Sarah Kemp and Jiyai Shin were tied for second at 6 under at the Panther Creek Country Club. Brittany Lincicome, last week’s winner at the ShopRite Classic, birdied the final hole to finish at 67 and in a tie for fourth with Yani Tseng and Juli Inkster.
Kim’s round featured birdies on Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 before a bogey on the par-4 ninth for a 32 on the front nine. She matched it on the back stretch with birdies on 11, 12, 14 and 17.
Kim, who has three top-10 finishes this year, has the lead at an LPGA event for the first time, and she was nervous.
“I did not expect this at all,” she said. “I hit the ball great today. I hit everything close. I think that’s what made (the round).”
The bogey on nine was a bit of bad luck. Kim’s tee shot embedded in the soft ground and was unplayable. Her second shot was about 12 feet and her par putt just missed. The rough break is something that would have stuck with Kim for holes in previous seasons.
“Oh, it definitely would have bothered me,” she said. “It still kind of bothered me today.”
Kemp had three birdies and a bogey on the front nine and four on the back in her morning round. She didn’t plant balls next to the flag, but she was close enough to let her putter create some magic.
“I’d probably put it to the putting skill,” she said. “I didn’t hit it spectacularly close, but I holed the putts. Ten footers, 12 footers, I made a 30 footer. I didn’t have any two footers, but I putted well enough to hole enough 10 to 12 footers for birdies.”
The long putt Kemp holed was a downhill, left-to-right breaker that won her a bet with her caddie.
“My caddie (Danielle Downey) has a really nice watch that I want,” Kemp said. “I said as we were walking up, ‘If I hole this putt you’ve got to give me that watch. She said, ‘yeah, yeah, sure.’ So I holed it and she gave me her watch.”
Last year, Shin – ranked No. 1 at the time – was a favorite at the State Farm Classic but as she arrived in Springfield, pain had her doubling over. An appendectomy was performed and she sat in a hospital bed watching the tournament on TV.
This year, Shin is No. 3 and she’s playing well. She tied for second last week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, just a shot behind Lincicome, after sandwiching 66s around a 71.
“I have great memories from last week,” Shin said. “When I practiced on this course, I felt really good. I feel ready.”
Starting on the back nine, Shin was at 4 under at the turn and was facing a 50-foot putt on the Par-3 second and all she was thinking was get it close.
Tseng bogeyed her first hole of the day but bounced back for a 67.
Lincicome, who won for the first time in two years last week, shot a 4-under 32 on the back nine. She started the round with two birdies but bogeyed No. 9 before turning it up for the final nine holes.