LOS ANGELES • Kim Sei Young, seeking her second win of the season, shared the first-round lead at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic with Belgian rookie Laura Gonzalez Escallon on Thursday in Oneida, Wisconsin.
South Korea's Kim, whose season has included a win at the Lorena Ochoa Match Play and two more top-five finishes, had eight birdies and a bogey in her seven-under 65.
"It's been a long time since I played well in the first round, so I'm very blessed to have shot a seven-under," said the world No. 11.
"My shots were solid today and the greens were softer so I was able to go after the pins and give myself a lot of birdie opportunities.
"And then putting was good, and I made a lot of birdies."
Escallon had seven birdies without a bogey.
Although she is seeking her first LPGA title, the 26-year-old has been impressive in her rookie season.
She notched a top-10 finish in her debut at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, and was tied for fifth at the Manulife LPGA Classic last month.
"I started with a top 10, so that was a dream come true, and I mean, I'm just learning and enjoying it here," Escallon, who is bidding to become the first Belgian to win on the LPGA Tour since Florence Descampe in 1992, said.
"I have a great caddie, so that helps to just have fun and enjoy it and try to meet people and get to know the courses."
Kim and Escallon were one stroke in front of American Madeleine Sheils and South Korean Kim Min-G.
Both rookies had six birdies without a bogey.
A group of 17 players was on 67. They included South Korea's world No. 5 Chun In Gee, who is seeking her first win of the year, France's Karine Icher and Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn.
Another 14 golfers were a further shot back on 68 including England's Charley Hull, Norway's Suzann Pettersen and Germany's Sandra Gal.
With 35 golfers separated by three shots at the top of the jammed leaderboard, the second round promised to be a scramble for position heading into the weekend.
World No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, the highest-ranked player in the field, looked unlikely to make the cut.
She had five bogeys and a double bogey with just one birdie in a six-over 78 that left her languishing at 142nd in the 144-woman field.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS