Rain showers mixed with clouds and sunshine made for an added challenge during round one of the Evian Championship, where Sung Hyun Park and In Gee Chun topped the leaderboard with bogey-free rounds of eight-under par, 63. They hold a one-stroke lead ahead of Olympic bronze medalist Shanshan Feng and rookie Annie Park.
Sung Hyun Park, a non-member on the LPGA Tour, is making her seventh start on Tour this week and plays some of her best golf in major championships, having held the lead earlier this summer during the U.S. Women’s Open where she ultimately finished T-3 for the week. She has finished outside the top-13 just once in her six appearances on Tour.
This week Chun is making her third start in this event where she hasn’t had much success in the past, with one missed cut and one T-65 finish. But the world No.7 got off to a much better start this time around, saying after her round that she felt more comfortable on Thursday thanks to a friendly grouping.
‘Before the round I felt really nervous today, and it was windy, and there was a thunderstorm this morning, so I tried more focus on my game,’ Chun said. ‘I could see the putting lines very well, and I was so good rolling the ball on those lines. And then I played with Ariya. I’m always happy to play with Ariya because she’s so nice, and I played with Julia today. She’s so sweet. Thanks to them for making me feel comfortable.’
Chun hit every fairway on Thursday en route to her lowest round since May’s Kingsmill Championship. The rookie has come close to winning throughout the season, posting nine top-10’s, six of which were top-3 finishes. The Korean earned membership for this season by winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 2015 as a non-member.
Chun currently tops the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year standings, more than 700 points ahead of Annie Park who sits at No.6 in the rankings. But Annie Park hung right in there with Chun on Thursday, posting a bogey-free, seven-under par, 64 to sit one-back of the lead for the first time in a major championship.
Annie Park told LPGA.com after her round that she changed her clubs five days before arriving in Evian. Annie Park said she decided to make the switch from PING’s i-IRONS to i-BLADES after missing the cut in her last three starts. But making a quick adjustment is nothing new for the USC standout, who says she has regularly swapped out putters throughout the season. The move paid off on Thursday with Annie Park carding her lowest round in a major in 2016.
‘Maybe changing the irons and knowing my yardages was probably a huge key for me. I mean, I had some pretty good putts out there. I had some good strokes,’ Annie Park said about her success on Thursday. ‘It feels great. I love it. I mean, I didn’t know my yardages coming in so I had to figure that out in the practice rounds. Good thing I figured that out with my rep, and then it was a good — yeah, it is good.’
Annie Park earned her way onto the LPGA Tour via the Symetra Tour where she topped the Volvik Race For the Card money list with three wins in 2015.