Rookie Sei Young Kim of South Korea shot a bogey-free 5-under-par 68 to take a one-stroke lead over Karrie Webb of Australia and two-time defending champion Inbee Park midway through the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y.
The 22-year-old Kim, who has won twice this season on the LPGA Tour after claiming five victories on the LPGA of Korea Tour, recorded three birdies and an eagle 3 on the 15th hole.
“I really prepared for the tournament this week,” said Kim, who captured the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic and the LPGA Lotte Championship earlier this season. “I practiced a lot of lob shots, bunker shots and tee shots as well. All that work that I went through, it actually showed up for the rounds yesterday and today.
“I felt a lot of pressure at the last major I played in (even though she tied for fourth in the ANA Inspiration). From all the experience I have from then, I learned a lot from the past. I feel I can play better in this major and I’m looking forward to it.”
Park, also from South Korea, posted her own bogey-free 68 after winning this tournament the last two years when it was known as the LPGA Championship, before being sanctioned by the PGA of America this year.
Webb, who has seven major titles but has never won this one, birdied her last hole to bounce back from her only bogey at No. 16 while carding a 71.
Suzann Pettersen of Sweden, who captured the Manulife LPGA Classic last week, collected five birdies in a span of seven holes through No. 15 en route to a bogey-free 66 and was two shots back in a tie with 18-year-old Brooke Henderson of Canada, who had five birdies and as many bogeys in a 73.
Stacy Lewis, who has two major titles, overcame a double bogey 6 at No. 2 by playing the last 16 holes in a bogey-free 4-under and was three strokes behind in a tie for sixth with Jenny Shin of South Korea, who eagled the final hole to salvage a 75 after opening with 66.
Candie Kung of Taiwan and USC finished at 72 and was another shot back in a tie for eighth with Cristie Kerr (72), Lexi Thompson (72), Gerina Piller (70), Caroline Hedwall (71) of Sweden and Charley Hull (74) of England.
Top-ranked Lydia Ko finished at 72-76–148 and missed the cut by one stroke, the first time she has failed to reach the weekend in 53 professional events.