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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Alison Lee hit a record-breaking 11-under-par to top the leaderboard on Day 1 of the inaugural Aramco Team Series in Riyadh, presented by Public Investment Fund.
The world’s best women golfers were in action at Riyadh Golf Club as the fifth and final round of the 2023 series got underway in what is the first ever professional golf tournament to take place in the Saudi capital.
The American made history by equaling two Ladies European Tour records, one by holing eight consecutive birdies and another by closing with an 11-under-par opening 61 for the individual clubhouse lead.
“I hit the ball well today. I hit some really good approach shots and made some difficult putts,” Lee said.
“Today was one of those days where golf felt really easy — it was a dream round. I read the greens really well, my approach shots were on point and I hit my targets.
“I missed a couple of good birdie chances coming down the stretch on 59 watch, but I can’t be too disappointed. I had a great round today and played solid overall.”
Close behind is Australia’s Minjee Lee, the world No. 4 who entered the series finale as a pre-tournament favorite. The two-time Major champion is two strokes back on 9-under-par overnight following a first round 63.
“I made a lot of birdies today, not eight in a row like Alison, but I still felt like I played really solid and hopefully there’ll be more of the same tomorrow,” she said.
“The course is in great condition and the putts were dropping. I’m feeling very good right now heading into tomorrow.”
The scene is now set for another close contest between the two namesakes. Just last week, the Australian overcame the American in a titanic battle at the BMW Ladies Championship in South Korea, winning the tournament in a playoff.
Alison Lee said that missing out on a maiden title by the narrowest of margins “hurt a little bit” but that she was back “with a vengeance” in Riyadh.
Minjee Lee said that while the scene was set for another head-to-head there was still a long way to go.
“There’s a few low scores out there that were played today, so we’ll have a few more challenges over the next two days.”
Charley Hull, Kylie Henry, Pernilla Lindberg, Nicole Broch Estrup, Virginia Elena Carta, Jana Melichova, Chloe Williams and Carlota Ciganda all finished the opening round on 7-under-par.
World No. 33 Ciganda also enjoyed a great start in the team format. With Alessandra Fanali, Sara Kouskova and Lujain Khalil, Team Ciganda shot a combined 21-under-par to share the overnight lead, two clear of the field.
“We played really well as a team. It’s been a fun day,” the Spaniard said. “We made a lot of birdies and it was a joy to watch the ladies playing some great shots. As everyone knows, I love team events and hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow and win this thing.”
Ciganda was full of praise for her Saudi-based teammate Khalil, who is competing as the team’s amateur.
The innovative series, which is affiliated with the Ladies European Tour, has a unique dual format that teams up the world’s best golfers with amateur players in a four-person team tournament, alongside a simultaneous individual event.
Commenting on Khalil’s performance, Ciganda said: “Lujain played great out there. She loves golf and this course is her home. She wants to be pro one day and why not? She did a great job and made some really big putts for the team.”
Sharing the overnight lead with Team Ciganda is Team Law, led by England’s Bronte Law.
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