The South African Paula Reto rolled in one putt after another like a magician in France on Thursday to take the lead after the first round of the Amundi Evian Championship.
The 33-year-old Cape golf star set the pace by two strokes with a score of 64 – seven strokes less than the par – in the year’s penultimate Major tournament in Evian-les-Bains in the east of France, close to the border from Switzerland.
Reto, who achieved her first victory in the LPGA series last year when she won the Canadian Open, did not start her day well and scored a bogey on her second hole (the course’s 11th).
But that was the end and last of Reto’s problems.
She then scored three birdies over the next seven holes to turn in 34 (-2).
Another birdie at Reto’s tenth hole (the course’s first) improved her score to -3, after which she scored four birdies over the last five holes with a great finishing effort to put her name at the top of the leaderboard.
Reto needed just 24 putts over the first 18 holes.
“I was lucky here and there with balls that bounced right, but I also hit a lot of good shots of high quality.
“It’s a wonderful course with fairytale views and I’m just happy that I played well for once. My putting was good,” Reto said afterwards.
Last year she experienced her best season in her career and apart from her breakthrough victory in the USA she also triumphed in South Africa when she achieved a runaway victory at Sun City in the local Sonskyn series’ SuperSport tournament.
But this year has so far been a sad season for Reto and she could only survive the halfway cut-off mark once in her last four tournaments. It was in last week’s Dow Greater Lakes Bay Team Tournament, in which she and her playing partner, Amelia Lewis, finished joint ninth after leading after two rounds.
Reto clearly regained some confidence with her performance in the company of Lewis and she looked over the first 18 holes like the champion who made stars like Nelly Korda look down their noses in Canada last year.
Ashleigh Buhai could not match her compatriot’s game and the British, South African and Australian Open champion signed for a score of 72.
Reto is being chased by Celine Boutier, Lydia Ko, Alison Lee and Meecha Wichance who all scored a score of 66.
Nine players share sixth place on 67.
The big guns Linn Grant, Brooke Henderson, Attaya Thitikul and Rose Zhang all played 69 shots.
Jiminez ahead of seniors
Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiminez leads by two shots after the first round of the senior British Open, which is played at the Royal Porthcawl course on the west coast of Wales.
Jiminez completed the first 18 holes of this Major tournament in 67 shots (-5) to end the day in first position.
Alex Cejka (-3) produced the next best performance of the day, with Jeev Singh, Vijay Singh and Mario Tiziani dishing out the next best play at -2.
Keith Horne carried the South African flag at even number.
Spacey plays excellently
In the local Sunshine Series, Matthew Spacey recorded an outstanding score of 62 shots (-10) in the first round of the Eswatini Challenge Tournament to take a two-shot lead after the first day of the three-day battle in Manzini.
The 33-year-old Spacey had a flawless day on the golf course and scored a total of ten birdies without conceding a stroke.
He hit every fairway with his fairways and only missed one green with his approaches. It wants to be done in any company.
Leon Visser (64) and Peter Karmis (66) are the players closest to Spacey.