said Ko, who has 14 career wins on the U.S. LPGA Tour. “Hopefully I’ll be able to hit some fairways tomorrow.”
Chun, the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open champion, said she felt nervous after missing the cut here last year but hardly let it show.
“I could see the putting lines and I was good rolling the ball on those lines,” she said. “The greens are getting softer this year.”
While Ko’s play was patchy, with a bogey and only two birdies, second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand had a day to forget with a 2-over 73 featuring a triple bogey.
Ko and Jutanugarn have a good chance at Evian of taking the Annika Major Award, which rewards the major winner with the best combined record at all five majors of the season, and is named after 10-time major winner Annika Sorenstam.
American Annie Park had an eagle and five birdies to match China’s Shanshan Feng at 64.
Park’s performance caught the eye; and not least because her mother was caddying for her.
“That was fun. It was good to have my mum back on the bag. The last time she caddied was Hawaii in April,” she said. “She keeps things light and does some dances out there.”
Ranked 201st, Annie Park joined the tour this year. She showed good composure in overcast and somewhat drizzly weather conditions on the picturesque course perched over Lake Geneva, enjoying a run of birdie-birdie-eagle on her front nine, then starting and finishing with birdies on the back nine.
American Angela Stanford had a 65, and South Koreans So Yeon Ryu and Eun-Hee Ji shot 66.
Starting in muggy afternoon conditions, Ko played in a group with South Korean Hyo Joo Kim, the 2014 champion, and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, the 2013 winner.
When Ko sank her first birdie of the day, a 45-foot effort on the fifth hole, it drew a rueful smile from Pettersen, who had just missed with her birdie attempt from a similar distance.
Ko bogeyed the eighth hole and she was again in trouble on the 10th when her tee shot landed in the rough between two trees.
She saved par with a good escape shot close to the green.
“It’s a good thing my wood shots and chip shots were good enough,” said Ko, who last year became the youngest man or woman to be ranked No. 1.
Women’s PGA champion Brooke Henderson of Canada had a 69.
U.S. Women’s Open winner Brittany Lang had two double bogeys and three bogeys in 76.