Lee leads US Open as big names struggle

Lee Mi Rim of South Korea teeing off on the seventh hole during the first round of the US Women's Open in San Martin.
Lee Mi Rim of South Korea teeing off on the seventh hole during the first round of the US Women's Open in San Martin.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SAN MARTIN (California) • Lee Mi Rim birdied five of her last seven holes to surge into a three-shot lead in the first round of the US Women's Open on Thursday, while the marquee group of Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson all struggled in tougher afternoon conditions.

Lee took advantage of early cool weather and softer greens at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, California to post an eight-under 64 and match the second-lowest score at the tournament, the third of the year's five Majors championships.

Only Swede Helen Alfredsson has gone lower at the US Open, shooting a 63 in the first round in 1994, while Kelli Kuehne, Becky Iverson, Lorie Kane and Chella Choi have all carded 64s.

"Everything was good, like driver is good and then (my) irons were good," South Korean Lee told reporters after covering her back nine in a sizzling five-under 31.

"Putting, a couple of missed putts, but not bad. The course is perfect now. The greens are really fast. I just try make par, that's it."

Things were not quite so simple for world No. 1 Ko, second-ranked Henderson and No. 4 Thompson, who played together in the afternoon when the wind picked up and the greens got firmer.

The threesome combined to make 14 bogeys with Ko finishing with a one-over 73, Thompson a 74 and Henderson a four-over 76.

Cristie Kerr, the 2007 champion, is three strokes adrift along with Australia's Minjee Lee and South Korean Amy Yang.

Brittany Lang, Swede Anna Nordqvist and Malaysia's Kelly Tan are one shot further back.

Kerr relished playing the opening round with the pacesetting Lee.

"Yeah, it definitely helps," said the 38-year-old, who has won 18 LPGA titles, including two Majors.

"Obviously, Mi Rim had almost a career round today. And it was fun. If you looked at her card and my card, we might have shot a 59 best ball, or close to it."

Defending champion Chun In Gee of South Korea launched her title defence with a one-over 73.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

US WOMEN'S OPEN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Lee leads US Open as big names struggle'. Print Edition | Subscribe