ON THE LINKS Thursday’s professional golf results
LPGA KEB HANA BANK CHAMPIONSHIP
INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA
Sung Hyun Park birdied her last two holes for a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead in the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship as the South Korean bolstered her bid to win LPGA rookie of the year and player of the year. Park was tied for the first-round lead with Min-Sun Kim and Minjee Lee. Cristie Kerr, coming off a victory last week in France, was among those at 67. Park, who won the U.S. Women’s Open this year for her first major and is No. 2 in the world, was playing Thursday in the featured group at Sky 72 Golf & Resort comprising the top three players in the world ranking. The top-ranked So Yeon Ryu opened with a 72, while Lexi Thompson had a 69. The 24-year-old Park won six times last year on the Korean LPGA. In her first season on the American tour, she already has won the U.S. Women’s Open and the Canadian Women’s Open. She leads the LPGA money list and is No. 3 on the points list of player of the year behind Ryu and Thompson. Even on a cool, overcast day, Park played before a large gallery and fed off the energy. Lydia Ko was in the large group at 68.
Defending champion and home favorite Francesco Molinari was among six players who shared a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Italian Open. Jamie Donaldson, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Eddie Pepperell, Matt Wallace and Alexander Bjork also shot 7-under 64s Thursday at the Golf Club Milano, next to Monza’s Formula One circuit. George Coetzee and An Byeong-hun were both one stroke back in the Rolex Series event, which has an increased purse of $7 million this year as part of the buildup to the 2022 Ryder Cup outside Rome.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Justin Thomas made a rocky start in his bid to win a third successive CIMB Classic when he managed only a 2-under-par 70 to sit six strokes behind leader Cameron Smith on Thursday. Thomas has thrived under sweltering conditions in Kuala Lumpur in the last two editions to rank No. 4 in the world, but stuttered in his final nine holes after erring with two bogeys. Smith, an Australian, posted a blemish-free round of eight birdies, including five on the front nine for a 64.