After 18 holes at the 51st edition of The Chevron Championship, Jennifer Kupcho and Minjee Lee are tied for the top spot after first-round 66s. This is the first time either player has held the first-round lead in a major championship. Lee’s bogey-free 66 was her best opening round in a major since the 2018 AIG Women’s Open and is her best score at Mission Hills Country Club since a 64 in the third round in 2018.
“I started on the back nine. I think I made maybe three birdies in the first maybe six holes, so off to a pretty nice start,” said Lee. “Just tried to just trust the process, my process, and just have a good back nine. Finished with two birdies, so it was nice.”
Kupcho carded nine birdies and three bogeys, becoming the sixth player since 2015 to post nine sub-pars in a round. The Colorado native, who missed the cut last week at the JTBC Classic by one shot, last shot a 66 to start a major at the 2019 Amundi Evian Championship, where she ultimately finished in a tie for second.
“I really like the layout of this golf course, the beautiful shape that it’s in every year,” said Kupcho. “It always is so fun to be here, so just taking advantage of how much I like the course and the atmosphere.”
Defending champion Patty Tavatanakit picked up right where she left off in Rancho Mirage, recording a 5-under 67, the lowest opening round for a defending Chevron champion since the championship was declared a major in 1983. Tavatanakit is vying to become the second player to ever successfully defend this major, only achieved by Annika Sorenstam (2001, 2002).
“I was just calm. Something about this place just keeps me really calm, just really present. I think that’s how I was able to turn my momentum mid-round,” said Tavatanakit, who posted four birdies in her final nine holes. “
Gabriela Ruffels, who finished T19 in 2021 to earn a spot in this year’s championship, is tied for fourth with five players at -4, a group that includes 2016 Chevron champion Lydia Ko, along with 2018 and 2021 AIG Women’s Open winners Georgia Hall and Anna Nordqvist. Ko, who tied the tournament scoring record in last year’s final round (62, -10), is making her 10th appearance in the desert, and carded her 11th career round in the 60s at Mission Hills on Thursday.
“I played really solid overall. When I missed a green I was able to make up and down for most parts, and when I did miss a fairway I was able to recover well with the second shot or third shot coming in,” said Ko. “Overall I think a lot of positives to take from today. On my back nine there were a couple putts that shoulda, coulda, woulda gone in but didn’t. I feel like that’s the case in any round.”
2014 champion Lexi Thompson posted a 3-under 69 to sit in a tie for 10th with five others, including fellow major champion Hinako Shibuno and 2022 LPGA Tour rookie Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, who is making her debut in the major championship. World No. 1 Jin Young Ko’s LPGA Tour record of consecutive rounds under par streak ended with a 2-over 74, her first round without any sub-par hole scores since the 2021 HSBC Women’s World Championship.