(Reuters) - Swede Anna Nordqvist made a flying start in her quest for a three-peat as she surged into the first-round lead at the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey on Friday.
The two-time defending champion birdied her first three holes en route to a seven-under-par 64 and a one-shot advantage over South Koreans Jenny Shin and Lee Jeong-eun, American Jennifer Song and Thai Moriya Jutanugarn at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway.
“I enjoy this place, but at the same time, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove here,” the 29-year-old leader told reporters.
“I hit the ball really well today and got a few putts going early, and then kept hitting my wedges really well. Lowest round I’ve had in a while.”
Nordqvist’s round was no surprise, and not just because of her record at the tournament. She has been in excellent form this year, 12th in the Rolex world rankings and 13th in the LPGA standings, with a victory already under her belt.
“This is my ninth year on tour, so I feel like I‘m getting a little more experience. The biggest difference this year is I’ve been happy on and off the course,” she said, revealing that she has cut her entourage.
“I have fewer people around me so I am just trying to do my own thing a little bit more … so just less noise around me, and I can go out there and enjoy and trust myself.”
Ryu So-yeon, meanwhile, made a terrible start in her quest to assume the world number one ranking, carding three-over 74.
The South Korean needs to finish at least third to have a chance of taking over top spot from Lydia Ko, otherwise Thai Ariya Jutanugarn will go to number one.
Neither Ko nor Ariya, the younger sister of second-placed Moriya, are playing this week.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry