South Koreans Hyun Kyung Park and Yun Ji Jeong both fired matching seven-under-par 65s to share the first-round lead of the inaugural Hana Financial Group Singapore Women’s Open on Thursday.
The pair are one stroke ahead of compatriots Ji Young Park and Sun Ju Ahn after posting blemish-free rounds at the Tanah Merah Country Club’s Tampines Course.
Seeking her first KLPGA Tour title in 19 months, Park (Hyun Kyung) began the day from the 10th tee and scored seven birdies in Round 1 to put herself in early contention for the season-opening event.
Jeong, who teed off in the afternoon, joined Park at the top of the leaderboard following an equally impressive seven-birdie card.
Jeong will be eager to get the 2023 season off to the best possible start as she looks to build on her solid performance last season where she claimed a breakthrough victory at the 10th E1 Charity Open in May.
Tied in fifth on 67 are So Mi Lee, Hee Jeong Lim, Ga Eun Song and Seung Hui Bong.
Local hopeful Koh Sock Hwee opened with a solid 68 to share the ninth spot with eight others including Hong Kong’s Tiffany Chan, who fired her career-first hole-in-one at the par-three 16th.
World number three Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand, the highest-ranked player in the 102-woman field, carded a 69 to sit in a congested 11-way tie for 18th.
The limelight clearly belonged to Park (Hyun Kung) as she was quick to adapt to the unfamiliar playing conditions and turned them in her favour.
“The afternoon groups are still playing but it’s a great feeling to sit atop the leaderboard at the point when I finished,” said Park shortly after completing her round.
“The grass and other course conditions here are way more different than in Korea, so I knew I would have to make necessary adjustments if I were to get a good result in this week’s tournament. I think I played very well today, I feel good with my shots. That’s probably why I was able to secure an early lead. My goal today was to not make any bogey so I’m happy to have achieved that today and got off to a smooth start.”
Park first rose to prominence two years ago when she clinched the KLPGA Championship, which is one of the circuit’s major events, in May 2020, before successfully defending it the following year. She was also the winner of the IS Dongseo Busan Open in July 2020.
Koh said the good momentum created on the front-nine, where she birdied three times in the first seven holes, was the key to the solid opening-day display.
“I feel like I played really well at the start of the round. I got myself a good break and I just kept the momentum going,” said Koh, who also collected two birdies on holes 13 and 15 to offset a sole dropped shot at the 10th.
“I tried to stay patient and not get ahead of myself. It’s a great start and I hope to keep it up.”