Chinese golfer Shanshan Feng and Florentyna Parker of England opened with matching six under par 66s on the Majlis Golf Course at Emirates Golf Club on Wednesday to share the first-round lead in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
World No.6 Feng fired six birdies in her first 16 holes and was caught when Parker rolled in a putt on the iconic par-5 18th for birdie.
The pair, playing together for the first two rounds, ended the day a stroke ahead of three other players.
Klára Spilková of the Czech Republic set the pace with a bogey-free 67 in the morning before being joined on that number by Cindy Lacrosse of the United States and Welshwoman Sahra Hassan in the afternoon.
Feng is making her tournament debut as a newly appointed ambassador of the sponsor, OMEGA. She said: “I think it's my first time for this tournament, and it's my sponsor's tournament, so I came with pressure, actually. Before the round, I told myself on the driving range, I said, I have to be patient, whether I'm playing well or not and I was patient because I was only one‑under through seven holes. I missed a lot of chances but I had quite a comeback, so finished with six‑under and really happy about that.”
After picking up her first shot of the day at the third hole, Feng began her birdie charge by sinking a 15-foot putt at the eighth and proceeded to birdie the ninth, 12th, 15th and 18th holes.
“I would say my iron shots weren't as accurate on the front. But I started to do well since the eighth, said the talented 23-year-old, who won the LPGA Championship in June, becoming the first Chinese golfer to win a major.
“My goal was just top five. I wasn't thinking about, you know, too much like about winning or not, but you know, I'm going to try my best on every shot,” she said.
Parker, who has been practicing in Dubai for the last two months, felt at home on the course where she has finished ninth and fourth in her last two tournament appearances respectively.
“I do usually do well on this course. It suits me,” said Parker, who has her brother, Ben, a Challenge Tour player, acting as her caddie. It’s a family affair with parents and cousin, the pro at Al Badia Golf Club, watching from outside the ropes and enjoying the sunshine.
Parker continued: “My putting was really good today. I hit 14 greens, had 26 putts, so I rolled them in nicely and yeah, got off to a good start and had one bogey. I've always done well on this course and I enjoy it and I feel so comfortable here.”
Spilková was also feeling at home after she birdied her first two holes and picked up three shots in a row from the 10th. “I played really good. I had five birdies and was very, very solid, so I'm so happy. It was a good game,” said Spilková, who will turn 18 next week.
A group of eight players is two shots off the lead on four under par: Gwladys Nocera (FRA), Caroline Masson (DEU), Lydia Hall (WAL), Nontaya Srisawang (THA), Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA), Felicity Johnson (ENG), Lorie Kane (CAN) and Ashleigh Simon (ZAF).
Masson made a strong start in her attempt to leapfrog Carlota Ciganda in the race for the 2012 ISPS Handa Order of Merit. Masson needs a top three finish to stand any chance of topping the ranking this week. However Ciganda started well with a two under 70.