SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Ha-Neul Kim saw friend Inbee Park after the world’s top-ranked player took the lead in the morning session at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Kim, with an afternoon tee time playing the major for the first time, wondered, Wow, how did she shoot that score?
Then Kim went out Thursday and shot one stroke better, finishing with a bogey-free, 6-under 66 to take the first-round lead at Sebonack.
Park is trying to make history by winning the first three majors of the year. For a day at least, she was upstaged by a much less-heralded fellow South Korean.
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.
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.
PGA: In Bethesda, Md., Roberto Castro took the first-round lead in the AT&T National at Congressional, shooting a 5-under 66 on a difficult course that has staged three U.S. Opens.
Winless on the PGA Tour, Castro made three straight 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.
CHAMPIONS: In Pittsburgh, John Huston shot a 5-under 65 to take the first-round lead in the Senior Players Championship, the third of the Champions Tour’s five majors.
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. Fred Couples, Duffy Waldorf, Fred Funk and Russ Cochran were a stroke back. Colin Montgomerie had a 69 in his Champions Tour debut. The start of play was delayed nearly five hours because of heavy rain.
EUROPEAN: In Maynooth, Ireland, Rory McIlroy shot a 2-over 74 in the Irish Open to fall eight strokes behind first-round leader Oscar Floren.
McIlroy had four bogeys and two birdies in wet and overcast conditions at Carton House. Floren, from Sweden, had a 6-under 66.
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.