The Chevron Championship: Defending champion Patty Tavatanakit makes a bold start with Zen attitude

Minjee Lee and Jennifer Kupcho lead after the first round, but the Thai is just one stroke back and in a great frame of mind.

Twelve months ago Patty Tavatanakit stunned the field, and most of those watching, to win the Chevron Championship at a canter.

Going wire-to-wire is difficult. Going wire-to-wire for a first win is even more difficult. Going wire-to-wire for a first win that is also a Major Championship is really, really difficult.

But the Thai then-21-year-old turned a one-shot 18 and 36 hole lead into a five-shot 54 hole advantage, and there were apparently few nerves when she closed out a two-shot triumph.

This week she has faced the difficulty of added off-course duties as the defending champion but, after posting a 5-under-par 67 for solo second behind leaders Minjee Lee and Jennifer Kupcho, she revealed that she is quite literally in her calm place.

"Something about this place just keeps me really calm, just really present," she said. "I think that's how I was able to turn my momentum mid-round."

Opening her defence on the back nine she stumbled early with bogeys at 10 and 14 with just a birdie at the 11th in response.

But her response was strong. She hit the turn under-par after further birdies and 16 and 18, then added another four par breakers on the front nine.

"I'm really proud," she said. "I really got my momentum going, was really present, and just didn't really not care. Maybe not care, but it didn't bother me if I was going to play good or bad.

"Scores are scores. It doesn't really tell you what's really going on. I mean, a part of it will, but deep down I was really comfortable out there. Regardless of how I start or finish, it's still a round of golf and I give my best, and can't really control the outcome."

Her Zen attitude extended, she explained, to the off-course responsibilities this week.

"It wasn't a distraction for me. If anything, it's just a part of being great," she said with a laugh.

"Everything is a choice in life. If you choose to look at it as a distraction it will be. If you choose to look at it as a part of what you do, it's just perspective on things."

Like Tavatanakit, Lee was a first-time Major winner in 2021 and asked if it had changed her she said: "I just think I have a little bit more belief in myself and my game so I can be a little bit more comfortable just hitting the shots that I choose. I know I have one under my belt, but I do want a little bit more."

On this opening day, she opened with three birdies in four holes and then added another three before the end of the round.

"I didn't even look at the leaderboard," she admitted. "I just really wanted to finish off with a birdie."

An eight-time visitor to the tournament she has only once not finished T26th or better with third in 2017 her best finish.

This was, however, comfortably her best start to any week in the event - in fact, the first time she has gone sub-70 in the first round.

For her co-leader Kupcho there was a slight sense of deja vu. Twelve months ago she opened with a 69 to sit inside the top 10 early in the week, before slipping back to T60th.

In her only other previous course start she was T22nd and, like the defending champion, she has a strong affinity with it.

"I love this place, love being here," she said. "I really like the layout, the beautiful shape that it's in every year. It always is so fun to be here, so I'm just taking advantage of how much I like the course and the atmosphere."

On the other hand, she's not getting ahead of herself.

"It's always nice to be in contention out here, but, I mean, there is a lot of golf left. You never know what can happen. There is a lot of water out there, too."

AIG Women's Open champion Anna Nordqvist opened with a 68 to sit in a six-way tie for fourth alongside Lydia Ko and Georgia Hall.

Course expert Lexi Thompson opened with a 69, but World No. 1 Jin Young Ko carded a 2-over-par 74.

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