(Reuters) - Cheyenne Woods, niece of 14-times major winner Tiger, upstaged the game’s biggest names as she birdied five of her last nine holes to share the first-round lead at the Manulife LPGA Classic in Cambridge, Ontario on Thursday.
The 24-year-old American, playing her first full season on the LPGA Tour, picked up shots at the 10th, 11th, 12th, 16th and 17th to set the early tournament pace with a course record, nine-under-par 63 at Whistle Bear Golf Club.
Late in the day, Cheyenne was caught at the top by seasoned American Cristie Kerr, who signed off with four consecutive birdies, and Thailand’s PK Kongkraphan.
Germany’s Sandra Gal and Laetitia Beck, who in December became the first Israeli golfer to qualify as an LPGA Tour player, opened with 64s but most eyes at Whistle Bear Golf Club were focused on Woods.
“I had one bogey, which was a stupid three-putt (at the sixth), but overall I played solid,” Cheyenne, the daughter of Tiger’s half-brother Earl Junior, told reporters.
”It was very relaxed ... that’s sometimes when I play my best and I guess it worked out.
“It’s great to be in this position,” she said of her perch atop the leaderboard after the opening round. “I‘m just going to go out there (tomorrow) ... go into it with the same mindset and just go play golf.”
Cheyenne, who claimed her first Ladies European Tour title at last year’s Volvik RACV Ladies Masters, birdied the second, fourth and fifth holes before making her only mistake of the day at the par-four sixth.
She then drained a 50-foot eagle putt at the ninth to reach the turn in four-under 32 before pocketing five more birdies on the back nine.
“I was seeing the lines really good and able to hit my lines so that helped a lot,” said Cheyenne.
South Korea’s world number two Park In-bee, the defending champion, carded a 69 while top-ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand mixed three birdies with two bogeys on the way to a 71.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine