By The Nation
The 20-year-old from Bangkok fired five birdies, one eagle against a lone bogey to share the second place alongside Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark, South Korean Jin Young Ko and two local hopes Anne Catherine Tanguay and defending champion Brooke Henderson.
"Starting the round with an eagle really helped me get into momentum quickly," said Pajaree whose best finish on the tour was at tied 12th in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational . "The layout here suits my game. I will try to stick to my game plan by hitting the fairways and the greens and make some putts," added the young Thai, No 4 on the Rookie of the Year standings.
2016 champion Ariya Jutanugarn and her sister Moriya were no where near their form as each hit a 73.
With a berth on the USA Solheim Cup Team on the line, Annie Park stepped up with a 7-under 65 to take the 18-hole lead. At No. 42 in the Women’s World Golf Rankings, just one spot behind fellow American Austin Ernst, Park needs a good finish to propel her into an automatic qualifying spot for Team USA. She did just that on Thursday, with a solid round highlighted by a 30-yard putt for an eagle-3 at No. 9 and six other birdies.
“I was just trying to break my own personal record. Just wanted to go to 9-under,” said Park, winner of the 2018 ShopRite LPGA Classic. “Tough 17th hole, tough break there; had a bogey. Tried to make up for it on the last one and just fell short. Hopefully maybe tomorrow or this week or someday I can break my own personal record.”
Henderson easily had the largest crowds of the day, with the Canadian superstar putting on a show in the first round of her title defense. Her 6-under 66 matched her opening round from 2018, when she went on to win the CP Women’s Open and become just the second Canadian winner in championship history.
“It's nice to be in a position where I had a good round; everything seemed to go right for me,” said Henderson. “Hopefully I can continue to stick to my game plan, make a lot of birdies, and I would love to be in this position on Sunday.”
HENDERSON PICKS UP WHERE SHE LEFT OFF
It was déjà vu all over again for Canadian superstar Brooke Henderson. The 21-year-old showed no signs of stress from all the pressure put on her as the defending CP Women’s Open champion, shooting a first-round 66 to sit one stroke behind first-round leader Annie Park.
“Knowing I was capable of winning this event after having done it last year I just think gave me a lot of confidence,” said Henderson, who also shot a first-round 66 in 2018. “Made me more comfortable in front of these crowds. Just knowing that I've done it before I think just gave me a little, just relaxed me a little bit. Made me a little bit more calm. I think that's key when I'm playing well.”
Henderson returned a steady round of seven birdies and one bogey on Thursday, much to the thrill of the Canadian throngs that followed her around Magna Golf Club. She stuffed her approach on No. 18 to 6 feet and walked up to the green soaking in the thunderous applause from the fans ringing the green.
“To have this many people out on Thursday morning is pretty special. They're cheering for me bright and early, so that's pretty cool,” said Henderson. “To get a solid round like this in in front of them I think is really a confidence booster for me; gives me a lot of momentum going into the next three days.”
Should Henderson successfully defend her title on Sunday, she would become the third player to defend a CP Women’s Open victory, joining Lydia Ko (2012, 2013) and Pat Bradley (1985, 1986). She has already won back-to-back tournament titles twice in her career, taking wins at the 2018 and 2019 LOTTE Championship and the 2015 and 2016 Cambia Portland Classic.
HOT ROUND FOR TANGUAY
A bogey-free 6-under 66 on Thursday put Anne-Catherine Tanguay into a tie for second heading into the second round of the CP Women’s Open. That round, tied for the best of her LPGA Tour career, was fueled by a red-hot second nine that saw the 28-year-old Quebecer card five birdies.
“I built some momentum early in the round. The greens I felt like I was having a hard time like picking up the speed early on in my round,” said Tanguay, who came to Magna Golf Club fresh off a four-week competitive break. “But then the back nine just felt like I couldn't miss with my putter, to be honest. It was really good. I was over the ball and I just kind of had this feeling it might go in, so just give to a shot.”
Tanguay is looking for a breakthrough moment on the LPGA Tour. Her rookie year of 2016 was followed by a 2017 spent primarily on the Symetra Tour, where she won the Garden City Charity Classic and had five other top-10 finishes. Despite playing a full LPGA schedule in 2018, Tanguay placed 124th on the Money List and was forced to compete in the inaugural LPGA Q-Series, where she tied for eighth to secure a full card again for 2019.
NO. 1 KO ONE SHOT BACK IN CANADA
After two weeks off from LPGA Tour play, World No. 1 Jin Young Ko showed no signs of rust in Thursday’s opening round of the CP Women’s Open. Despite not seeing the back nine of Magna Golf Club prior to the first round, the two-time 2019 major champion hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and fired a bogey-free 66.
Ko’s caddie David Brooker arrived in Canada late Wednesday evening, so Ko had him scout out the course on Thursday morning. Ko said their trusting caddie-player relationship was key to her first-round success. “We had trust, and that's why I play really good today,” she said.
Ko is making her first start since winning The Evian Championship and then finishing T3 at the AIG Women’s British Open, but she didn’t take too much time off as she flew straight from England to Korea to play in the Jeju Samdasoo Masters tournament. Ko finished T13 in the rain-shortened KLPGA event before taking a week off.
“After that I rest a week with my family and my dog, and then I met my friend a little bit and then I practice and then I came here on Saturday,” said Ko. “I practiced at the range. My feeling was really amateur. Oh, my God. I needed to practice a lot. So on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I practiced hard.”
Ko, a notorious Brooks Koepka fan, was asked after her round about the infamous ESPN Body Issue photo circling the Internet. “I saw,” she said with a red face and a coy smile. “Someone tag me… I clicked, who is that? It was Brooks.”