Johns Creek, Georgia – Lizette Salas shot a 5-under-par 67 to take sole possession of the lead after the opening round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, on Thursday.
England’s Charley Hull was one shot back at 4 under, while a seven-way tie for third at 3 under included Austin Ernst, Jessica Korda, Yealimi Noh, Jeongeun Lee6, Alena Sharp, Xiyu Lin and Dani Holmqvist.
Yuka Saso, who won the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this month in San Francisco, shot a 1-over 73 and is tied for 39th place.
Salas, a Los Angeles-area native who attended the University of Southern California, is trying to end a long victory drought. The 31-year-old has won just once on the LPGA Tour, running away with a four-stroke victory at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“I believe that I could play well in these big events and contend,” said Salas, who admitted to going through mental-health issues while playing less golf during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. “I think that’s more so the shift in everything, that self-confidence, and I’m not afraid to be out here anymore. It’s fun.”
Her best result in a major was her second-place finish in the 2019 Women’s British Open, with her best finish at a Women’s PGA Championship a tie for fifth place, also in 2019.
Salas had a bogey-free first round, collecting three birdies while playing the back nine first, then adding two more birdies on the front nine. She said the layout of the Atlanta Athletic Club course suits her game.
“I think right now I’m so visual, and I’m really confident in my pre-shot routine and knowing my ball flight and how to capitalize on these holes,” Salas said. “So staying committed to each shot, and even when it’s not as pure as I want it to (be), I’m missing in the right spots, and I’m able to get up and down for par.”
Hull’s opening round was far more erratic. She was 1 under after playing the back nine first. Her second bogey of the day came amid a run of three birdies in four holes on the front nine.
“I can’t actually remember much of my round today. I just felt quite focused,” Hull said. “I wasn’t even sure of my score until I looked at a leaderboard. The key one for me was probably my par save on the last.”
Defending Women’s PGA champion Kim Sei-young a struggled in the first round, shooting a 4-over 76 that left her tied for 93rd place.
Patty Tavatanakit of Thailand, who won the first major of the year at the ANA Inspiration, is in contention with a 2-under 70 and in a 13-way tie for 10th place. Her solid round came after she cracked her driver on the 10th hole and started using her 3-wood off the tee.
“I still hit it like 260 (yards) off the tee with my 3-wood, which is OK,” Tavatanakit said. “I feel like I don’t really have to play this course with a driver. If I have it, great, I have a couple more short irons in. But if anything, the course suits my game a lot.”
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