In Gee Chun ties the women’s main record with 5 shots after the first round of the PGA Women’s Championship

BETHESDA, MD – Gee Chun alone tops the Women’s PGA Championship leaderboard after an exciting start.

In fact, no player has ever progressed more after 18 holes in a women’s major.

Chun reached 8-under 64 on Thursday to gain a 5-hit advantage after the first round in Congress. While most of the field ran during the day on the wet blue track, Chun cut seven out of eight holes in one stint. She was seven shots ahead when she finished her round and ended up setting a record for the most 18-hole lead in a major championship.

Mickey Wright led this tournament by five after the first round in 1961.

“I don’t know what golf course NJ is on,” defending champion Nelly Korda said after finishing her 71st turn.

Chun was playing the same track as everyone else, once she underwent a full restoration last year. Heavy rain fell in the area throughout the night and rain increased during play Thursday morning. That softened the track but also made Congress length—6,809 yards in the first round—a more factor.

No big deal for Chun, the two-time main winner.

“The track, after a lot of rain, seems longer,” said the 27-year-old from South Korea. “At the same time, the greens were softer. So I guess it was just a balance.”

Although there was a lot of golf to play, Chun’s big lead definitely caught the eye.

“I can’t stop staring at the leaderboard,” Justin Thomas chirp. “Leading by 7 halfway up the first day!!!!”

Pornanong Phatlum and Hye-Jin Choi shot off stealth-free rounds from 69 to trim Chun’s lead to 5, but that was still a big enough advantage to hook Wright’s mark. The 1961 championship was one of Wright’s four record victories in the event. Chun tries to achieve it first.

Chun set a major tournament record—for men or women—when she won the Evian Championship in 2016 at age 21 under. She also won the US Women’s Open the previous year.

Paula Reto and Jennifer Chang were at 2 under. Korda and co-playing partner Brooke Henderson were part of a group of nine players in 1 Under. One example of how difficult the course is: Korda hit a driver, hybrid and 7 woods while leveling on the 9th hole 587 yards.

“This is the longest 5-time play rate ever,” she said. “I was happy to play in the lead nine up.”

Chun, who started on her back with nine, birds number 15, 16, 17 and 18. After bogey in first place, she bounced back with three more birds in a row.

Chun hit all 14 fairways and said she spent the time discussing non-golf topics with caddies Dean Hurden.

“We’re talking about kiwis because I like to eat kiwis on the course,” she said. “It’s really hard to find a good kiwi from the supermarket. Fortunately, we have a good Korean supermarket near here, so I got a good golden kiwi from there.”

If Chun continues to play this way, she may find it easy to relax on the track, but she will have a talented group of competitors chasing after her. Jennifer Kupshaw, who won her first major in a chevron earlier this year, was number one. Phatlum’s impressive run included an ace per second at 199 yards.

Enppi Park, Lydia Koo and world number one Jin Young Koo all had 72 points ahead of US Women’s Open champion Minji Lee.

In fact, if it weren’t for Chun, a lot of players might feel too close to the lead.

“I feel like I played really well,” Kupshaw said. “The course is really tough.” “I don’t really know how NJ is under 8 now. That’s definitely weird.”

Notes

Emma Tully (78) finished putting up a wedge after her racket was damaged during the tour. … Lizette Salas and Kristi Care 80 launched.

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