World No.186 Wichanee Meechai of Thailand fired a six-under-par 66 to share the lead with Sweden's Maja Stark after the first round of the LPGA Shanghai on Thursday.
US star Danielle Kang, who won the US$2.1 million event the previous times it was held in 2018 and 2019, shot a bogey-free 68 for a share of third with Thai duo Pavarisa Yoktuan and Jasmine Suwannapura.
American world No.1 Lilia Vu struggled to par for a share of 37th place at Qizhong Garden Golf Club, where it was grey for much of the day and the heavens opened in the mid-afternoon.
World No.2 and home favourite Yin Ruoning carded a 71 for a share of 27th.
The 30-year-old Wichanee shot two eagles and four birdies, offset by two bogeys, to take a surprise two-shot lead with Stark.
Wichanee has never won on the LPGA Tour but said she felt at home in Shanghai having played the course before and been on China’s tour.
But she only arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday and said: “I haven’t practiced actually, but it just feels like home. Feel like I’m used to the vibe.”
The 42nd-ranked Stark was more consistent with six birdies and no bogeys.
Kang said she also felt right at home.
“It was a very solid day,” she said.
“There are some holes where I know I needed to be, and I think having course knowledge, and having won here has really helped me out today.”
The LPGA event is the first international golf tournament back in China after a gap of four years because of the Covid-19 pandemic. afp