PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif. (AP) — Mi Hyang Lee shot a 6-under 65 in her first LPGA Tour event of the year for a one-stroke lead in the opening round of the DIO Implant LA Open on Thursday.
Lee, a South Korean who earned her spot in a Monday qualifier, hit all 18 greens in regulation, played bogey-free and closed with a birdie on the par-4 18th hole in challenging conditions at Palos Verdes. Players endured intermitted rain and hail with temperatures in the 40s.
Lee turned 30 on Thursday and called it “the best birthday round I’ve ever had.”
Lee, ranked 378th in the world, has two career LPGA Tour victories, the more recent at the Ladies Scottish Open in 2017. She was runner-up at the ANA Inspiration, a major, in 2019 to reach a career-best 31st in the ranking but has struggled the past three years. She’s coming off a tie for sixth in an Epson Tour event last week.
Megan Khang and Hyo Joo Kim — a close friend of Lee’s — each shot 66. Nasa Hataoka, Lucy Li and Maude-Aimee LeBlanc were another shot behind.
“You know, I’ve come pretty close here and there,” said Khang, winless in eight years on the LPGA Tour. “I tell myself the more I give myself chances and opportunities the easier — quote-unquote — easier it’s going to get in those situations and trying to get my foot through the door. … I know I’m capable of doing it and it’s just a matter of time.”
Second-ranked Nelly Korda and her sister, Jessica, were among the group at 3 under.
This is the fifth playing of the LA Open and the first at Palos Verdes, which hosted a different event, the Palos Verdes Championship, last year — won by Marina Alex, who shot a 1-over 72 on Thursday.