Former world number one Nelly Korda survived a “little oopsie” to card a four-under-par 68, four strokes behind surprise leader Elizabeth Szokol, after the first round of the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore on Thursday.
Olympic champion Korda was tied for third after she managed to scramble a par off a wayward tee shot on the short fourth hole and keep in touch with Szokol.
Korda’s compatriot, ranked 153rd in the world, shot a beautiful eight-under-par 64 at Sentosa Golf Club.
2021 US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso of Japan was second, three shots back, after a 67 in the $1.8 million LPGA event.
“I played really solid,” said Korda, who is second in the world rankings and tied for sixth place at LPGA Thailand last weekend.
“I had a bit of a whoop, and that was in third.”
Szokol placed daylight between herself and a star-studded field of the world’s top five and 18 of the top 20.
Szokol opened with a bogey on the 10th, her first hole, but from there she never looked back and carded seven birdies and an eagle to rise to the top of the standings.
“It’s great. I’m very happy with the start,” said Szokol, who is on his way to a comeback after sitting out the second half of last season with a herniated disc in her back.
“I was out for about four or five months and I didn’t touch a golf club for about 12 weeks,” said the 28-year-old.
“I was really focused on getting better and feeling healthy. So I’m very happy to be playing again, and especially here.”
Born in the Philippines, Saso started her first nine strong with four birdies to reel in 32, but could only add one more to finish with 67.
The 21-year-old, who models her swing on Rory McIlroy, is still chasing her first LPGA win since her big break in 2021.
“Winning on the LPGA is not easy,” said Saso. “I just have to keep grinding and giving myself chances every week. But it’s tough. I just have to be patient and enjoy the journey.”
The aggregated leaderboard also saw South Korea’s Lee6 Jeong-eun and Kim Hyo-joo bottom four alongside Japan’s Ayaka Furue, Thai pair Patty Tavatanakit and Ariya Jutanugarn and Korda.
“Today was a good day. I feel like I stayed in the present a lot, didn’t really think about what’s going to happen on the next hole,” said Tavatanakit, who won a major at the ANA Inspiration 2021 but is slipped to 65th in the world.
World number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand was tied for 14th after a two-under 70 and defending champion Ko Jin-young of South Korea posted a level-par 72.