Dani Holmqvist shot a career-best 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead over Jenny Shin and Chinese rookie Yan Liu after the first round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
Two-time ShopRite winner Anna Nordqvist and Georgia Hall were in a group of five two shots off the lead in the 54-hole event on the Bay Course at Seaview, close to the casinos in Atlantic City.
Having Holmqvist in front is a surprise. The 35-year-old Swede, who has never won on tour, had missed the cut in all five events she played this year. She had five birdies and an eagle playing in the afternoon groupings. She has two previous 65s, one here in 2018.
Holmqvist said she’s had a slow start to the season and hasn’t played enough to get herself into a rhythm. Being in front is a good feeling though.
“That’s what we all strive to do,” she said. “Some weeks you’re better than others, and some weeks you feel like you’re losing. So it’s fun to actually come up on top for you once. This game is tough, and just got to cherish the moments when you actually put together a good one.”
The 30-year-old Shin, from South Korea, had six birdies in a bogey-free round in search of her first win since 2016. It is her only win on tour but she has been a steady earner, pocketing $5.4 million since turning pro in 2010.
“Bogey-free rounds are always very happy rounds,” said Shin, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens. “I dropped the putts when I needed to and I hit some good shots coming into the par-5s and gave myself really good opportunities for birdie. So, yeah, good round overall.”
The 25-year-old Liu had a wild round that featured two eagles — on Nos. 9 and 18 — five birdies and three bogeys, all in her first five holes. She was 1 over heading to No. 9 and played the last 10 in 7 under. Her tie for 21st last week at Mizuho was were best finish of the year.
Had her early morning score held, it would have been her first time as the leader.
“I just want to stay focus my game, and like today, easy golf,” she said.
Hall, who has five top-10 finishes including consecutive runner-up spots in March, had eight birdies and three bogeys. She is ranked No. 9 in the world and is looking for her third LPGA Tour victory.
“I really like this golf course,” said Hall who is returning home next week to rest. “It’s a little bit linksy, so reminds me of home a bit. And the greens are a little bit slow like they are in England, so I wanted to come play this week. And, obviously, a win is a win.”
Nordqvist won in 2015 and ‘16. The 35-year-old Swede played a bogey-free round in her quest for a 10th title, the last the Women’s British Open in 2021.
“I feel like when you do well at a golf course there is a lot of good memories, so I think that gives you a little bit of confidence and just like puts you in a really good state,” Nordqvist said.
American Sarah Schmelzel, Soo Bin Joo of South Korea and Paula Reto of South Africa were also at 5 under, a shot ahead of a large group that included Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand and Ayaka Furue of Japan, who both played well at the Mizuho Americas Cup last week in Jersey City.
Two-time NCAA champion Rose Zhang, who stunned the golf world by winning last week in her first start as a professional, is taking this week off.
Defending champion Brooke Henderson and Aditi Ashok of India were in a group at 2 under.