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Paula Reto charges to two-shot lead at Evian Championship

South Africa’s Paula Reto shot a 7-under par 64 on Thursday to build a two-shot lead after the first round of the Evian Championship in Evian-les-Bains, France.

Reto carded eight birdies to easily offset her lone bogey, which came on her second hole of the day at Evian Resort Golf Club.

“This golf course is so fun and the views and everything, it’s just awesome to be here,” Reto said. “… You never know out here with this golf course. Anything is possible. You just got to give yourself the best opportunity to make par and birdie.”

Reto holds a two-shot lead over a group of four players that includes former world No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand, France’s top-ranked player Celine Boutier, American Alison Lee and Thailand’s Wichanee Meechai.

Defending champion Brooke Henderson of Canada shot a 2-under 69 on Thursday and is in a large group tied for 19th that also includes LPGA Tour rookie star Rose Zhang and Sweden’s Linn Grant, who won the Dana Open two weeks ago.

Current World No. 1 Jin Young Ko of South Korea and second-ranked Nelly Korda are six shots off Reto’s lead after opening with 1-under 70s.

The Evian Championship is the fourth of five women’s majors of the year.

Reto entered the week ranked 81st in the world. A one-time winner on the LPGA Tour at last year’s CP Women’s Open, Reto has missed eight of her past 10 cuts in stroke-play events.

However, she did hold the 36-hole lead with teammate Amelia Lewis in last week’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational before ultimately tying for ninth place.

“Definitely helped,” Reto said of the top-10 while paired with Lewis. “We had such a good run. Just feeding off this positive energy, just being around a positive friend is always good. Makes you look forward to certain things.”

Reto, 33, has a career-best finish in majors of a T18 at the Chevron Championship seven years ago. She holds the 18-hole lead at a major for the first time in her career, and will have to fend off a leaderboard chock full of accomplished players.

That includes Boutier, a three-time winner on tour who was born a little more than five hours southeast of Evian-les-Bains in Clamart, France. Boutier, who is also seeking her first career major title, carded six birdies against a lone bogey on Thursday to post her best career round in a major.

This is the seventh start for Boutier in the Evian, where her best previous finish is a tie for 29th in 2014 and 2021.

“You play mind games with yourself. You just tell yourself you’re not at home,” she said with a laugh. “Honestly, not over-think it. Try to like think like a normal tournament and just approach the course like a regular course.”

Lydia Ko, 26, won the Evian Championship in 2015 and put together a clean scorecard on Thursday that included five birdies and no dropped shots.

The world’s third-ranked player entered the week with modest expectations as Ko hasn’t posted a top-30 finish in her past nine starts on the LPGA Tour. That includes a T65 in her most recent start at the Dana Open.

“I’ve played this golf course with some of the best ball striking, some of my worst ball striking, and I think because of that, I feel like I’ve played it in a lot of different spots here,” Ko said. “I think the longer you play at a golf course you realize like you make so many different memories, whether it’s good or bad, and I think I try and draw on the good memories.”

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