Kim leads U.S. Open by one shot

Joe Pantorno, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- All eyes were on Inbee Park. The world No. 1 has won five tournaments this year and is the hottest golfer on the LPGA circuit right now. But nobody saw her South Korean compatriot, Ha-Neul Kim, coming, and she took the spotlight on day one of the U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack.
Kim, who is ranked 44th in the world, hopped over the world's best at the end of round one with a birdie on the par-5 eighth and finished with a 6-under-par 66 on Thursday.
That gave her a one-stroke lead over Park, who shot a 5-under 67.
"I was very nervous coming in," Kim said with the help of a translator. "I thought the course was difficult coming in and I thought that even par would be a very good score for me."
Kim took motivation from Park's strong round.
"I said, 'Wow how did she shoot that score?'" Kim asked herself. "I just went out and beat her."
Kim produced a bogey-free round with birdies on one, four, six, eight, 13 and 18. Starting on the back nine, Kim went 2-under over her first nine holes and went 4-under on the front nine. She is looking to make her mark in a big way on the American Tour.
"My putting wasn't really tested [because] my teeing game was very good," Kim said.
Park is fresh off a win at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Also starting on the back nine, Park had six birdies on the day and one bogey, using a stretch of three birdies on holes one, two, and four. Her bogey came on the par-4, 388-yard sixth hole, where she got caught in the rough.
"That hole was a quite tough hole, so I really wanted to take the risk," said Park. "But I pushed it and that just slightly went over the bunker into the thick stuff on the right."
Sebonack was quickly building a reputation as a difficult, long course, but the USGA threw its golfers a curve, shortening the lengths of the holes. A majority of the golfers were preparing for a longer course, practicing off different tees.
"I was surprised," No. 2-ranked Stacy Lewis said. "It was definitely set up a lot easier today, a lot more scorable...But they were the kind of things that were out of my control."
Lewis finished 1-under par, tied for 17th on the day.
Sweden's Caroline Hedwall, ranked No. 29, was tied with Park going onto her last hole of the day, the ninth, when she bogeyed. It was one of four bogeys on the day for her. But her eight birdies put her at 4-under, tied for third with three other golfers. She is joined by Lizette Salas, Anna Nordqvist, and I.K. Kim, who bogeyed her last hole of the day.
"I like being in this position," Hedwall said. "I hit a good wedge. Four-under is still a great start for the tournament and I'm happy with that."
Turning heads as much as Park recently is 16-year-old New Zealand prodigy and top amateur in the world, Lydia Ko, who shot an even-par 72 in the first round of her second appearance at the U.S. Open. A year ago, Ko became the youngest woman to ever and the first amateur since 1969 to win an LPGA tour event at the CN Canadian Women's Open.
"It was a pretty good day," Ko said. "It's not an easy golf course, so even par is a pretty good way to start the open."
With a projected cut of 3-over, Michelle Wie (8-over) and former U.S. Open Champ Se Ri Pak (6-over) will have to scramble on day two to make it to the weekend.
"I'm not sure about tomorrow, but I think on the weekend they'll definitely go difficult. I think with this golf course, they can do so much," Park said. "You could play a totally different golf course tomorrow."