Ko has Lopez in sights
LYDIA Ko’s form resurgence has continued in the opening round of the latest LPGA tournament in the US.
The New Zealander shot a five-under-par 66 in the first round of the NW Arkansas Championship yesterday.
That left her in a share of 15th spot on a day of low scores in the three-round event.
Ko is coming off a third-place finish last week in the LPGA Classic in Michigan.
The former world No 1 had four birdies and an eagle two on a par-four hole, along with a solitary birdie.
Mexico’s Gaby Lopez shot a career-low eight-under 63 to take the first-round lead at the Pinnacle Country Club.
Lopez starred as a three-time All-American for the University of Arkansas before joining the LPGA Tour in 2016. Despite flashes of potential, Lopez missed the cut in her last two tournaments and entering this week ranked 136th in the world.
For a day, at least, the Mexican standout felt right at home atop the leaderboard in her adopted home state.
‘‘I feel like home,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘I feel so, so comfortable out here, because I feel that everyone and every single person out here is just rooting for us.’’
Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok.
Six others finished at sixunder on a day when only 26 of the 144 players finished over par, thanks to some midweek rain that softened the greens and calm skies throughout the day.
Jutanugarn finished second at the tournament last year and is trying to win for the second time on the LPGA Tour this year. Her younger sister, Ariya, is already a two-time winner this year and shot an opening-round 66.
Stacey Lewis, the former world No 1 who won the event in 2007 and 2014, finished with a 66. She’s expecting her first child in early November. Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory on Monday in Michigan, shot a 67.
It was Lopez’s long-awaited day to stand out, though, much to the delight of the proArkansas crowd.
After missing the cut her last two times out, Lopez took some time off and returned home to Mexico City to rest her mind and work on her game.
The work paid off with two straight birdies to open her round and a six-under 30 on her front nine.
Lopez needed only 25 putts and finished two shots off the course record of 61, and she overcame a poor drive on the par-five 18th to finish with a par and keep her place at the top of the leaderboard.
Her previous low score was a 64 last year, and she matched her career best by finishing at eight- under.
Meanwhile, Brian Harman shot a four-under 66 yesterday to move to 10-under par and watched that hold up for the second-round lead in the Travelers Championship, thanks in part to a 10-second rule.
Harman finished a stroke ahead of Matt Jones and first round co-leader Zach Johnson, who lost a stroke during his round of 68 when his birdie putt – AP GETTY IMAGES hung on the lip of the cup at the third hole for longer than the maximum allowed 10 seconds before falling in, giving him a par.
‘‘After 10 seconds, the ball was moving and at that point even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest, because it’s on the lip,’’ Johnson said.
‘‘Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.’’
New Zealand’s Lydia Ko is three shots behind the leader after the first round of theNWArkansas Championship.