In her major championship debut on Thursday, Casandra Alexander carded a level-par 71 at Muirfield in the AIG Women’s Open Championship to finish the first round in a share of 26th place.
In a morning group with Nichole Broch Estrup of Sweden and American Janie Jackson, Alexander held things steady through the first 11 holes before picking up her first birdie on the par-four 12th. She dropped a shot on the 15th, made birdie on the 17th, but gave back that sot to par with a closing bogey on the 18th.
In a share of 26th with her were compatriot Lee-Anne Pace, the South African Women’s Open champion, as well as the likes of former world number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand, Ireland’s Leona Maguire, Charley Hull of England and American Lizette Salas.
They trailed leader Hinako Shibuno of Japan, who took advantage of the benign morning conditions on the tough Muirfield course which was hosting a women’s major for the first time since opening its membership to females to card a superb six-under-par 65, which included two bogeys.
Shibuno led by one from Jessica Korda of the United States, with Mexican Gaby Lopez in a share of third on four-under with Louise Duncan of Scotland. World number one Jin Young Ko of South Korea battled her way to a five-over-par 76, with Australian world number two Minjee Lee – who won the US Women’s Open in June – opening with a three-under for a share of fifth.
Alexander and Pace were not the leading South Africans after the first round, with Ashleigh Buhai carding a solid one-under-par 70 for a share of 13th. She made two birdies and a bogey.
Paula Reto is the other South African in the field, and her three-over 74 saw her finish the first round in a share of 74th.