AFP/Miami, United States
Kim Sei-young conjured a late eagle to open up a two-shot lead after the first round of the LPGA Tour Championship in Florida on Thursday.
The South Korean’s moment of magic came on the par-five 17th hole at Tiburon Golf Club, when she hit her approach to the edge of the green before draining a 12-foot putt for eagle.
A par on the 18th gave Kim a seven-under-par 65, completing a flawless bogey-free round that also included five birdies.
It left Kim as the early front-runner for what is the richest tournament in women’s golf, where the winner will pocket a record $1.5mn.
Kim however said she is not thinking about the prospect of a record payday in what is the final event of 2019.
“Even (though) this tournament really special, I just try to make myself comfortable,” Kim said when asked about the record purse.
“I don’t put any extra pressure on myself.”
Of more importance for Kim is the fact that a pre-season goal of winning three tournaments is still very much on track.
The 26-year-old from Seoul won at the Mediheal Championship in California in May before taking the Marathon Classic in Ohio in July.
“I set a goal at beginning of the year to win three tournaments,” Kim said. “If I win this tournament I will reach my goal, which is really nice.”
Kim can expect a stiff challenge over the final three rounds, with a crowded field of contenders lurking just off the lead.
Three players — Nelly Korda of the United States, England’s Georgia Hall and Korea’s Ryu So-yeon — carded five-under-par 67s to start.
Hall, who like Kim eagled the 17th, might have joined the Korean at the top of the leaderboard had it not been for a disastrous double-bogey six on the 13th.
Hall said she had been bothered by foot pain caused by a new pair of shoes, and needed treatment from a physio during her round.
“For some reason they’re like really cutting into one of the bones in my foot, so I just got it taped up more than it already was,” Hall said later. “Still hurting, but it’s fine. I can cope with it.”
Five players — Brooke Henderson, Lizette Salas, Caroline Masson, Marina Alex and Nanna Koerstz Madsen — are three shots off the lead after carding four-under-par 68s.
World number one Ko Jin-Young finished the day six off the lead after a one-under-par 71.
Leading first round scores
65 — Kim Sei-young (KOR)
67 — Nelly Korda (USA), Ryu So-yeon (KOR), Georgia Hall (ENG)
68 — Brooke Henderson (CAN), Lizette Salas (USA), Caroline Masson (GER), Marina Alex (USA), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (DEN)
69 — Danielle Kang (USA), Brittany Altomare (USA), Bronte Law (ENG), Su Oh (AUS), Chella Choi (KOR), Jenny Shin (KOR), Hsu Wei-ling (TPE)
70 — Lexi Thompson (USA), Hur Mi-jung (KOR), Nasa Hataoka (JPN), Jessica Korda (USA), Megan Khang (USA)
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