Yuka Saso of Japan caught fire late in her round to shoot a 6-under-par 66 and take the first-round lead at the CPKC Women's Open on Thursday in Vancouver.
Saso opened her round on the back nine at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club and carded two bogeys and two birdies. Everything changed after she made the turn, as she rolled in four consecutive birdies at Nos. 1-4 and added two more at the sixth and seventh holes.
That was enough for Saso to own a one-stroke lead over Sweden's Linn Grant.
"First nine was pretty stable," Saso said. "Hit it OK, putted OK. I don't know what happened the back nine. I started hitting some good second shots and having short putts for birdies, giving myself a lot of chances."
Saso hasn't won on the LPGA Tour since her major breakthrough at the 2021 U.S. Women's Open. She does have six top-10 finishes this season, including three top-three finishes in her past five starts.
She is up against Grant, who won her first LPGA title last month at the Dana Open and hasn't finished worse than a tie for 20th in three starts since then.
Grant played the front nine first on Thursday, but like Saso, she heated up toward the end of her round. Grant responded to a bogey 6 at No. 11 by sinking four straight birdies.
"I think it was a mix of some lucky birdies and some really good ones," Grant said. "I think after 12 I kind of got confidence going and kind of felt more confident hitting the shots and relying on my golf and myself."
A formidable group is tied for third at 3-under 69 at Canada's national open.
Former World No. 1 and 2019 tournament champion Jin Young Ko of South Korea is tied with countrywoman Sei Young Kim, 20-year-old phenom Rose Zhang, Danielle Kang, Alena Sharp of Canada and Weiwei Zhang of China.
Ko carded five birdies to offset two bogeys.
"After 2019, we couldn't play in Canada because of COVID, and we came back to Canada last year," said Ko, who won the event when it was played in Aurora, Ontario. "It's almost over three years. I missed the cut last year so I (was) really sad.
"I know (Vancouver is) a really nice and lots of Korean people out there, so it's going to be really fun."
World No. 2 Nelly Korda is part of a tie for ninth at 2-under 70 with France's Perrine Delacour and Australians Hannah Green and Gabriela Ruffels.
Canadian fan favorite Brooke M. Henderson, who won the tournament in 2018, struggled to a 3-over 75 with four bogeys and just one birdie. It was her first time playing a competitive round while wearing glasses.
"At least I could see my ball in the bush, which was kind of a good thing, I guess," Henderson said. "No, made it a lot easier on me, a lot less strain and I didn't have to ask where it was every time I hit it."
Defending champion Paula Reto of South Africa opened with a 6-over 78.
—Field Level Media