Minjee Lee leads LPGA Tour Palos Verdes Championship after first round 63
PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif. — Minjee Lee shot an 8-under 63 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead over top-ranked Jin Young Ko after the first round of the Palos Verdes Championship.
After a tie for third place on Sunday at the Los Angeles Open at the Whilshire Country Club, Lee had a bogey-free run in the hills of Palos Verdes Estates in the freshman event that wraps up the West Coast swing of the LPGA Tour.
“I took Monday off. I didn’t even come to class,” Lee said. “Tuesday I played nine holes and then saw the other nine in the pro-am. … I think it’s so hilly here you want to keep your legs fresh.”
The Australian closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.
“I think it’s just the way the holes are put together,” Lee said. “There’s a lot of birdie opportunities from the front nine. Even like the first hole and the second and third, they’re all stuck. … I just think there’s a lot of back-to-back opportunities you can take to capitalize.”
She won the Evian Championship last season for her first major title and her sixth victory on the LPGA Tour.
Ko has birdied six consecutive numbers 2-7 over his last nine. She fell to a tie for 21st last week after sharing the lead with winner Nasa Hataoka at the end of round three at the tough Wilshire.
“Before I started today, I reminded myself that golf is golf,” Ko said. “Don’t think about last week. Start over, new routine.”
Charley Hull, Moriya Jutanugarn and Jennifer Chang shot 65. Albane Valenzuela and Gemma Dryburgh were at 66, with Dryburgh having the fastest lap in the windier afternoon session. The Scot drilled a 6 iron for the eagle on the par-4 fifth.
“We thought maybe it was about getting to 5, 10 feet, but we ended up going in,” Dryburgh said. “It was pretty special.”
Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko each shot 69 in the afternoon.
Anna Davis, the winner of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, started with a 71 in her first start on the LPGA Tour. The 16-year-old is from Spring Valley, east of San Diego. She received a sponsorship waiver.
“I think it was pretty much like every other tournament, I would say,” Davis said. “There weren’t that many people, but I expect the next few days to see more people here. … I wasn’t super nervous or anything.”
Hataoka takes a week off.