Singapore, 24 February 2011 – Japan’s rising star Chie Arimura stunned the powerhouse field at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore with an opening round of four-under-par 68 to take the first-round lead today at Tanah Merah Country Club.
The 23-year-old, the winner of six tournaments on the Japan LPGA, leads world number four Na Yeon-choi by one shot at the Garden Course, with the Rolex Rankings’ number one Yani Tseng, Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, Sun Young Yoo and Karen Stupples all sharing third another shot adrift.
Natalie Gulbis and the world’s second-ranked player Jiyai Shin, the 2009 HSBC Women’s Champions winner, are among a group of six players in equal seventh after rounds of one-under 71, while Singapore’s local favourite, Christabel Goh, had a tough day after carding an 82, despite two birdies.
Arimura, playing in the first group of the day from the first tee, went out in two-under 34, courtesy of birdies at the second and ninth. Only a bogey at the 17th, where she three-putted, spoiled her back nine, also played in 34, as she secured the outright lead in her first competitive round of 2011
Said the karaoke-loving Arimura: “Today was my first round of golf this year and I felt really nervous on the first hole. However, I knew I had prepared well and practised hard on my putting in the offseason. I am very happy to be here again (at the HSBC Women’s Champions) and had a good round. It has been a great day for me.
“When I first played in events on the LPGA Tour in America, I was very eager to win and I felt nervous every time I played. But now I work hard and practice a lot, so I will focus on playing my game in order to play well tomorrow.”
Choi was satisfied with her first-day efforts. “I think I had a pretty good round. I had a couple of bogeys out there, but I kept trying to keep my composure and I played with Yani and Christie Kerr and I think it was fun to play with them.”
“I think I have a good feel about my game, but Yani looks great. I think I learned from Yani today. I think have to learn to be like her, be confident. She was very good,” Choi added.
Tseng, meanwhile, thrilled the local fans when she stormed onto the leaderboard with three consecutive birdies from the seventh. Three back-nine bogeys cancelled out another three birdies, part of an up and down round.
“It was like a roller coaster today. I had six birdies, four bogeys and I had two three putts. The greens were a little slower than last week (in Thailand), so I'm still trying to get used to them and I had a lot of long putts.”
However, Tseng was confident that she can keep alive the HSBC Women’s Champions’ unique streak of counting only players that have been ranked at some time as world number one as its past champions – Lorena Ochoa (2008), Shin (2009) and then Miyazato 12 months ago.
“I am still in very good position and there are still three days to go, so I'm still really looking forward to the next three days,” said the newly installed world number one.
Amongst the other big names in the HSBC Women’s Champions’ superstar field, Suzanne Pettersen (world number three) and Michelle Wie (eighth) posted opening-rounds of one-over 73 to be tied 21st, while Cristie Kerr (fifth) and defending champion Ai Miyazato (currently sixth) were in a group one shot behind them. Paula Creamer finished on 76.
Featuring 63 of the best players in the world, the second round of the HSBC Women’s Champions will tee off tomorrow (Friday) at 8.25 am at the Garden Course at Tanah Merah Country Club in Singapore.
The leading group (Arimura, Choi and Stupples) will play at 10.15 am, with the 72-hole championship offering a first prize cheque of US$210,000 to the winner.
Marquee names Tseng and Webb (10.04 am), Gulbis (9.53 am) and Wie and Pettersen (8.36 am) will all play from the first, while Kerr (8.36 am) and Miyazato (8.47 am) will play from the 10th.
Photo - Getty