Leona Maguire off to steady start as Lizette Salas sets early pace in Atlanta

Irish golfer opens up with a level-par 72 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

Ireland’s Leona Maguire drives on the ninth hole during the first round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club  in Johns Creek, Georgia. Photograph:  Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

Ireland’s Leona Maguire drives on the ninth hole during the first round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia. Photograph: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

 

The sequence of being a first-round leader for a third straight week was broken, still – for Leona Maguire – an opening round of level-par 72 provided a solid start to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club where American Lizette Salas used her power game to good effect in claiming the first round lead with a five-under-par 67.

Maguire – on a hot streak of form, which has seen her finish tied-ninth in the Mediheal Championship and runner-up in the Meijer Classic in back-to-back weeks – knew going into the season’s third Major that the course, affected by heavy rain for much of the past week, would play long and put a premium on her use of hybrids, 9-wood and long irons.

The 26-year-old Co Cavan golfer indeed managed to find a way to get home in level par. An opening bogey on the first was one of three dropped shots (also bogeying the eighth and 13th holes) but she nullified those bogeys with birdies on the Par-5 fifth and 12th and then a fine birdie on the Par-3 17th.

Salas, a 31-year-old Californian, conjured up a remarkable bogey-free 67 with five birdies – on the fourth, fifth, 12th, 17th and 18th holes – to claim the lead. Although a tour player for the past decade, Salas’s only win came in the 2014 Kingsmill Championship. In the Majors, she has managed four career top-10s, including a runner-up finish in the 2019 Women’s British Open.

Of her improved form of late, Salas – a four-time Solheim Cup player – revealed she had struggled with her mental health through last year. Of managing to work her way through those dark days, she explained: “I started reading books because I had a hard time falling to sleep, and to put the phone away, really just slowed everything down and I was able decompress and let go of whatever was going on up in my brain. I was finally able to relax and play the golf I know how.”

Salas’s error-free round gave her a one-shot lead over England’s Charley Hull. She mixed two bogeys with six birdies, including four in her final eight holes, to sit one shot ahead of a group of seven players on 70 including world number 13 Jessica Korda.

Inbee Park, a three-time PGA champion and current world number two, recovered from an early triple-bogey to post a one-under round of 71.

The in-form Korda, winner of last week’s Meijer Classic, identified the slow pace of play as an issue. “There was four groups on one hole . . . once we hit the back nine, we just really slowed down.”

On the PGA European Tour, dangerous weather – with the threat of lightning – meant the opening round of the BMW International Open in Munich was unfinished with Australian Wade Ormsby the only one of four players to reach seven under to actually finish his round.

Ormsby signed for a 65 and shared the lead with England’s Sam Horsfield, who had completed 17 holes when the siren sounded, along with Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura (also through 17) and Spain’s Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez (12 holes).

The Australian had felt unwell in the days running up to the tournament but it didn’t show in his game.

“I have been swinging pretty good the last week and a half but the putter hasn’t been co-operating, but it did today, so that’s how you can shoot those numbers. I was definitely upside down yesterday. I got a few hours sleep last night, so I feel much better today but yesterday I thought I was going to be in trouble for the week but somehow it sorted itself out.”

Niall Kearney was another to be called in, with the Dubliner just one shot adrift after a haul of six birdies through 16 holes. Kearney’s birdies came at the 16th, 18th, second, fourth, fifth and sixth with his momentum halted by the weather gods.

Jonathan Caldwell, winner of the Made in Himmerland a fortnight ago, hit the ground running on his return to competition after a week off with an opening round 70 while Pádraig Harrington (72) and Paul Dunne (73) have some work to do if they are to survive the midway cut.

Collated first round scores in the Women’s PGA Championship (USA unless stated, Par 72)

67 Lizette Salas

68 Charley Hull (Eng)

69 Austin Ernst, Jessica Korda, Xiyu Lin (Chn), Yealimi Noh, Daniela Holmqvist (Swe), Jeong-Eun Lee (Kor), Alena Sharp (Can)

70 Maria Fassi (Mex), Paphangkorn Tavatanakit (Tha), Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), Ind-Gee Chun (Kor), Nelly Korda, Madelene Sagstroem (Swe), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Den), Chella Choi (Kor), Gerina Piller, Cydney Clanton, Mina Harigae, Giulia Molinaro (Ita), Dottie Ardina (Phi)

71 Ind-Bee Park (Kor), Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Hyo-Joo Kim (Kor), Caroline Masson (Ger), Ryann O’Toole, Esther Henseleit (Ger)

72 Hannah Green (Aus), Som-Yeon Ryu (Kor), Lydia Ko (Nzl), Angela Stanford, Amy Yang (Kor), Brittany Lincicome, Sandra Changkija, Leona Maguire (Irl), Yu Liu (Chn), Marina Alex

73 Danielle Kang, Jeon-Geun Lee (Kor), Sophia Popov (Ger), Yuka Saso (Phi), Celine Boutier (Fra), Min-Jee Lee (Aus), Alexis Thompson, Hee-Young Park (Kor), Ally Ewing, Brittany Altomare, Azahara Munoz (Spa), Megan Khang, Albane Valenzuela (Swi), Wichanee Meechai (Tha), Jaye Marie Green, Pornanong Phatlum (Tha), Jennifer Chang, Lindsey Weaver, Su-Hyun Oh (Aus), Aditi Ashok (Ind), Lindy Duncan, Lauren Kim, Sarah Burnham, Caroline Inglis

74 Brooke Henderson (Can), Shanshan Feng (Chn), Brittany Lang, Eun-Hee Ji (Kor), Melissa Reid (Eng), Alisa Rodriguez, Pajaree Anannarukarn (Tha), Alison Lee, Klara Spilkova (Cze), Paula Reto (Rsa), Maria Torres (Pur), Mariah Stackhouse

75 Mi-Rim Lee (Kor), Jin-Young Ko (Kor), Pernilla Lindberg (Swe), Georgia Hall (Eng), Nasa Hataoka (Jpn), Cheyenne Knight, Gaby Lopez (Mex), Wei Ling Hsu (Tai), Matilda Castren (Fin), Sarah Schmelzel, Christina Kim, Marissa Steen, Dana Finkelstein, Jennifer Song, Luna Sobron (Spa), Andrea Lee, Min-Seo Kwak (Kor), Lauren Coughlin

76 Gabriela Ruffels (Aus), Sei-Young Kim (Kor), Sung-Hyun Park (Kor), Hinako Shibuno (Jpn), In-Kyung Kim (Kor), Stacy Lewis, Bianca Pagdanganan (Phi), Moriya Jutanugarn (Tha), Stephanie Connelly, Jodi Ewart (Eng), Ayako Uehara (Jpn), Elizabeth Szokol, Perrine Delacour (Fra), Kristen Gillman, Ruixin Liu (Chn), Mo Martin, Janie Jackson

77 Laura Davies (Eng), A-Lim Kim (Kor), Jennifer Kupcho, Lauren Stephenson, Joanna Coe, Anne van Dam (Ned), Michelle Wie, Ashleigh Buhai (Rsa), Thidapa Suwannapura (Tha), Jing Yan (Chn), Esther Lee, Linnea Stroem (Swe), Brianna Do

78 Yani Tseng (Tai), Cristie Kerr, Bronte Law (Eng), Emily Kristine Pedersen (Den), Amy Olson, Allie Knight, Sarah Kemp (Aus), Annie Park, Katherine Kirk (Aus), Stephanie Meadow (Irl), Celine Palomar-Herbin (Fra), Kristy McPherson, Kelly Tan (Mal), Ssu-Chia Cheng (Tai), Ji-Won Jeon (Kor)

79 Mi-Jung Hur (Kor), Carlota Ciganda (Spa), Moira Dunn, Angel Yin, Jennifer Coleman, Min Lee (Tai), Hae-Ji Kang (Kor), Haley Moore

80 Caroline Hedwall (Swe), Nicole Broch Larsen (Den), Mi-Hyang Lee (Kor), Ana Belac (Slo), Nam-Yeon Choi (Kor)

81 Samantha Morrell, Jenny Shin (Kor), Jane Park

82 Muni He (Chn)

84 Tiffany Chan (Hkg)

87 Ashley Grier

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