Rose Zhang of the United States lines up a putt on the 2nd green during the first round of the Maybank Championship at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on October 26, 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Photo Credit: 2023 Getty Images

26 OCT 2023 – Mizuho Americas Open winner Rose Zhang is off to a hot start at the inaugural Maybank Championship, carding a bogey-free, 7-under 65 on Thursday at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club to sit in the mix early with 54 holes to play. The 2023 rookie raced out of the gate, picking up a pair of back-to-back birdies on holes 2 and 3 to move to 2-under early. The 20-year-old then parred the next three holes, grabbing her third birdie of the day on the par-4 7th hole, and made two more pars on 8 and 9 to turn in 33 at 3-under.

Zhang made another birdie on the par-5 10th hole and birdied again on 13 to get 5-under with five holes to play. Her final two birdies of the day came consecutively on 16 and 17, and after a par on 18, Zhang now finds herself in a tie for third at 7-under, two back of the first-round lead held by Jasmine Suwannapura.

The 65 is Zhang’s lowest career round on the LPGA Tour and is her lowest round of the 2023 season, besting her previous benchmark by one shot, which she last shot during the first round of the Dana Open. It’s also her first time going bogey-free since the second round of the Portland Classic in August.

With a 3-hour and 48-minute weather delay briefly derailing the first round of the Maybank Championship, Zhang’s group was feeling the pressure to finish before more inclement weather pounded Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. The rookie was relieved to get her 65 in the clubhouse on Thursday afternoon and will be looking to build off that momentum over what’s hopefully a drier next three days.

“I’m super happy. Especially going into the last hole, I knew we were cutting it close,” said Zhang, who was playing alongside Leona Maguire and Kelly Tan in round one. “I was telling Olly (Brett, her caddie this week) we had to speed up. Please let the rain stay away for just a little bit. But I had a short-yardage in. I was trying to make my putt. But I’m glad that I came off the course, played solid. Overall, it was a very solid day.”

This week in Malaysia is Zhang’s 11th start since she won the Mizuho Americas Open in June as a non-member and accepted immediate LPGA Tour membership to become a 2023 LPGA Tour rookie. She has earned three top-10 finishes in addition to that victory, tying for eighth at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and then tying for ninth at both the U.S. Women’s Open and The Amundi Evian Championship, but Zhang hasn’t been able to crack the top 10 since teeing it up in Evian-les-Bains, France.

While she’s been a bit cold since the summer, Zhang hasn’t been too stressed about her results as of late. Instead, she has been focusing on the positives that she’s gleaned from each round and is working on being aggressive and staying committed to her golf shots, work that seems to be paying off thus far, considering she fired a career-best 65 in the first round of the Maybank Championship.

“Today, I felt like everything was about placement,” said Zhang. “Placing the ball in the fairway and onto the green, making yourself go for birdie opportunities when necessary. I know that there are so many great players out here, so it’s really important to stay aggressive and committed. That’s what I tried to do, and ultimately, the short stick has to work, so that really helped me today.

“Tomorrow is the same thing, really. Just staying composed, making sure my yardages and numbers are good, and going from there. Committing to every shot possible. Game plan will still be the same. Just reevaluate a little bit and go from there.”

Written By: Sarah Kellam

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