Paradise Island, Bahamas (SportsNetwork.com) - Lydia Ko, playing her first LPGA Tour event as a member, fired a 5-under-par 68 on Thursday to grab a share of the first-round lead after the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.
Ko mixed six birdies and a bogey at Atlantis Resort's Ocean Club Golf Course. The 16-year-old, who won twice on the LPGA Tour as an amateur, shares first place with Meena Lee.
"Most of the time if I feel pressure about expectations, it's about self- pressure and self-expectation," Ko explained. "My mom said yesterday, 'Just go out there, have fun,' and I'm never going to always play under par. Yeah, just tried to keep my mind positive, and yeah, just hit the white ball."
World No. 3 Stacey Lewis, the highest-ranked player in the field, shot 4-under 69. She shares third place with nine others, including Jessica Korda, who was the last person before Ko to successfully petition LPGA Tour commissioner Michael Whan for early membership.
"I really got off to a pretty good start," said Lewis, who was grouped with Ko. "I thought I'd be a little bit more rusty than I was, but got off to a good start, and really just hit the ball really solid and was able to control some shots in the wind and really the shots that I saw, I was able to pull off. I was really happy with the way I hit the ball."
Brittany Lincicome and world No. 7 Na Yeon Choi share 13th with nine others at 3-under 70.
Lee, a two-time LPGA Tour winner, got off to an inconsistent start from the 10th tee. She opened with three straight pars, then went eagle-bogey-birdie from the 13th.
From there, Lee steadied herself, parring three in a row before the turn, then notching three birdies during her bogey-free inward stretch to grab the lead at minus-5.
"I had a wintertime working hard, so that's why I have confidence more than last year," said Lee. "That's why I feel very good and happy to play in the first tournament."
Ko wasted little time working her way to the top of the leaderboard, a familiar spot for the teenager despite her rookie status.
As an amateur, Ko won four professional tournaments, including the LPGA Tour's Canadian Women's Open in 2012 and 2013. She won her first event as a pro at the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in December.
Starting from the first tee, Ko birdied three of her first six holes on Thursday before eventually tripping to a bogey at the par-4 ninth.
The world No. 4 didn't drop a shot the rest of the way, bouncing back with a birdie at the 10th and adding further birdies at Nos. 16 and 18 to join Lee at the summit.
"I was just more shocked that I wasn't as nervous as I would be," admitted Ko. "I shot 10-under at the Australian Open, but here I just felt relaxed and felt really confident."
NOTES: Along with her Canadian Women's Open titles, Ko won the 2013 New Zealand Women's Open and the 2012 Bing Lee Samsung Women's NSW Open as an amateur ... Ko is competing out of category 7, which is reserved for players who have won an official LPGA event as a non-member in the previous calendar year ... Lee holds a share of the first-round lead for only the fourth time in her career ... Defending champion Ilhee Lee is tied for 60th at 1-over 74 ... World No. 2 Suzann Pettersen withdrew prior to the event with a shoulder injury ... This marks the first time in 13 years that the LPGA Tour season kicked off in January ... Last year, this event was staged in May and was competed over three, 12-hole rounds after heavy rains soaked the course.