Thailand’s 17-year-old sensation Ariya Jutanugarn (@jutanugarn) took Thursday’s first round by storm and delivered a 7-under 64 to take the lead at the Kingsmill Championship (@KingsmillLPGA). She opened up her round with six birdies on the front nine and followed up with two more through 16 before carding a double-bogey on the par-3 17th. She ended the round with a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to finish with a two-stroke lead over 16-year LPGA Tour veteran Cristie Kerr (@CKGolferChic).
Jutanugarn, who is a rookie on the Ladies European Tour, recently recorded her first professional win in March at the LET’s stop in Morocco and leads the LET money list after competing in just four events. She turned some heads on the LPGA Tour this year when she finished runner-up to Inbee Park (@InbeePark) at the Honda LPGA Thailand after a carding a triple-bogey on 18th hole, which cost her the title. She has also recorded two additional top-5 LPGA Tour finishes at the HSBC Women’s Champions (@HSBCWomensGolf) and the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf.
The River Course saw numerous low scores in the first round as the clouds opened up for the first time this week and temperatures moved to the low-70s following some light rain early in the week. Wind crept into the area during Thursday’s round making for tougher course conditions but it seemed to play in Kerr’s favor as she carded 6 birdies and one bogey to finish at 5-under for the day.
“(The wind) was really strong when we first started and then, you know, kind of toward the tail end of the front nine it seemed to die down a little and then picked back up, so it was kind of coming and going all day,” said Kerr, who is a two-time winner at the Kingsmill Resort. “What was good was the wind direction was fairly consistent. Sometimes on the 4th and 5th hole it can really swirl around and it can be hard to tell what it's doing. It stayed pretty consistent out there as far as one direction so that was at least a good thing.”
Sitting one-stroke back from Kerr is a The Netherlands native Dewi Claire Schreefel (@dcschreefel) along with the 2012 Rolex Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu. The 22-year-old Korean said she was expecting a lower number after getting off to a hot start with four birdies on the front nine but didn’t drop another birdie putt after she made the turn.
“Yeah, that one is really tough one because before I started, teed off, I didn't expect a really low score, then I just focus on each hole,” said Ryu. “Then I think the 4‑under on the front nine that, oh, maybe I can hit the low score like 8‑under, 9‑under, then I expect birdie birdie birdie and my body's getting tight and my mind wasn't there, so it's really hard to finish great front nine and then turn on the back nine.”
A pack of 14 players crowd fifth place at 3-under include current Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Stacy Lewis (@StacyLewis), 14-year veteran Karen Stupples (@Kstupples) and 11-time LPGA Tour winner Suzann Pettersen (@suzannpettersen). A few new faces to leaderboard who also posted a first-round 68 include 2013 Rookie Katie Burnett (@KatieBurnett44), 30-year-old Mo Martin (@mogarita8) and Spain’s Azahara Munoz (@AzaharaGOLF).
It’s been nearly five years since Park has played in Williamsburg, Va. with her best-finish being a tie for 16th in 2008. The South Korean, who has three victories already this year, says she comes back as a completely different player than she was in the past.
“You know, I just started this week, you know, just like really fresh new start,” said Park. “I mean, I haven't played this golf course for at least four years so it's pretty new to me. My game changed a lot. The way I'm hitting the ball, the way I'm putting is totally different than what I've been doing four, five years ago. So this week is just like a normal week that I've been having this year.”
Lewis says she isn’t surprised with the number of players who managed to score low in Thursday’s first round.
“You know, the course is wet and I think that's why scores are low,” said Lewis. “They'd actually be lower if the ball was releasing out a little bit, but you have a lot of 5‑, 6‑, 7‑irons into greens so that's kind of keeping scores from going too far, but it's wet and it's scorable.”
Defending champion Jiyai Shin (@jsy1470) teed off on the No. 1 tee on Thursday and opened her round with a birdie on the par-3 2nd hole but carded a bogey after making the turn. A birdie on the 15th hole puts Shin at 1-under and sits one-stroke behind 2012 Kingsmill Championship playoff opponent Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer). Both ended the round in a fashion familiar to them, a par on the final hole.
Topics: Kingsmill Championship