Kristyna Napoleaova holds a two-stroke lead after an exciting first day at the Mallorca Ladies Golf Open.
Playing in ideal scoring conditions, the 27-year-old from Czechia made seven birdies in an opening round of six-under-par 66 to show the way at Golf Son Muntaner.
Anne-Lise Caudal of France, Anne van Dam from the Netherlands and the effervescent local talent Nuria Iturrioz of Spain are in a share of second place on four-under-par, with Indian amateur Avani Prashanth and Alexandra Forsterling of Germany a stroke further back in a share of fifth position.
Napoleaova, the 2023 Amundi German Masters champion, started from the 10th and birdied her first two holes, closing her front nine with another pair of birdies on the 17th and 18th holes.
After picking up another shot on the short second, she made her only bogey of the day on the fifth, but quickly bounced back with further gains on the sixth and seventh holes. From there, she admitted that fatigue set in, but she fought back to make incredible par saves on her last two holes, the narrow, eighth and ninth, which are lined with olive trees.
At the eighth, she drove into long rough right of the fairway, but hit an incredible approach shot over a gorse bush to the left edge of the green and two-putted. Then, on the ninth, her tee shot hit the cart path and ended up in the middle of the first fairway, but she made a tremendous up and down from the edge of the green, holing a putt from 27 feet.
“Someone’s watching me today, for sure, and I just hope that I’m not going to be needing it. I don’t think I needed it earlier in the round, which was good,” said the former footballer for AC Sparta Praha.
“On those two last holes, I don’t think you can really get away with it, and I did. On the eighth, if I had been five metres longer, I would have ended in the bush and the same on nine, the high grass was just there but I hit the cart path and ended up in the middle of the fairway on the first.”
On the key to her score, she added: “The putting held it together and was clutch today.
“I putted two different ways, so everything I had right to left, I putted with the right hand down and if I had left to right, I putted left hand down. It was just on the first few holes. I think the putting is good, I just need to feel confident about it. I don’t know why, on the first hole I started doing the practise swings like this and I said to [my caddie] Jan, you do realise that I practise with one hand down and then change it to the other one. We did it on the next few holes but as the putts got longer, I didn’t have the confidence with it, so I went back to my usual putting style, right hand down with two fingers down the grip.”
The key for long hitter Van Dam, who carded five birdies, two birdies and an eagle, on the seventh hole, was careful course strategy. She has also brought her racing bike to Mallorca and is loving the opportunity to cycle. She warmed up with a 2.5 hour, 58km bike ride on Wednesday, the eve of the tournament.
The 28-year-old five-time LET winner from Arnhem said: “You definitely have to think your way around these places. You can’t just step up and smash it.
“These are tricky courses where you have to hit it in the right spot, you have to be disciplined to put it on the fairway and then you can attack some pins.
“I cannot hit my driver as much and it’s definitely a typically Spanish course. I hit so much spin towards the green that it’s the hardest thing for me. With back pins it’s sometimes very hard to get to. You’re just hitting so much more club that you normally do and at some point, you just have to commit to the shot which is always quite tough. I can’t complain, I always love playing in Spain and I always seem to do quite well here.”
Iturrioz, a four-time LET tournament champion from Son Servera in the north-east of Mallorca, was fired up by having her friends and family cheering her on as she plotted her way around the tight course, recording five birdies and one bogey.
The recent La Sella Open champion said: “It’s so cool. I’m so happy I can’t describe it with words. My family is here, a lot of friends and people I’ve known since I was very little. It’s emotional for me. I’m very happy that the tournament is happening and I hope it’s going to stay for a very long time.
“The truth is, today I didn’t miss a lot. I hit a lot of really good drivers and I was always in the fairway. I hit a lot of greens and I had a lot of opportunities. I made only one bogey and five birdies, so I’m happy. My game is solid and we’ll see. We have 36 holes to play.”
Prashanth, 17, who finished second in the LET Pre-Qualifier Asia on home soil in India last week, is also in the mix and looking for a win.
She said: “I started off pretty bad, went bogey, bogey, birdie, bogey. I had a really good caddie on my bag, Miguel, who’s from here. I got in control by the eighth hole and then things fell into place.
“The momentum and confidence is good right now. Playing on the LET is always great. Obviously, coming from last week, it does feel a lot better and when I get my full card, I’ll know this is how it’s going to be.
“The main goal for this week is to win and if I play my best golf then I think I can get that done. I love Mallorca. The weather and the venue are both great. Everyone is so, so nice and I would love to come back again.”
The second round of the inaugural Mallorca Ladies Golf Open gets under way at 9.45am on Friday and the leading player, Napoleaova, starts at 11:02.
Watch the action live on television or follow on LET social media to see the best shots from the day.