Ariya Jutanugarn posts 64 for LPGA Lotte lead

Ariya Jutanugarn tees off on the 6th hole during the fourth round of the Mission Hills World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills' Blackstone Course.

A last-minute qualifier is leading the LPGA Lotte Championship in Oahu, Hawaii after Round 1. That statement is less surprising considering said qualifier is Ariya Jutanugarn.

Jutanugarn, technically a Sunday qualifier since this week’s event is run one day ahead of a normal LPGA schedule, is teeing it up in her first event since winning the Ladies European Tour’s Lalla Meryem Cup on March 31 in Agadir, Morocco. She opened with 8-under 64 at the Ko Olina Golf Club on April 17 and leads Suzann Pettersen and Hee Kyung Seo by one shot.

Jutanugarn turned in 30 after four birdies in her first five holes. She also birdied Nos. 8 and 9. Her lone bogey came at No. 10. She made eagle at No. 14 and birdie at No. 15 to tie a tournament record.

“I have, like, really good front nine, but I just want to make more birdies because my record is 8 under, so I want to be lower,” Jutanugarn said. “When I have bogey on No. 10, I feel not very confident with my putting. So when I have eagle (on the 14th), it make me more (confident).”

This is the first of three potential starts for the 17-year-old Jutanugarn in a spring break, of sorts, from the LET. Jutanugarn will attempt to Monday qualify for the North Texas LPGA Shootout, the next event on the LPGA schedule. She has been granted a sponsor exemption for the following event, the Kingsmill Championship.

Jutanugarn nearly won the Honda LPGA Thailand in February, but made a triple bogey on the 18th hole that allowed Inbee Park to win by one shot.

Jutanugarn leads the LET in earnings so far this season, and older sister Moriya, 18, leads the LPGA rookie class in earnings. Moriya, coming off a T-13 finish in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, shot a first-round 69 in Hawaii and is T-16.

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