CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) — Sei Young Kim shot a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Thursday at tree-lined Upper Montclair Country Club to take the first-round lead in the LPGA Tour's Founders Cup.
Kim had four straight birdies — on the par-5 12th, par-4 13th, par-5 14th and par-3 15th — and parred the final three holes on the second-year venue in the event that honors the LPGA Tour’s 13 founders.
“Learned a lot from the last year, because this week really need the good tee shot, Kim said. “If you’re good tee shot you had a good advantages on par 5.”
The 30-year-old South Korean player, the 2016 tournament winner in Phoenix, has 12 LPGA Tour titles — the last two in 2020.
South Korean rookie Hae Ran Ryu was a stroke back. She had eight birdies and three bogeys in a 67.
“I was a little bit worried when I started because fairway is really narrow here,” Ryu said. “But I think I change my mind.”
Defending champion Minjee Lee was at 68 with 2019 and 2021 winner Jin Young Ko, 2013 champion Stacy Lewis, Nasa Hataoka, Atthaya Thitikul, Peiyun Chien, Cheyenne Knight, Maddie Szeryk and Hye-Jin Choi.
“That we continue to honor the Founders is really important,” Lewis said. “So, this event is really special. You’ll see the girls running around here this weekend.”
Lee played her final nine — the front nine on the traditional layout — in 4 under after making the turn at even par with three birdies and three bogeys.
In a 10-hole stretch from the No. 16 to No. 7, Ko had a double bogey on the par-5 second, a bogey and seven birdies. She's playing for the fourth straight week.
“Little tough to focus my game because physically a little bit tired,” Ko said. “Just less practice before the tee off and less putting, and just eat little more and sleep little more. Just save my energy before the tee off.”
Chien bogeyed the last two holes in her late round to drop out of a tie for the lead.
Lexi Thompson opened with a 70. Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko each shot 72.