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(LEAD) American takes first-round lead at LPGA event in S. Korea

All Headlines 17:55 October 13, 2016

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By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, Oct. 13 (Yonhap) -- Alison Lee of the United States took the first-round lead Thursday at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, with a resurgent South Korean lurking.

Lee shot a seven-under 65 at the par-72 Ocean Course at Sky 72 Golf & Resort, adjacent to Incheon International Airport. She has opened a three-stroke lead over five golfers, thanks to eight birdies and a bogey.

This is the only LPGA tournament in South Korea each year. It's the third stop of the tour's Asian swing, and boasts the strongest field so far, with 17 of the world's top 20 in action.

Lee, born in Los Angeles to Korean parents, is looking for her first LPGA victory.

Alison Lee of the United States watches her tee shot on the third hole during the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship at Sky 72 Golf & Resort's Ocean Course on Oct. 13, 2016, in this photo provided by the tournament's organizing committee. (Yonhap)

"I gave myself a lot of chances at a birdie. Putting was definitely one of my strengths today," Lee said. "It's definitely what helped me shoot seven-under. I made a lot of good birdie putts. I think I only missed one or two putts inside 15 feet."

Lee enjoyed a strong rookie year in 2015, when she played on the victorious U.S. Solheim Cup team. She has been trying to juggle the touring schedule and her academic pursuits at UCLA. She has also dealt with a torn labrum in her left shoulder, and missed five straight cuts between April and May.

Lee said the injury has also affected "a huge portion of my mental game" because she was scared of hitting the ball while not knowing where it was going to go.

She has since bounced back with three top-10s in her last half-dozen starts.

"I am very happy with where my game is now," she said. "The past couple months, I've been playing a lot better."

Among those tied for second place at four-under is Kim In-kyung of South Korea. On Oct. 2, Kim ended her six-year LPGA winless drought by taking the Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing. A month before that, Kim won a Ladies European Tour event in Germany.

Cho Jeong-min, one of 14 Korea LPGA (KLPGA) players in the field, also shot a 68 in the final round. Cho has won twice on the KLPGA Tour this year.

A South Korean has won the past three LPGA events.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson shot a 70 to get into a five-way tie for 12th.

Among other notables, world No. 1 Lydia Ko struggled to a 75 with three birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey. Chun In-gee, the highest-ranked Korean at No. 3, shot an even 72 with four birdies and four bogeys.

Pak Se-ri, a World Golf Hall of Famer playing in her final tournament here, shot an eight-over 80, tied with two others for the day's worst score. She promptly withdrew from the event, completing her trailblazing LPGA career that began in 1998.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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