On a sweltering day in Thailand, three bogey-free 63s put Nasa Hataoka, Esther Henseleit and Su Oh atop the leaderboard after the first round of the 2022 Honda LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club Pattaya’s Old Course.
Hataoka hit all 14 fairways and all 18 greens in her first round, picking apart the Old Course with laser-like accuracy. The Japanese star has never finished better than 31st in her previous three tournament appearances, but says she is finally feeling comfortable around the venue.
“(This is the) first time we know the golf course, so I know the bad position and good position,” said Hataoka, whose previous best round on the Old Course was a second-round 67 in 2021. “I missed the bad position, so that’s why I play really good today.”
Henseleit made her Honda LPGA Thailand debut a great one, carding nine birdies in her first time around the Old Course and shooting her career-low round. “I just didn’t make any big mistakes, I think. My irons were good,” said Henseleit, a two-time winner on the LET from Germany. “On my first nine I had many tap-in birdies; on the back nine I holed like two longer putts. But just stress-free golf.”
Oh also shot the lowest round of her competitive career on Thursday, but needed a testy 4-foot downhiller for par on her final hole to complete the blemish-free scorecard. The Australia native pointed to her work on the greens, needing just 22 putts, as the strength of her game on Thursday.
“I think my ball striking was actually better last week, but I had like 10 less putts this week, like today. Like 32 putts last week but had like 23 putts today. With obviously a chip-in it’s maybe like 24, 25 putts, but still like eight shots better,” said Oh. “And I didn’t hit it that much closer. I think I hit it closer last week, but just didn’t hole anything. So I’m glad I holed some putts today. Feels really nice.”
China’s Xiyu Lin holds solo fourth at -8. Six players are tied for fifth at -7, including Canadian Brooke Henderson and France’s Celine Boutier, who is of Thai descent. 2021 Honda LPGA Thailand winner Ariya Jutanugarn, who became the first Thai player to win the tournament, opened with a 2-over 74 and is tied for 63rd.
SU OH SURVIVES FINAL HOLE FOR CAREER-BEST DAY
After 17 bogey-free holes on Thursday, Su Oh’s clean scorecard was almost up-ended by a 4-foot putt. That short downhiller for par tested the nerves of the 25-year-old Australian, thankfully falling in to secure a bogey-free day and a career-low 9-under 63.
“I would have been so pissed off if I missed that,” she said with a laugh.
An LPGA Tour Member since 2016, Oh has four runner-up finishes to her name, most recently at the 2021 Portland Classic. She has already hoisted a trophy in 2022, winning the Australian WPGA Championship in January. And while her results in Thailand are not stellar – she has never finished better than 54th in her four previous appearances – she feels she has what it takes this week.
“I know this golf course. You kind of have to hit it long, like it’s a long hitter’s course. So I literally tried to hit it really hard on off the tee every shot,” said Oh. “I actually didn’t drive it that great, but, I mean, it wasn’t bad clearly. You don’t really have to be that straight here. You can just hit it really far, and then you have such a big advantage.”