Feng and Parker lead in Dubai
Feng Shanshan, the highest ranked player in the field, showed her class as he shot a six-under par round of 66 on Wednesday to lead the 500 000 euros Dubai Ladies Masters along with England's Florentyna Parker.
The Chinese world No 6, winner of this year LPGA Championship, and Parker are paired together for the first two rounds. And they clearly enjoyed each other's company as they opened a narrow one-shot lead on top of the leaderboard over Czech Republic's Klara Spilkova, Wales' Sahra Hassan and American Cindy Lacrosse.
Defending champion Alexis Thompson of the United Statesd opened with a three-under par 69 to be tied 14th in a group of 14 players, while compatriot Michelle Wie, who has been down with a viral attack the last few days, shot a two-under par 70.
In the battle for the Ladies European Tour's Order of Merit crown, No 1 Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a two-under par 70, while No 2 Caroline Masson of Germany, the only player who can deny Ciganda this week, began with a four-under par 68.
Feng played a bogey-free round with six birdies, but apart from a birdie on the par-5 third hole, she could not get going till she dropped a 15-footer birdie putt on the eighth hole. She then followed it up with four more birdies over the next eight holes.
The 23-year-old from Guangzhou said: "There is a lot of pressure because this is my sponsors‘ tournament and I really want to do well here. But at the start of the day, I told myself to stay patient, and that's exactly what I did.
"I was only one-under after seven holes and I was not hitting my irons too well. And then suddenly, after that long birdie putt on the eighth hole, I started to hit it really well."
The 23-year-old Parker, who is 17th on the Money List with three top-10s, made a solitary bogey and seven birdies in her round of 66.
"I have somehow always played well in the first round here in Dubai," said Parker, who revealed that she spent a better part of last two months in the city with a cousin practicing.
"The last two years, I have finished ninth and fourth here, so the course really suits me. What got me going today was that I putted really well. I hit 14 greens and had 26 putts."
Thompson, who became the youngest professional to win on the LET last year, was happy with the way she started the defence of her crown.
"Three-under par is a nice start," said the 17-year-old world No 24. "I had a few lip-outs there and could have done better, but there are three days to go. I am in a good position."
LEADING FIRST-ROUND SCORES
66 - Shanshan Feng (CHN), Florentyna Parker (ENG)
67 - Klara Spilkova (CZE), Sahra Hassan (WAL), Cindy Lacrosse (USA)
68 - Nontaya Srisawang (THA), Lorie Kane (CAN), Ashleigh Simon (RSA) , Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA), Felicity Johnson (ENG), Lydia Hall (WAL), Caroline Masson (GER), Gwladys Nocera (FRA)
69 - Yu Yang Zhang (CHN), Becky Morgan (WAL), Line Vedel (DEN), Stacy Lee Bregman (RSA) , Dewi Claire Schreefel (NED), Valentine Derrey (FRA), Bree Arthur (AUS), Elizabeth Bennett (ENG), Lexi Thompson (USA), Caroline Hedwall (SWE), Sarah Kemp (AUS), Stefania Croce (ITA), Jodi Ewart (ENG)
70 - Malene Jorgensen (DEN), Becky Brewerton (WAL), Kristie Smith (AUS), Nikki Garrett (AUS), Diana Luna (ITA), Julieta Granada (PAR), Trish Johnson (ENG), Linda Wessberg (SWE), Titiya Plucksataporn (THA), Charlotte Ellis (ENG), Jennie Lee (USA), Beth Allen (USA), Holly Aitchison (ENG), Michelle Wie (USA), Carlota Ciganda (ESP)