South Korea’s Jang Ha-na birdied the par-five 18th for a five-under 66 and a one-stroke lead on Thursday after the first round of the LPGA Tour’s Marathon Classic.
Taiwan’s Hsu Wei-ling, Sarah Kemp, Nannette Hill and Lee-Anne Pace were tied for second at four-under.
Jang chipped to 6 feet (1.8m) to set up the final birdie after hitting a three-wood approach to the front edge.
“Just really good shot,” Jang said about the chip with a 52o wedge.
“I feel happy today, because in the morning ... I was very tired in my bed, so no practice today. I don’t think about the score, so really good play today,” Jang said.
Winless in 23 career tour events, Jang birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine at Highland Meadows, dropped a stroke on the par-four 15th and rallied with the closing birdie.
“I like the course,” Jang said. “Very narrow fairways and small greens. Very close to Korean golf course, so I think it’s very easy for my feel. Really good golf course.”
She took a simple approach on the course softened by a rainy month.
“Just always thinking about fairway and greens,” Jang said. “Very easy thinking.”
Kemp bogeyed her final hole, the par-four ninth. The Australian has missed the cuts in seven of the 12 tournaments this season.
“My caddie and I were actually talking before I teed off that I had not had a four or five-under in a while,” Kemp said. “That was the plan today, so it was nice to pull it off. It’s confidence. I’ve had an inconsistent year, some good and some bad. Hopefully, for the rest of the three days I can keep it up.”
Kemp’s approach on the ninth hole landed in the rough to the left of the green. She hit to the fringe, but came back with a chip that hit the flagstick and she was able to make her putt for bogey.
“It was a funny lie,” Kemp said. “I had a bad lie for the first chip, where I shouldn’t have been in the first place.”
Hill had three straight birdies from the sixth to eighth hole to reach four-under and parred the final 10 holes.
“I feel really good,” Hill said. “All season I feel like I’ve been very consistent and building off good stuff. So, came to this course on Sunday and felt like it fit my eye really well.”
Top-ranked Inbee Park, a three-time winner this season, birdied her final hole for a 70.
“I hit a lot of greens, but not really close,” Park said. “Irons just weren’t as pure as I thought it would be. Missed couple putts here and there. Only two birdies and one bogey. Not a bad start.”
Defending champion Lydia Ko, ranked No. 2 in the world, opened with a 71.
Third-ranked Stacy Lewis also had a 71.
Kaohsiung-born Candie Kung of the US finished tied for 18th on two-under 69, while Taiwan’s Min Lee and Yani Tseng were tied for 40th after each carding an even-par 71.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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