MINJEE LEE LEADS AT BMW LADIES CHAMPIONSHIP, WITH FOUR PLAYERS JUST BEHIND
Surviving a dreary day that saw near constant drizzle and steady breezes, Minjee Lee returned a sparkling round of 6-under 66 on Thursday and leads through 18 holes at the inaugural BMW Ladies Championship at LPGA International Busan. The 23-year-old Australian went bogey-free on Thursday to hold a one-stroke lead over last week’s winner Danielle Kang, Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko, 2019 LPGA Rookie of the Year Jeongeun Lee6 and second-year KLPGA player Seung Yeon Lee.
Starting on the back nine, Minjee Lee birdied three of her opening nine holes to quickly find her groove. She added three more birdies over her closing nine, including a birdie at No. 9 to grab the solo lead.
“At the very start of the round, (the rain) was probably not so bad. It wasn't heavy rain. It was almost drizzle. So the course wasn't playing too difficult at that point,” said Lee, who won the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open in April for her fifth LPGA win. “I tried to take advantage on the first few holes that we had with no rain, so I think I had a really great start to start my day. Yeah, I think that's what really got me going today.”
Kang continued her hot play, carding her second consecutive bogey-free round, joining the final round of her victory at last week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai.
“I stayed really patient today. I knew there were a lot of birdie opportunities but a lot of mistakes that could happen,” said Kang, whose last bogey came on the second hole of her third round in Shanghai. “I didn't attack a lot of pins – not like me – but I just tried to hit the fairways, the greens, and try to keep dry.”
Ko and Lee6 also went bogey-free on Thursday while Seung Yeon Lee, playing in just her second LPGA Tour event, made one bogey to go with four birdies and an eagle at No. 18. Seven players are tied for sixth at -4, including former Rolex Rankings No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
KO NOT FOCUSED ON PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko can clinch the 2019 Rolex Player of the Year title by finishing sixth or better at this week’s BMW Ladies Championship. She can also earn the award if No. 2 Jeongeun Lee6 does not win the tournament. To remain alive, Lee6 must win and have Ko finish seventh or worse. After 18 holes, Ko and Lee are tied for second at -5.
As to be expected, Ko is not concerned with that race this week. Instead, the Korean star is focused on what she’ll need to do to reach the winner’s circle at LPGA International Busan.
“I have 54 holes more to play, and of course if I were to receive that award through this event, it would be lovely,” said Ko. “But I do not want to become a player that looks too far ahead and cannot focus on the game at hand. I really want to play well. I think the process is important. I think that all these accolades, they come along your way when you are in the process of perfecting on your game. I think if I work on my game and I perfect my game, I will receive the awards. What I really want to do is focus on what I can do now instead of looking too far ahead into the future.”
KANG ENJOYING A BRAND-NEW WEEK
It would be easy to assume that Danielle Kang is reveling in her victory at last week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai, a win that came on her 27th birthday. But following her first-round 67 at the BMW Ladies Championship, the Las Vegas resident, who spent several years living in Busan as a child, put that thought to rest. She has left that victory behind her and instead focused solely on the week ahead.
“I did a restart this week,” said Kang, who won in Shanghai for the second year in a row. “My brother Alex told me to pretend that it's a new week and last week never happened. So get ready to play again and that's what we're doing.”
Kang is aiming to become the first player to win LPGA titles in consecutive weeks since 2017, when Shanshan Feng won the TOTO Japan Classic and the Blue Bay LPGA.
IN ADVERSE CONDITIONS, FENG FINDS FOCUS
The weather was a major storyline during the opening round of the inaugural BMW Ladies Championship. Rain and wind would give way to peeks of sunshine, just for the inclement conditions to creep back over LPGA International Busan. But not every player struggled with the up-and-down weather. In fact, for former Rolex Rankings No. 1 Shanshan Feng, the conditions actually helped focus her game.
“Somehow, you know, when I play in the wind, I'm actually more focused and more patient,” said Feng, who shot a 68 on Thursday and is tied for sixth. “Especially we knew that it was going to rain today, so we prepared. We brought our rain gear, umbrella, and extra towels to try to keep ourselves dry. So I think overall, I did a pretty good job.”
Rolex Rankings No. 8 Minjee Lee (66)
- She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens, with 28 putts
- Lee is in her fifth season on the LPGA Tour; she has five career victories, most recently at the 2019 HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open
- This is Lee’s 23rd event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she won the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open and has six other top-10 finishes, including runner-up finishes at the Honda LPGA Thailand, HSBC Women’s World Championship and Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, where she teamed with Jin Young Ko
Rolex Rankings No. 11 Danielle Kang (67)
- She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens, with 28 putts
- Kang is in her eighth season on the LPGA Tour; she has wins at the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the 2018 Buick LPGA Shanghai and the 2019 Buick LPGA Shanghai
- This is Kang’s 20th event of the 2019 season; she won last week’s Buick LPGA Shanghai and has eight other top-10 finishes
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko (67)
- She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens, with 28 putts
- Ko is in her second season on the LPGA Tour; she has six total victories, including four wins in 2019
- This is Ko’s 20th event of the 2019 season; she won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, the ANA Inspiration, the Evian Championship and the CP Women’s Open, and has seven other top-10 finishes
- Two weeks ago, she won the Hite Jinro Championship, a major on the KLPGA Tour
- Ko has been No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings since July 29 and also held the No. 1 spot for 12 weeks from April 8 to July 1
Rolex Rankings No. 4 Jeongeun Lee6 (67)
- She hit 14 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens, with 30 putts
- Lee6 is in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour; she won the U.S. Women’s Open
- This is Lee6’s 22nd event of the 2019 season; she won the U.S. Women’s Open and has nine other top-10 finishes
- Lee6 has clinched the 2019 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award
Rolex Rankings No. 114 Seung Yeon Lee (67)
- She hit nine of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, with 26 putts
- Lee is in her second season on the KLPGA Tour; she won the 2019 NEXEN - Saint Nine Masters
- This is her second LPGA Tour event, joining the 2018 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, where she finished 43rd