NEW YORK: China’s Feng Shanshan fired a bogey-free six-under-par 66 Thursday (Friday in Manila) to grab a one-stroke lead over South Korean Amy Yang early in the opening round of the US Women’s Open.
Sixth-ranked Feng, seeking her second major crown after the 2012 LPGA Championship, had two runs of three consecutive birdies to seize command at the third major championship of the LPGA season—where an afternoon rain delay saw play halted by darkness with the first round unfinished.
The event is being staged at US President Donald Trump’s golf resort, Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey, with protests possible and the US Golf Association already under fire for failing to move the richest tournament in women’s golf after Trump’s controversial comments about women during his presidential campaign.
When the shotmaking started Thursday, the focus was on capturing a major crown and Feng fared best, starting on the back nine and making birdies on the par-4 11th, 12th and 13th holes.
She followed with another treble birdie run at the par-4 17th and par-5 18th and first holes, then closed her morning round with eight pars.
“I started the round really solidly. I had three birdies in the first four holes,” Feng said.
“After that I felt comfortable about everything because my ball striking has been pretty good, but I was struggling a little bit about my putting.
“I made a little bit (of an) adjustment with my coach after I got here on putting. Then I’m rolling the ball into the holes now. I’m really happy about the round, 66. That’s my low score in US Open ever so hopefully I can keep it going.”
Feng admitted she felt like she could have scored even lower.
“Everything was great today,” she said. “I think I left some out there for maybe the weekend. Can’t make them all on the first day, right?”
Yang seeks major breakthrough
Yang, ranked ninth, shared fourth in last month’s Women’s PGA Championship, her 16th top-10 major finish without a victory.
Yang went birdie-bogey at the par-3 fourth and par-4 fifth, then closed the front nine birdie-bogey, but got hot on the back side with back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11, again at the par-3 14th and par-5 15th and closed with a birdie also.
“I started the round a little slow,” Yang said. “I wasn’t that comfortable over the ball so I had to do a lot of long putts and it was just little hard to make a birdie.
“But I was out there just being patient and I started get some good momentum going on the back nine, putting worked really well on the back nine.”
World number one Ryu So Yeon of South Korea and New Zealand’s fourth-ranked Lydia Ko shared third on 68.
Ryu, the 2011 US Women’s Open winner who took her second major at this year’s ANA Inspiration and won last month in Arkansas to take the top ranking spot, had a bogey-free round. She birdied the fifth and sixth, added another at the par-5 eighth and her last at the 11th.
Ko, who began off the 10th tee, birdied five of her first 10 holes and added her last at the par-3 fourth but bogeys at the fifth and ninth dropped her off Feng’s pace.
Ko is seeking a third major win after taking the 2015 Evian Championship and 2016 ANA Inspiration.