Open champion Lee6 back on top at Shoprite LPGA

New York (AFP) –


Newly crowned US Women's Open champion Lee6 Jeong-eun blazed into a share of the lead at the Shoprite LPGA Classic on Friday, reproducing the form which secured her maiden major to shoot an eight-under-par 63.

The weary South Korean rookie, who has spent this week fielding calls of congratulations after her Open triumph in Charleston on Sunday, surged to the top of the leaderboard alongside Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum.

A wild opening round at the Seaview Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey saw Lee6 notch an eagle and nine birdies. Three bogeys prevented her from going even lower.

Lee6 said she was still riding the momentum which carried her to the US Women's Open last week.

"I did pretty good in last week's tournament, and so I feel pretty confident," she said. "Now I feel like I want to play well in the rest of the tournaments.

"I felt really pretty relaxed on the course. I just played it just like how I played it last week."

The highlight of Lee's round was a sensational eagle three at the par five third hole, her 12th hole of the day, which took her to six under. Back-to-back birdies on the closing two holes handed her a share of the lead.

Pornanong meanwhile was at the top of the leaderboard after producing an equally dramatic finale, picking up three shots in the final two holes with a birdie followed by an eagle on the last.

"Putting was so good today," Pornanong said. "My short game was very, very good," added the 29-year-old, who like Lee6, said she had been infused with confidence following a solid showing at the US Women's Open, where she finished 16th.

"I feel like I get more confident after last week," she said. "I tried to be like playing my game and not put pressure on myself, so it makes me more relaxed on the course."

A low-scoring opening day of the three-round event left three women a shot off the lead, with Kristen Gillman, Lexi Thompson and Chinese rookie He Muni all posting seven-under-par 64s.

Teenager He, who was born in Chengdu before moving to Vancouver and then San Diego at an early age, produced a flawless round with seven birdies and 11 pars en route to the lowest score of her debut season.

The 19-year-old missed the cut in six of the eight previous tournaments she has played this year, and said a more relaxed approach on Friday had led to her low round.

"Being a rookie is tough, and I think having missed my first few cuts, it really took a toll on my confidence," she said.

"This week my new strategy was not to really think about it and just play my own game without really overthinking or over-analysing it too much."