The Korea Herald


Kang Hae-ji takes early lead at KEB-HanaBank

By Korea Herald

Published : Oct. 16, 2014 - 20:14

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INCHEON (Yonhap) ― A surprising name shot to the top of the leaderboard after the opening round at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship here in Incheon on a gusty Thursday.

South Korea’s Kang Hae-ji battled strong winds all day to mix in six birdies with a bogey for a 67 on the par-72, 6,364-yard Ocean Course at the Sky72 Golf and Resort, adjacent to Incheon International Airport.

Kang, who made her LPGA debut in 2009, is seeking her first victory.

Lurking behind the leader is the defending champ Amy Yang, also of South Korea, who shot a 69 to begin her title defense in a five-way tie for second.

A group of eight golfers, including the 2012 champ Suzann Pettersen, shot a 70 in the first round.

The $2 million tournament is the only LPGA Tour event in South Korea each year.

It has expanded from 54 holes to 72 holes this year.

This is the seventh year that the Ocean Course is hosting this tournament.

Kang said she expected a calmer day because there was no wind when she was warming up on the range. But when she stood on the first tee at 8:50 a.m., the wind picked up.

“On a day like this, I felt I’d be better off playing safe and aiming for the center of the greens than be aggressive,” she said.

“I made some great putts today, especially ones to save pars on the front nine. Then I made a 40-foot putt for birdie on the 12th, and it gave me a great boost.”

Kang said she was confident she could keep up her solid play.
Korea’s Kang Hae-ji plays a shot at the KEB-HanaBank Championship on Thursday. (Yonhap) Korea’s Kang Hae-ji plays a shot at the KEB-HanaBank Championship on Thursday. (Yonhap)

“It is usually windy on this course but it’s not overly long,” she added. “I can reach some of the par-5 greens in two here. If I can hit good wedge shots, then I can post good scores.”

Kang, who made her LPGA debut in 2009, has yet to win on the tour. In 23 events this year prior to this week, the 23-year-old has posted two top-10 finishes but missed the cut eight times.

Park In-bee, world No. 2, shot 1-under 71 after an up-and-down round that featured four birdies and three bogeys.

With the top-ranked Stacy Lewis skipping this event, Park could overtake the No. 1 spot with a win this week.

Also, if Park finishes second and Lydia Ko, ranked third, doesn’t win, then Park will be the No. 1.

In another potential scenario, Park will rise to No. 1 if she finishes in a three-way tie for third and Ko doesn’t win.

Ko, a South Korean-born New Zealander, can only rise to No. 1 if she wins and Park ends in a three-way tie for second or worse.

Ko shot a 73, which left her tied for 28th.

In the tournament’s 12-year history, there have been seven different South Korean winners, with Choi Na-yeon winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.