Suzann Pettersen set a course record by shooting a nine-under 63 in the first round of the KEB HanaBank Championship yesterday.
The Norwegian finished a shot clear of Sweden’s Karin Sjodin at the Ocean Course in Incheon, with five players tied for third, two shots back. Ai Miyazato of Japan, Azahara Munoz of Spain and the South Korean trio of Ryu So-yeon, Moon Hyun-hee and Kim Ha-neul all carded rounds of 66.
In perfect conditions at the course 40km (25 miles) west of Seoul, Pettersen sank five birdies in the first six holes on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course to make a brilliant start to the three-day event.
“Being three rounds, you want to get off to a hot start and I can’t complain with today’s round,” Pettersen said.
“I found the feel of the greens this morning and worked hard to feel the speed yesterday, and made some great putts and great shots. I’m really trying to read what’s out there; some pins are par pins and some pins you attack,” she added.
Defending champion and world No. 1 Yani Tseng had a 68, while No. 2 Stacy Lewis finished at par with a 72.
Pettersen also set a course record last week at the Sime Derby LPGA Malaysia, only to falter in the final two rounds.
“I feel like I have some low rounds in me now. It is nice when the way you feel equals the score you put on the scorecard,” Pettersen said.
It was an excellent day for Scandinavia with Sweden’s Sjodin pushing Pettersen all the way.
“I felt like I was hitting the ball really solid,” Sjodin said. “The birdies were long putts. I had three close ones and missed all three.”
Sjodin, ranked 75 in the world, has three South Koreans on her heels.
Playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, the locals are expected to perform well though Park Inbee, ranked fifth in the world and top of the money list this season, ended tied in 24th with a two-under 70.
“Seeing all the Korean players on tour in their home environment and how they blossom here. It’s really great to see,” Sjodin said.
Moon is one of the home contingent tied in third place and was delighted with her showing.
“The conditions are perfect and there is almost no wind at all,” she said.
“In Korea, we have only one LPGA tournament a year and all players want to participate. My scores have not been so good lately. I wanted to boost my confidence and I think I did that today,” she added.