The Lydia Ko-Inbee Park duel took a back seat on Day 1 of the CME Group Tour Championship, as Austin Ernst grabbed the early lead in Naples, Fla., and Sei Young Kim grabbed the wheel in the season-long Race. Here’s how the opening round played out at Tiburon Golf Club.
Leaderboard: Ernst (-6), M.H. Lee (-5), Kim (-4), Cristie Kerr (-4), Brittany Lincicome (-4), Jaye Marie Green (-4), Gerina Piller (-4), Jennifer Song (-4)
What it means: Through 18 holes, Kim is the projected Race to the CME Globe winner. She began the season finale in fourth place in the standings, but, given her Thursday performance compared to the ones of those in front of her, she is now the front-runner. Kim has already won Rookie of the Year honors to go along with three tournament titles.
Round of the day: Ernst’s 66 included eight birdies and two bogeys. After a second dropped shot of the day at No. 11, she birdied Nos. 12, 14, 17 and 18 to take sole possession of the lead.
Best of the rest: Piller was the only player among those inside the top 10 who did not make a bogey. The U.S. Solheim Cup hero had four birdies en route to a 68. Meanwhile, Ko was 1 over through five holes but picked up four shots over her final 13 holes for a 3-under 69.
Biggest disappointment: Stacy Lewis, facing a final event to earn a first win of the year, managed only an even-par 72, alongside Ko and Park. Lewis still has a shot at the overall season title, but three bogeys – to offset three birdies – hurt her cause on Day 1. Other candidates: Angela Stanford, who was 4 over through five holes before finishing with a 73, and Ryann O’Toole, who was 4 under through eight holes before finishing with a 72.
Storyline entering Day 2: Will Ko or Park – or Lewis, for that matter – catch fire on Friday? Ko outplayed her peers in Round 1, as Park had two birdies and one bogey for a 71, but lost ground to Kim in the Race. The overall season winner will collect a $1 million bonus.