Jessica Korda shot a 6-under par 65 on Thursday to grab a piece of the five-way tie atop the leaderboard after the first round of the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va.
Korda, who leads the LPGA Tour with a 69.042 scoring average this season, shot a bogey-free round that included a trio of birdies on both nines. She was equaled by fellow Americans Jay Marie Green and Annie Park, Korea’s In Gee Chun and Spain’s Azahara Munoz.
Groundskeepers were out before dawn working on the River Course, which was soaked by heavy overnight rains, but outside of a consistent overnight drizzle the course was widely applauded by players for being in excellent shape.
“I just hit it in the fairway and put myself in really good positions,” said Korda, who is trying to become the first two-time winner on Tour this season. “Because of the course conditions, I was able to fire at a lot of pins and give myself a lot of looks, which is really nice. There was some tough pins out there, we were just happy that we got the round in with no rain … it drizzled the last three holes, but we don’t count that as rain.”
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, the 2016 champion, and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka were one shot off the lead after opening with 5-under 66s.
Defending champion Lexi Thompson is tied for 49th five shots back at 1-under. Her round included one bogey and a pair of birdies, including one on the closing hole. With Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng not in the field this week, the third-ranked Thompson is the highest-ranked player in the tournament.
Three-time event champion Cristie Kerr is another shot back at even par and tied for 71st.
Munoz, whose seven birdies included a chip-in on No. 17, also praised the course conditions.
“I hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens, hit some beautiful shots and made some putts, too,” said Munoz, who birdied four of her first eight holes. “At the end I started not hitting it too good, to be honest.”
It is also a big week for Park, who began the season back on the Symetra Tour. She played her U.S. Women’s Open qualifying round on Tuesday, then made the four-hour drive to Willamsburg. She arrived around midnight, knowing she also was scheduled for Wednesday’s pro-am.
“Coming into this, I wasn’t really hitting it well, so I was like ‘fairways and greens, fairways and greens,’ … it was great,” said Park. “It’s been a crazy week. Just getting my rest this week, I think that’s crucial for me.”
This is the first of nine consecutive LPGA tournaments, including the U.S. Women’s Open and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Korda took the past two weeks to work on her swing ahead of the busy stretch over the next two months.
“We really needed to crack down and get ready for it. I’m a little uncomfortable over the ball right now,” admitted Korda, who has 15 rounds under par out of 25 rounds this season. “But just sticking to my process, and that’s all I’m doing.
“I always stage my tournaments around majors, so definitely we took what we worked on and I have two weeks to kind of make it automatic before the U.S. Open. You don’t really want to be thinking about too much technical stuff when you’re out.”
–Field Level Media