Defending champion Lydia Ko carded a 5-under-par 67 to grab a one-stroke lead over Juli Inkster, rookie Ha Na Jang of South Korea and P.J. Kongkraphan of Thailand after one round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in chilly weather at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City.
The top-ranked Ko, who will turn 18 on Friday, made her move with four birdies on the last five holes of the front nine and recovered from her only bogey at No. 11 with two more birdies on the 13th and 14th holes.
“This is a very tough golf course,” said Ko, who has won 10 professional events, including three when she was still and amateur. “You need to position yourself well.
“I hit the ball pretty good where I wasn’t in too much trouble. If I did miss it a little bit, I did get away with it, too. Holed some good putts and ended up with a 67. It’s a really good start, but I know I’ve got three more long days to go. Hopefully I can continue hitting solid shots.”
The 54-year-old Inkster, from nearby Los Gatos and San Jose State, started on the back nine and collected five birdies her first eight holes en route to a 68.
A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, she has won 31 times on the LPGA Tour, but not since the 2006 Safeway Invitational.
“It’s always nice to be able to sleep in your own bed and just drive a little north on 280,” said Inkster, a seven-time major champion. “I’ve got a house full of players staying with me this week. We’ve been having fun and cooking in.
” … I drove the ball well, think I hit every fairway but one or two, and hit a lot of good irons. I left a lot of putts out there, but the greens are tough.”
Jang, 22, who has won six times on the Korean LPGA Tour, carded nine birdies in her 68, while Kongkraphan, in her second season on the LPGA Tour after winning four times in China Ladies Professional Tour, recorded an eagle on the 15th hole to go with her four birdies.
Stacy Lewis, who finished one stroke behind Ko last year in this event on the outskirts of San Francisco, birdied the last hole to post a 69 and was tied for fifth with Morgan Pressel, Caroline Hedwall of Sweden and Na Yeon Choi of South Korea.