INCHEON, South Korea — Suzann Pettersen shot a course-record 9-under 63 Friday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the LPGA’s HanaBank Championship.
The Norwegian finished a shot clear of Sweden’s Karin Sjodin at the Ocean Course in Incheon, with five players tied for third, two shots back.
Japan’s Ai Miyazato, Spain’s Azahara Munoz and the South Korean trio of So Yeon Ryu, Moon Hyun-Hee and Kim Ha-Neul all shot 66.
In perfect conditions at the course 25 miles west of Seoul, Pettersen sank five birdies in the first six holes on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course to make a brilliant start to the three-day event.
“Being three rounds, you want to get off to a hot start and I can’t complain with today’s round,” Pettersen said.
“I got off to a good start, found the feel of the greens this morning and worked hard to feel the speed yesterday and made some great putts and great shots,” she said. “I’m really trying to read what’s out there; some pins are par pins and some pins you attack.”
Defending champion and world No. 1 Yani Tseng had a 68, while No. 2 Stacy Lewis finished at par with a 72.
Pettersen also set a course record last week at the Sime Derby LPGA Malaysia, only to falter in the final two rounds.
“I feel like I have some low rounds in me now. It is nice when the way you feel equals the score you put on the scorecard,” Pettersen said.
It was an excellent day for Scandinavia with Sweden’s Sjodin pushing Pettersen all the way.
“I felt like I was hitting the ball really solid,” Sjodin said. “The birdies were long putts. I had three close ones and missed all three.”
Sjodin, ranked 75th in the world, has three South Koreans on her heels. Playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, the locals are expected to perform well, though Inbee Park, ranked fifth in the world and atop of the money list this season, was tied for 24th after a 70.
“Seeing all the Korean players on tour in their home environment and how they blossom here. It’s really great to see,” Sjodin said.
Moon is one of the home contingent tied in third place and was delighted with her showing.
“The conditions are perfect and there is almost no wind at all,” she said. “In Korea, we have only one LPGA tournament a year and all players want to participate. My scores have not been so good lately. I wanted to boost my confidence and I think I did that today.”
Michelle Wie, playing on a sponsor invitation, finished tied in 44th place with a 73, the same as Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods’ niece.