Lydia Ko of New Zealand simply loves Lake Merced Golf Club.
Ko, the former top-ranked player in the world who has slipped to No. 18, found her game with a 4-under-par 68 to tie for the lead with Jessica Korda, seventh-ranked I.K. Kim of South Korea, Caroline Hedwall of Sweden and Su Oh of Australia after the first round of the inaugural LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship in chilly Daly City.
“I know this is a golf course where I’ve played well at and the fans have been super supportive every time I’ve been here, even for the U.S. Junior,” said Ko, who won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced in 2014 and 2015. “I have a tattoo from my first LPGA win and it came here, so I have a lot of great memories. It’s nice to come back here.
“I hit a lot of greens, giving myself opportunities for birdies. It’s a golf course where nobody goes super low, so you have to pay attention and play solid and be patient out there, and sometimes par is not a bad score.
“It was solid and I hope I can continue to play that way.”
Ko eagled the fourth hole and added three birdies, making her only bogey at No. 10 before closing with eight consecutive pars.
Korda, who captured the Honda LPGA Thailand in February after coming back from surgery on her jaw, also eagled the fifth hole in her 68, while Oh handed in a bogey-free card, Hedwall closed with a birdie at No. 9 and Kim collected three birdies on a flawless back nine.
Third-ranked Lexi Thompson made her only bogey on the first hole in a 69 and is tied for sixth with Charley Hull of England, Sei Young Kim of South Korea and Celine Herbin of France.
Fourth-ranked So Yeon Ryu of South Korea totaled 70 and is in a huge tie for 10th with Mo Martin of Pasadena and UCLA, Jane Park of UCLA, Dani Holmqvist of Sweden, Jaye Marie Green, Carolyn Inglis, Sandra Changkiga, Minjee Lee of Australia, Ryann O’Toole of San Clemente and UCLA, Karine Icher of France, Annie Park of USC, Perrine Delacour of France and Carlotta Ciganda of Spain.
Sixth-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for 23rd at 71, top-ranked Inbee Park shot 72 and is tied for 39th and second-ranked Shanshan Feng is at 73 in a tie for 63rd that includes eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr.
For complete results, visit http://www.lpga.com/leaderboard.