(Reuters) – Japan’s Ayako Uehara scorched her way to a tournament-record tying nine-under-par 62 to seize a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Arkansas Championship on Friday.
Uehara made nine birdies in a bogey-free round to match the 18-hole scoring record set by Jane Park and Angela Park in 2008.
The 32-year-old was an unlikely candidate to match the record or even lead the tournament, with the Japanese player ranked 214th in the world and still searching for her first LPGA Tour victory.
However, she managed to forge two shots clear of Taiwan’s Candie Kung, who enjoyed a seven-under-par 64, and one further in front of a large group of players chasing at six-under.
“With (my) caddie and trainer, everybody is like a team and so everything is coming together, including the swing coach,” Uehara told reporters. Kung posted her low round of 2016 and appeared relaxed on a day that saw her make just one bogey.
“We kind of put it on cruise control without thinking a whole lot, because once you begin to wait for the group in front, you start thinking about stuff, which is not good,” Kung said.
“I was having a lot of fun and we had a good group of people that I like. We all played very fast, so I think that helps, too.”
A 13-player group sits three shots behind the leader at six-under, including Japan’s Ai Miyazato, South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon and American Morgan Pressel.
“Definitely, there’s not a whole lot of room for error in a three-day event. You’ve just got to come out tomorrow and try to get just as many, if not more birdie opportunities,” Pressel said.
World number one Lydia Ko kick-started her round with an eagle on the par-five seventh on the way to a five-under-par 66, alongside in-form Thai Ariya Jutanugarn and five others four shots off the pace.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O’Brien)