KERR TRANSFERS HER RED-HOT FORM FROM EUROPE TO ASIA
Another continent, another clutch display from Cristie Kerr - just four days after she had completed one of the most emotional victories of her career to claim the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on the Ladies European Tour.
Despite struggling with a sore throat and not hitting the ball as well as she would have liked, LPGA Tour veteran Kerr fired a sparkling five-under-par 67 to trail by just one shot after the opening round of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, ending the day in style with three birdies in her last four holes.
“I putted very well,” said Kerr, who is widely regarded as one of the best putters ever on Tour. “Just managed my game really well. I didn’t hit it that great, but I managed and hit it in the right area and made some putts. Had a good finish.
“I’ve been a little bit under the weather since I got here. My throat hurts a little bit, so I’m just going to go get some rest and get rested up for tomorrow.”
Four days ago, Kerr completed a wire-to-wire victory in France while playing for a breast cancer charity. Players were asked to donate five euros for every birdie recorded during the first two rounds of the tournament to a charity called ARTIC, in memory of Ladies European Tour player Cassandra Kirkland, who died from cancer in April. Kerr declared that she would make a donation of $5,000 donation to the charity.
“I just went out there and got it done,” said Kerr, a 19-time winner on the LPGA Tour who is known for her fundraising work for Birdies for Breast Cancer. “I didn’t put too much pressure on myself ... I used it as motivation and not as pressure. It was a really emotional week. I tried to just compartmentalize it so that if I was grieving or sad I was off the course, and on the course I was a tiger.
“Everybody either knows somebody or has somebody in their family that’s been affected by cancer. We’ve got to find a way to cure it. The only way to do that is to keep raising money. I was glad to not only win the tournament, but to raise more awareness for Cassandra’s charity and also my own.”
LARGE HOME GALLERIES FUEL PARK ON THE OCEAN COURSE
Unwaveringly focused as she played alongside the two other members of the world’s top three, Sung Hyun Park fed off the energy of huge galleries to fire a flawless six-under 66 on the SKY72 Golf & Resort’s Ocean Course for a three-way share of the lead in the opening round.
Park has produced stunning form of late with two wins in her last five starts on the LPGA Tour and she put herself in good position to triumph once again as she comfortable outscored World No. 1 So Yeon Ryu (72) and World No. 3 Lexi Thompson (69) in their marquee grouping.
Asked what a victory would mean to her in the only official LPGA Tour event hosted in Korea, Park replied: “I’m a little bit cautious to talk about winning after the first round. Of course it would mean a lot to me and I would be very happy, especially because it is an event of my main sponsor.
“I really would like to win, because the enthusiasm of the spectators is unbelievable. It’s like a major tour event. Also I feel quite comfortable in Korea, and I was quite close to winning last year. I definitely hope to win.”
Park, who tied for 13th in the 2016 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship after fading with a 74 in the final round, relished playing in front of large galleries that swarmed across the course despite chilly morning conditions on Thursday.
“At one point it did cross my mind that there may not be many spectators today,” she said. “I was quite surprised when I reached the first hole and saw the size of the crowd. I’ve never felt that it’s uncomfortable to have a larger crowd. The larger the cheering is the more fun for me, so I had a really good time out there today.”
YIN HITS THE HIGH NOTES WITH STRONG FINISH
Angel Yin has already made a massive impression during her rookie season on the LPGA Tour, highlighted by her power driving and a ready laugh. On Thursday, she again hit the high notes with a burst of five birdies in her last eight holes to surge into contention at SKY72 Golf & Resort.
The teenager from California covered her back nine in four-under 32 to shoot a four-under 68, ending the day two strokes off the lead in an elite field of 78 competing for the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship title.
“In the beginning I wasn’t hitting it that well. I couldn’t hit a fairway and getting on the green was kind of hard,” said Yin, who was one over for the day after 10 holes. “After that I kind of figured it out with my swing. Started hitting more greens, and with that, I was able to make more putts. Putting today worked out pretty well.”
Yin very nearly holed a 40-foot putt for eagle at the par-five last, her ball breaking late to the right.
“When it got to the hole it broke to the right. I thought it was going to break to the left,” she smiled. “But I made a few lengthy ones, like 20-, 30-footers. Everything is good. I really like how the course is set up and everything.”
Three top-10s on the LPGA Tour and a debut appearance at the Solheim Cup have been the highlights for Yin this season, but she would like to achieve a great deal more.
“I had two goals this year. One was to play in the Solheim Cup, which I did,” said Yin. “The other one is Rookie of the Year. I’m a little far from that, but I’m working hard. I’ve got five more tournaments, so you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Yin sits second in the race for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award with a total of 559 points, but she is a long way behind the runaway leader as World No. 2 Sung Hyun Park has piled up 1,333 points.
SIZZLING FINISH FOR BBQ FAN CHELLA CHOI
Chella Choi is known for hosting a Korean BBQ during the buildup to the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, and she served up further confirmation of her comfort level in Seoul with a sizzling five-birdie finish to card an opening 67 on the Ocean Course.
“I am really happy to play in here and everybody cheers for me,” said Choi. “My whole family and all my fans came. I have very strong finish, right. I’m very excited.”
“I played well last year, so there is a basic confidence coming into this event. Also, the course also suits me as well. I manage to hit the fairways pretty well on this course.”
- Min-Sun Kim
“Nothing really special happened. Definitely a little rusty here and there, but I can see improvements, which is the biggest thing. I’m just waiting for the year to be over so I can start fresh again.”