Dubai: Chinese LPGA Tour star Feng Shanshan, the highest ranked player in the field at world number six, started her defence of the Dubai Ladies Masters title in style, firing a bogey-free five-under par 67 Wednesday.
The two-time champion was just one shot behind Liz Young of England, who made full use of the perfect morning scoring conditions, and Spain`s Carmen Alonso, who was playing her first event since September as she helped her mother recover from lung cancer.
At the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club, the leaders fired rounds of six-under par 66 each in the 500,000 euros season-ending championship on the Ladies European Tour.
England`s 52-year-old Laura Davis rolled back the years to be tied fourth at four-under par 68 along with Spain`s Elisa Serramia.
Feng, who had three birdies on the front nine and two on the back, said: "I would say today, my ball?striking was pretty good, but I didn`t really put the balls really close to the holes. Most of my birdie chances were like maybe above 15 feet."
Alonso, who was in the second last group, said she wasn`t even sure of playing golf again as her mother battled with lung cancer. Her last tournament was in Sweden in September and she missed the cut in all five events she played this season.
But the 66 was Alonso`s way of celebrating after her mother was given the all-clear following a procedure in October.
"Your family is the most important thing in your life. I did not know if I would play again or event play this tournament. But now that she is fine, I am happy and I played really well," said Alonso, who will be making the trip to the Qualifying School unless she wins this week.
Young, who is 28th in the Order of Merit, credited her round to her putting.
"I just had 25 putts. Considering my Tour average this year is 31, that was pretty good," said Young, who started on the back nine of the golf course and was five-under par at the turn.
In the battle for the Rookie of the Year honours, the Danish duo of Emily Kristine Pedersen and Nanna Koerstz Madsen were neck and neck after 16 holes at four-under when it changed towards the end.
Pedersen, winner of Women`s Indian Open, and the leading rookie, managed to stay ahead after making just one bogey on the final hole, while Madsen slipped one shot behind at two-under par after closing with back-to-back bogeys.