SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Shanshan Feng made five early birdies and shot an 8-under 64 on Thursday, taking a one-stroke lead over Juli Inkster and Na Yeon Choi after the first round of the LPGA State Farm Classic.
Meena Lee, Alena Sharp, Anna Nordqvist, M.J. Hur and Song-Hee Kim were two shots back on a crowded leaderboard at Panther Creek Country Club. Seven other players were within three shots of the lead, including Cristie Kerr and Sophie Gustafson.
Feng’s round was so clean, her only near-blemish came on the 410-yard, par-4 18th, when she had a poor stance on her second shot. She was forced to pitch out, knocked a three-quarter pitching wedge to 8 feet and made a sidehill putt with a deft touch to save par.
“Leading after the first round doesn’t mean you’re going to win the tournament,” Feng said. “It’s just the first round. If this was Sunday, I’d be watching every group finish.”
The only Chinese-born player on the LPGA made several lengthy putts during her bogey-free round, although her pro-am playing partners from a day earlier might have been wondering what was going on.
“I’m still a little sorry from yesterday because I didn’t make too many putts yesterday in the pro-am,” Feng said. “I made some today.”
Inkster was 2 over through six holes after a four-putt double bogey on No. 3 when she finally started to make some putts of her own. Six holes later, Inkster was suddenly at 4 under.
“I’ve four-putted on the way to 75 but never to a 65,” Inkster said. “I can’t remember the last time I had six (birdies) in a row. I can’t remember when I’ve had five in a row.”
Choi’s round was similar to Feng’s in that she did most of her damage on the front side, with five birdies before the turn, but she missed chances on three of the four par-5s. Lee was a little more consistent, making several mid-range putts during her round.
“I don’t have anything that’s memorable because my shots were working very well today,” Lee said, pointing out that heavy rains made for soft, welcoming greens. “It was easier to play.”
Feng and Song-Hee Kim were in the same group Thursday, accumulating a lot of red numbers together. Kim wasn’t sure if two players playing well together always helps.
“Sometimes it does, Sometimes it doesn’t,” she said. “Today it did.”
Another tour veteran, Laura Davies, shot 68 but acknowledged it could have been better.
“All the bogeys were silly. The last one (on No. 9), I hit a lovely 7-iron in, perfect all the way. It comes up short and I couldn’t get up and down after I pulled the putt,” Davies said. “All the bogies were unnecessary.”
Still, Davies believes she’s in contention, along with players like Morgan Pressel (68), Michelle Wie (69) and Se Ri Pak (70), who have three rounds to make up ground.
“No one is going to shoot 8 under for four days, so I think 20 under would a good mark,” Davies said. “I need to shoot 6 under to get back on course.”