MIAMI (AFP) – Lee6 Jeong-eun fired eight birdies in an eight-under-par 64 on Thursday (Nov 18) to grab a one-shot lead at the US LPGA Tour Championship at rainy Tiburon Golf Club in Florida.
Lee6, the 2019 US Women’s Open champion, hit 14 of 14 fairways in regulation and 18 of 18 greens to put herself in position to achieve her aim of capturing a 2021 title in final event of the season.
“I had a good time today,” she said.
“My goal was bogey free, so, I achieved it.
“My goal is to win once this year, unfortunately just one tournament left. I’m going to try my best.”
Lee6 – who has the numeral added to her name to distinguish her from other players on the Korean tour with the same name – said work on swing changes had made for an inconsistent 2021 campaign, but now that she’s more comfortable she can attack with accuracy.
That was especially useful on Thursday, on the rain-softened and receptive Tiburon course in Naples, Florida.
“It was raining so the greens were soft and we could clean the ball in the fairway,” said Lee6, who was a stroke in front of four players.
American Mina Harigae’s bogey-free 65 was highlighted by a chip-in eagle at the 17th.
She was joined by compatriot Jennifer Kupcho, France’s Celine Boutier and South Korean Kim Sei-young.
Boutier had seven birdies without a bogey, while Kim had nine birdies and two bogeys and Kupcho nabbed seven birdies to join the group at seven-under.
Kim, who rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to lift the title at Tiburon in 2019, was also in attack mode on the rain-softened course set up for scoring.
“I had a lot of chances for birdie today,” she said.
“I expected a lot of rain today but there wasn’t. We got the rain starting on hole 16. But the course was a little wet, so we attacked the pin when it was available.”
World number one Nelly Korda led a group of eight players on six-under-par 66.
South Korean Ko Jin-young, who has swapped the top ranking with Korda this season as they racked up eight titles between them, made three of her five birdies on the back nine on the way to a three-under-par 69.
Korda arrived in Naples off a roller coaster win in the Pelican Championship in Sunday. Now the 23-year-old is seeking a second back-to-back brace of victories this season after winning the Meijer LPGA Classic and Women’s PGA Championship in successive weeks.
Korda and Ko played alongside former world number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand in a marquee grouping,
“I kind of saw that video of Lyd saying she was third wheeling, but I felt like I was third wheeling because they were speaking Korean,” Korda said.
“It was fun. I like playing with them and they played well, so it was nice.”
Her round itself, Korda said, was “pretty good”.
“I hit majority of the greens and I didn’t really make any mistakes. Two loose shots that I kind of had too much curve on them and two three-putts.
“But I definitely made a good bit of my putts out there as well.”