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Choi opens one-shot lead in LPGA Championship

The SportsXchange

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- South Korean Chella Choi fought through wet, cold conditions on Friday to shoot a 5-under-par 67 and take the lead after the first round of the rain-delayed Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Choi hit all 14 fairways, helping her make six birdies and just one bogey -- on the par-4 13th hole -- to grab a one-shot lead over Morgan Pressel and Jiyai Shin.

Teeing off in the afternoon wave, Choi didn't let a persistent mist stop her from making birdies on six of her first 10 holes. The 22-year-old with two top-10 finishes in 12 starts this season is seeking her first career LPGA Tour victory.

"I hit a really good driver today," said Choi, a native of Seoul who now makes her home in Jacksonville, Fla. "My goal is just to keep it in the fairway."

Choi averaged only 225 yards off the tee but showed accuracy is everything on the 6,534-yard waterlogged layout.

"I had a lot of birdie chances today," she said.

That's nothing new. While she's yet to break through with a win, Choi has shown the ability to go low. She ranks ninth on the LPGA Tour coming into the event with 150 birdies this season. Her best finish this year is a tie for fourth last month in the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, an event in which she led going into the final round, only to shoot 70 and settle for a tie for fourth.

"I was really upset after Mobile Bay because I had a try for my first win," she said.

Choi's father, Ji Yeon, a retired police officer in their home country, helped calm her. He has vowed to be on his daughter's bag until she gets her first victory.

"I want my first win with my father," she said.

Just 15 of the 147 players who teed off broke par. More than 2 1/2 inches of rain fell Thursday on the course, pushing the total to five inches in the past nine days. That made the gnarly rough even more lush and heavy, penalizing even the slightest of wayward shots.

Shin, also from South Korea, didn't have many of those. She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens during a bogey-free round that ended with a birdie on the difficult par-4 18th late in the day to match Pressel at 4 under.

Pressel exacted a bit of revenge on the course she believes caused a wrist injury a year ago when she was hitting out of that aforementioned rough. Going out in the morning wave, the 25-year-old Floridian birdied her final four holes to shoot a 4-under 68.

"I've struggled with my wrist since I played here last year and it took awhile to overcome that," she said. "It took a while to really want to play golf again and enjoy playing golf again."

Pressel in 2007 became the LPGA's youngest major champion when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship as an 18-year-old. She is seeking her second major, as is playing partner Brittany Lincicome, who opened with a 3-under 67 and is in fourth place.

Lincicome's round could have been better if it weren't for a bogey on No. 18, when her drive round the rough.

"I was driving the ball really, really well," she said. "Really, 18 was my only big mistake, I think, of the whole round.

"If you missed the fairway by like a foot or two, it was going all the way down to the bottom and you were going to have to chunk out some type of a lob wedge. If we didn't have the marshals, we wouldn't find our golf ball out there. No chance."

NOTES: World No. 1 Inbee Park was at 2 under on the 18th tee but made double bogey to fall back to par and in a tie for 16th place. ... Former world No. 1 Yani Tseng provided a highlight with a hole-in-one on the par-3, 140-yard 15th with an 8-iron. She finished the round at par 72. ... Top-ranked American Stacy Lewis struggled a 2-over 74, a number matched by defending champion Shanshan Feng of China. They are part of a tie for 32nd.
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