Ingrid Lindblad shot the lowest round by an amateur at a U.S. Women’s Open, a six-under-par 65 that left the Swede trailing only leader Mina Harigae in the opening round at the $10 million championship on Thursday.
Though American Harigae later went to the front as the sun dipped below the Carolina pines, Lindblad earned plaudits with a near flawless performance on a day of low scoring in benign conditions at toasty Pine Needles.
The world’s number two amateur has a long way to go to emulate the feats of compatriot Annika Sorenstam, the 72-time LPGA winner whose victories included the 1996 Women’s Open at this very place.
Lindblad, who played with Sorenstam on Thursday, is biding her time as she hones her game without the pressure of playing for a living.
The 22-year-old plays college golf at Louisiana State University and is in no hurry to turn pro, even though it means she is ineligible to collect the $1.8 million that will be awarded the winner on Sunday.
“It would have been fun to win a little bit of money (but) I’m going to stay in college for another year or so,” she said.
“I hit a few shots close to the pin and then my putting was great today. Made a few par saves and made a few putts for birdies. It just worked from fairway to green.
“I felt like the course would be a little bit more narrow. I missed a few tee shots today that I thought would be a little bit more off, but then I get to the ball and I’m like, oh, it’s fine.
“The green areas were tough. You had to hit the right section of the green to not run off the slopes and everything. It’s a great US Open course.”
Leader Harigae, who had never broken 70 in 11 previous Open appearances, took the lead with a chip-in birdie at the 16th hole that left her more surprised than anyone.
“I never chip in in tournaments. I was super excited it happened,” said the 32-year-old Harigae, a member of last year’s U.S. Solheim Cup team, though she has yet to win an LPGA Tour event.
“I was confident if I could hit it where you need to it would be a pretty good day but I didn’t think it would be this good. I’m really confident with my putting right now.”
Barely a breath of wind and reasonably soft greens allowed 30 players to break par in likely the easiest conditions all week.
Umbrellas were plentiful, but only to provide some shade from the blazing sun.
Harigae and Lindblad have a bunch of big names breathing down their necks, including Australian world number four Minjee Lee three strokes behind and American gallery favourite Lexi Thompson four back.
World number two Nelly Korda shot 70 in her comeback after a blood clot, her day marred by a lost ball and subsequent double-bogey at the 11th hole.
It was not smooth sailing for Michelle Wie, the 2014 champion at nearby Pinehurst No. 2, who battled to a 73.
England’s Bronte Law carded three birdies and a bogey en route to a two-under 69 – one shot ahead of Ireland’s Leona Maguire.