SAN MARTIN – Eight-under par won it for In Gee Chun in 2015 at Lancaster Country Club. On Thursday at CordeValle, Mirim Lee took the early lead on day one of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open with an eight-under par, 64. She holds a three-stroke lead ahead of Cristie Kerr and Minjee Lee midway through round one.
Cold and cloudy conditions greeted players Thursday morning but as skies cleared in the morning and the sun broke through, the course changed, allowing players to hit the ball farther and go at some of the difficult pin placements they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to attack.
Mirim Lee started her day on the back nine with a bogey on her first hole of the day but recovered with back-to-back birdies and closed with seven more to finish her day atop the leaderboard. Lee says her driver was the key to going low on Thursday, making for what she called an “easy day.”
"The course is perfect now," Lee told the media. "Greens are really fast. I just try make par, yeah, that's it."
Lee seems to thrive in major championship environments, posting one of two top-10's this season at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship where she finished in a share of fourth.
Mirim Lee played alongside Cristie Kerr who shot a five-under par, 67 and said she expects the USGA to toughen-up the course up after her playing partner went so low on day one. Kerr has a new driver in her bag which she credited for her low round on Thursday.
"When you're struggling to hit fairways, I can't blame everything on the club, obviously, but when you're struggling to hit fairways, it makes the game a lot harder. And then the mental game gets off of it, it's a whole process like that," said Kerr. "But I knew when I found the driver this week that it just felt so much like my old driver and we found the right combination and even if I missed a little bit I could feel what I did wrong, I could feel the difference. Like I said, I'm just happy that we worked it out."
Kerr captured the 2007 U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club.
Minjee Lee also sits at five-under par after Thursday’s round, but felt she could have gone even lower if she had been able to get her putter rolling.
“I hit really good shots into the first couple of holes and I missed the putts -- I missed my putts,” Minjee Lee told the media. “I felt like I was really solid, like my iron play was really solid. And if I missed my drives, it was sort of just on the first cut or maybe just in the rough. So I thought I striked the ball really well today. I gave myself a lot of opportunities for birdie.”
Minjee Lee had four birdies, an eagle and one bogey in her opening round.
Anna Nordqvist, Kelly Tan and Brittany Lang sit at four-under par after day one. Lang said she made an adjustment midway through her round when the course conditions began to change and opened her stance slightly.
“Everything changed a little bit tournament time, with nerves and adrenaline a little bit. And I wasn't hitting them as solid,” Lang said. “I just knew if I dropped that left foot back, it's a simple fix, it gives me more room and I automatically start hitting them really pure.”
Lang has three top-10 finishes in the U.S. Women’s Open, including a runner-up finish in her first start in 2005.