CINCINNATI — Ruixin Liu of China was still suffering from allergies that forced her to withdraw from the LPGA Tour event last week. It didn't stop her from posting a 7-under 65 on Thursday for her best round of the year and a one-shot lead in the Kroger Queen City Championship.
Liu started so well that her lone regret was a par on the 12th hole when she hit her approach to 18 feet on the par 5 and three-putted for a par. She had seven birdies through 13 holes and then closed with five pars.
Liu had a one-shot lead on the Kendale course at Kenwood Country Club over Peiyun Chien, Elizabeth Szokol, short-hitting Dottie Ardina and Linnea Strom.
Liu reached the par-5 second hole for a two-putt birdie, made a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then it all felt easy.
“From that point on the putter is just rolling great,” Liu said. “I pretty much made everything except for hole No. 12. That's the only bad hole I played today, because my second shot was only like 18 feet for eagle and I three-putted.”
She had no complaints, especially after a severe allergy reaction caused her to withdraw from the Portland Classic. Liu said she still didn't have a clear head for the opening round in Cincinnati and has no idea why she played so well.
“I'm very happy to take it,” she said.
The Queen City Championship is the final LPGA event before the Solheim Cup on Sept. 22-24 in Spain, and some of the better performances came from Europe.
Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark and Charley Hull, a runner-up in two majors this year, each were at 67. Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden was at 69, along with Americans Jennifer Kupcho and Ally Ewing, the defending champion at Kenwood.
Rose Zhang holed a 20-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a 70.
Lexi Thompson showed little improvement. Thompson is having her worst year on the LPGA Tour but still made the Solheim Cup team through the women's world ranking. Thompson, who has missed five of her last six cuts, made double bogey on the last hole for a 73. She would need a good score Friday just to make the cut.
Lydia Ko and Women's PGA champion Ruoning Yin were at 68.
The LPGA Tour is coming off a week that delivered one of the biggest surprises of the year. Thai teenager Chanettee Wannasaen, a Monday qualifier who was No. 367 in the world, won the Portland Classic.
Liu might be another surprise. She is a six-time winner on the Futures Tour but has never finished in the top 10 on the LPGA Tour in individual play.
She is No. 250 in the world and her best result is a tie for 20th that counts toward the ranking. So it was amazing to feel poorly from allergies and post her low round of the year.
“I don’t want to give myself too much expectation because physically I don’t feel great,” Liu said. “So I’m just going to take a good break, try to sleep good, and try to do the same thing tomorrow.”
It's a different Kenwood course from a year ago, when rain drenched the Kendale course and allowed player to lift, clean and place. This year is drier and the ball was running.
That was a big help to Ardina, who is 168th in driving distance with an average of 233 yards. But the greens are mostly open in front, and Ardina was able to run fairway metals onto the putting surface and convert the putts.
“To be honest, I only played the back nine for the practice round. I didn’t play the front nine, so I was just kind of winging it out there this afternoon,” Ardina said. “I was just trying to hit fairways and greens.”