Early birdie barrage fuels Choi


BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Eleven years ago, when fellow countrywoman Se Ri Pak was rising to prominence with her win at the U.S. Women’s Open, Na Yeon Choi had yet to take up golf. Now, the promising 21-year-old from Seoul, South Korea, is trying to become the fourth Korean to bring home the championship.

Choi, runner-up to Yani Tseng in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race in 2008, birdied her first three holes and four of her first five on Thursday to propel her to a 3-under-par 68 and the likely first-round lead in the U.S. Women’s Open at Saucon Valley Country Club (several players were still on the course early Thursday evening, but none closer than even par).  Choi, who started on the back nine, got as low as 5 under par after her sixth birdie of the day on the par-4 3rd hole, but bogeyed holes 5 and 6 to finish at 3 over.

“I started very smooth and easy with birdie on the first hole,” said Choi, who has yet to win on the LPGA Tour but is a perfect 14 for 14 on made cuts in 2009. “I started well today, but I’m going to make sure to not let it slide and play well to the end.”

Choi admitted that the 6,740-yard course is the most difficult she’s ever played, but said she didn’t feel intimidated by its length and the speed of the heavily contoured greens. “I feel like it’s going to be an interesting week for me, ” she said.