EON (South Korea) (AFP) - Australian Katherine Hull fired a six-under 66 to shoot into the lead of the USLPGA Hana Bank Kolon Championships after the first round here Friday.
Hull carded seven birdies against a sole bogey to climb atop the leader board, two strokes clear of Amy Yang, with Yoon Chae-Young one stroke further back followed by a chasing pack.
The Championships are the US tour's lone Korean stop of the season and for the first time since the tournament began in 2002, it is being held at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Sky 72 Golf Club's Ocean Course in Incheon.
After morning rains delayed teeing off, Hull wasted little time finding her rhythm despite the blustery conditions, picking up birdies on two of her first four holes.
A bogey at the par-four 11th refused to shake her confidence, as Hull, who won her first USLPGA title in Canada in August, birdied four of her next six holes to close out the opening round.
"Everything clicked today. I putted well all day and made a couple of good par saves," Hull said. "I stuck to my routines. The greens are pure and it's nice to know that when you start the ball online, it has a chance of going in."
For Amy Yang, who won twice on the Ladies European Tour this year, the event is her first professional tournament on her native soil.
"I was nervous before this tournament and I still kind of am," said the 19-year-old Korean who moved to Australia after finishing middle school here and is now based in Orlando, Florida.
"The wind blew really hard early in my round and I tried not to lose focus. Playing in windy conditions on the European Tour helped a lot," said Yang, who is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption.
Defending champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway struggled to 77 after committing four bogeys on the front nine alone.
Paula Creamer, No. 2 on the LPGA money list this season, managed only one birdie in shooting 75.Local favourite Pak Se-Ri, the tournament's inaugural champion in 2002, was one-under 71, and Shin Ji-Yai finished at two-under 70 after a roller coaster round that included six birdies and four bogeys.
"I am quite happy with my round," said Shin, the top-ranked Korean in the field this week. "I didn't think anyone would go as low as Hull today."Sweden's Helen Alfredsson, who stormed to a stunning victory at the inaugural Grand China Air LPGA on Sunday, also carded 71.