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Friday, December 02, 2022

64 in Ji Chun, race for early lead in Women’s PGA

BETHESDA, MD ( Associated Press) — Ji Chun climbed to 8-under 64 in the first round of the Women’s PGA Championship on Thursday to pull out for a big early lead.

While most of the field on the Wet Blue course at Congressional slogged throughout the day, Chun birdied seven out of eight holes during one stretch. She was seven shots better than anyone else who started the morning, putting her in danger of breaking the record for the biggest 18-hole lead in the Women’s Major set by Mickey Wright, who in 1961 by five shots after 18 led this tournament. ,

“I don’t know what golf course these G’s are playing on,” defending champion Nelly Korda said after completing her 71st round.

Chun was playing just like everyone else – one that was completely restored last year. During the game on Thursday morning, the area received heavy rain and more rain overnight. This softened the course, but also made the length of Congress—6,809 yards for this first round—more than a factor.

Not a big deal for Chun, a two-time major winner.

“The course seems long after a lot of rain,” said the 27-year-old South Korean. “At the same time, the greens were soft. So I guess it was just a balance.”

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Although there was still a lot of golf to play, Chun’s opening seven-shot lead certainly turned heads.

“I can’t stop staring at the leaderboards,” tweeted Justin Thomas. “Leading to 7 halfway through Day 1!!!!”

Hye-jin Choi was from 3 under to 11 holes in the afternoon, one of several players who threatened to curtail Chun’s lead – but not by much.

Chun, who started on the last nine, birdies at numbers 15, 16, 17 and 18. After a bogey at No. 1, he returned with three more birdies in a row.

Chun set a major championship record – male or female – when she won the 2016 Evian Championships under 21. She also won the US Women’s Open last year.

Korda was part of a group at 1 Under, playing alongside partner Brooke Henderson. An example of how challenging the course was: Korda hit the driver, hybrid, and 7-wood while making par on the 587-yard ninth hole.

“It’s the longest Par 5 I’ve played so far,” she said. “I was happy to play in the front nine as well.”

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Chun hit all 14 fairways and said she passed the time discussing non-golf topics with caddy Dean Hernden.

“We talk about kiwi because I like to eat kiwi in the course,” she said. “It’s really hard to find a good kiwi from the supermarket. Luckily, we have a nice Korean supermarket here, so I got a good gold kiwi from there.”

If Chun continues to play like this, it may be easy to rest her on the course, but she will have a talented group of challengers to follow. Jennifer Kupcho, who won her first major at the Chevron Championships earlier this year, was 1 under. Pornanong Phatium took the second hole and was from 2 under to eight.

All those players could have felt pretty close to the lead, if not for Chun.

“I think I played really well. The course is really tough,” Kupcho said. “I really don’t know how to go under 8 in G right now. It is definitely an outlier. ,

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Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

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