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S. Koreans in early contention at LPGA season's final major

Aug. 11, 2023 - 09:23 By Yonhap
Amy Yang of South Korea tees off on the seventh hole during the first round of the AIG Women's Open at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England, on Thursday. (AP-Yonhap)

A pair of South Korean players find themselves in early contention at the final major tournament of the 2023 LPGA season.

Lee Jeong-eun and Amy Yang were tied for second place after the first round of the AIG Women's Open in Surrey, England, on Thursday. Both players shot a three-under 69 at Walton Heath Golf Club to sit one stroke behind the sole leader, Ally Ewing of the United States.

South Korea has not had a major winner this year and has had just one since the start of the 2021 season.

That lone major champion in that stretch is Chun In-gee, who won the KPMG Women's PGA Championship last year. Chun, who celebrated her 29th birthday Thursday, shot a two-under 70 to tie for seventh place, joined by fellow South Korean Kim Hyo-joo.

Lee, who played in the morning, had four birdies and one bogey, all of them coming on the back nine after she parred all nine holes on the front nine. She said she tried to play it safe for all 18 holes but missed a few birdie opportunities on the front nine.

"On the back nine, I focused on putting speed and made a few putts," she said. "I'm really happy with the back nine. I am teeing off in the afternoon tomorrow, and I don't know what the weather will be like. I want to focus on one area of my game, the way I did today."

Yang, whose Korean first name is Hee-young, had a far more adventurous day, with five birdies and one eagle against two bogeys and one double bogey.

"There were a lot of ups and downs today," Yang conceded. "But I made a few long putts for birdies that I didn't expect to make, and so I was able to ride that momentum. I was very excited about this event and all I try to do is just get out there and enjoy being out there."

Yang, 34, said she has learned how to accept her emotions on the course instead of trying to control everything inside.

"I don't think (my) mind can be controllable. It's just, 'Accept what I feel and what I think and just be (at) ease with it,'" Yang said. "I know I'm like sitting (near the) top of the leaderboard right now, but we have another 54 holes left. That's a lot of golf. So what I'm going to do is just play each shot, each hole."

Chun, who had three birdies and one bogey, said the key to playing at Walton Heath is to stay on the fairways.

"I played a few second shots from the rough today. I think the important point on this course is to avoid going to places where the ball isn't supposed to go," Chun said. "In practice rounds, I found it difficult to hit shots after missing the fairways. So I focused on putting my tee shots on fairways today." (Yonhap)