By Kyle Galdeira
Nelly Korda compiled an impeccable, bogey-free round of 63, and leads the pack at the LOTTE Championship Presented by Hershey with a 9-under par performance thanks to nine birdies at a sun-soaked Ko Olina Golf Club Wednesday in ‘Ewa, O‘ahu.
The third-year pro, who claimed victory earlier this year at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, already has five top-10 finishes to her credit in 2019. Korda hit 11 of 14 fairways with an average drive distance of 283 yards and landed on 16-of-18 greens in regulation.
Korda is joined near the top of the leaderboard by Eun-Hee Ji (-8), defending tournament champion Brooke Henderson and Hyejin Choi (-7), So Yeon Ryu and Hannah Green (-6).
When asked what worked well on Wednesday, Korda said: “Everything really. I mean, I made some good putts. I had a really solid front nine, shot 6-under. When I got an opportunity, I took it.”
Golfers dealt with steady breezes that fueled low scores throughout the leaderboard and managed hot, humid conditions that persisted throughout the day.
Local professional Michelle Wie struggled in her homecoming appearance and carded an opening-round mark of 77, which puts her in a tie for 139th place at 5-over. The LPGA tour veteran and Punahou product, who won the tourney in 2014, finished tied for 11th place with an overall mark of 285 (3-under) last year at the LOTTE Championship.
“Feels great to play in front of the home crowd,” said Wie, who mentioned that she played the round with a sore hand. “No matter how you play, you just feel the support; see all the familiar faces; it feels really great to be back. I’m really grateful that everyone came out and watched me play, and I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Korda and her fellow competitors in the 144-woman field are vying for the $300,000 championship prize as part of the event’s $2 million purse.
(Photos by Andrew Lee / Hawaii Media Source)