Chella Choi leads, seeks first victory
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Most of the LPGA players spent Thursday watching movies, shopping or napping since play was rained out. And in truth, Friday afternoon also was more suited to those activities than playing golf, as the precipitation began again and stuck around.
But drizzle be darned, the LPGA Championship still got its first round in the books, soggy and dreary as it was. For South Korea's Chella Choi, the leader at 5-under 67, the rain was there all the way from her fifth hole on.
Especially with the weather, the rough is becoming an unpleasant adventure. Choi did herself a favor by steering clear of it, hitting all 14 fairways.
"I hit a really good driver today," Choi said. "I'm really happy."
Choi got as low as 6 under in her round, but then had a bogey on No 13. She finished with five pars and is off to a good start as she seeks her first LPGA victory.
Choi is one of the many "Seoul Sisters" in the LPGA, a 22-year-old whose best finish on tour is a tie for second last year. She has two top-10s this year, including a tie for fourth in Mobile, Ala., last month.
Asian players have won the past eight major championships, and there are three of them among the top six after one round here. That includes the "godmother" of all Korean players, Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak. She shot a 2-under 70 Friday and is tied for fifth with American Jessica Korda.
Pak, who will turn 36 in September, has five major titles, including three from the LPGA Championship. Those were in 1998, 2002 and 2006, before the event relocated here to Locust Hill Country Club in suburban Rochester, N.Y.
Pak joked Friday that when she won this tournament in her rookie season of 1998, she didn't have any idea it was a major championship.
"I just really don't know what's going on," Pak said of her state of mind at the LPGA Championship 15 years ago. "Then the second I was in the media room, they said, 'This is a major event.' I was like, 'Oh, really?' This is the beginning of it."
Pak went on to win an epic playoff for the U.S. Women's Open title later that same year, and the Korean "wave" would soon follow.
The current No. 1 player in the world is Korean Inbee Park, who won the first major this year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April. Park shot even-par 72 Friday and is tied for 16th in a group that includes last year's Women's Open winner, her countrywoman Na Yeon Choi.
Korean Jiyai Shin -- who won the Women's British Open last year -- is tied for second, as she matched American Morgan Pressel's 68.
"I'm very proud of what's happening right now," Pak said of the success so many of her younger countrywomen say she inspired. "They are actually doing so well, pretty much every week at the top of the leaderboard. That gives me a lot of energy to keep it going on tour."
Pressel had a morning tee-off and didn't have to deal with the rain, which soaked an already waterlogged course. She posted the best score of those who went earlier in the day, and only Chella Choi and Shin were able to tie or better it.
Most eyes were on Chella Choi's score in the afternoon/early evening, but another round of note then was Yani Tseng's even-par 72, which put her in a tie for 16th. A two-time winner of the LPGA Championship, Tseng has been trying to get her groove back for a while and dealt with a bout of tonsillitis coming into this tournament.
She says she's feeling better now but still isn't eating much because of soreness. Overall, Tseng was fairly happy with her play. She's still not close to the "old Yani" yet, but she did have one very bright moment Friday: the first hole-in-one of her pro career. Tseng said she had four aces while an amateur.
This one came on the 140-yard, par-3 15th hole, on which Tseng used an 8-iron. She didn't actually view it going into the hole, though, saying, "I had a hard time seeing the ball today."
That was understandable, considering the conditions. Chella Choi, though, usually has a pretty easy time locating her ball, because it's orange, her favorite color. Choi's father is her caddie, a job he's been doing for six years and is ready to retire from. But Choi said she wants her first victory to come with her dad on the bag, so his "retirement" keeps getting delayed.
Maybe it will come at this tournament.