Saso, Altomare set early LPGA pace at Kapolei
Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark chips onto the 12th hole during the first round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship at Kapolei Golf Club. AFP
Yuka Saso and Brittany Altomare shared the clubhouse lead at the LPGA Lotte Championship on Wednesday as Brooke Henderson teed off in search of a third straight title in the event.
Saso, a 19-year-old from the Philippines who made history for her country with double Asian Games golf gold in 2018, was first in the clubhouse on eight-under par 64, racing home with four of her eight birdies at her last four holes.
American Altomare followed with an even more impressive surge, stringing together seven straight birdies after the turn on the way to nine birdies and a bogey for an eight-under total.
Saso, a two-time winner on the Japan LPGA tour, said there was no real secret to her success at Kapolei Golf Club in Oahu, Hawaii.
"I made some good putts, had good up and downs, my driving was very consistent today," said Saso, who is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption.
Saso knows the going could be tougher when she tees off in the afternoon on Friday, when the wind is likely to be more of a factor.
"Back nine the wind did get stronger than this morning," said Saso, who opened with a birdie on 10 and added birdies at 17 and 18 and the fourth before reeling off birdies at six, seven, eight and nine.
"I think I just have to be careful with my drives, keep it in the fairway as much as possible, and trust the process."
Altomare, ranked 52nd in the world and in search of her first LPGA Tour win, also opened with a birdie at the 10th and was one-under at the turn after a birdie at 14 and a bogey at 15.
She then birdied seven straight from the first through the seventh before finishing with back-to-back pars.
South Korean Ryu So-yeon and American Ally Ewing were in the clubhouse on seven-under, each with seven birdies in bogey-free rounds.
World number three Kim Sei-young of South Korea, who won the tournament in 2015, fired a 67 and was tied in the clubhouse with Taiwan's Hsu Wei-ling and South Korean Lee Mi-hyang.
China's Lily Muni He leads a pack of five golfers all tied at four under.
Henderson, meanwhile, teed off late alongside American Angela Stanford and Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn.
The Canadian has a chance to become the first LPGA player to earn a three-peat since South Korea's Park In-bee at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship from 2013-15.