EVIAN, France: Chun In Gee and Park Sung Hyun both shot eight-under-par 63 to make it a South Korean double at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the Evian Championship.
Chun, who won the US Women’s Open last year for her first and only win on the LPGA Tour, and Park, the leading light on the Korean LPGA Tour, had impressive eight-birdie rounds.
That allowed them to lead by a shot from China’s Feng Shanshan and American rookie Annie Park in the final major of the women’s season.
New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, the world number one and defending champion, was not at her best, but managed to scramble her way to a 70 and is certainly not out of touch.
“I drove the ball really well on the front nine,” said the teenager. “But, from the tenth, I wasn’t hitting fairways. It was a good thing that my putting and chipping was working. I made a lot of up and downs.
“Opening rounds of eight and seven under par are impressive. Every year there seems to be low scores and yet it’s not easy out there, especially with the juicy grass.”
Chun won the US Open before joining the Tour and is now well on her way to winning the 2016 LPGA rookie honours. She shrugged off early nerves to set an early target that Park finally matched with a birdie at the last.
“I was very nervous before I started,” said 22-year-old Chun, who won two of the biggest titles — the World Ladies’ Championship and Japan Women’s Open — on the 2015 Japanese Women’s Tour.
“It was windy and wet when we set out but I putted well and the rain stopped and it was a very good round.”
Chun has had top-10 finishes in her last three events on the LPGA Tour, and admits that playing in golf’s reintroduction to the Olympic Games in Rio last month has helped her attitude.
“Rio was a really good experience,” she said. “I was very proud to play golf wearing the national flag. It made golf fun again. There was a lot of pressure, but I feel I play well under pressure.”
Park finished joint third in the US Women’s Open this year and says she feels quite at home playing alongside the world’s best.
“It’s my first time here,” said the 22-year-old after holing an 18-foot birdie putt at the final hole. “But I feel very comfortable. It’s a tough course with narrow fairways, but I drove it well.”
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, the world number two and winner of the Women’s British Open in July, was playing with Chun, but had a demoralising triple-bogey seven at the 18th, her ninth hole. She finished with a 73, four behind her older sister, Moriya.