Norwegian star Tonje Daffinrud sizzled at the finish with a hat-trick of birdies to separate herself from the rest of the field and open up a handy two-shot lead on the first day of the Hero Women’s Indian Open 2018. Daffinrud is hoping to emulate fellow Norwegian Emily Pedersen, who won in 2015.
Daffinrud, born in the ancient Viking town of Tonsberg, near Oslo, was two shots clear of another Norwegian, Marianne Skarpnord; young Thai Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras, and the experienced Austrian Christine Wolf, who carded 68 each.
Daffinrud’s 6-under 66 was the lowest first-round score at the DLF Golf & Country Club since the pairs of 66s by Swede Pernilla Lindberg and Thai Nontaya Srisawang in 2011, but those cards came at the Arnold Palmer course.
Ridhima Dilawari, playing only her second event as a professional, had a stunning finish with three birdies in the last four holes, generally regarded as the most difficult stretch at the Gary Player Course.
Ridhima is Tied-5th with the 2011 champion, Swedish Caroline Hedwall and England’s Florentyna Parker, all of whom shot 69 each.
The next best Indian was Gaurika Bishnoi (71) at T-11th while Tvesa Malik, Afshan Fatima and amateur Sifat Sagoo, all with 72, were T-18.
Daffinrud, who was also hit by injury in 2015, has had a best LET finish of T-6 in the Victorian Open in 2017.
Daffinrud has never broken par at this course and her best finish has been T-40th in 2015. She missed the cut last two years. So, expectedly, she was elated and said, “I’m really happy with that. I’ve never shot under par on this course before and to make quite a lot of birdies and not many mistakes was a really good day.”
Talking about the 17th, where she got a birdie, Daffinrud said, “It’s a hole where you almost want to close your eyes while you play it. I hit it close, to two metres, made the putt. I lowered my shoulders after that and went for it. There are three more days but I had a great start today, so I’m excited about tomorrow.”
In the morning, Thailand’s Pannarat shot a bogey-free four-under-par 68 in hot and humid conditions to take a two shot clubhouse lead. The 20-year-old from Roi Et in Northeast Thailand has been a pro on the LPGA for three years and she knocked down four birdies without any bogeys on her tournament debut.
Pannarat, the 2016 Thailand Ladies Masters champion made her first birdie at the par-5 eighth, where she chipped to six feet and made the putt. She also birdied from 15 feet at the 11th and 12th, before tapping in the par-5 18th hole.
She said: “This course is pretty tough, so you have to stick to the plan and stay patient. You need to hit the fairways and greens and hit the right part of the green and try to make two putts. Par is good enough for the course.”