MIAMI (AFP) — Jessica Korda waited out a late rain delay to cap her six-under-par 66 with her eighth birdie of the day, seizing a two-shot lead over a chasing trio in the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio in Florida on Thursday.
Korda had taken a one-shot lead at five-under with a birdie at her penultimate hole, the eighth, and was playing the ninth when rain halted play.
After a 40-minute delay the American returned and drained a 25-foot birdie putt that put her two up on South Korean Kim Sei-young, Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit and Japan’s Yui Kawamoto.
“It’s only Thursday, so a lot of golf to be played, but nice to put a good round up there,” said Korda, who was pleased to complete her round before darkness halted play with several groups still on the course.
“It’s just not wanting to come back in the morning and putt it,” she said, adding that it wasn’t only the prospect of an early wake up call but also knowing that conditions on the greens would likely be different on Friday morning.
Kim, a 10-time winner on the LPGA tour, fired four of her six birdies on her inward run to pull level with rookies Patty and Kawamoto.
Kawamoto, a 21-year-old who earned her LPGA card through Q-school, had five birdies in her four-under effort while Patty, who won three times on the Symetra Tour last season, had four birdies without a bogey in her first LPGA round as a tour member.
“I’ve been waiting to come out for three months, since the start of the offseason, which was kind of stressful,” Patty said, admitted that she was “a little intimidated” by the idea of being on the LPGA tour.
“After I cut out those thoughts and focused on what I have to do, it has been working pretty well,” said.
“I didn’t really think about trying to play well today, I was just trying to be in the moment,” she said.
Kawamoto was also making her rookie season debut, and the 21-year-old said she is aiming to emulate the success of her high school friend Nasa Hataoka — already a three-time LPGA winner.
“My goal is to win, obviously win and also top-10 on the money list — and to do that I need to play solid golf,” Kawamoto said. “I’ll try my best. I want to play with the top players, too, so that’s my goal.”