I.K. Kim of South Korea hits on the 12th hole. (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images)
Portland, Ore. — I.K. Kim birdied the first four holes on the back nine Thursday and finished with a 7-under 65 to take the first-round lead in the Portland Classic.
The South Korean player birdied seven of the first 13 holes and closed her afternoon round with five straight pars. She won the last of her three LPGA Tour titles in 2010.
“I hit the ball well and made some putts coming down … there was a couple of tricky holes coming down the stretch, so I’m very pleased with how I finished. Solid round, yeah,” Kim said. “My game’s feeling good. Just need to keep playing.”
Kim, the winner of a Ladies European Tour event in England in July, tied for 42nd last week in the Canadian Women’s Open.
“The putting was a little bit — a little disappointing,” Kim said.
She nearly won the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship for her first major title, but missed a 14-inch putt on the final hole of regulation and lost to Sun Young Yoo in a playoff.
Amelia Lewis and Jennifer Song were a shot back in ideal conditions at Columbia Edgewater. Lewis, winless on the tour, had a bogey-free round.
“I’ve been working on my swing a little bit and tweaking a few things, and now it’s coming back and working out. So it’s going to be a good end of the year,” Lewis said.
Anna Nordqvist, a two-time winner this year, was another stroke back at 67 along with Mina Harigae, Julieta Granada, Laura Diaz, Alison Walshe, Emma Jandel and Paula Reto.
Juli Inkster, making her 28th appearance in the event at age 54, topped the group at 68. The round was her second-lowest of the year, following a 66 at the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I’ve got a long way to go, but to win anywhere would mean a great deal, especially since I’m not playing that much. It feels good to get out here and play,” said Inkster, wo won the 1999 tournament to wrap up a Hall of Fame spot.
So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in the Canadian Women’s Open, was in a group at 70 that included Na Yeon Choi, 18-year-old English player Charley Hull and Yani Tseng. Hull, playing on a sponsor exemption, won a Ladies European Tour event in Morocco in March.
Defending champion Suzann Pettersen shot 71. She also won the 2011 event.
Gigi Stoll, a senior at Beaverton High School, who won the Portland Classic Amateur Open last week to earn a spot in the field, also had a 71.
Top-ranked Stacy Lewis, No. 2 Inbee Park and No. 3 Lydia Ko are skipping the tournament, giving them a two-week break before the Evian Championship in France.