In Gee Chun battles for record 5-stroke PGA Women’s Championship lead in Congress – CBS Baltimore

BETHESDA, Maryland (AP) – In Gee Chun sits alone atop the PGA Women’s Championship after a sensational start.

In fact, no player has ever been further ahead after 18 holes in a women’s major.

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Chun moved to an 8-under 64 on Thursday to take a five-stroke advantage after the first round in Congress. While most of the field worked hard all day on the wet blue course, Chun birdied seven of eight holes during a stretch. She was seven strokes ahead when she completed her round and ended up tying a record for the largest 18-hole lead in a major tournament.

Mickey Wright led this tournament by five after the first round in 1961.

“I don’t know what golf course In Gee is playing on,” said defending champion Nelly Korda after finishing her round of 71.

Chun was playing the same course as everyone else – the one that underwent a full restoration last year. There was heavy rain in the area overnight and more precipitation during the game on Thursday morning. It smoothed the course, but also made the length of Congress — 6,809 yards for that opening round — more important.

No big deal for Chun, two-time major winner.

“The course, after a lot of rain, seems longer,” said the 27-year-old South Korean. “At the same time, the greens were softer. So I think it was just a balance.

Although there was plenty of golf left to play, Chun’s big lead certainly turned heads.

“Can’t stop staring at the leaderboard,” tweeted Justin Thomas. “Lead par 7 halfway through day 1!!!!”

Pornanong Phatlum and Hye-Jin Choi fired bogey-free rounds of 69 to cut Chun’s lead to five, but it was still enough of an advantage to tie Wright’s mark. The 1961 tournament was one of Wright’s record four wins at this event. Chun tries for her first.

Chun set a major championship record – for men or women – when she won the Evian Championship in 2016 aged 21. She also won the US Women’s Open the previous year.

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Paula Reto and Jennifer Chang were at 2 under. Korda and her playing partner Brooke Henderson were part of a group of nine players at 1 under. An example of the course’s difficulty: Korda hit the driver, hybrid and 7-wood while paring on the 587-yard ninth hole.

“It’s the longest par 5 I’ve ever played,” she said. “I was even happy to play the front nine.”

Chun, who started on the back nine, birdied Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18. After a bogey on No. 1, she bounced back with three more birdies in a row.

Chun hit all 14 fairways and said she passed the time by discussing non-golfing matters with caddy Dean Herden.

“We talk about kiwifruit because I love eating kiwifruit on the course,” she said. “It’s really hard to find a good kiwi in the supermarket. Fortunately, we have a good Korean supermarket near here, so I bought a good golden kiwi there.

If Chun continues to play like this, she may find it easy to relax on the course, but she will be chased by a group of talented challengers. Jennifer Kupcho, who won her first major at the Chevron Championship earlier this year, was 1 under. Phatlum’s impressive round included an ace on the second from 199 yards.

Inbee Park, Lydia Ko and world number 1 Jin Young Ko all shot 72, one shot better than US Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee.

In fact, without Chun, a lot of players might feel pretty close to the lead.

“I feel like I played really well. The course is really tough,” Kupcho said. “I don’t really know how In Gee is 8 under right now. It’s definitely an outlier.

NOTES: Emma Talley (78) finished putting with a wedge after her putter was damaged during the round. … Lizette Salas and Cristie Kerr both shot 80s.

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