Ruoning Yin and Nasa Hataoka share the lead after the first day of the LPGA season ending CME Group Tour Championship in Florida
After over four inches of rain in Naples, Florida on Wednesday, the first round of play at the CME Group Tour Championship saw softer fairways and shortened holes and concluded with two of the LPGA Tour’s best atop the leaderboard.
Six-time LPGA Tour winner Nasa Hataoka and two-time 2023 winner Ruoning Yin wrapped opening round play at Tiburón Golf Club with nine-under-par, 63s, just one birdie away from tying the 18-hole scoring record of 62 set by Lydia Ko in 2016.
Hataoka was first to claim her spot at the top after going bogey-free with nine birdies, tied for the most among the field. The Japanese golfer only needed one hole before stepping on the gas with three straight birdies on holes two to four. Two more birdies on six and eight set her up at five-under-par at the turn. She started off the last nine holes with back-to-back birdies which put her in a tie with Anna Nordqvist at seven-under-par. Birdies on 13 and 17 were all it took to place her squarely in first while the rest of the leaderboard began to take shape around her.
“When I play Monday it was already - fairways already soft, so I really practice my hybrid shot,” Hataoka said about how she prepared for the softer conditions. “It's because longer iron - I practiced a lot assuming there would be a lot more distance needed for my iron shots, so that's what I concentrated on because of the wet ground.”
Watch First Round Highlights of the 2023 CME Group Tour Championship
Yin teed off in the second to last group of the day and worked her way up the leaderboard also thanks to nine birdies and no bogeys. Just like Hataoka, Yin started with early birdies on two and three before firing off three in a row to end her front nine on holes six to eight. At five-under-par heading into the back, Yin added another birdie on 12, back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15 and a final one on 17 to tie Hataoka atop the rest of the field.
“When I warm up because, because the wind is so windy and I just don't feel great about my swing, but my coach is here this week and just right before the tee shot he told me, you're looking great,” Yin said about her round. “Your swing looking great. So just go play your game and just try to enjoy it.
Three-time Tour winner Minjee Lee sunk a 10-foot birdie putt on 18 to put her into solo third behind the two leaders and ahead of Nordqvist. Lee was also one of the 10 players to go bogey-free on Thursday, and had eight birdies overall including five on the back nine. Nordqvist fired off an opening round 65, tying her season-low for the third time this year and placing her in solo fourth. Five players round out the top five, with Georgia Hall, Alison Lee, Hye-Jin Choi, Yu Liu and Patty Tavatanakit all shooting six-under-par, 66s.
VIiw the full CME Group Tour Championship leaderboard here.