Chien steals stars' thunder with stellar 64

Chien steals stars' thunder with stellar 64

Patty, Natthakritta 3rd at Honda LPGA

Chien Pei-yun tees off during the first round of the Honda LPGA Thailand 2024 at the Siam Country Club Old Course.
Chien Pei-yun tees off during the first round of the Honda LPGA Thailand 2024 at the Siam Country Club Old Course.

Chon Buri: Taiwan's Chien Pei-yun upstaged a star-studded line-up with a stunning eight-under-par 64 on the opening day of the Honda LPGA Thailand 2024 yesterday.

Belying her lowly 113th position in the world rankings, Chien snared seven birdies and an eagle at the Siam Country Club Old Course to leap to a two-stroke lead in the US$1.7 million event.

Korean Kim Sei-Young birdied the par-three eighth -- her penultimate hole -- to take route 66 and claim sole possession of second place in what is the first leg of the LPGA Tour's three-tournament 'Asian Swing'.

Eight players are tied for third on 67 -- Koreans Lee Mi-Hyang, Kim Hyo-Joo and Jenny Shin, Canadian Brooke Henderson, Swede Madelene Sagstrom, Japan's Ayake Furue, and Thais Patty Tavatankit and Natthakritta Vongtaveelap.

In hot, humid and breezy conditions, no fewer than 29 players in the elite 72-strong field bettered 70 while a total of 50 broke par.

Surprisingly, defending champion and world No.1 Lilia Vu was not among them. After an outward three-under 33, the American lost her rhythm, limping home in four-over 40 to leave her languishing in equal 60th place on 73.

Natthakritta Vongtaveelap.

Also finding the going tough were world No.3 Celine Boutier (72) and former champions Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Amy Yang (73) and Anna Nordquist (74).

But the performance of the day was produced by 33-year-old Chien, who's a multiple-time winner on the domestic Taiwan circuit and the secondary Tour in America but is still awaiting her maiden LPGA Tour success.

By her own admission, Chien, recovering from a recent injury, had not expected to do so well this week.

"I thought if I could make every putt, I could shoot 68. That would be a good score to me," said the Taiwanese player, who credited her driving and approach shots as the key.

"My driver was pretty consistent today and my second shots," added Chien, referencing the par-five seventh where an excellent tee shot left her 215 yards to the pin. A sweetly-struck five-wood approach came to rest three feet from the cup, setting up her eagle.

The home fans were especially pleased to see strong showings from Patty and Natthakritta.

Fresh from her victory on the Ladies European Tour in Saudi Arabia last week, Patty turned a solid opening-round into an excellent one thanks to birdies at the final three holes, including a brilliant hole-out from a deep greenside bunker at the par-three 16th, and an exquisite up-and-down for a four at the long 18th.

Patty Tavatanakit.

"I feel like I didn't really get too ahead of myself. I'm just very like present, in the moment. I really enjoy playing in front of my fans this week. There were a lot of people out there watching and supporting. I really appreciate that," said Patty.

At the venue where she finished runner-up last year after leading into the final round, Natthakritta was thrilled to once more find herself in the spotlight at Siam Country Club -- and to be pain-free.

Natthakritta, ranked 135th in the world, said: "This is my second year competing in this tournament and I feel honoured to be invited to play here again. I remember last year and feeling like I was famous. I'm excited to be back.

"Last year I had to take medical leave because of a knee injury. But now it's getting better, because I rested for a couple of months and worked out a lot."

Suvichaya Vinijchaitham and Eila Galitsky, the two Thai amateurs in the field, also impressed.

Suvichaya, winner of last month's Honda LPGA Thailand 2024 National Qualifier, is tied for 11th after a bogey-free four-under 68, while Galitsky, last year's Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific champion, is joint 30th following a 70.

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