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Thais that bind: Home duo share LPGA lead in Thailand

Atthaya Thitikul first round 2021 Honda LPGA Thailand
Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, 18, a 2-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, shares the 1st-round lead in the Honda LPGA Thailand event.

Teen Atthaya Thitikul and Patty Tavatanakit shoot 8-under 64s to share 1st-round lead at Honda LPGA event in their native Thailand

Thailand put its best female golf talent on display Thursday at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Local favorites Atthaya Thitikul and Patty Tavatanakit shot 8-under 64s at Siam Country Club’s Pattaya Old Course near Pattaya City to share the first-round lead.

Another Thai, Ariya Jutanugarn, shared third place with Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen at 65. New Zealand's Lydia Ko, who won three weeks ago in Hawaii, stood tied for fifth with Germany's Caroline Masson and Australia's Hannah Green at 66. Brittany Altomare and Brittany Lincicome were the low Americans, at 67, and were among six players tied for eighth. South Korean Amy Yang, the defending champion and a three-time winner of this event, opened with a 69. (For first-round scores, click here.)

Patty Tavatanakit in first round of 2021 Honda LPGA Thailand
Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit helps set the pace Thursday during the 1st round of the Honda LPGA Thailand.

Tavatanakit, 21, a rookie who tied for third last week in Singapore, won her first LPGA title last month at the ANA Inspiration. She cited her driving distance – she ranks fourth on the LPGA, at 280.775 per measured tee shot – as an advantage on a soft course that played longer than its 6,341 yards because of overnight rain.

“I feel like I had a lot of short irons in compared to other people,” Tavatanakit said. “Like, I spin it back to the hole instead of, like, having to land it by short. And I just feel like the whole game itself, being long, just gives me a little bit of advantage, but I still had to execute and play well."

Tavatanakit, who has surged to No. 12 in the Rolex Rankings, hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens during a round in which she used 27 putts.

“I left myself in really good positions on the green,” Tavatanakit said. “I made some mistakes here and there, but I was able to recover and just walk away from the hole with a lot of pars when it wasn’t birdie.”

Thitikul eagled the par-5 18th hole, her second eagle on the back nine, to join Tavatanakit atop the leaderboard at the 72-player, no-cut event.

Thitikul, 18, who made her debut in the Honda LPGA Thailand as an amateur in 2017, just four days after turning 14, won twice on the Ladies European Tour before turning pro in January 2020. She hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens and needed only 24 putts in what she called “an amazing round,” her career-low score on the LPGA. A five-time winner on the Thai LPGA, Thitikul is making her 10th career start on the LPGA and her final start in Thailand before she resumes play on the LET.

“I love to learn from the good players before I go overseas,” she said. “I always learn from every tournament I play.”

Beginning next week at the Pure Silk Championship in Williamsburg, Va., the LPGA will return to the U.S. for the first of nine tournaments in as many weeks (For schedule, click here.)

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