Dubai favourite Kristyna Napoleaova on the course in the first round of the LET event in Mallorca. – Supplied photo
Dubai-based Kristyna Napoleaova held a two-stroke lead after an exciting first day at the €400,000 Mallorca Ladies Golf Open on the Ladies European Tour.
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, 58 km 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.”
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.
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.
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