Jessica Korda and Na Yeon Choi took off like a pair of greyhounds chasing Sparky in the opening round of the Reignwood LPGA Classic. They both played bogey-free rounds, carded 64, and set the pace for the first stop on the LPGA Asian loop. Korda and Choi will play together in the 2nd round, alongside South Korean Hee Kyung Seo.
South Korean Choi, who’s ranked at #6 by Rolex, is no surprise as an early leader at the Reignwood. Playing the 1st round with Stacy Lewis, the highest ranked American playing at the Reignwood, and Spaniard Beatriz Recari, Choi wasted no time establishing her lead. She fired off 2 birdies in the first 3 holes and then collected 2 more before she made the turn leading Lewis by 2 shots and Recari by 4. Choi steamed ahead on the back 9, ending her round with a string of 4 birdies. Lewis played some great but not spectacular golf, carding a bogey-free round but 4 birdies short of Choi. Recari gave back strokes with a pair of bogeys on 13 and 14 and ended the first round at even par.
Korda, playing alongside fellow American Morgan Pressel and South Korean Ilhee Lee, also wasted no time getting out in front with 5 birdies on the front 9 and 4 on the back. Neither Pressel nor Lee could keep up with her.
Pressel couldn’t sink a birdie until the 12th hole, then gave back a stroke on the 17, going to the clubhouse with a final 1st round score of 72, 1 shot under par and 8 strokes behind Korda. Lee started the round badly with a pair of bogeys on 2 and 3. Although she seemed to be warming up with some birdies before the turn, she couldn’t keep pace with Korda, who played inspired golf, and finished the round at 71, trailing Korda’s lead by 7 strokes.
At 4 shots off the lead established by Choi and Korda, Stacy Lewis is sharing the 3rd slot on the board with South Korean pair Hee Kyung Seo, and Hee Young Park going into the 2nd round. And 8 players are lined up behind Lewis, Seo and Hee Young Park at 5 shots behind the leaders. That’s quite a crowd to navigate. The 2nd round at the Reignwood is certain to bring some tight golf and aggressive play.
China’s golf heroine, Shanshan Feng, had a bit of a slow start with a pair of birdies on the front 9 and 3 more on the back, but she gave back strokes with bogeys on the 4th and 17th holes and went to the clubhouse with 70 on her card, 6 shots off Korda’s and Choi’s lead. Feng played the first round with South Koreans Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu.
Park, ranked #1 by Rolex for 25 consecutive weeks now, showed a bit of the game that took her to the top of the rankings and has kept her there. Although she began the round with bogeys on the 2nd and 4th holes, then Park buckled down and got to work, sinking 3 birdies before the turn and collecting 3 more on the back 9. With a final 1st round score of 69, Park’s 5 shots off the lead going in to the Friday round, and Park has shown over and over that she’s perfectly capable of firing up her putter and coming from behind to take the lead. Don’t count her out.
Ryu, with a final 1st round score of 71, has a bit more distance to climb to the top of the board than either Feng or Park but she, too, has the game in her bag to close the distance during the 2nd round if she can get her putter fired up.
There’s still a lot of golf left at the Reignwood. Korda and Choi have some work ahead of them in the 2nd round if they hope to maintain their lead.
The Golf Channel will again provide coverage, from 4-6am ET Friday, October 4, and I’ll bring you a 2nd round wrap-up as well.