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Alison Lee shoots 11-under 61 to take lead after first round, makes history with eight straight birdies

RIYADH: Spectators in attendance and fans watching around the world were treated to some scintillating golf on day one of the Aramco Team Series presented by Public Investment Fund – Riyadh.

The world’s best women’s golfers were in action at the Riyadh Golf Club as the fifth and final round of the 2023 series got underway.

Alison Lee made Ladies European Tour history on an already monumental day.

The American equaled two Ladies European Tour records, one by holing eight consecutive birdies and another closing with an 11-under-61 for the  lead after the first round of the first-ever professional golf tournament being held in the Saudi capital.

“I hit the ball well today, I hit some really good approach shots and made some difficult putts,” said Lee. “Today was one of those days where golf felt really easy – it was a dream round. I read the greens really well, my approach shots were on point and I hit my targets.

“I missed a couple of good birdie chances coming down the stretch on 59 watch, but I can’t be too disappointed. I had a great round today and played solid overall.”

Trailing closely behind is Australia’s Minjee Lee, the world No.4 who entered the series finale as a pre-tournament favorite. The two-time major champion is two strokes back on nine-under  following a first-round 63.

“I made a lot of birdies today, not eight in a row like Alison, but I still felt like I played really solid and hopefully there’ll be more of the same tomorrow,” said Minjee when assessing her opening round. “The course is in great condition and the putts were dropping. I’m feeling very good right now heading into tomorrow.”

Another epic contest between the Lees of no relation could yet unfold. Just last week, Minjee overcame Alison in a titanic battle at BMW Ladies Championship in South Korea, winning the tournament via play-off. The overnight leader admitted that missing out on a maiden title by the narrowest of margins ‘hurt a little bit’ and stated she’s arrived in Riyadh ‘with a vengeance’.

As for Minjee, she added that while its setting up for another head-to-head between them, there’s still a long way to go. “There’s a few low scores out there that were played today, so we’ll have a few more challenges over the next two days.”

The stage is set for another enthralling day Saturday with eight players also in contention on 7-under. Charley Hull, Kylie Henry, Pernilla Lindberg, and Nicole Broch Estrup are two shots behind Minjee heading into Saturday along with Virginia Elena Carta, Jana Melichova, Chloe Williams, and Carlota Ciganda.

Elsewhere on the opening day, Spanish world No. 33 Ciganda enjoyed a blistering start in the team format. Captaining a side including Alessandra Fanali, Sara Kouskova, and Lujain Khalil, Team Ciganda shared the lead on 21-under-par – two clear of the field.

“We played really well as a team; it’s been a fun day,” Ciganda assessed. “We made a lot of birdies today and it was a joy the watch the ladies playing some great shots. As everyone knows, I love team events and hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow and win this thing.”

The Spaniard was also full of praise for teammate Khalil, the Saudi-based talent who is competing as the team’s amateur. The innovative series, affiliated with the Ladies European Tour, has a unique dual format which teams up the world’s best golfers with amateur players in an exciting four-person team tournament, alongside a simultaneous individual event.

Commenting on Khalil’s performance, she added: “Lujain played great out there. She loves golf and this course is her home. She wants to be pro one day and why not? She did a great job and made some really big putts for the team.”

Sharing the  lead with Team Ciganda are Team Law, led by England’s Bronte Law with Meghan MacLaren, Chloe Williams, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al Musbahi. At the close of play, six teams were two strokes behind heading into the second round.

Tickets are still available for Aramco Team Series by PIF – Riyadh on Saturday and Sunday, offering sports fans and the general public in Riyadh the chance to attend a historic event that aims to showcase the best in women’s golf over three days while also providing a fun blend of family-friendly activities and entertainment across fitness, fun, and food. Purchase online at TicketMX.

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