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The Journal Gazette

Friday, July 06, 2018 1:00 am

Golf

Late pars keep Simpson from 59

Associated Press

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Webb Simpson ran out of sensational shots in the end to keep him from joining an elite group.

Simpson shot a 9-under-par 61 for a one-stroke lead over Whee Kim after the first round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier on Thursday.

Simpson posted his best career score after shaking off a two-hour weather delay with six holes left in his round. He came up short in his bid to shoot the eighth sub-60 round on the PGA Tour. Needing birdies on the par-5 17th and the par-3 18th for a 59, he parred both.

“I knew a 59 was in there, but it's all right,” Simpson said. “Great start. Scores were good though, so you've got to keep the pedal down.”

Kim had back-to-back bogeys on the front nine on the Old White TPC and then ran off five birdies over a seven-hole stretch. The South Korean had 10 birdies overall and shot 62. Teenager Joaquin Niemann of Chile was another stroke back at 7-under 63.

Kelly Kraft shot 64, and Jason Kokrak, Keegan Bradley and J.J. Henry were at 65.

Playing in the afternoon, Simpson had three consecutive birdies around the turn, then chipped in for eagle on the par-5 12th to move to 7 under. A few minutes later, the horn sounded stopping play just as he was hitting his tee shot on the par-4 13th. The shot landed on a hillside.

“Momentum is a funny thing, but I should feel good when I got back out there,” Simpson said during the delay.

After play resumed, Simpson's pitch from the hill went across the 13th fairway into tall fescue. His approach shot landed 3 feet from the pin and he escaped with par. He added birdies on the par-4 14th and 16th holes.

Simpson, whose four-shot victory at The Players Championship in May was his first win in more than four years, has seen his share of chances in West Virginia before. He finished third in 2014 and lost a one-stroke lead on the back nine in the final round in 2011 and 2012.

LPGA: In Oneida, Wisconsin, defending champion Katherine Kirk shot a 10-under-par 62 to take the first-round lead at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.

Kirk wasted no time in picking up from where she left off last year. Starting on the back nine, Kirk opened with three consecutive birdies and ended her day with a perfect wedge into the par-5 ninth for a tap-in birdie.

Sei Young Kim was a stroke behind at 63, and Brittany Marchand and Megan Khang were tied at 64. Seven players were shot 65 and 10 shot 66.

Sung Hyun Park, who won her second career major in a three-person playoff at last week's KPMG Women's PGA Championship, started with a bogey and never got rolling with a 2-over 74.