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(LEAD) Former major champion Kim Hyo-joo in early contention at Women's PGA Championship

Sports 11:29 June 21, 2019

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CHASKA, United States, June 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Kim Hyo-joo got into early contention for her second career LPGA major title at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in Chaska, Minnesota, on Thursday.

Kim fired a three-under 69 at Hazeltine National Golf Club to sit one stroke behind the leader Hannah Green.

Kim's first and only major title came at the 2014 Evian Championship. The three-time LPGA winner is chasing her first victory since January 2016.

"My ball-striking has been shaky since then," Kim said. "It'd be nice to win again, but my goal every round is to have fewer than 30 putts and hit more than 12 greens."

In this Getty Images photo, Kim Hyo-joo of South Korea tees off at the third hole during the first round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, on June 20, 2019. (Yonhap)

Kim teed off at 8:24 a.m. and finished her round before rain started coming down. She said the wind didn't blow all that hard during her round and she wanted to finish her day before the weather got worse.

The course plays at 6,831 yards, the longest in the tournament history, and with rain in the forecast the rest of the week, it won't play any shorter.

"This is such a long course that I wanted to shoot for par on every hole," she said. "I thought I should try to pick up an odd birdie here and there on par 5s."

Mission accomplished: Kim birdied three of the par-5 holes, the second, seventh and 15th. Her only other birdie came at the par-4 ninth, and her lone bogey was at the par-4 10th.

After posting just one top-10 finish last year in 22 tournaments last year, Kim may be turning it around this year. She already has four top 10s in seven starts.

Her only missed cut came earlier this month at the U.S. Women's Open, and Kim chalked it up to simply a bad week.

"This week, both my short game and my ball-striking are sharp," she said. "I feel much better now physically."

Mel Reid is tied with Kim at three-under. Three other South Koreans -- Kim In-kyung, Park Sung-hyun and Amy Yang -- are among six players tied at two-under. Park is the defending champion.

Park, whose day featured four birdies and one double bogey, said she was pleased with her putting and short game.

"It was a little tiring with the rain, but I think my putting worked really well today, and my chip shots around the green as well," Park said. "It definitely is a long course, but I believe that players who are strong in their long game have an advantage. I am confident that I'll do well."

Park said she "didn't really feel a lot of pressure" as the defending champion.

"It was just the first round, and everyone is probably missing shots so I didn't feel that much pressure."

In this Associated Press photo, Park Sung-hyun of South Korea walks on the ninth green during the first round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, on June 20, 2019. (Yonhap)


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