Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow is five shots off the early lead at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida after starting strongly.
Galgorm Castle touring professional Meadow shot a two-under-par 70 in her opening round at Tiburon Golf Club to sit in a tie for 16th and five back of overnight leader Lexi Thompson.
Cavan’s Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell) started the tournament with a one-over-par 73 to sit tied for 45th after day one.
Meadow required a late run to get herself back into red figures for the day after she hit a rough patch midway through her round, but back-to-back birdies at the sixth and seventh holes — the Jordanstown woman started on the 10th — helped her surge up the leaderboard.
After birdieing her opening hole, Meadow added a birdie on the 17th, but then dropped shots on the first and fourth holes to return to level par.
Meanwhile, Maguire had an identical opening nine holes as Meadow when she birdied the 10th and 17th, before then bogeying the second.
However, the 26-year-old then double bogeyed the fourth and never recovered, parring her way in to card a 73.
The pair are making history by becoming the first Irish women to compete in the LPGA Tour’s final event of the season, which carries a $1.1m (£815k) prize for the winner — the richest event on the women’s schedule.
If one is to walk away with that bumper prize fund then they will have to chase down Thompson, who dazzled with a 65 to lead by one after 18 holes.
The American dropped just one shot to go with eight birdies to finish at seven under, one shot better than Denmark’s Nanna Koertz Madsen, who signed for a six-under 66.
Korea’s Inbee Park, who entered the event at the top of the Race to the CME Globe standings, is level par, while World No.1 Jin Young Ko is four under.