American Amy Olson, buoyed by a hole-in-one, grabbed a one-stroke lead in the first round of the US Women's Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, on Thursday.
The 68th-ranked Olson, who is in search of not only her first major title but her first LPGA crown, fired a four-under par 67 on the Cypress Creek course to hold a narrow lead over Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn, 2019 Women's British Open champion Hinako Shibuno of Japan and South Korean Kim A-Lim.
Shibuno also played Cypress Creek, one of two in use over the first two rounds, while Moriya and Kim fired their three-under 68s on the par-71 Jackrabbit course.
"I'm definitely pleased with how I played," Olson said. "I made some really good putts, made a key par save on my 16th hole, hole seven out here.
"I think that was pretty crucial and a nice birdie right on top of that on my 17th hole."
But the highlight was her ace at the par-three 16th, where she had 141 yards to the pin and went with an eight-iron.
"The wind was kind of coming off my right a little bit and the pin's on the right. So I hit a little cut to hold the breeze and it was literally perfect," said Olson, who threw her arms up and laughed with delight as her ball took a small hop and rolled into the cup.
"It landed two paces short of the flag and had some good spin on it and just trickled in," Olson said. "We saw the whole thing, which is fun."
Although coronavirus restrictions meant there was no roar from a crowd, Olson was happy to savour the moment.
"I think it's important to enjoy the little things, the moments along the way," said Olson, who had gotten off to a stuttering start with a bogey at her second hole, the 11th but told herself to stay patient.
"There's birdies out here," she said, "but you can't go at every pin."
She followed up her ace with a birdie at the par-four 17th and added a birdie at the par-four first as she picked up four shots in the space of four holes.
Reigning British Women's Open champion Sophia Popov of Germany was among a group of seven players sharing fifth place on two-under 69, a group that also included Sweden's Linnea Strom and Linn Grant, Thailand's Patty Tavatanakit, England's Charley Hull, American Gerina Piller and Yuka Saso of the Philippines.
The championship rescheduled from June because of the Covid-19 pandemic drew nine of the world's top 10.
Both world No 1 Ko Jin-young and South Korean compatriot and defending champion Lee6 Jeong-eun carded opening rounds of two-over 73.
World No 2 Kim Sei-young, who has a chance to topple Ko from atop the rankings this week, opened with a one-over par 72.
Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the 2020 US Women's Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas (USA unless noted, a-denotes amateur):
67 - Amy Olson
68 - Hinako Shibuno (JPN), Moriya Jutanugarn (THA), Kim A-Lim (KOR)
69 - Linnea Strom (SWE), a-Linn Grant (SWE), Patty Tavatanakit (THA), Gerina Piller, Charley Hull (ENG), Sophia Popov (GER), Yuka Saso (PHI)
70 - Jodi Ewart Shadoff (ENG), a-Pauline Roussin-Bouchard (FRA), Lindsey Weaver, Mina Harigae, a-Amelia Garvey (NZL), Megan Khang, a-Maja Stark (SWE), Brittany Lincicome, Choi Hye-jin (KOR), Park Sung-hyun (KOR), Jennifer Kupcho, Ariya Jutanugarn (THA)
71 - a-Kaitlyn Papp, Caroline Masson (GER), Azahara Munoz (ESP), Sarah Schmelzel, Ashleigh Buhai (RSA), Cristie Kerr, Nasa Hataoka (JPN), a-Gabriela Ruffels (AUS), Carlota Ciganda (ESP), Lydia Ko (NZL), Brittany Altomare, Park In-bee (KOR), Nuria Iturrioz (ESP)