Golf: Chun In-gee takes commanding lead at Women's PGA Championship

At the time of her 4-foot par putt on the ninth green to end her round, South Korea's Chun In-gee was seven shots clear of the rest of the field. PHOTO: AFP

BETHESDA (FIELD LEVEL MEDIA REUTERS) - South Korea’s Chun In-gee tied the record for the lowest opening round at a Women’s PGA Championship on Thursday (June 23) with an eight-under 64 that gave her a five-stroke lead in Bethesda, Maryland.

Chun, a two-time Major winner, got off to a poor start with a bogey on the first hole but came firing back with nine birdies the rest of the way, her score setting a record for Congressional Country Club’s Blue Course.

She also tied the record for the biggest first-round lead in a women’s Major. Fellow South Korean Choi Hye-jin and Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum carded matching 69s.

Jennifer Chang and Paula Reto of South Africa are tied for fourth at two under.

A group of nine tied for sixth place at one under includes defending champion Nelly Korda, Jennifer Kupcho, Hannah Green of Australia, Nasa Hataoka and Ayaka Furue of Japan, Brooke Henderson of Canada and three South Koreans: A Lim Kim, Kim Sei-young and Kim In-kyung.

Sei-young was the 2020 Women’s PGA Championship winner, while Green won in 2019 and Henderson won in 2016

The 27-year-old Chun said she knew what to expect from the course.

“I played this course one month ago and I got a feeling that this course was going to play really hard and then the greens (were going to be) really firm,” Chun said in a televised interview. “So I changed a little bit of my club setting before I came here.”

Greenwas stunned by Chun’s round.

“I don’t know what golf course she’s playing,” said the Australian, who is tied for sixth after shooting 71.

“We were looking at the scores, and we were like, ‘Oh, wow, OK, five-under par.’ But still tough on the back nine and to hear that she’s eight, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s impressive.’”

The purse for this week's third major of the season doubled to US$9 million (S$12 million), with 99 of the top 100 players on the LPGA Tour money list competing. The winner's share also doubled to US$1.35 million.

The purse was just US$2.25 million in 2014, the year before the PGA of America began its collaboration with KPMG.

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