High shots were blown off target and low shots rolled off the backs of greens as players battled trade winds that gusted up to 30 mph on Oahu. When it was over a trio of South Koreans was sitting atop the leaderboard after battling gusty conditions throughout the first round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf. World Golf and LPGA Halls of Famer Se Ri Pak, Rolex Rankings No. 7 So Yeon Ryu and sponsor invite and No. 34 Hyo Joo Kim all shot 4-under 68 to take the lead after 18 holes at Ko Olina Golf Club.
Ryu, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, is trying to snap a 38-event winless streak that dates back to the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in August 2012. She was the early leader in the clubhouse after carding five birdies and a bogey on the par 3 8th hole. Ryu observed that at times the wind was so strong it made reading putts difficult.
Pak had three birdies, a bogey and an eagle on the par 5 5th hole and recently went back to a crosshand grip in her putting stroke. The 25-time LPGA Tour winner said her father recommended the change and started her career in 1998 with the grip.
I think that most of the last few years have been giving little time for my putting, but the last couple of weeks have more consistency. . . I feel great and I make some more putts that I’m supposed to make, so that’s giving more momentum as we walk to the next hole. That helps a lot.
Se Ri Pak
Pak is coming off a tie for fourth finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and said the momentum from that week has definitely followed her to Hawaii.
Hyo Joo Kim was bogey free through 17 holes and held the lead with Pak at 5-under par until a three-putt on the par 4 9th hole dropped her to 4-under. The 18-year old and KLPGA member said her putting was what kept her in the round on Wednesday.
Chasing the Lead
Japan’s Ayako Uehara sits in solo fourth and one shot back at 3-under par. A group of five players are two shots off the lead in a tie for fifth including Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park, Hawaii native Michelle Wie, LPGA Tour rookie Amy Anderson and sponsor exemptions Ha Na Jang and So Young Lee of South Korea.
Michelle Wie: Local Favorite
Michelle Wie had no major hangover from her runner-up finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and opened with a 2-under 70 in front of her hometown crowd.
How does Wie feel about her good first round?
It’s awesome . . . I’m having a blast out here. It’s great to see a lot of friends out there today. Hopefully more will show up in the next three days. I like I said, I think I’m in a good position and see what I can do in the next three days.
Inbee Park: Hot Start, Disappointing Finish
World No. 1 Inbee Park got off to a torrid start in the morning picking up four birdies in her first six holes and said she had trouble on the back nine with decisions on her club selection.
. . . the wind wasn’t blowing as hard for my first five holes, then it started to really blow . . . I’ve never seen this golf course playing this hard before. It’s been definitely the most it’s blown so far.
HSBC Women’s Champions winner Paula Creamer carded a first round 73. Currently in fourth place in the season-long Race to the CME Globe, Creamer needs to stay at or near the top of the board at the LOTTE Championship. Race leaders Karrie Webb and Stacy Lewis aren’t in the field and with a high finish Creamer, who trails by 300 points, could close the gap.
Moriya Jutanugarn shot even par Wednesday. The LPGA International Crown team member for Thailand will start the second round just outside the top-10 on the board.
With a disastrous back 9, Rolex Rankings No. 244 Ryann O’Toole finished at +5. O’Toole’s missed the cut in all four events she’s entered this year, and although there’s much golf still to be played at Ko Olina Golf Club, for O’Toole there may only be 18 holes remaining.
Golf Channel coverage begins at 6:30pm ET, mid-round local time in Hawaii. We’ll see how the trade winds are blowing today.