China’s Liu Ruixin’s hot putter helped her shrug off severe allergies and grab the first-round lead in the LPGA Queen City Championship on Thursday on seven-under par 65.
The 24-year-old needed just 27 putts in her bogey-free round at Kenwood Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, and admitted she hadn’t expected to find herself at the top of the leaderboard — one stroke in front of Elizabeth Szokol, Dottie Ardina, Linnea Strom and Chien Peiyun.
“I don’t know how I did this good, but it happened and I’m very happy to take it,” said Liu, who said she was still “not clear” from the allergies that prompted her to withdraw from last week’s Portland Classic.
She said it was her putting that made the difference in a round that saw her birdie five of the first nine holes before adding two more coming in.
“I pretty much made everything except for hole No. 12,” Liu said. “That’s the only bad hole I played today, because my second shot was only like 18 feet to the hole for eagle and I three-putt that one.”
She got up and down for par at 18 to grab a clubhouse lead that held up as the afternoon wore on.
The Philippines’ Ardina grabbed a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 10 holes, but she dropped back with a bogey at the 12th.
Sweden‘s Strom and Taiwan’s Chien also had seven birdies and one bogey while American Szokol had six birdies without a bogey to join the group sharing second on 66.
Ardina put together her blistering front nine despite not having played those holes in her practice round.
“I was just kind of winging it out there this afternoon,” she said. “I was just trying to hit fairways and greens.
“Obviously the greens are kind of fast this week compared to last week, so I was definitely making putts the first 10 holes, which is really nice.”
China’s Yin Ruoning, whose tie for third in Portland moved her from third to second in the world, was in another big group on 68 as she vies for a top-four finish that could give her a chance to reach the top of the rankings.
Yin, whose two titles this year include the Women’s PGA Championship, is the only player in the top six teeing it up in Cincinnati this week.
American Ally Ewing got her title defense off to a solid start with a three-under par 69.