(Reuters) - American Lizette Salas gave her Solheim Cup hopes a timely boost as she charged into a share of the lead with a sparkling seven-under-par 64 in the opening round of the Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Thursday.
The 26-year-old from California recorded an eagle at the par-five 11th along with five birdies in a bogey-free display at Blythefield Country Club, ending the day level with compatriot Dori Carter and Australian Katherine Kirk.
Taiwan’s Hsu Wei-ling and American Jaye Marie Green opened with 65s while in-form South Korean Q Baek, who tied for fifth at last week’s Marathon Classic, was among a group of four players on 66.
Salas, whose only career win on the LPGA Tour came at last year’s Kingsmill Championship, was thrilled with her opening round as she continues her bid to represent the United States in September at her second Solheim Cup.
“I stayed solid throughout the day and made some putts over 20 feet which are really good confidence boosters for me,” Salas told Golf Channel after finishing birdie-birdie for a scorching back nine of five-under 30.
“Kept it in the fairway today, hit some really close and that eagle on 11 really helped as well.”
Salas made her Solheim Cup debut in 2013 and lies 10th in the 2015 U.S. standings where the top eight will automatically for the 12-player team to take on Europe at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club near Heidelberg, Germany from Sept. 18-20.
”It’s crunch time for sure and I know I am in the mix,“ said Salas. ”So hopefully a seven under today will kind of keep my name in the mix for captain Juli Inkster.
“A spot in the Solheim Cup is one of my goals this year and I really want to earn it. I don’t want to have to rely on a captain’s pick.”
South Korean world number one Park In-bee, who was beaten in a playoff for last year’s Meijer LPGA Classic by her compatriot Mirim Lee, opened with a four-birdie 70.
Reigning champion Lee withdrew from the tournament on Wednesday, citing a wrist injury that will also prevent her from competing in next week’s Women’s British Open at Turnberry in Scotland.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry