The Aussie star, currently the in-form player in the women’s game, already finds herself playing catch-up as she seeks her third Major crown after her first-round, one-under-par 70 on Thursday.
It was by no means a bad round, but it left the Perth player already seven shots off the blistering pace set by Japan’s Ayaka Furue, whose eight under par 63 featured nine birdies.
Lee is also well adrift of some of his toughest rivals, who started in impressive form on a fine day of baking at Evian-les-Bains designed for a low score.
After winning the US Women’s Open last month and finishing second in the KPMG Women’s PGA, Lee says she’s been “in a good place” with her game.
Furue leads after a first-round birdie fest in France. PHOTO: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.
She was therefore looking forward to a quick start at the Evian, her decisive major which she won last year on seven shots in the final to beat Jeongeun Lee6 in the play-off.
Also buoyed by Cam Smith’s Open Championship triumph last weekend, a birdie on his first hole in ideal early morning conditions promised a lot for Lee.
But despite the opportunities, she then had a frustrating wait to make another birdie until 11, which was sandwiched by bogeys at 10 and 12.
Another birdie at 17th at least put her score in the red, but Lee’s total left her only tied for 39th at the end of the day after her rivals all made hay.
2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Champion Brooke Henderson and Olympic Champion Nelly Korda both shot seven under-64s to sit just behind rising Japanese 22-year-old Furue.
American Cheyenne Knight was one behind on 65, with Korean world No. 1 Jin Young Ko and two-time major winner Lydia Ko from New Zealand among a group of five who recorded 66s.
In Gee Chun, who won the Women’s PGA last month, was another solid starter, tied for 10th at four under.
The center of attention, as so often, was Korda, the former world number 1 who continued her impressive comeback after time out following surgery on a blood clot in her arm.
It’s her fifth event since returning to action a month ago and her bogey-free round, which featured seven birdies, left her smiling.
She even dove into the water when her par five 18th approach shot – her ninth of the day – rolled down a bank at the front right of the green to the edge of a lake.
Judging if it was possible to splash her, Korda kicked off her shoes, waded and splashed to the edge of the green. “It was really gooey,” she laughed, reflecting on how she still managed to make par.
The Australian in the lead was Sarah Kemp, 36, whose two-under 69 tied her for 27th, while fellow Sydneysider Steph Kyriacou enjoyed a spectacular finish with five birdies in the final eight holes to secure herself. make it to a sub, alongside Lee.
Perth’s Hannah Green never really recovered from a disappointing start and finished one over, tied for 84th, while Su Oh will also battle to make the cut Friday at two over, tied for 97th.
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