EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France — In Gee Chun and Sung Hyun Park birdied eight holes each as they carded 8-under 63s for a share of the lead in the first round of the Evian Championship on Thursday.
In the fifth and final major of the season, Lydia Ko's bid to defend her title — and clinch a third career major by the age of 19 — got off to a rocky start as she finished seven shots behind the co-leaders.
"It was tricky for me because on the back nine I was not hitting fairways," said Ko, who has 14 career wins on the LPGA Tour. "Hopefully I'll be able to hit some fairways" today.
Chun, the 2015 U.S. Women's Open champion, said she felt nervous after missing the cut here last year. She hardly let it show.
"I could see the putting lines and I was good rolling the ball on those lines," she said. "The greens are getting softer this year."
While Ko's play was patchy, with bogey and only two birdies, rival Ariya Jutanugarn had a day to forget with 2-over 73 featuring triple bogey.
Ko and Ariya have a good chance at Evian of taking the Annika Major Award, which rewards the major winner with the best combined record at all five majors. It is named after 10-time major winner Annika Sorenstam.
A win here would clinch the award for either Ko or Ariya, but they face an uphill struggle.
Ko revealed herself to the golfing world at the Evian in 2013, when she finished second as a 16-year-old amateur.
This year, another young player emerged in her tournament debut.
Annie Park, 21, posted eagle and five birdies for 7-under 64 to move into a tie for third place with Olympic bronze medalist Shanshan Feng, who was third here last year.
Park's performance caught the eye, not least because her mother was caddying for her.
"That was fun. It was good to have my mum back on the bag. The last time she caddied was Hawaii in April," she said. "She keeps things light and does some dances out there."
Angela Stanford posted 6-under 65 to move into fifth.
AMATEURS: Stewart Hagestad rallied to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur title and a trip to the Masters, overcoming a late four-hole deficit and beating Scott Harvey with a 15-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole in Elverson, Pa. … Julia Potter won the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur for the second time in four years, beating Shannon Johnson 2 and 1 in Erie, Pa. … Min Ji Park shot 4-under 68 to help South Korea take a seven-stroke lead after the second round of the World Amateur Team Championship in Riviera Maya, Mexico.