MANATEE -- There were a few weeks between the 2014 Guardian Retirement Championship and the previous LPGA Symetra Tour stop.
So Cindy Feng made sure to get in as much practice at Sara Bay Country Club as possible.
"I came out early because we had these three weeks off," she said. "So I had time to come down, and I had nothing else to do so why not? It helps to see the greens a lot, like as many times over. And to not get too spooked by them."
Battling it out on the slick, contoured greens gives the field the opportunity to showcase solid putting and chipping.
Feng demonstrated both en route to a 3-under-par 69 to secure a one-shot lead following Friday's first round in the $100,000 tournament.
"Just off the bat, I was playing really well," Feng said.
Feng's round was aided by a sublime front nine, where she peeled off three birdies without any dropped shots.
The lone bogey of the round came on the par-4 11th. It was the first of two times that Feng blasted her approach long of the green, which is the worst area to miss at Sara Bay.
The second occurrence came on the par-5 17th, but Feng managed to save par on that hole before closing out her second nine in even-par.
"Once you go in the wrong places, it's really a struggle to get back in play," Feng said. "If you're in the wrong place, it's just a grind to save par. It's just tiring."
Holding the top spot on the Volvik Race for the Card standings means Feng has played the most consistent golf this season. The rookie's results are staggering: three consecutive top 10 finishes, including one victory and more than $25,000 in earnings.
And all while learning the professional game.
"It's very different," Feng said. "It's funny, because I can't even explain it. Some of the courses I've played so far, I've played junior tournaments at them. And the scores out here to play well, you have to shoot under par every day."
Meanwhile, two players share second place with 2-under 70s. Spain's Marta Silva and American Rachel Rohanna logged their rounds in different portions of Friday's action.
Silva completed her round in the morning, while
Rohanna earned 70 in the afternoon.
"I think a lot of girls prefer morning and then afternoon, but I kind of like the opposite," said Rohanna, whose round was highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 17th. "Especially if you play well the first day, you just carry over to the next round."
Sara Bay poses a difficult task this week, and Rohanna said it's one of the toughest courses on the Symetra Tour.
The trick for her round was not missing any shots long of the green and staying patient.
"I remember last year it played tough," said Rohanna, who starred at Ohio State University prior to her pro career beginning in 2013. "(Friday), I just really wanted to focus on keeping good course management and missing the ball in the right places. I think I executed that pretty well."
Like Feng, Rohanna entered this week performing at a high level. She Monday-qualified into last week's LPGA Tour event in Hawaii with a 74, before missing the cut by three shots.
Rohanna demonstrated her consistency with 16 greens in regulation on the tricky Donald Ross layout in southern Manatee County.
"I didn't attack anything, which you can't do on this course," Rohanna said.