SHANGHAI – Nasa Hataoka was the final golfer to tee off Thursday, but she saved the best for last with three late birdies to surge into a tie with Amy Yang on the first day of the Buick LPGA Shanghai.
The world No. 4 four was three shots off the South Korean’s pace but birdied three of the final six holes en route to a five-under par 67 at the Qizhong Garden Golf Club.
Jessica Korda’s six birdies were tempered by a pair of bogeys that left her tied for third with fellow American Angel Yin in the $2.1 million tournament, in just its second year.
World No. 6 Brooke Henderson of Canada hammered in an eagle on the 17th to finish at three-under 69 along with several others including last year’s winner Danielle Kang of the United States.
But the world’s top-ranked woman golfer, Ko Jin-young of South Korea, will need to re-group for the second round. She has won two of the last four tournaments she has played and is a two-time major winner this year, but she failed to find a rhythm Thursday, enduring four bogeys to finish five strokes back at even par.
Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand looked strong at times with six birdies, but three bogeys spoiled her card.
Still, she finished the first round within range of the leaders at 69.
Lydia Ko, now 22, was the youngest top-ranked player as a 17-year-old and was widely expected to be a dominant force for years to come.
But she has slumped to No. 31, rarely making a tournament top 10 this year and missing the cut at the British Women’s Open in August by a whopping 10 strokes.
After the British Open, Lydia Ko’s former coach David Leadbetter blamed the Korean-born New Zealander’s woes on mismanagement by her parents, who he urged to let her manage her own affairs following a string of coaching changes.