PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif. (AP)Minjee Lee shot an 8-under 63 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over top-ranked Jin Young Ko after the first round of the Palos Verdes Championship.
Coming off a third-place tie Sunday in the LA Open at Whilshire Country Club, Lee had a bogey-free round at hilly Palos Verdes Estates in the first-year event that wraps up the LPGA Tour’s West Coast swing.
”I took Monday off. Didn’t even come to the course,” Lee said. ”Tuesday, I played nine holes and then I saw the other nine in the pro-am. … I think it’s so hilly out here that you want to keep your legs fresh.”
The Australian closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.
”I think it’s just the way like the holes are set up,” Lee said. ”There are a lot of birdie opportunities starting the front nine. Even like the first hole and the second and third, they’re all wedges in. … I just think there are a lot of opportunities in a row that you can kind of capitalize on.”
She won the Evian Championship last season for her first major title and sixth LPGA Tour victory.
Ko had six straight birdies on Nos. 2-7 on her final nine. She stumbled to a tie for 21st last week after sharing the lead with winner Nasa Hataoka late in the third round at difficult Whilshire.
”Before starting today I just remind (myself) that golf is golf,” Ko said. ”Don’t think about last week. Starting again, new routine.”
Charley Hull, Moriya Jutanugarn and Jennifer Chang shot 65. Albane Valenzuela and Gemma Dryburgh were at 66, with Dryburgh having the best round in the breezier afternoon session. The Scot holed a 6-iron for eagle on the par-4 fifth.
”We thought it was about maybe getting to 5, 10 feet, but then ended up going in,” Dryburgh said. ”That was pretty special.”
Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko each shot 69 in the afternoon.
Anna Davis, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur winner, opened with a 71 in her first LPGA Tour start. The 16-year-old is from Spring Valley east of San Diego. She received a sponsor exemption.
”I think it was pretty much like every other tournament I would say,” Davis said. ”There weren’t like as many people, but I’m expecting the next few days to see some more people out here. … I wasn’t super nervous or anything.”
Hataoka is taking the week off.