PHOENIX – Just one day after celebrating the 15-year anniversary of Annika Sorenstam’s historic 59, history was once again made in Arizona.
Thursday, Mi Hyang Lee set the new 18-hole scoring record at the JTBC Founders Cup with an opening round 10-under par, 62. Lee started her day on the back nine, matching the low 9-hole score set by Amy Yang in 2015 during the final round of the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship where she birdied every hole on the back nine. Lee looked on track for 59 but her putter cooled on the back, missing several opportunities to match Sorenstam’s record.
"No. I didn't think the 59. If I think the 59, maybe I shoot over par the Back 9. Just kidding. Okay. Yes. Maybe later. Maybe next time I'm trying to make 59 one day. Yeah, that's my goal," Lee told the media after her round.
A victory on Sunday would be just the second for Lee who captured the 2014 TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC. The most birdies she has carded in an event came here in Phoenix just last season, where she finished T-3 after making 21 birdies during the week. Thursday’s round was a personal best for Lee, whose previous low round was a 64 at the 2013 Manulife LPGA Classic.
Lee’s 62 gives her a one stroke lead ahead of Sei Young Kim and Brittany Lang who opened with 63’s on Thursday morning. Giulia Sergas sits solo fourth at 8-under par after an opening round 64, which included eight birdies, an eagle and two bogeys.
The opening 63 is a personal best for Kim, who had previously shot a career low 65 on six occasions in 2015, including last year’s final round of the JTBC Founders Cup.
“I think I play well today because I shot better than the last couple of tournaments because I struggled with my shots,” Kim said after her round. “I was a little confident with my shots, my swing. Yeah, but after last week, I played a little more better. So I did best today.”
The 2015 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year played alongside Gerina Piller and Anna Nordqvist on Thursday, who also played well, carding 7-under par, 65’s to finish in a group T-5 including Minjee Lee, Dani Holmqvist, Pernilla Lindberg. Giulia Sergas sits solo fourth at 8-under par after an opening round 64, which included eight birdies, an eagle and two bogeys.
“I mean you kind of get in a rhythm, and you know, this is kind of like golfing in a bubble,” Piller said after her round. “I mean it's perfect weather, great golf course, perfect conditions. So that also helps. Obviously Sei Young making lots of birdies, Anna, myself. You can definitely get in a rhythm out there and just kind of feed off each other.”
Decked head to toe in green, Lang was lucky on St. Patrick’s Day, matching her low round of 63 which she previously shot at the 2012 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She missed just one fairway and one green on Thursday as she continued to build on the momentum she found in Singapore, where she shot a final round 7-under par, 65.
“I just felt like I needed to get back to one shot at a time, and I felt like I was thinking too much about stuff that doesn't matter, and I've been working on my alignment with my swing, and I had excellent balance all day, just hitting my finish and staying down in my putts and just really seeing what I wanted and was super confident and decisive today. So pretty much everything was working,” Lang told the media after her round.
Thursday, Se Ri Pak announced her retirement from the LPGA Tour following the completion of the 2016 season. With 25 victories including five major championships, Pak told LPGA.com she wanted to make the announcement at her first event of the season in order to say ‘thank you’ to friends, fans and fellow players as she makes her final Tour stops in 2016. Click here to watch her complete sit-down interview.