Golf

Surprise leaders confident of staying on top at HSBC Women's Champions

South Korea are the strongest nation in women's golf today. Australia are one of the sport's traditional powerhouses, boasting a host of Major winners.

Maybe no one should be surprised then by teenager Lee Minjee's display in the first round of the HSBC Women's Champions at Sentosa Golf Club yesterday.

The 19-year-old, an ethnic Korean born and bred in Australia, mastered the tough Serapong Course, along with the hot and windy conditions, to fire a five-under 67 and sit joint-top on the leaderboard with Candie Kung.

Lee's excellent display, which included four birdies and a memorable eagle on the 12th, helped her claim the joint-lead.

She did look a little flustered from the heat as she emerged from the scoring tent, but her fine start to the tournament ensured she was all smiles when facing the media.

"I was pretty steady and didn't make too many mistakes, apart from (a bogey on) the 17th," she replied, when asked by The New Paper about her day's work.

"I was in between clubs and I hit a bad swing, so that was my only 'boo-boo' of the day.

CONFIDENT

"Whenever I had a birdie opportunity, I just took advantage, and the eagle really helped, so I'm pretty confident.

"I'm hitting it pretty solidly, so hopefully I can get something going tomorrow and on the weekend."

Four players are a solitary shot off the pace at four under, including defending champion Park Inbee and two-time Major winner Suzann Pettersen, while world No. 1 Lydia Ko (71) made a steady if unspectacular start.

For now, Lee's closest competitor is Taiwanese-American Kung, who is actually relishing the blustery conditions.

"It's awesome (and) hopefully I can keep it up there till Sunday," said the 34-year-old, whose last victory on the LPGA Tour was back in 2008.

"I love wind… Windy is good.

"It makes it tough for everybody and brings everybody into the game.

"You have to hit good shots out there and make your putts."

Another golfer to start the tournament strongly was Pettersen, who refused to be downbeat after several missed birdie opportunities.

The Norwegian explained: "I played really well today, a couple of bogeys, but this course is quite tough.

"My game is starting to get into a nice spot, so I'm very comfortable.

"There are some tough holes on the back nine and it's not the easiest to get really close, and par is not a bad score on some of those.

"I executed the shot and hit good putts that were good enough for par."

Lee, Kung and Pettersen are all in the same flight for today's second round, with the final group to tee off from the first hole at 10.20am.


- GABRIEL TAN


LEADERBOARD

67: Lee Minjee, Candie Kung

68: Park Inbee, Mika Miyazato, Lee-Ann Pace, Suzann Pettersen

69: Feng Shanshan, Lee Mirim, Lee Il Hee, Lee Mi Hyang, Ahn Sun Ju

70: Carlota Ciganda, Jang Ha Na, Chella Choi, Brooke Henderson, Park Hee Young, Angela Stanford, Sandra Gal, Cristie Kerr, Choi Na Yeon, Gerina Piller, Pornanong Phatlum, Pernilla Lindberg, Anna Nordqvist, Kris Tamulis, Kim Hyo Joo Selected

71: Lydia Ko, Stacy Lewis, Morgan Pressel, Lexi Thompson

72: Paula Creamer, Karrie Webb

75: Michelle Wie

76: Koh Sock Hwee, Tseng Ya-ni

77: Ai Miyazato

SECOND-ROUND TEE TIMES (SELECTED)

1ST TEE

8.20am: Lydia Ko, Amy Yang, Lexi Thompson

8.32am: Jessica Korda, Morgan Pressel, Stacy Lewis

9.08am: Sandra Gal, Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford

10.08am: Lee-Anne Pace, Mika Miyazato, Park Inbee

10.20am: Candie Kung, Lee Minjee, Suzann Pettersen

10TH TEE

8.44am: Paula Creamer, Jenny Shin, Kim In Kyung

9.32am: Jing Yan, Michelle Wie, Julieta Granada

9.44am: Lin Xi Yu, Mariajo Uribe, Tseng Ya-ni

9.56am: Koh Sock Hwee, Austin Ernst, Ai Miyazato.

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