ROGERS, Ark. (AP) – A Lim Kim, Katherine Kirk and Eun-HI Ji each shot 8-under 63 for a one-shot lead over Sarah Burnham after the first round of the Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship on Friday.
Five others – Nasa Hataoka, Lindsey Weaver, Pajaree Anannarukarn, Aditi Ashok, and Klara Spilkova – were another hit back after 6 under 65 at the Pinnacle Country Club.
South Korean Kim and Burnham have made career-low rounds, while Ji, the 2009 US Women’s Open Champion, was the best fit for her career.
Kim, the 2020 US Women’s Open winner, didn’t make her first birdie until the seventh hole, and that started a run of five straight from numbers 7 through 11. She added another birdie on the 16th and underlined her round with an eagle on the 18th par 5.
Australia’s Kirk and Ji each recorded eight birdies and Burnham had seven, all with bogey-free rounds.
“It was fun,” said Kirk, three-time LPGA Tour winner. “I’ve got off to a good start and it’s the kind of golf course where you just have to hold down the pedal. Fortunately, I managed to do that and collapsed four birdies on each side. “
Kirk is one of three golfers to have played in all 15 editions of the tournament, along with Brittany Lang and hometown favorite Stacy Lewis, the 2014 champion who played collegially in Arkansas in nearby Fayetteville.
Lewis lurks four shots back after an opening 67.
Lim is playing the event for the first time. She had no problem with the near-perfect weather and goal conditions.
“Thick grass and clear greens, I love it,” said Lim.
Burnham landed at number 132 on the CME scoreboard and has taken strong rankings in the past four weeks to keep their LPGA card.
“I just wanted to get off to a good start today,” said Burnham. “I just told myself to just swing and play smart and we’ll see what happens. It worked and I did a lot of putts. This is one of my favorite weeks touring. The place is so beautiful with the small streams all over the place and just super beautiful greens. “
Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, two-time major winner and two-time winner this year, is among six players who are three strokes behind the lead after a 66 opening.
Some of the tournament’s biggest names are among a group of 13 4 under par golfers including Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Brooke Henderson and Minjee Lee. Amateur Brooke Matthews, a senior citizen in Arkansas, was also 4 under.
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