INTERNATIONAL GOLF NEWS - LPGA Hall of Famer Park In-bee launched her 2021 campaign in style Thursday, rolling in six birdies in a six-under 66 for the first-round lead at the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California.
Park, whose 20 LPGA victories include seven major titles, seized the solo lead with her last birdie of the day at the 17th, move a stroke ahead of fellow South Korean Kim Hyo-joo at Aviara north of San Diego.
"Really happy with the round today, especially I putted really good on these greens today, so I'm really happy with that," Park, a former world number one currently ranked fourth, said.
"I know it's going to be test of some patience this week with the putting green and obviously being my first week out I am probably a little bit rusty, so I'm just trying to get the tournament feeling going for the next three days.
"If the results are good, it's great. But if not, I'm just warming up."
In chilly, rainy conditions, Kim had set the early target at five-under par 67.
She had eight birdies in a round bookended by two of her three bogeys at the first and 18th.
"Today I also made a lot of mistakes that I shouldn't have made, and (Friday) I'm looking forward to not making as many mistakes and having a great round," Kim, ranked eighth in the world, said.
Kim is playing her first LPGA event since November of 2019. She won twice on the Korean LPGA in 2020.
She said her transition back to competition in the United States has been "a little bit frustrated and awkward ... just speaking English all of a sudden and a lot of it at one time.
"But definitely happy to be back playing and even happier that the first round went to my liking," she said.
Germany's Sophia Popov, Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow, England's Mel Reid and South Korean Chun In-gee were tied for third on 68.
It was a further stroke back to South Korea's Amy Yang and American Mina Harigae.
Defending champion Nasa Hataoka of Japan had a difficult day that included a triple-bogey seven at the 18th and five bogeys that left her on seven-over 79.