ORLANDO, Fla. – Lydia Ko holed out for eagle with a gap wedge on the first hole, a “perfect” start to an opening round on her home course. Ko said the 7-under 65 was hands down the best she’s ever played around Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. The former No. 1 leads the Gainbridge LPGA by two strokes over Nelly Korda and Nanna Koerstz Madsen.
“I had my sunglasses on and I saw it bounce and kind of go forward and disappear,” said Ko of her approach at the first. “But there is a ridge behind, so I wasn’t sure if it went over the ridge or went in. I didn’t want to celebrate and then look dumb and the ball is like 30 feet long.”
Ko drove her golf cart to the clubhouse this morning and said this is the first 18 holes she’s walked since the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship last December. A fatigued Ko sat down on the 16th at Nona to take a breather.
While she’s obviously quite familiar with the Tom Fazio design, playing for score isn’t routine here.
Gainbridge LPGA: Leaderboard
Now THAT is how you finish
Lydia Ko closes out her round with a birdie on 18 pic.twitter.com/kbGLqpjFeR
— LPGA (@LPGA) February 25, 2021
“Normally when I’m playing, I don’t really count everything,” she said. “The last few rounds I played with a few other players just before this week, so I kind of took my score, because you kind of have to get used to making sure that every shot counts.”
Ko played in the group behind Annika Sorenstam, who is competing on the LPGA this week for the first time since 2008. Sorenstam, a longtime Nona resident, carded a 3-over 75 with a triple-bogey on the par-4 fifth.
“Definitely cool for me to be in the same field as I think the GOAT,” said Ko, a 15-time tour winner whose last title came in 2018.
Current No. 1 Jin Young Ko opened with a 68 in her 2021 debut. Ko won the CME last December to take the money title in only four starts on the LPGA.
“My swing feeling is good and the putting is good,” said Ko, “everything is good. Weather is perfect. My mind is really clearing, so I can’t wait.”
There are six current Lake Nona members in the field including Nasa Hataoka, Anne van Dam, Lindy Duncan, Leona Maguire, Ko and Sorenstam.
Former member Yani Tseng, a 15-time tour winner who now lives in San Diego, shot 81 in her first round on tour since April 2019.