TULSA, Oklahoma — South Korea’s Hee Young Park seized the first-round lead the LPGA SemGroup Championship on Thursday as world No.1 Lorena Ochoa was blown off course by difficult windy conditions. Only four players managed sub-par rounds, and Ochoa was not one of them.
Park managed a two-under-par 69 for a one-shot lead over defending champion Mi Hyun Kim, Ji Young Oh and Paul Creamer, who all notched 70s. Kim started defense of her title with a pair of bogeys on her front nine but had three birdies coming in. “This course is tough, especially with the wind today,” Kim said. “I just need to be a little bit smart. You know, some holes I need to realize a par is OK.” Having won her last four events, Ochoa returned to action at the 1.8 million tournament this week after a week of rest at home in Mexico. Ochoa is looking to tie the LPGA Tour mark for consecutive wins in tournaments played held by Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam. Ochoa had been firing on all cylinders coming into this event. Of the first 23 rounds Ochoa played this year, 19 of them were in the 60s. She couldn’t add to that total Thursday but was still close enough to the leaders after a two-over 73 that included an eagle, a birdie and five bogeys. “For sure it was a very tough day,” Ochoa said. “I think I still managed to finish with a good score. It was really tough, especially picking the right club with the distance control. “I am OK, this is just a start and we have three days to go. I think it was important to stay close to the leaders. I looked at the scoreboard and I think I’m tied for 15th. That’s fine. Now it’s time to catch up.” Park opened with back-to-back birdies at one and two and added another at the seventh – all from within seven feet. She gave a shot back with a bogey at 16. “My start was very nice,” Park said. “I was practicing on the driving range with lower shots. Keeping the ball lower, like punch shots with the driver, it helped me keep the score lower.” Creamer started her round at the 10th and was at the turn. She got as low as three-under after birdies at two, five and six, but closed with two bogeys. “Going out there I said even-par. If I shot even-par I would be in a good spot and I finished at 1-under,” Creamer said. “It’s difficult out there. Unfortunately the two bogeys on the last two holes, I think that’s just mentally not being in it as much as I was earlier on.”