France’s Karine Icher, helped by her caddie and husband Fred, took a two-stroke lead on Thursday after the opening round of the LPGA Tour’s Swinging Skirts Classic by shooting a six-under-par 66.
The pair hatched a strategy of leaving their approach shots short of the pin to allow for more controllable uphill putts.
“It’s the key on this course,” Icher said. “It’s a tough golf course, especially with the wind and temperature. It gets so cold. You try to stay warm and try to catch the right wind and go with it and make some putts.”
The start was delayed by two hours because of fog and play was suspended because of darkness with 24 golfers still on the course.
Icher birdied four of her first seven holes to set up a two-shot buffer ahead of a five players, comprising Lydia Ko – who celebrated her 17th birthday with a strong 68 – Maria McBride, Dewi Claire Schreefel, Jenny Shin and Ilhee Lee.
Morgan Pressel birdied four of her first eight holes and was among the players sitting three strokes back at 69.
“It was actually a bit of a struggle out there. My short game kept me in it. I stayed patient,” Pressel said. “It’s a tough golf course. I knew nobody was going to go out there and blitz it.”
Mo Martin also shot a 69 after warming up four times before finally hitting her first tee shot following the fog delay.
Top-ranked Inbee Park opened with a 73, while second-ranked Suzann Pettersen had a 70 in her first tournament since missing three events with a back injury. On the par-4 11th, a frustrated Pettersen made an eight-foot putt for triple-bogey to fall from three-under to even-par before bouncing back.
Michelle Wie, coming off her first win in nearly four years last week at home in Hawaii, finished at even-par 72.
Angela Stanford and Se Ri Pak withdrew on Thursday, and neither provided a reason.