Lauren Coughlin in front, Nelly Korda right behind at Chevron

Lauren Coughlin posted a bogey-free, 6-under 66 Thursday to take the early lead at the Chevron Championship, but white-hot World No. 1 Nelly Korda is right behind after one round of the first women’s major of the year in The Woodlands, Texas.

Korda, who has won her past four LPGA starts, birdied four of her final six holes at The Club at Carlton Woods to shoot 4-under 68, tied for second with Marina Alex and Japan’s Minami Katsu.

Korda may be the star on the leaderboard, but everyone is looking up at Coughlin — a 31-year-old ranked No. 94 in the world. Coughlin has only three top-10 finishes in her LPGA career, including a T8 at the Ford Championship last month.

“It was really hard to keep going in the beginning,” Coughlin said of her career. “But it’s been really fun. I just keep trying to get better every year is my goal, improve on things, a little here or there, and keep things I do well well but also fix some of the things or improve on some of the things that I can, and that’s been what I’ve been focusing on, and it’s been awesome.”

With her husband on the bag this week, Coughlin started the tournament birdie-birdie at Nos. 10-11 and wound up carding three birdies on each side.

Coughlin was asked who she saw as her “main competition” entering this week.

“I mean, Nelly, of course,” Coughlin said. “She’s everybody’s competition.”

After opening with a bogey at No. 10, Korda picked up two birdies before making the turn. She was back to even par after another bogey at No. 2, but she rolled in birdie putts at Nos. 4, 6, 8 and 9 as the afternoon wave drew to a close.

“Two of them were par-5s, so I got to take advantage of that with my length,” Korda said. “Hit a really good tee shot, and then I was just on the front of the green on 17, and the other one I was just on the fringe, too. I two-putted pretty much for birdie on those. Then I had wedge shots in on the other two, too. Taking advantage of my length and hitting good tee shots.”

Korda, 25, is looking for her elusive second major title this week. Her only major breakthrough so far came at the 2021 Women’s PGA Championship.

Now she and the rest of the field are navigating The Club at Carlton Woods in its second year staging the tournament. The major formerly known as the Nabisco Dinah Shore and the ANA Inspiration was played in Rancho Mirage, Calif., before 2023.

“I think of it as I would say every girl is kind of adjusting to it this year that played last year, and the girls that didn’t play are playing this for the first time, as well,” Korda said. “I always try to take a golf course how it’s playing right now, not how it was playing maybe last year, because if you do that, then you’re just kind of reminiscing about the past. That never kind of leads you anywhere.”

Alex overcame a bogey on the second hole by birdieing No. 4, then catching fire at the turn and draining four more birdies in a five-hole stretch.

“Does a lot for my confidence,” Alex said. “I think I had a really nice opening round here last year and didn’t carry it through for four rounds, so I would like to improve upon that and build into tomorrow and the weekend and find myself in contention, which would be wonderful.”

Lydia Ko of New Zealand, Gabriela Ruffels of Australia, Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand, South Korea’s Jin Hee Im and China’s Xiyu Lin are tied for fifth at 3-under 69.

English amateur Lottie Woad, who won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur earlier this month, shot a 1-under 71 and is tied for 18th.

Lilia Vu, last year’s champion, withdrew just before her tee time due to an ongoing back injury.