Liu Yiyi smashed the China LPGA Tour scoring record on Thursday when the Shaanxi teenager fired an 11-under 61 to take a seven stroke lead after the first round of the Women’s China Open presented by World Golf Series in Fujian province.
The 17-year-old pro carded nine birdies and a hole-in-one at the 165-yard par-three fourth hole with a five-iron at Orient Xiamen. Liu’s feat beat the previous Tour record set by South Korean Inbee Park who shot 11-under 62 (par 73) in the third round of the 2014 World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills Haikou.
It also bettered the previous tournament record of eight-under 64 set by South Korean Shin Ji-yai in the third round of the 2006 China Ladies Open at Orient Xiamen.
Liu, who won the US Women’s Open sectional qualifier for China in May, called her record-breaking round “amazing”. Starting her day from the Orient Xiamen back with a birdie, the teenager said she just took it from there.
“I feel a little bit comfortable but not scared. I just go on and hit it and do my best. I was on fire,” said Liu who reeled off six consecutive birdies starting from the 15th hole (her sixth hole).
“I didn’t feel excited I just thought I shot a birdie again. I’m so excited. I think I can’t sleep tonight. Tomorrow and the last two days I will try my very, very best to hit some good scores.”
Lin Xiyu was equal second as the Guangdong native opened her campaign at the 12th national championship with a 68, tied with South Korean Hwang Ye-nah and Chinese Taipei’s Chen Yu-ju.
China’s Yin Ruoning was the top amateur as the teenager shot a 69 to sit equal fifth with Thais Khanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul, Sherman Santiwiwatthanapong and Ploychompoo Wirairungrueng.
US LPGA Tour regular Lin, playing in her first tournament since finishing 14th at last month’s Blue Bay LPGA, opened with a bogey-free round featuring two birdies each on the front and back nines in her bid to become the first Chinese to win the championship.
“I normally will feel a little rusty after a long break but today I feel really good. Unfortunately I missed a couple of birdies. I mean it’s a very solid round, I feel really happy.”
Lin expressed surprise at Liu’s round of 61 on a “very difficult course” and said it would be an uphill battle for her to win.
“Seven shots is a big gap. I will definitely try my best and I know I will have to have some low scores if I try to win this tournament. I think it will happen if I could manage my putter better. Tomorrow it will be an early start, which I normally have a better score with, so I am really looking forward to a good round.”
Saranporn Langkulgasettrin, who is looking to repeat as the CLPGA Tour Order of Merit champion, opened with a 73 after posting a birdie and two bogeys. The Thai arrived in Xiamen after flying in from Japan on Wednesday afternoon where she had to take three days of “rookie lessons” as part of earning her JLPGA card for next season.
“Because this is the last CLPGA Tour tournament of the year I wanted to have a good memory to finish the year,” said the Phuket teenager who needs to make the cut to secure a top-three ranking on the Order. The top three on the money list receive a place in next year’s US Women’s Open.
“I don’t even count. I just imagine that top 20 is going to be enough because this one is a big enough tournament. I’m really tired. I just want to make the cut, finish in a good position for four days. I just really want to be focused more and don’t make myself too tired.”
Liu’s ace was the second hole-in-one of the day as South Korean Lee Jae-yoon recorded a perfect shot at the 155-yard eighth hole with a blast of her seven-iron.
Orient Xiamen is a 6,388-yard, par-72 layout designed by Ronald Fream and TK Pen.
Women’s China Open presented by World Golf Series first round leading scores (China unless stated; *denotes amateur)
61 - Liu Yiyi
68 - Lin Xiyu, Hwang Ye-nah (South Korea), Chen Yu-ju (Chinese Taipei)
69 - Khanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul (Thailand), Yin Ruoning*, Sherman Santiwiwatthanapong (Thailand), Ploychompoo Wirairungrueng (Thailand)
70 - Peng Chieh (Chinese Taipei), Chonlada Chayanun (Thailand), Parinda Phokan (Thailand), Yuan Hexi, Feng Simin, Pitsaon Chaichompoo (Thailand), Qin Min
71 - Chen Meng-chu (Chinese Taipei), Chung Ye-na (Chinese Taipei), Jang So-young (South Korea), Lee Min (Chinese Taipei), Du Mohan, Liu Wenbo, Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras (Thailand), Renuka Suksukont (Thailand), Kanyalak Preedasuttijit (Thailand), Ren Yue, Zhang Yunjie
(by Zheng Qing)