Linnea Johansson of Sweden has never won as a pro, but you wouldn’t know it the way she played when she got to L.A. after missing the cut when she was there earlier this month.
The 29-year-old Johansson shot a bogey-free, seven-under-par 64 to take a one-stroke lead over sixth-ranked Minjee Lee of Australia and Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland after the first round of the JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles.
“Obviously a great day, a great round,” said Johansson, who finished eighth in the LPGA Tour Qualifying Series last year to keep her playing card. “I played fearless golf today and really went after a lot of pins and managed to hit them very close and roll in the putts. I actually managed to roll in the longer ones more than the shorter ones. It was just a great day.
“Obviously it’s been a little rough ride for me the past couple of years, struggling a little bit out here. The girls are good. It’s the best players in the world, so it should be tough, and so it is. It’s tough for everybody. But there are days when it clicks and when you really hit the shots that you want, and manage to roll putts in. Those are the days you really enjoy, and it’s competitive out here, but starting off the tournament here like this, it’s great.
“I was making good decisions out there, clear targets, and just swinging it away, picking my line. This is the line we’re going, and I was just swinging my best all day.”
Johansson, whose best pro results are two runner-up finishes on what is now the Epson Tour, collected three birdies on the front nine and added four more on the first six holes of the back nine in her flawless 64.
Lee, who has claimed eight victories as a pro including two majors, made seven birdies including three in a row before picking up her only bogey at No. 17 in a 65, which Dryburgh matched with eight birdies and two bogeys.
“I think it kind of reminds me a little bit of home, just the look of the bunkers and just how they’re situated on each hole,” said Lee of Wilshire, who won the U.S. Open last June at Pine Needles. “Yeah, it just kind of gives me good vibes. I started pretty, just with pars, and then made three birdies in a row. That was nice to finish off my front nine. Then a couple more on the back nine. It was a nice, solid day.”
Said Dryburgh, who has five pro titles including the 2022 Toto Japan Classic on the PGA Tour: “I could have birdied every hole, to be honest. I hit it pretty close on all the holes, which was nice, and saw the putts going in, which was good. But yeah, got off to a hot start, which was nice.”
Danielle Kang of Westlake Village and Pepperdine birdied four straight holes through No. 15 in a 66 and is tied for fourth with Aditi Ashok of India, who capped a run of four birdies in a row at No. 16, and Caroline Inglis, who mad four of her seven birdies on the back nine.
Cristie Kerr birdied four of the first 10 holes en route to a 67 and is tied for seventh with Alison Lee of Valencia and UCLA, who played a bogey-free round, Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden, who had three late birdies, Amy Yang of South Korea, who made three birdies on each nine, and Hae Ran Ryu, also of South Korea, who birdied three of the first 10 holes and had only one bogey.
Top-ranked Nelly Korda shot 69 and is in a tie for 20th that includes fourth-ranked Lilia Vu of Fountain Valley and UCLA, while fifth-ranked Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand totaled 70 and is in a tie for 33rd that includes eighth-ranked Brooke Henderson of Canada.
Third-ranked Jin Young Ko of South Korea totaled 72 and is in a tie for 72nd that includes 10th-ranked Georgia Hall of England, while ninth-ranked Celine Boutier of France is tied for 120th with a birdie-free 75.
For complete results, visit https://www.lpga.com/tournaments/jm-eagle-la-championship/leaderboard