KAPOLEI - Hall-of-Famer Pak Se-Ri and fellow South Koreans Ryu So-Yeon and Kim Hyo-Joo shared the lead on Wednesday after a windy first round of the LPGA Lotte Championship.
The Korean trio all carded four-under par 68s at Ko Olina Golf Club, where steady winds of about 15 miles per hour (24.14 Km) were punctuated by gusts of more than 30 mph (48.28 Km/h). The top trio were one stroke in front of Japan’s Ayako Uehara, whose 69 put her one shot in front of a group of five players sharing fifth place that included world number one Park In-Bee. Park was joined on two-under 70 by Hawaiian home favorite Michelle Wie, LPGA tour rookie Amy Anderson and South Koreans Jang Ha-Na and Lee So-Young, who are both playing on a sponsor’s exemption.
Ryu was the first in the clubhouse on 68, after a round that included five birdies and a bogey on the par-three eighth. She said the strong winds made reading some putts tough, but the 2011 US Women’s Open champion said her iron play was surprisingly crisp, giving her some short birdie chances. “The wind was pretty strong, so it was really hard to play with this much strong wind,” Ryu said.
“The most difficult part was sometimes the wind gust is super extremely strong, so also it was affecting the putting.”
Pak had an eagle on the par-five fifth hole, three birdies and a bogey. She said a returned to a cross-hand grip on her putter had improved her consistency.
Pak, a 25-time winner on the LPGA Tour, said her father recommended the switch back to the grip she used when she was starting out in 1998. “I feel great and I make some more putts that I’m supposed to make, so that’s giving more momentum as we walk to the next hole.
That helps a lot,” she said.
Kim, 18, played 17 holes with five birdies and no bogeys, but dropped to four-under with a three-putt bogey at her final hole, the par-four ninth. World number one Park got off to a blazing start with birdies at four of her first six holes. But as the wind picked up she struggled with club selection on the back nine. “Obviously, the wind wasn’t blowing as hard for my first five holes, then it started to really blow,” Park said. “I’ve never seen this golf course playing this hard before.”