Six-way tie for LPGA lead in Arkansas


Major winners Sei Young Kim of South Korea and Yuka Saso of Japan are part of a six-way tie for the lead at the LPGA Tour’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship after the opening round.

Kim birdied her final four holes to polish off a seven-under 64 on Friday, joining Saso, Jeongeun Lee5 of South Korea, Megan Khang, Ryann O’Toole and Lauren Coughlin at the top of the leaderboard in Rogers, Arkansas.

The group is one stroke ahead of Vivian Hou of Taiwan and Lilia Vu

The tournament is a 54-hole event at Pinnacle Country Club with a cut after 36 holes down to the top 70 players and ties.

Tour rookie Steph Kyriacou is the leading Australian, tied 32nd after a 68, and fellow youngster Karis Davidson is just a shot further back while world No.3 Minjee Lee is currently outside the projected cut line (one under), tied with Sarah Kemp at even par and Su Oh had a 74.

For Kim, the fast start was vital.

“This week we have three days so we need a lot of birdies,” the 2020 Women’s PGA Championship winner said. “And then my strategy keep push myself and then, yeah, as I can do, I make a lot of birdies.”

Kim started on the back nine and birdied the par-4 10th before committing her only bogey of the day at the par-3 11th. She shook that off with birdies at Nos. 14, 18 and 1 before her hot stretch that started at the par-3 sixth.

Saso and Lee5 were the only co-leaders to turn in bogey-free rounds. Saso also started on the back nine, and after a quiet start she made five of her seven birdies on the front nine.

“My shots were very consistent today,” said Saso, who won the 2021 US Women’s Open. “I didn’t really miss any shots. I chip really well, too. When I hit it close, I hole it. Putting was pretty good, too.”

Sophia Schubert, Charley Hull and Georgia Hall of England, A Lim Kim and Jenny Shin of South Korea and Muni He of China were tied two shots off the pace at 66.

Nasa Hataoka of Japan, the defending champion, opened with a 68. World No.2 Nelly Korda was also at 68.

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