Linnea Ström fired an opening round 67 to take a two-shot lead on day one at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
The Swede was in fine form during an entertaining afternoon at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, carding eight birdies to storm clear of a stacked leaderboard.
Birdies on holes three, five and seven – as well as a dropped shot on the sixth – saw the Swede hit the turn at two-under, before picking up five shots on the way home with just a single blemish on the 13th.
“I’m very happy because it’s a real challenge out here,” Ström said. “But I prefer playing tough courses and I think it suits me well.
“I hit my driver very well and I hit my wedges very well, so I really took advantage of the par-5s. A lot of the birdies were tap-ins, so that takes a lot of the pressure off.”
Ström is targeting her first win on the Ladies European Tour this week. The 26-year-old previously came close to achieving the feat at the 2022 Madrid Ladies Open when she finished second.
After starting her season with a 33rd-placed finish at the Kenya Ladies Open last week, the Swede is looking to build on a solid start to the season with a strong performance in North Africa.
“I’m very proud of how I played today and how I handled this course,” she continued. “I thought I had really good communication out there with my caddie, so long may it continue for the next two days.”
Two players sit in a tie for second after the first day of action in Rabat. Fresh off the back off last week’s victory at Vipingo Ridge, Aditi Ashok produced another relentless display to match Nicole Broch Estrup’s 69.
The Dane set the standard in the morning, bouncing back from a triple-bogey on the par-4 18th — her ninth — to card eight birdies and take the early clubhouse lead.
“I felt a lot calmer than I thought I would be,” Estrup said. “I had a triple bogey on the 18th but then I recovered really well. I got away with a few drives today, but overall I’m hitting a lot of greens and I feel comfortable with where my game is at.
“Obviously with eight birdies you would like to be better than four-under. But I’m really proud of the way I handled myself out there. I committed to a lot of shots and I’m proud of the way I came back after that hiccup on 18.”
The Lalla Meryem Cup is Estrup’s first tournament of 2023, with the 29-year-old chasing her second LET victory after claiming victory at the 2015 Helsingborg Open.
“It’s been a while since I played a full season on the LET,” she continued. “So it’s a new mindset. It’s been eight years since I last won, so it’s definitely a goal of mine to hold another trophy. If I could get more than one that would be amazing. I’ll fight for the Order of Merit but getting a win is my first goal.”
Four players are in a tie for fourth place with Maja Stark, Lydia Hall, Magdalena Simmermacher, and Alessandra Fanali all in the mix on -2.
Amateur Sofia Cherif Essakali is the highest placed Moroccan after shooting 71 (+2) to sit in T21. Fan favourite Ines Laklalech is two back from her at T56.