MADEIRA, Ohio − Ruixin Liu entered the Kroger Queen City Championship Presented by P&G ranked No. 114 in the CME rankings. After a round at Kenwood Country Club, she turns heads.
The 24-year-old played out just before 9 o’clock on Thursday. When she finished shortly before 14, she had opened the tournament as the clubhouse leader with a 7-under 65, which tied her career-low round.
Kroger Queen City Championship Round 1 results at the LPGA’s Kroger Queen City Championship
Liu opened the front nine with five birdies and shot a 31. She opened the back nine with a pair of birdies over the first four holes, then finished the afternoon with six straight pars for a bogey-free round.
On the 18th hole, Liu narrowly avoided a greenside bunker, then two-putted for par to pace the rest of the field.
Liu was forced to withdraw from the Portland Classic last week due to injury after a first-round 72. Before that, she had made the cut in six of her last seven events, finishing ninth in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in July.
Liu was challenged by runner-up Dottie Ardina, the LPGA’s 151st-ranked golfer. Ardina shot an out-of-this-world 6-under on the front nine Thursday, but finished with a 6-under 66 after a much tamer back nine. Ardina took the lead at 7-under after birdying 10, making it her 7th birdie in 10 holes, but a bogey on 12 and pars on the remaining holes left the 29-year-old in second place.
Elizabeth Szokol, a 29-year-old ranked No. 43, also had a bogey-free day to pull even into second place. The final members of the four-way tie for second place were Peiyun Chien and Linnea Strom.
Strom on the comeback trail
Current, off Swedenjoined the LPGA as a rookie in 2019, but struggled in 2021, making just eight cuts in 21 starts, and returned to the Epson Tour in 2022.
Strom returned to the LPGA’s development tour and earned seven top 10 finishes to become the Epson Tour Player of the Year and return to the LPGA Tour for the 2023 campaign.
The 26-year-old, ranked No. 63, finished tied for second in the first round of the Kroger Queen City Championship with a 6-under 66. After a 32 on the front nine, Strom shook off a bogey on the 11th hole and closed his round with two birdies and six pars.
Strom has missed the cut in two of her last three events but earned a top 20 finish at the CPKC Women’s Open in August and was No. 24 at the Scottish Open, No. 21 at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational and No. 16 at the Dana Open earlier in the summer. .
Reigning champion Ally Ewing and Ohio native
Ewing, the Queen City’s only previous champion in its 2023 edition, shot a 69 (-3) in Round 1 Thursday to move into a tie for No. 21 in the rankings. Ewing got off to a tame start with seven straight pars to open the day, but dropped four birdies (with a bogey mixed in) over the next nine holes to bolster her Thursday score.
Ewing shot an identical 69 on the opening day of his championship run in Cincinnati a year ago.
Cincinnati’s 2022 runner-up Xiyu Lin, who is ranked No. 8 in the world, shot a 73 (+1) on Thursday. Just a week ago at the Portland Classic, Lin finished tied for second, also shooting a less-than-ideal 71 (-1) on the opening day.
Ohio native and fifteen-year-old Mia Hammond of New Albany, who earned a sponsor invitation to Kenwood Country Club, is tied for 69th. Hammond was 2-under on the front nine with a 34, but bogeyed three times on the back nine to finish even on the day.
Marissa Steen, a Lakota West graduate and current University of Cincinnati assistant golf coach, also sits tied at 69. Steen opened with eight pars, followed by back-to-back bogeys at the turn, but rallied with two birdies to close out the day herself on the scorecard.
This article originally appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer: Kroger Queen City Championship: Ruixin Liu leads after 1st round