PATTAYA, Feb 17 – The 23yearold world No 7 was on a hot streak at a damp Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course, firing nine birdies for an unblemished round of nine-underpar, three ahead of Taiwanese world No 1 Yani Tseng and American legend Julie Inkster.
Cool conditions following two days of heavy rain helped the South Korean to equal the course record set by three players, Suzann Pettersen in 2007, Stacy Prammanasudh in 2009 and defending champion Ai Miyazato of Japan last year.
“I was kind of lucky. The slightly cooler weather helped. I started with a birdie and kept making birdies somehow. I didn’t think about what I was going to do, I just played every shot. I think it was a really good start. Couldn’t be happier,” said the threetime tour winner, whose latest victory was at the Lorea Ochoa Invitational last year.
Tseng, playing her first tournament as the new world No 1, handed in an errorfree scorecard of 66, thanks to birdies on the first, second, seventh, 10th, 17th and 18th.
“It’s s a pretty good round for this course. It’s playing longer this year. I hit lots of 7irons, 6irons, 5irons which is totally different from last year. I just didn’t hit my irons as good, but I’m staying patient and I hope the next three days get better,” said the 22yearold, who bagged two titles on the Ladies European Tour in Australia over the past two weeks.
Former world No 1 Inkster, the oldest player on the LPGA Tour at 50, recovered from two straight bogeys on the second and third holes to sink seven birdies, plus an eagle on the seventh, for a share of second with Tseng.
“I hit a bad shot on three, and on two I hit a good shot but couldn’t get up and down. I hung in there and started hitting some really good irons and got some birdies. I didn’t really get in too much trouble today. Hit my irons really good,” said the multititle winner, who has revealed a love of Thai massage and eating satay and noodles. She is seeking her first title since the Safeway International in 2006, her 31st win.
Alone in fourth place is Catriona Matthew of Scotland after a 67, one shot ahead of 2007 champion and 2010 runnerup Pettersen of Norway.
American crowdpullers Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie are locked in sixth, following 69s, along with compatriot Stacy Lewis and South Koreans Choi Nayeon and Yoo Sunyoung.
Creamer retired in tears after last year’s first round due to a thumb injury, but bounced back five months later to clinch her first major and only win last year at the US Open.
“I told my caddie when we were walking off the 18th green that it was a bit nicer today than last year. Things happen for a reason. Unfortunately I had to get hurt here in Thailand. This year I’m excited to get back and play all four days. I always want to win and get myself a chance,” said the American, who used her injury layoff to indulge her love of cooking.
“When I was in a cast there wasn’t so much I could do. Cooking was the easiest thing I could do at home and stay competitive because if it’s bad nobody wants to eat,” said Creamer who picked pork chops as her favourite dish but mentioned her ambition to cook pad thai.
Pornanong Phatlum, the only Thai with a full card for this year’s LPGA Tour, is among a pack of players in 11th place. The Chaiyaphumborn player sank five birdies against three bogeys to land a 70, the best score among the four Thais in the tournament.
“I didn’t read the greens well. The greens were treacherous with slopes, which makes it tough. But I’m okay with two under because I was quite excited playing with all these big names. Tomorrow I just have to be more aggressive and cut out errors,” said Pornanong, whose score put her level with Morgan Pressel, Marla Hjorth of Sweden, Mika Miyazato and Momoko Ueda of Japan, Karen Stupples of England and Taiwan’s Kung Candie.
Sisters Moriya and Ariya Jutanugarn, playing in an LPGA event together for the first time, struggled to make an impression. Elder sibling Moriya shot a oneover 71 to finish joint 32nd, one stroke ahead of Ariya in joint 41st.
Pravarisa Yoktuan shot 79 to land at the bottom of the pile while defending champion Miyazato did little better with her threeover 75 for a share of 44th place.
by: The Nation