The first round of play at the CME Group Tour Championship saw softer fairways and shortened holes after over four inches of rain on Wednesday.
Japan's Nasa Hataoka and China's Ruoning Yin carded bogey-free 9-under 63s to take the lead, just one birdie away from tying the 18-hole scoring record of 62 set by Lydia Ko in 2016.
Hataoka shot three-straight birdies on holes 2-4. Two more birdies on Nos. 6 and 8 set her up at 5-under at the turn. She started off the last nine holes with back-to-back birdies which put her in a tie with Sweden's Anna Nordqvist at 7-under. Birdies on Nos. 13 and 17 placed her squarely in first place
“When I play Monday it was already -- fairways already soft, so I really practice my hybrid shot,” said Hataoka. “It's because longer iron -- I practiced a lot assuming there would be a lot more distance needed for my iron shots, so that's what I concentrated on because of the wet ground.”
Yin teed off in the second to last group of the day and also started with early birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 before firing off three in a row on holes 6-8. At 5-under heading into the back, Yin added another birdie on No. 12, back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15 and a final one on 17 to tie Hataoka atop the rest of the field.
“When I warm up because, because the wind is so windy and I just don't feel great about my swing, but my coach is here this week and just right before the tee shot he told me, you're looking great,” said Yin. “Your swing looking great. So just go play your game and just try to enjoy it.
Australia's winner Minjee Lee sunk a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to put her into solo third behind the two leaders and ahead of Nordqvist at 7-under. Lee was also one of the 10 players to go bogey-free on Thursday, and had eight birdies overall including five on the back-nine. Nordqvist tied her season-low for the third me this year.