WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Mi Hyun Kim was trying to figure out
the speed of the practice green Thursday when she glanced at the
scoreboard early in the first round.
Fresh off a victory last week, Kim saw evidence that the River
Course at Kingsmill was there for the taking Thursday in the first
round of the Michelob Ultra Open.
So Kim, and many others, took and took some more from the
surprisingly receptive 6,306-yard layout. Of the 144 players, 69
shot par or better.
Sarah Lee tied the course record with an 8-under 63, and Kim was
one back after a bogey-free 64 in wind-free conditions and with
greens that were softer than usual.
"Easier than before," Kim said.
And she's one of only two players -- 2005 winner Cristie Kerr is
the other -- to finish in the top 10 four straight times at
Laura Davies and Birdie Kim shot 65s in the afternoon, when some
wind kicked up on the course along the James River, but the assault
on par lessened only slightly.
Lee, still seeking her first victory in her 124th tour start,
had nine birdies -- including five in a row on the front nine. The
run included a winding, downhill 36-foot putt, and the round evoked
memories for her of 2004, when she opened with a career-best 60 at
Tuscon, Ariz., and finished second, also her best.
"I have three more rounds, so I have to be steady and
(confident)," she said.
Mi Hyun Kim, who beat Hall of Famer Juli Inkster in a playoff
Sunday in the SemGroup Championship in Oklahoma, started her round
hoping to shoot 4 under, but found herself adjusting expectations
"After nine holes, already 3 under, and after 10 holes, 4
under," she said. "OK, I make one more. And then after, one more,
and I'm like, OK, try one more."
She finished with seven birdies and no bogeys.
The leaders had plenty of company in their aggressive approach.
Davies was bogey-free and said barely making the cut here last
year sparked her emergence from a long funk. She's 10th on this
year's money list after seven events.
"I had to hole a 3-footer on No. 9 to make the cut," she
recalled of last year, when she tied for 66th, then won the money
title on the Ladies European Tour.
"Miss that, and who knows where I would be now? Probably in a
Instead, she started her day knowing there were plenty of low
numbers of the board, including Lee's 8 under, and knowing she had
to follow suit to give herself a chance.
"In a way, it helps you because you just figure, well, no point
worrying about getting off to a steady start," she said. "You've
got to come out flying."
Siew-Ai Lim, Suzann Pettersen and Brittany Lincicome shot 66s in
the morning to be three off the pace, and all four former champions
came in under par, too.
"There was no wind, the temperatures were perfect and the
course is in terrific shape," said Grace Park, who won the first
women's event here in 2003. She shot 67, one of a group of six that
also featured Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis and Carin Koch.
For Lim, the round was easily her best of the year, and started
with nine pars in a row. That may have been when she was still
recovering from an 11-hour drive from Birmingham, Ala., made
Wednesday when she got into the field as an alternate.
Confident and comfortable after a long practice session Tuesday,
it took Lim the first nine holes to get the speed of the greens
down, and then her practice paid off.
"The back nine, it just kind of fell together," she said.
Defending champion Karrie Webb was in a group of 11 at 68. She
won wire-to-wire last year, winning by seven, and doesn't think the
blistering scoring will continue.
"I don't think those scores will hold up all week," she said.
"Conditions were good today. The greens were softer than the past
and there wasn't any wind in the morning."
The 46-year-old Inkster, bidding to become the oldest winner on
the LPGA Tour, also shot a 68. Her round included the lone ace of
the day -- on the 142-yard 13th with an 8-iron.