Choi Na-yeon found her comfort level playing alongside a familiar face in the opening round of the LPGA Tour’s Safeway Classic on Friday.
Choi fired a six-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead over Grace Park going into yesterday’s second round at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
And her threesome included South Korean compatriot and training partner Kim Song-hee. The two share the same coach and have been friends since they were kids.
“She’s my best friend, I think we really know each other, so I was very comfortable to play with her,” Choi said.
Choi, a runner-up to Japan’s Ai Miyazato in last year’s event, made seven consecutive birdies, but had a stumble on the par-four 18th where she had a double bogey. However, ever the competitor, she wants to tackle the hole again in the 54-hole tournament that wraps up today.
“I’d like to go back to the 18th hole, really,” she said.
Choi’s childhood pal Kim shot a two-over 73 and is tied for 43rd.
Park was two shots adrift with a 67, while Pak Se-ri, Anna Nordqvist, M.J. Hur and Ashli Bunch shot 68s. Park is playing in her ninth tournament of the year, but has missed the cut in the last two.
“Right now I’m healthy as I’ve been in 10 years,” she said.
Miyazato fired a 70 on Friday and world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan started her tournament with a 72, tied for 26th at one-over.
Playing five days after a trip home, the 22-year-old carded three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.
Saying she was tired after getting little sleep, the five-time LPGA major champion was not having an easy time in her attempt to win her fifth title of the year on a course that has become more challenging.
However, Tseng said afterward that “this was just the first day of the game. Don’t worry too much.”
She bunkered at the 17th, with her second attempt ending up in the water for a penalty stroke. The hole cost her a double bogey.
Fellow Taiwanese Amy Hung was tied for 19th with a par 71, while Candie Kutng shared 26th place with Tseng.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER