Jin Young Ko and Sung Kang led the LPGA and PGA Tour in the opening round on Thursday, flying the South Korean flag.
Ko’s effort to recapture her world No. 1 position from Nelly Korda got off to a flying start at the Cognizant Founders Cup, as she posted an eight-under 63 to take a three-shot lead over Sandra Gal, albeit Korda was only one shot back in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Sung Kang capped a 10-under 61 with an amazing eagle on his final hole, vaulting him into the outright lead at the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas, two strokes ahead of compatriot Sungjae Im.
Ko is the defending Founders Cup champion, although two and a half years after defeating the Korda sisters to win her third LPGA Tour victory in March 2019, and she needed only 25 putts in her nine-birdie first round at Mountain Ridge Country Club.
The disappointment of failing to convert a share of the lead heading into the final round of last week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic, where she and Inbee Park were overtaken by a spectacular closing 63 from Solheim Cup player Celine Boutier, spurred the 26-year-old.
“I played a wonderful round today,” said Ko, whose 92-week reign as world No. 1 ended in June when Korda won her first major, the Women’s PGA Championship.
“I was a little down last week on Sunday, so I decided to save it all for my putting this week, and I had a terrific putting day today. I had nine birdies and one bogey today, so I’m still doing fairly well.”
Gal was especially pleased with her performance after being out for much of the previous three years due to Lyme Disease.
The German carded five birdies and no bogeys on the day, while Korda was joined on four-under by Brooke Henderson, whose group had to rush to the final tee to conclude their rounds in failing light after a 90-minute delay due to fog.
Despite dropping from four under to two-under following a wayward second half of her round, Georgia Hall headed the British challenge, but it was a challenging day for Solheim Cup prodigy Leona Maguire, who struggled to a 75.
Kang unleashed an early contender for shot of the season on his final hole at TPC Summerlin, a breathtaking 260-yard seven-wood from a fairway bunker, striking it inside 20 feet and completing the putt for an eagle-three.
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