Feng Fashions First-Round 66 to Lead By One July 13, 2017 | BEDMINSTER, N.J. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Shanshan Feng's bogey-free 66 early Thursday held up to give her the overnight lead. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Women's Open Home

As Lydia Ko stepped off the interview stage after her opening round of the 72nd U.S. Women’s Open on Thursday, she made a sweeping bow to her friend and fellow competitor, Shanshan Feng, who was to follow her on the dais.

Though meant as a lighthearted gesture between friends, the bow was also fully deserved. Feng’s round of 6-under-par 66 did more than lead the way in her morning marquee grouping with fellow 2016 Olympic women’s golf medalists Ko (4-under 68) and Inbee Park (5-over 77). Feng led all players through the end of play on Thursday, which was suspended for 2 hours, 5 minutes, and halted for the evening at 8:33 p.m. EDT due to darkness with 39 players left to complete Round 1 on Friday morning.

In 10 previous Women’s Opens covering 32 rounds, Feng had never broken 70. But she had a different attitude on Thursday at Trump National Golf Club as she started her 11th championship.

“I’ve been a very consistent player throughout my whole career and I’ve made many, many top 10s, but I had only won four times on tour,” said Feng, 27. “I want to win more. From the Olympics to now, I’ve already got three more wins in the hand. I’m trying to go for the wins when I have a chance. I play more aggressively now because I think I wasn’t aggressive enough.”

Conditions at 6,668-yard, par-72 Trump National Golf Club were conducive to aggressive play on Thursday, thanks to rain that softened the course earlier this week. Thunderstorms stopped play at 4:29 p.m., and players returned to the course just after 6:30 p.m. in a soft drizzle. 

Feng, Ko and two-time Women’s Open champion Park – who won gold in Rio to Ko’s silver and Feng’s bronze – started their round on No. 10 Thursday morning, and Feng made two runs of three birdies, on Nos. 11-13 and Nos. 17-18 and 1. She parred in from there, and Ko briefly matched her at 6 under before falling back with a pair of late bogeys.

“Shanshan is one of the most consistent players on Tour,” said Ko, 20, who surrendered the No. 1 world ranking earlier this year after 85 weeks on top. “When she was making birdies, I tried to feed off that and when somebody in your group is playing good, I think it just kind of sets a tone for the day.”

Amy Yang, of the Republic of Korea, shot a 5-under 67 and was alone in second place. Yang has been a contender in five of the past seven Women’s Opens, with two runner-up finishes (2012 and 2015), ties for third and fifth and a solo fourth place. Like Feng, she took advantage of the incoming nine with five birdies, finishing one stroke off her best-ever round in the championship, a 66 in Round 2 in 2015 at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club.

“I started a little slow,” said Yang, 27, who has seven victories worldwide as a professional. “I wasn’t that comfortable over the ball, and I had trouble getting the putting speed. Then I picked it up and just started making some putts.”

2011 champion So Yeon Ryu, 27, of Korea, who took over the No. 1 ranking last month, joined Ko at 4-under 68, and Carlota Ciganda, of Spain, was also at 4 under with one hole left to play.

Cristie Kerr, the 2007 champion, led a group of eight players at 3 under par at day’s end, six of whom had completed play. Among the group were amateurs Hye-Jin Choi, 17, who earned the lone qualifying berth in the Korea qualifier in May, and Rachel Heck, 15, of Memphis, Tenn., who had five holes remaining when darkness fell. Heck is the youngest player in the field of 156.

2015 champion In Gee Chun led a group of 11 players who completed their rounds at 2-under-par 70.

Defending champion Brittany Lang, 31, of McKinney, Texas, had a rollercoaster round of 72 that included four birdies and four bogeys. Amateur Eun Jeong Seong, 17, of Korea, who in 2016 became the first player to win both the U.S. Girls’ Junior and the U.S. Women’s Amateur in the same year, had a rocky start in a round of 4-over 76, playing with Lang and Chun.

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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