After shooting a 4-under 67 at Palos Verdes Golf Club to successfully Monday qualify for the DIO Implant LA Open, two-time LPGA Tour winner Mi Hyang Lee sits atop the 144-player field thanks to a phenomenal first round. The Korean native shot a bogey-free, 6-under 65 on Thursday, hitting 18 of 18 greens and 12 of 14 fairways. Starting the day in the final group of Thursday’s morning wave off No. 1, Lee recorded four birdies on her front-nine, including one on the par-5 7th, and notched two more on Nos. 11 and 18. She took the solo clubhouse lead over best friend Hyo Joo Kim with her short birdie putt on her closing hole and, soon after, proclaimed it was “the best birthday round I’ve ever had.”
The round comes during a string of good play for Lee, who earned a T6 finish at the Epson Tour’s IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa last week, right after nearly Monday qualifying for the LPGA Drive On Championship in Arizona. She lost in a playoff for the final qualifying spot to Yaeeun Hong.
“Actually Monday qualifying is really tough. Now I know it. And then, yes, but both is hard. Epson Tour top 10, when you rank, that's amazing too. So either way I'm just trying to do my best each day and play well my golf,” Lee said. “Because I keep playing the Epson Tour, I think that's why just I keep playing well – Epson Tour and keep playing well to Monday qualifyings too.”
Both Lee and Kim prospered despite the turbulent weather Thursday morning, which saw mixtures of rain, hail, and sunshine along with sub-50-degree temperatures. Kim finished her day with a 5-under 66 and sits in a tie for second alongside afternoon-wave player Megan Khang, who enjoyed somewhat sunnier skies and drier conditions on the course. Khang hit every fairway and sank six bogeys during her round, including a trio on holes 14-16.
Defending champion Nasa Hataoka finished the day in a tie for fourth and 4-under alongside 2023 rookie Lucy Li and French-Canadian Maude-Aimee Leblanc, who had an up-and-down day with seven birdies, the most in the field, and three bogeys. Role Rankings World No. 2 Nelly Korda and her sister, Jessica Korda, finished -3 and sit in a tie for 7th with four others. World No. 1 Lydia Ko shot +2 (T63) on Thursday, while No. 3 Jin Young Ko and No. 4 Atthaya Thitikul finished the day +1 (T47).