Lydia Ko makes steady start on quest to break major drought

Lydia Ko has made a solid, if unspectacular, start to the third women’s golf major of the 2022 LPGA Tour.

Ko, who hasn’t won a major since 2016, strayed from par just twice during her opening round on a wet Blue Course at Congressional. A bogey on her fifth hole of the day was balanced out with a birdie on her 11th, leaving her even for the round and tied for 15th place overall on the Women’s PGA Championship leaderboard.

However, it’s a deceptively positive placing thanks to the efforts of Korea’s In Gee Chun who equalled the record for the largest 18-hole lead in a women’s major after a sensational eight-under opening round.

Not since Mickey Wright, who also led this tournament by five shots after 18 in 1961, has the tournament seen an early leader like Chun who birdied seven of eight holes during one stretch on Friday.

“I don’t know what golf course In Gee is playing,” defending champion Nelly Korda said after finishing her round of 71, one shot ahead of Ko.

Pornanong Phatlum and Hye-Jin Choi shot bogey-free rounds of 69 to be Chun’s closest rivals at the end of play.

Chun set a major championship record — male or female — when she won the Evian Championship in 2016 at 21 under. She also won the US Women’s Open the previous year.

Mixed form for Kiwi men

Also making a strong start to his latest event was Ryan Fox at the BMW International Open in Munich.

Fox fired a flawless opening round 66 that included four birdies and an eagle and left him sitting in a tie for fourth overall. He sits four shots off the lead after China’s Haotong Li shot a remarkable 10-under 62.

Meanwhile, at the US Senior Open Championship, Steven Alker – who is line to become a multi-millionaire solely from 2022 earnings this weekend – was tied for 22nd overall after a roller-coaster beginning to the tournament.

A double bogey and a bogey highlighted a slow opening nine on the Saucon Valley Country Club course amidst miserable conditions. However, Alker found a way to claw himself up the leaderboard as steady rain fell, shooting three birdies in the space of four holes on the back nine. A lone bogey then undid his efforts to attain par, but Alker will no doubt feel he prevented further damage with his second-half improvement.

Alker sits five shots behind leaders Jay Haas and Mark Hensby who were a shot ahead of Steve Stricker, Rocco Mediate, Paul Broadhurst and Tim Petrovic. Even with the rain that pounded Saucon Valley in the morning which left greens receptive even when it relented, only 11 players managed to break par.

One of those was fellow Kiwi Michael Campbell who struggled mightily in posting an opening round 79, eight over par.

Also on struggle street was Danny Lee, who was forced to withdraw from the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour with a hip injury after completing just 14 holes.

– with AP

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