South Korea’s Chella Choi used a blistering front nine to shoot a five-under-par 67 for a one-stroke lead after Friday’s first round of the rain-delayed LPGA Championship at Locust Hill outside Rochester, New York.
Choi, seeking her maiden LPGA Tour win, had five birdies on her outward half and offset a birdie at the 10th with a bogey at 13 for a one-shot edge over compatriot Shin Ji-yai and American Morgan Pressel at the year’s second major.
“I hit a really good driver today,” 22-year-old Choi said, whose father caddies for her. “I hit 14 fairways. So I’m really happy. My goal is just keep in the fairway.”
British Women’s Open champion Shin posted four birdies, three on the back nine, in a bogey-free round while Pressel finished with four consecutive birdies to register her 68.
“I just saw the line on the putts,” Pressel said about her rousing finish. “I just committed to my line and just saw the ball rolling where I wanted it to and made four really good putts on the last four holes.”
“Out here, putting is what wins major championships,” she added.
One stroke back was long-hitting American Brittany Lincicome, with compatriot Jessica Korda and Hall of Famer Pak Se-ri of South Korea another shot back on 70.
Pak, a three-time winner of the event, won her first LPGA Championship for her first tour title as a rookie in 1998.
“The funny thing is, the first time to win and I didn’t really know that it was a major,” said Pak, who has five major titles to her credit.
Thursday’s play was scrubbed following lightning and torrential rain that soaked the course, leading organizers to move three tees up and allow the players to lift, clean and place balls in the fairway.
Groundskeepers arrived at 4am to prepare the course.
Pressel, an early starter on Friday, said she was surprised to tee off as scheduled.
“The ground staff here did an incredible job getting the course ready. I don’t think the greens could be any more perfect. There’s some casual out there but that’s to be expected. We’re just happy to get out on the golf course,” she said.
Hitting fairways was critical with the waterlogged rough even more penal than usual on a cool, overcast day that some more light rain toward the end of the afternoon.
“The rough is nasty,” Korda said, who had five birdies and three bogeys.
Two-time winner and former world No. 1 one Yani Tseng of Taiwan avoided any chance of finding the rough at the 15th hole when she made a hole-in-one on the 150-yard par-three.
“This is my first hole-in-one since I turned pro. I’ve been waiting for a long time,” said 24-year-old Tseng, who did not take full advantage of her ace as she finished at even-par 72.
Among a large group tied at 71 were 2009 champion Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, 1994 and 1996 winner Laura Davies and Catriona Matthew of Britain, South Korean Amy Yang and Americans Angela Stafford and 18-year-old Lexi Thompson.
Defending champion Shanshan Feng, the first golfer from mainland China to win a women’s major, shot a two over-par 74.
Organizers planned to stage the second round yesterday and squeeze in 36 holes to finish up today.