Sei Young Kim shoots 66 to grab early Founders Cup lead

Sei Young Kim of South Korea is the first-round leader at the Cognizant Founders Cup after shooting a bogey-free, 6-under 66 on Thursday at Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, N.J.

Kim, 30, posted four straight birdies just before parring the final three holes to take a one-stroke lead into Friday’s second round. The 2016 tournament winner birdied the par-5 12th, par-4 13th, par-5 14th and par-3 15th.

“Learned a lot from the last year, because this week (you) really need the good tee shot,” Kim said. “If you (have a) good tee shot, you have a good advantage on par-5s.”

Kim has 12 LPGA Tour titles, but the last two came in 2020.

South Korean rookie Hae Ran Ryu posted eight birdies and three bogeys to finish at 67.

“I was a little bit worried when I started because the fairway is really narrow here,” Ryu said. “But I think I changed my mind (about the course).”

Nine players are tied for third at 68, including defending champion Minjee Lee of Australia, Jin Young Ko of South Korea and Stacy Lewis. Cheyenne Knight, Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul, Taiwan’s Peiyun Chien, Canada’s Maddie Szeryk and South Korea’s Hye-Jin Choi are also at 68.

Lee started her round on the back nine, making three birdies and three bogeys, before playing her final nine at 4 under.

Ko, who won the event in 2019 and 2021, endured an uneven stretch from No. 16 to No. 7 with a double bogey, a bogey and seven birdies.

“Little tough to focus my game because physically (I’m) a little bit tired,” said Ko, who is playing for the fourth straight week. “Just less practice before the tee off and less putting, and just eat a little more and sleep a little more. Just save my energy before the tee off.”

Lexi Thompson opened with a 70, while world No. 1 Nelly Korda and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko each shot 72.

–Field Level Media

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