South Korea’s Ha-Neul Kim upstaged friend Inbee Park to take the first-round lead at her first U.S. Women’s Open in Southampton, N.Y.
Kim shot a bogey-free, 6-under 66 on Thursday at Sebonack to lead Park by a stroke. The top-ranked Park is trying to make history by winning the first three majors of the year.
“I’m enjoying myself,” Kim said through a translator. “I’m just happy to be here and to be playing in this big event. I’m not really thinking about winning or results but enjoying the moment.”
Currently a member of the KLPGA Tour, Kim is a seven-time winner in South Korea. She kept giving herself short birdie putts Thursday and making them.
Kim birdied her second-to-last hole with daylight waning to claim the lead after Park held it for most of the day with her 67 in the morning session.
No player has won the first three majors in a season with at least four majors. The 2008 U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park has already won five times this year, including her last two tournaments.
American Lizette Salas, Swedes Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist and South Korea’s I.K. Kim shot 68.
Concerned about bad weather, tournament officials moved up the tees, and with the rain holding off, Park was able to play aggressively.
“I never had practiced from those tees, so I was a little bit shocked when I went to the tees,” Park said.
Not that she was complaining.
She repeatedly set up short putts, and the way she has excelled in her short game lately, Park was headed to a low score.
“So instead of hitting like 5-irons, we were hitting 9-irons, and that was making the course much easier,” she said. “I was actually able to go for some pins and give myself a lot of opportunities today. I made a lot of putts and didn’t leave much out there.”
Starting on No. 10, Park birdied her first hole, then started racking up pars. She made the turn at 2 under before birdies on three of her next four holes.
At 5 under, Park briefly struggled with her tee shots, needing to save par on Nos. 5 and 7. On No. 6, her 15th hole of the day, she had to lay up out of the tall grass and settled for her lone bogey.
Park got back to 5 under on the par-5 eighth with a chip shot to about 5 feet that set up a birdie putt.
Nordqvist birdied her last two holes to pull into a tie for third. Hedwall and Kim were each at 5 under with a hole left, but closed with bogeys.
Roberto Castro took the first-round lead in the AT&T National at Congressional, shooting a 5-under 66 on the difficult course that has hosted three U.S. Opens. Winless on the PGA Tour, Castro made three consecutive birdies late in his round with a 20-foot putt, a perfect 3-wood into a par 5 and a chip-in.
Only a dozen players shot in the 60s and the average score was just over 73, despite cloud cover for most of the day leading to soft conditions and only a light wind.
Billy Horschel, who tied for fourth in the U.S. Open two weeks ago at Merion, began his day with a 50-foot birdie putt, added two birdies over the next three holes and then hung on for a 68. That was the best score among the early starters. Bud Cauley and Graham DeLaet each had a 68 in the afternoon.
Defending champion Tiger Woods wasn’t around, unable to play because of a sore left elbow that will keep him out of competition until the British Open next month.
John Huston shot a 5-under 65 to take the first-round lead in the Senior Players Championship in Pittsburgh.
Huston started on No. 10 and was even par halfway through his round before making a big move on the front nine at soggy Fox Chapel. Huston shot 5-under 30 coming in, including four birdies and an eagle on the short par-4 seventh. The 52-year-old Huston missed three months this season because of lower-back problems.
Fred Couples, Duffy Waldorf, Fred Funk and Russ Cochran were a stroke back in the third major on the schedule. Tom Pernice Jr. had three consecutive birdies to start his round and led a group of five players at 67.
The start was delayed nearly five hours due to heavy rain.
Saying he’s “feeling a bit lost” in a difficult year, Rory McIlroy shot a 2-over 74 in the Irish Open in Maynooth, Ireland, to fall 8 strokes behind first-round leader Oscar Floren. The second-ranked McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, had four bogeys and two birdies in wet and overcast conditions at Carton House on the outskirts of Dublin. McIlroy hit only five out of 14 fairways and took 34 putts.
Floren, from Sweden, had a 6-under 66. He drove the green on the par-4 13th and holed a 20-foot eagle putt. American Peter Uihlein was a stroke back along with Dutchman Joost Luiten, France’s Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and Ireland’s Shane Lowry.