Tournament favorites Nelly Korda and Tony Finau started out exactly where the oddsmakers said they would be.
Korda and Finau finished eagle-birdie to post a score of 16-under-par 56 in the scramble format to take a one-stroke lead over Leona Maguire of Ireland and Lucas Glover, and the team of Megan Khang and Denny McCarthy after the first round of the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational on the Gold Course at Tiburon Golf Club in Tiburon, Fla.
The 16 LPGA-PGA Tour teams will play foursomes (alternate shot) on Saturday, before concluding on Sunday with a new format in team play called modified four-ball. In that format, both players on each team will tee off before switching balls for their second shots and playing that ball until holing out. The lower score of the two partners will count as the team score.
Finau and Korda collected seven birdies on each nine to go with the eagle and three pars in their brilliant round. Finau sank a five-foot eagle putt at No. 17 after hitting an incredible approach shot, and on the last hole he made the birdie putt from six feet after Korda’s sensational second shot.
“It was fantastic,” said Finau, who has won six times on the PGA Tour, including the Mexico Open earlier this year. “We had a lot of fun and hit a lot of great shots. I watched a lot of great shots, a lot of great putts.
“When Nelly is following me around the course, it makes the game feel pretty simple because she was able to make the putts and clutch up when we really needed to make putts. I would say the women hit the ball a lot straighter than the men, than we do on our tour. They’re just so solid. I don’t know how else to describe it.”
Said Korda, who has won eight times on the LPGA Tour including the 2021 Women’s PGA Championship: “I got to see shots that normally I wouldn’t see, let’s say on the women’s tour. That squeezer 9-iron that (Finau) hit on No. 17 was absolutely incredible.”
Maguire and Glover birdied the first 10 holes and added an eagle at No. 13 in their 57, which Khang and McCarthy matched when they made 13 birdies and also had an eagle on the 13th hole.
“I knew pretty early on, if I could just get (Leona) on the green as close as possible that I wouldn’t have to putt much,” Glover said. “When I saw our pairing, I checked everything out, and I’d watched her on the Solheim Cup recently anyway. We play different tours, but I think we were familiar enough to know how to play together.”
Rookie Rose Zhang of Irvine and Stanford and Sahita Theegala of Chino Hills and Pepperdine birdied the last 11 holes for a 58 and are tied for fourth with Ruoning Yin of China and Nick Taylor of Canada, who eagled No. 6 and birdied the last seven holes; Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Jason Day of Australia, who made seven birdies on the front nine and eagled No. 17, and Charley Hull and Justin Rose of England, who also had seven birdies on the front nine and eagled No. 14.
Allisen Corpuz of Hawaii and USC teamed with Cameron Champ of Sacramento to make eagles on the first and 17th holes to go with nine birdies in a 59 and are tied for eighth with Canadians Brooke Henderson and Corey Conners, who made 13 birdies their 59.
Lexi Thompson and Rickie Fowler of Murrieta had seven birdies on the front nine and an eagle at No. 17 in a 60 and are tied for 10th with Madelene Sagstrom and Ludvig Aberg, both of Sweden, who had five birdies on each nine and another eagle on the 17th hole in their 60.
Lilia Vu of Fountain Valley and UCLA teamed with Joel Dahmen for five birdies and an eagle on the back nine to place 12th at 61, followed by Celine Boutier of France and Harris English at 63, while Andrea Lee of Hermosa Beach and Stanford teamed with partner Russell Henley for a 64 to tie for 14th with Mel Reid of England and Billy Horschel, with Cheyenne Knight and Tom Hoge in 16th at 66.
This is the first mixed-team tournament involving LPGA and PGA Tour players since Laura Davies of England and John Daly captured the final edition of the JC Penney Classic in 1999 at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.
For complete results and second-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard