MOBILE, Alabama – Grace Park and Song-Hee Kim shot 5-under 67s in windy conditions Thursday to share the first-round lead in the Avnet LPGA Classic, the tour’s only event in a six-week stretch.
Park eagled the par-5 13th and had had five birdies and two bogeys on The Crossings course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Magnolia Grove complex. She won the last of her six LPGA Tour titles in 2004.
Park missed the pro-am Wednesday to rest her surgically repaired back. She has failed to make the cut in her three previous LPGA Tour starts this season.
“Overall, my back’s been better than it has in the last five, six years,” Park said. “I’m feeling really strong. I’m feeling really good.”
She got off to a fast start, then closed with birdies on her final two holes – Nos. 8 and 9.
“Obviously when you finish the round at 5 under, everything has to go pretty well,” she said. “I started out hitting my irons really close. … Everything was just easy and smooth today. I made a couple of mistakes, but overall in these windy conditions I stayed very consistent to the green and rolled in some putts, and birdied the last two holes to finish at 5 under.”
Kim, winless on the tour, had seven birdies and two bogeys.
“I’ve been a little sick,” Kim said. “I went to Korea a couple times and got a cold. My body was weak, sick. My mind has really been worried about everything. I try too hard. My shots aren’t the same as last year. Hitting left, right, left. I’ve had better shots the last three weeks, working pretty hard.”
Stacey Lewis, the Kraft Nabisco winner three weeks ago, was a stroke back at 68 along with Karen Stupples.
Lewis had a bogey-free round.
“I was a little bit surprised,” Lewis said. “I played really good and I was kind of surprised just because I hadn’t been able to practice like I wanted to the last couple weeks. But I was pleasantly surprised. I played really solid. I had a lot of putts around the hole. I just got a couple to drop.”
Defending champion Se Ri Pak shot a 69 to match Na Yeon Choi and Angela Oh.
Pak also won the Tournament of Champions on the course in 2001 and 2002.
“It is important to be patient out there today,” Pak said. “Pretty difficult this morning, because really windy out there and greens are pretty hard to get the right distance.”
Michelle Wie opened with a 76. She bogeyed five of the first eight holes.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng also struggled, shooting a 77. She had a triple bogey on the par-4 first – her 10th hole of the day – and a double bogey on the par-5 16th.