Marina Alex has closed with a birdie on the par-5 18th for a seven-under 65 to share the first-round lead with Nasa Hataoka in the windy LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony.
Alex birdied all four par-5 holes and had five birdies in a row on Nos.9-13 in her bogey-free morning round on Thursday.
The 31-year-old American won the 2018 Portland Classic for her lone LPGA Tour title.
"I really putted nicely today," Alex said. "The first couple holes were kind of tough just getting used to the wind and figuring out how far everything was playing."
Hataoka, also playing in the morning wave, finished with a birdie on the par-5 ninth. The 23-year-old Japanese player, ranked No.9 in the world, won twice last year and has five career LPGA Tour victories.
"I was focused on my putting routine today and that really helped me putt really well," Hataoka said.
RIGHT: Marina Alex shares the lead at Crown Colony after round one of the Drive On Championship. PHOTO: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images.
Thailand's Patty Tavatanakit was a stroke back in the 54-hole event with Leona Maguire of Ireland, Swede Linnea Johansson and 19-year-old South Korean rookie Yaeeun Hong.
Tavatanakit won the major ANA Inspiration last year for her lone LPGA Tour title.
"Today was a little bit different wind than compared to the practice rounds," Johansson said.
"It's a beautiful golf course. It firms up for sure. It's bouncing quite a bit out there and the greens are pretty firm. You need to find your areas off the tee and try to bounce it up there really, sometimes."
Charley Hull was at 67 with Bronte Law, Madelene Sagstrom, Jeongeun Lee6 and Caroline Masson.
Stacy Lewis opened with a 68 to sit alongside in-form Australian Su Oh.
Oh, who recently won the Australian WPGA championship in Brisbane, made five birdies with the only blotch on her card coming on the par-three third where she made bogey.
She is tied 12th, one ahead of another large grouping that includes Anna Nordqvist and Lexi Thompson.
Defending champion of sorts Austin Ernst and fourth-ranked Inbee Park were at 70. Ernst won last year at Golden Ocala in a 72-hole event.
World No.2 Nelly Korda shot a 72, offsetting four birdies with four bogeys. Playing for the third straight week, she plans to take a long break after the tournament.
Older sister Jessica Korda withdrew after six holes because of a rib-area injury.
"I've suffered a sprain in my ribs with intercostal muscle strain," Korda tweeted. "I tried playing through it, however, my pain was getting worse and I just could not swing anymore."
U.S. Women's Open champion Yuka Saso, sixth and third the last two weeks to open the season, shot a 77. She had a quadruple-bogey eight on No.16.