The Augusta National Women’s Amateur got underway Wednesday morning at Champions Retreat Golf Club, and the top-ranked amateur in the world wasted no time in getting to the top of the leaderboard.
Rose Zhang, who enters this tournament No. 1 in the Women’s WAGR rankings for the third consecutive year, opened with a 6-under 66, which is the lowest round ever recorded in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Full-field scores from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur
“I think that from the start of the round, I really just wanted to kind of make pars because at Champions Retreat, you never know what you're going to get,” Zhang said. “With the round being so soft and being muddy, I can't really expect anything more out of my game today.”
Zhang did “make pars” – twelve of them – but she added six birdies, including one at each of the four par 5s.
“I feel great about that, especially since in golf par-5 scoring is very important for a good round,” Zhang said. “For me to be able to do that and capitalize on every par 5, I think it shows my game's in a pretty consistent, good direction. Hopefully I can continue like that the next couple days.”
The Stanford star has won nine times at the collegiate level, including the 2022 individual NCAA Championship. She also has a U.S. Women’s Amateur to her credit, taking down Gabriella Ruffels in 38 holes in 2020 to capture the crown at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland. She’s been on top of the WAGR rankings for more than 130 weeks now, but there’s still one title that has proven elusive: the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Zhang made her Augusta debut at 15 years old, and had her closest call in 2021. Contending on the second nine in the final round, she made a heartbreaking triple-bogey at Augusta National’s famous par-5 13th, ultimately leaving her one shot out of a playoff with a T-3 finish.
The prolific amateur played with confidence on Day 1 and spoke after her round about feeling more refreshed coming into the week than in years past.
“The last couple years I've been pretty hectic, especially with me playing different tournaments right before the event here” Zhang said. “So this is probably the most refreshed. But last week I did have finals, so I would say it's a different kind of refreshed in terms of golf.”
Ole Miss star Andrea Lignell, donning her “Hotty Toddy” hat, opened in 5-under 67 in her Augusta National Women’s Amateur debut. She had played Champions Retreat only once prior to Wednesday; a practice round earlier this week.
“To be honest, I definitely did not see a 67,” Lignell said. “This is my first time, so I heard it played really tough last year. I expected to score maybe around par. It's so much fun. It's unbelievable.”
Like Zhang, Lignell kept the scorecard clean, pairing five birdies with 13 pars to put together one of the best rounds of her amateur career.
“It feels absolutely insane,” Lignell said. “I did not expect a bogey-free round today. There's a lot of tough holes out there where you can easily be okay walking off with a bogey. So I definitely did not expect it, but I'm really happy.”
Twelve players finished under par Wednesday at Champions Retreat, where the field will play another round Thursday before taking Friday to play a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club. Every player in the field will have the opportunity to play Augusta National Friday, but only the top-30 players and ties after the first two rounds will advance to the final round Saturday on the famous course.