Thompson fires 68 to seize solo lead at Women's PGA Championship

Lexi Thompson fired a four-under-par 68 to grab a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Women's PGA Championship
Lexi Thompson fired a four-under-par 68 to grab a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Women's PGA ChampionshipAFP
Lexi Thompson birdied the first three holes on her way to firing a four-under-par 68, clinging to a one-stroke lead after Thursday's first round of the Women's PGA Championship.

The 29-year-old American, who announced last month that this will be her final LPGA season, was one shot ahead of top-ranked compatriot Nelly Korda and Thailand's Patty Tavatanakit after 18 holes at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington.

"It was overall just a great day," Thompson said. "I played solid golf. Had a good start so I tried to just keep on rolling with that. There are a lot of tough holes out there. I felt very comfortable."

Thompson, a runner-up last week, credits her solid play to swing changes not her retirement revelation.

"I kind of clicked onto something with my golf swing, just trying to simplify things," she said. "I don't think that has anything to do with announcing what I did. It's just a matter of being comfortable and playing free-swinging Lexi I guess."

Reigning Olympic champion Korda, seeking her third major victory, reeled off three consecutive birdies at one stretch to stay near the top.

"Overall I think it was a really good day," Korda said. "This golf course is so tough. It's critical to hit the fairway. It's so demanding off the tee so anything under par is a good score."

Tavatanakit won her only major at the 2021 ANA Inspiration but won two other titles this past February in Saudi Arabia and Thailand and had a bogey-free round.

"I feel like I wasn't chasing perfection out there," she said. "I could come out naturally and be a free golfer out there. I found something out there. It worked out great."

A pack on 70 included England's Charley Hull, Ireland's Leona Maguire, France's Celine Boutier and Japan's Hinako Shibuno.

Thompson has not won any title since the 2022 Ladies European Tour event in New York and hasn't won an LPGA event since capturing her 11th at the 2019 ShopRite LPGA Classic.

Thompson, who won her only major title at the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship, sank a four-foot putt to birdie the first and five-footers at the par-5 second and par-4 third.

She closed the front nine with a six-foot birdie putt and after a bogey at 10 added birdies from about 14 feet at 12 and 12 feet at 14.

But she found a greenside bunker at 16 and made bogey.

Korda keeps the faith

Korda has won six LPGA titles this season, including her second career major crown at April's Chevron Championship in Texas, and last month's Americas Open for a sixth win in seven starts.

But she missed the cut at the US Women's Open and last week's LPGA Meijer Classic and has been trying to recapture her top form with another major trophy at stake.

"That's just golf," Korda said. "It's just such a roller coaster. Life is as well but I feel like out here you get a couple bad breaks and you're not playing the weekend and you can get really down on yourself.

"You have to have faith and you have to keep working hard then pick a game plan and start fresh every week."

Korda has refocused on the one-shot-at-a-time attitude that was at the core of her win streak.

"You have to give the shot right in front of you, ahead of you, 100 per cent attention and that's what I've been trying to focus on this week - stay very present and not get too ahead of myself," she said.

Tavatanakit sank a 25-foot birdie putt at the first hole, made another from just inside 10 feet at the par-5 sixth and holed a putt from just beyond 18 feet to birdie the par-4 ninth.

"A lot of commitment and trust, hit my shot with full energy and just pray," she said.

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