Lee ties the course record with 63, takes Michelob lead
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.
1. Lee (-8)
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 Kingsmill.
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 upward.
"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 mental home."
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.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press