SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) – South Korea's Ha-Neul Kim upstaged friend Inbee Park to take the first-round lead at her first U.S. Women's Open.
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.
Salas, a 23-year-old former Southern California star, played with Park in the last group of the final round of this year's Kraft Nabisco Championship. Three strokes back starting the day, she opened with a double bogey and tumbled to 25th after shooting a 79.
She bounced back to reach a playoff at the LPGA Lotte Championship in April, losing to Suzann Pettersen for her best finish on tour.