CHICAGO: South Korea’s Chella Choi, with only one top-five finish in 33 Major starts, fired a five-under par 66 on Thursday to seize the lead in the first round of the storm-halted Women’s PGA Championship.
Choi birdied four of the last six holes at Olympia Fields near Chicago to grab the clubhouse lead.
“It’s very exciting because it’s a big tournament, so I wanted to play well and today played so well,” Choi said.
But 30 of the field’s 156 players were unable to finish their first round after play was halted early by dangerous weather.
South Korea’s Amy Yang was also on five-under with the par-5 18th hole yet to complete. She and others in the last 10 groups must finish their first round Friday morning then begin round two.
American Brittany Altomare was second in the clubhouse on 67 but France’s Joanna Klatten was at four-under as well with two holes remaining.
Defending champion Brooke Henderson of Canada was in a group on 68 that included Americans Alison Lee and Michelle Wie and Australia’s Su Oh.
On the course at three-under were American Kim Kaufman with two holes to complete and Denmark’s Emily Pedersen with three holes remaining.
New world number one Ryu So-Yeon of South Korea was in a pack on 69 with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko on 70.
Choi opened with a birdie but took a bogey at the third hole. She closed the front nine with back-to-back birdies but began the back nine with another bogey.
Choi ran off three birdies in a row starting at the 13th hole and closed with another to top the leaderboard.
“I hit really good tee shots,” Choi said. “I had a lot of chance in the fairway. My putting is there, so I made a lot of birdies.”
Yang opened birdie-eagle-bogey then birdied the par-5 sixth and the par-4 10th, 12th and 14th holes. But a bogey at the par-3 17 left her level with Choi as played stopped.
Ryu, who won last week in Arkansas to jump into atop the rankings, opened birdie-bogey then birdied the par-3 seventh and 12th holes. She answered another bogey at 14 with a birdie at 18 to stand three adrift.
“I’ve never really become a number one before,” Ryu said. “This is my first day to play a golf tournament as number one so that was definitely a lot of pressure.
“But I talked to my psychologist yesterday and she told me that even though you have a new circumstance, you’re still the same person. You’re still So Yeon Ryu. No matter what situations change or circumstances change, you’re just you.
“So I keep talking to myself that no matter what, I’m So Yeon Ryu and just stick to my plan. That’s how I handle it.”
Ryu celebrated her 27th birthday on Thursday, but was putting off any large-scale festivities until after the year’s second major championship is complete. Ryu won the year’s first Major, the ANA Inspiration, in April. — AFP
Women’s PGA Championship
Top scores in Thursday’s opening round of the Women’s PGA Championship at par-71 Olympia Fields (USA unless noted, play halted by storms with 30 of 156 to finish second round Friday):
66 – Chella Choi (KOR)
67 – Brittany Altomare
68 – Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson (CAN), Alison Lee, Su Oh (AUS)
69 – Ally McDonald, Ryu So-Yeon (KOR), Moriya Jutanugarn (THA), Danielle Kang, Bronte Law (ENG), Aditi Ashok (IND), Lee Mi-Hyang (KOR), Hsu Wei-Ling (TPE), Nelly Korda
70 – Lydia Ko (NZL), Lexi Thompson, Min Lee (TPE), Madelene Sagstrom (SWE), Ashleigh Buhai (RSA), Sandra Changkija, Kwak Min-Seo (KOR), Shin Ji-Yai (KOR), Jaye Marie Green, Caroline Hedwall (SWE), Brittany Lincicome, Lee Lopez