In 2019, she became the first player to win the $1 million prize at the U.S. Women’s Open. And after a first-round 64 at the CME Group Tour Championship, Jeongeun Lee6 is well on her way to a $1.5 million check, the largest in women’s golf. The 25-year-old from Korea tops the CME Group Tour Championship leaderboard at -8 after 18 holes, hitting hit every fairway and every green in regulation on Thursday and notching eight birdies.
“I had a good time today. My goal was free (of) bogeys, so, yeah, I achieved it,” said Lee6, who finished T11 in her only previous CME appearance in 2019. “My feel is getting better, so my goal is to win once this year, but unfortunately just one tournament left. I'm going to try my best.”
It’s the fourth time in her career that Lee6 has hit every green in regulation, most recently in the first round of the 2019 Dana Open, but she’s never hit every fairway in the same 18 holes at the same time.
This is the third time Lee6 has held an 18-hole lead and the first since the 2019 ShopRite LPGA Classic, where she went on to finish second.
Four players sit in a tie for second at -7, including 2019 Race to the CME Globe winner Sei Young Kim, who is looking to extend her streak of consecutive seasons with a win to seven, the longest active streak on Tour. She is joined by 2021 ShopRite LPGA Classic winner Celine Boutier and 2021 U.S. Solheim Cup Team members Mina Harigae and Jennifer Kupcho.
Kupcho, coming off a T-22 finish at the Pelican Women’s Championship last week, carded seven birdies, including five in her last eight holes. She took prime advantage of a course set up for a day of constant drizzle and cloud cover.
“Honestly, I feel like the course was just set up pretty easy. Preparing for rain moved a lot of tees up, as well as put the pins right in the middle of the green I feel like so it was pretty attackable,” said Kupcho, who went bogey-free on Thursday. “I wasn't hitting it really well but made a lot of putts.”
Eight players are tied for sixth at -6, including four-time 2021 winner and Rolex Rankings No. 1 Nelly Korda, who holds a 10-point lead over Jin Young Ko in the Rolex Player of the Year standings.
“I think I just struck it really well. I gave myself some good looks inside 10 feet,” said Korda, who could become the first American to claim Player of the Year honors since Stacy Lewis in 2014. “Two oopsies with two three-putts, but I think I hit a majority of the greens and gave myself some really good looks.”