MADEIRA, Ohio − Ruixin Liu came into the Kroger Queen City Championship Presented by P&G ranked No. 114 in the CME Rankings. After one round at the Kenwood Country Club, she’s turning heads.
The 24-year-old teed off just before 9 a.m. on Thursday. When she finished shortly before 2 p.m., she had opened the tournament as the clubhouse leader with a 7-under 65, tying her lowest career round.
Kroger Queen City Championship Round 1 results at LPGA’s Kroger Queen City Championship
Liu started the front nine with five birdies, shooting a 31. She opened the back nine with a pair of birdies over the first four holes, then finished the afternoon with six consecutive pars for a bogey-free round.
On the 18th hole, Liu narrowly avoided a greenside bunker, then two-putted for par to pace the rest of the field.
Liu was forced to withdraw from the Portland Classic last week due to injury after a 72 first round. Prior to that, she had made the cut in six of her last seven events, finishing tied for ninth place in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in July.
Liu was challenged by second-place Dottie Ardina, LPGA’s 151st-ranked golfer. Ardina shot an out-of-this-world 6-under on the front nine Thursday but finished scoring a 6-under 66 after a much tamer back nine. Ardina reached the lead at 7-under after shooting a birdie on 10, which made for her 7th birdie in 10 holes, but a bogey on 12 and pars on the remaining holes left the 29-year-old tied for second.
Elizabeth Szokol, a 29-year-old ranked No. 43, posted a bogey-free day to draw even at second, too. The final members of the four-way tie for second were Peiyun Chien and Linnea Strom.
Strom on the comeback trail
Strom, of Sweden, joined the LPGA as a rookie in 2019, but struggled in 2021, making just eight cuts in 21 starts then returned to the Epson Tour in 2022.
Strom rebounded on the LPGA’s developmental tour, earning seven top 10 finishes to become the Epson Tour Player of the Year and return to the LPGA Tour for the 2023 campaign.
The 26-year-old, who is ranked No. 63, finished tied for second in the first round of the Kroger Queen City Championship with a 6-under 66. After a 32 on the front nine, Strom shook off a bogey on the 11th hole and closed out her round with two birdies and six pars.
Strom has missed the cut in two of her last three events but logged a top 20 finish at the CPKC Women’s Open in August and was 24th at the Scottish Open, 21st at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational and 16th at the Dana Open earlier this summer.
Reigning champion Ally Ewing and Ohio natives
Ewing, Queen City’s only former champion in its 2023 edition, shot a 69 (-3) in round one on Thursday to be tied for spot No. 21 on the leaderboard. Ewing got off to a tame start with seven-straight pars to open the day, but dropped four birdies (with a bogey mixed in) on the next nine holes to solidify her Thursday score.
Ewing shot an identical 69 on opening day in her championship run in Cincinnati a year ago.
Cincinnati’s runner-up in 2022, Xiyu Lin, who is ranked No. 8 in the world, shot a 73 (+1) Thursday. Just a week ago at the Portland Classic Lin finished runner-up, where she also shot a less-than-ideal 71 (-1) on opening day.
Ohio native and fifteen-year-old Mia Hammond, from New Albany, who was given a sponsor invite to Kenwood Country Club, sits tied in 69th place. Hammond was 2-under on the front nine with a 34 but bogeyed three times on the back nine to finish even on the day.
Marissa Steen, a Lakota West graduate and a current University of Cincinnati women’s golf assistant coach, also sits tied for 69. Steen opened with eight pars, followed with back-to-back bogeys on the turn, but rallied with two birdies to close the day even on the scorecard.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Kroger Queen City Championship: Ruixin Liu leads after 1st round