Kildeer, Ill. — South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park shot a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The 2017 U.S. Women’s Open Champion birdied three of the four par-5 holes at Kemper Lakes in the third of the LPGA Tour’s five majors.
Canada’s Brooke Henderson, the 2016 KPMG winner and runner-up last year, was a stroke back with Jessica Korda, Jaye Marie Green and Brittany Altomore.
The 24-year-old Park won the weather-shortened LPGA Texas Classic in May, but followed that with three missed cuts and a tie for 61st last week in Arkansas. After a switch in putters, she believes she is rounding back into form.
The long-hitting Park birdied the par-5 15th to reach 5 under and parred the tough final three holes, finishing with a short putt on 18.
“I felt like something little was missing, especially my putting,” Park said through an interpreter. “But this week, I (feel) comfortable.”
The course favors long hitters, and that’s just fine with Korda.
She has five tour victories and her sights set on becoming the second member of her family to capture a major championship. Her father, Petr Korda, won tennis’ Australian Open in 1998.
After tying for fourth at the ANA Inspiration this year, Korda missed the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open. But she’s off to a good start in this one.
“Oh, It was great,” said Korda, the winner in Thailand in February in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery. “Finally, a golf course that benefits the long-hitters. The last couple weeks it’s definitely been a lot of 3-woods or even 4-irons off the tees, so this is really, really nice.”
Korda birdied three of the first six holes and ended her round on a rather strong note. She birdied Nos. 14 and 15 before making pars on the final three holes.
Green closed with a birdie on No. 9.
Michelle Wie shot 71, U.S. Women’s Open champion Ariya Jutanugarn had an even-par 72, and top-ranked Inbee Park and defending champion Danielle Kang followed at 73.
Lexi Thompson also shot 72, acing the 166-yard sixth hole with an 8-iron. Brittany Marchand also had a hole-in-one with a 5-iron on the 175-yard No. 17. She shot 71.
The winner last year at Olympia Fields, Kang fought through a stomachache after she couldn’t resist the chocolate chip waffles at breakfast. She knew that was a bad idea no matter how good they looked, and it didn’t take long for her to start paying for it.
Kang was already starting to feel sick before she teed off. It bothered her throughout the round, and she even threw up after the ninth hole.
“Just that constant contraction, your stomach contracting,” said Kang, who was planning to have oatmeal and cereal for breakfast Friday. “When I’m putting and if I contract too much, I smashed one on 10. I go, ‘Oops.’ ”
She felt it in a double bogey on the par-4 16th. The 419-yarder is a nightmare, with water running the entire right side of the fairway before forming a pond in front of the green. There are also two fairway bunkers on the left as well as a deep one by the green. Kang’s stomach was acting up as she sent her third shot sailing over the green, just missing the water.
“I was feeling it over it, and then I just tried to hit through it and hit it way too hard,” she said.
Though John Smoltz may have felt very much alone on the wind-whipped, sun-baked Broadmoor course, he wasn’t.
The pitching Hall of Famer spent Day 1 at the U.S. Senior Open at Colorado Springs, Colorado, in much the same position as the rest of the field — gouging out of ankle-high rough, then scrambling to put himself in position for par putts on tricky, mountain greens that left player after player shaking his head.
“I’m just being honest,” Smoltz said after a round of 15-over 85 that left him tied for 150th place. “I don’t have enough game for this course yet.”
He wasn’t alone.
The ultimate test for the seniors produced only eight below-par scores Thursday, and not a single player — not even leader Jerry Kelly — finished 18 holes without a bogey on his card.
Kelly gave it a run, though.
After saving par from the rough on the 559-yard, par-4 17th — he was holding his right elbow after digging out the approach — Kelly was one 4-foot putt from going bogey-free. But when that slid a fraction to the right at the cup, his flawless day was history.
Kelly still shot 4-under 66, which was good enough for a two-shot lead over Miguel Angel Jimenez, Kevin Sutherland, Deane Pappas and Rocco Mediate.
“I was pretty disappointed with that three-putt on the last hole,” Kelly said. “But it gave me a lot today. I played very well, but it gave me some shots, too.”
Mediate found himself in the mix again for a national championship 10 years after his epic, 19-hole playoff loss to Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Whether it’s the regular Open or the seniors, Mediate insists the tough USGA setups suit him, even though he missed the cut the last two years in this event.
“It looks like a U.S. Open golf course,” Mediate said about the Broadmoor. “It is a U.S. Open golf course. It will show you quickly that it is, if you hit it in the wrong place. That’s what I love most about the setup.”
Also lurking was defending champion Kenny Perry, whose 71 included only a single birdie.
“Here, the greens, they’ve got you on edge,” said Perry, whose title last year gave him entry into the U.S. Open this month. “I feel like I’m at Shinnecock again.”
The USGA took its usual drubbing for the course setup earlier this month at Shinnecock Hills, and though the spotlight isn’t nearly as bright here, the record-high forecast for this week (high 90s) along with wind gusting above 30 mph have left tournament organizers ‘pacing” themselves when it comes to firming up the Broadmoor, according to the USGA’s daily course setup notes.
Even when softened up for resort players, conquering this course takes its fair share of local knowledge. Virtually every putt — even those that appear to be aimed uphill — break away from the Will Rogers Shrine towering above the course on Cheyenne Mountain.
“You have to hit them a few times to trust you know what you’re doing,” said Lee Janzen, who shot 69.
Janzen and Mediate trekked to Colorado Springs last month to play a few practice rounds and gain some of the valuable local knowledge.
Smoltz, whose day job is broadcasting baseball games for Fox, walked onto the Broadmoor for the first time this week. He hired a local caddie, Colin Prater, who was a Division II All-American at Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Almost immediately, though, the pitcher-turned-golfer received a crash course in the difference between casual rounds of golf and the sport at its most difficult.
“I never expected to get that many bad lies,” he said. “Nothing I could do about it. And I had a lot of tough shots that I have not practiced and that I am not used to hitting.”
A few times during the round, Smoltz had to stop, take off his shoes and tape up his toes, which were raw and aching. Lesson: Don’t break in new golf shoes at the U.S. Open.
“It was fun to have him out here,” said Bob Ford, who was in the threesome with Smoltz. “But I didn’t expect him to break 80. I know how good he is. But this is just another world. It’s not his world.”
Smoltz’s first turn through this world will end after Friday’s round.
Kelly — he set himself up to be in a good spot heading into the weekend.
“I hit three bad shots, and I shot 85,” Smoltz said. “It just tells you, from an amateur standpoint, and for people sitting at home, how great these players are.”
Tiger Woods used a new putter and got the same middling results Thursday in the Quicken Loans National.
Woods battled back from a double bogey with five straight birdie chances from 8 feet or closer. He made only two of them and had to settle for an even-par 70, leaving him at least seven shots out of the lead in the opening round on the TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.
Andrew Landry set the pace on a difficult, but rain-softened course with a 7-under 63. Landry, who won the Texas Open in April for his first PGA Tour title, also had a new putter in the bag.
All the attention was on Woods, who had hoped a mallet-style putter might help him shake out of a putting slump. It didn’t.