EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France — Paula Reto had eight birdies as she carded a 7-under 64 to take a surprise first-round lead at the Évian Championship on Thursday.
The 33-year-old South African holds a two-shot lead over 2015 champion Lydia Ko of New Zealand and three other players locked on 66: Frenchwoman Celine Boutier, American Alison Lee, and Thai golfer Wichanee Meechai — who recovered from a bogey and a double bogey early on.
“I had so much fun,” Reto said. “The views and everything, it’s just awesome to be here. I hit some good quality shots beginning of the round and just gave myself opportunities.”
Reto’s stellar round was perhaps surprising because she has only won one tournament on the LPGA Tour and has never placed higher than 18th at a major championship.
“You never know out here with this golf course. Anything is possible,” Reto said. “You’ve just got to give yourself the best opportunity to make par and birdie.”
Her only blemish was a bogey on the 11th hole at the Évian Resort Golf Club, which celebrated its 10th anniversary as a major.
American Angel Yin, who mixed seven birdies with four bogeys, was in a group of nine players who are three shots behind Reto after posting a 4-under 67.
Defending champion Brooke Henderson of Canada, who won in a wild finale last year for her second career major, carded a 2-under 69. She had a mixed round with four birdies and two bogeys.
American Angela Stanford, the 2018 champion, and Australian Minjee Lee, who won the 2021 tournament in a sudden-death playoff, joined Henderson amid a big group all on 69.
That put them one stroke ahead of World No. 1 Jin Young Ko — one of three South Koreans to win the tournament since it became a major in 2013 — and one also clear of American Nelly Korda, the Olympic champion, and Ireland’s Leona Maguire, the Meijer LPGA Classic winner.
Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa, who won the ShopRite LPGA Classic last month, could only manage a 1-over 72.
Meanwhile, Ruoning Yin fared poorly on her Évian tournament debut with 73. Last month, she became the second woman from China to win a major at the Women’s PGA Championship trophy at Baltusrol.
Yin, who picked up her first LPGA Tour win earlier this year in Los Angeles, had a double bogey on the 12th along with three birdies and three bogeys.
The second round begins at 7:15 a.m. local time and there will be a cut to the top-65.