YANG MEI, Taiwan Inbee Park of South Korea shot a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead over local favorite and top-ranked Yani Tseng after the first round of the Taiwan Championship on Thursday.
Park, leading the race for LPGA Tour player of the year, had seven birdies at Sunrise Golf and Country Club.
Defending champion Tseng finished the day with six birdies offset by a bogey on the 10th hole.
The group of four tied for third on 68 included Nicole Castrale and Danielle Kang of the United States, Park Hee-young of South Korea and Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand.
Park finished in the top three for six straight tour events, including two wins, until her streak was broken in South Korea last week with a tie for 15th. She leads the tour money list.
She credited improved hitting skills and calm on the normally windy Sunrise course for her performance.
“We were expecting a lot of wind and I was prepared for it. But today it was really calm and a very nice day,” Park said.
“Last year I wasn't hitting the ball as solid as this year, and my ball-striking skills have improved.”
While Park is the hottest player on the LPGA Tour, Tseng, one of the island's few sports superstars, got most of the attention.
“I know everyone is talking about the pressure this week,” Tseng said. “When I see all the fans, I think that pressure is gone because I know it doesn't matter how I play, they're still going to be there to give me 100 percent support.”
The only blemish on her round, the bogey on No. 10, “made me a little mad out there,” she said.
Phatlum led the field of 78 early with birdies on her first four holes from the 10th.
Park eagled the sixth hole but bogeyed twice. Castrale, who hasn't enjoyed a top-10 finish since the U.S. Women's Open in July, birdied the 18th, as did Kang, who made up for two bogeys with six birdies.
Conway native Kristy McPherson, who is coming off surgery, was at 4-over for the first round.
SHANGHAI Jamie Donaldson of Wales set a course record 10-under 62 en route to a four-stroke lead after the opening round of the BMW Masters.
Donaldson produced two bogey-free rounds of 31 at Lake Malaren and needed only 24 putts to break the record of 63 set by Noh Seung-yul of South Korea last year.
“I just played great from the word go and it was one of those days where everything went for me,” Donaldson said. “The longest birdie putt I had all day was 20 feet at the 11th.
Sweden's Peter Hanson and Italy's Francesco Molinari shot 66s.
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy, the defending champion, had a 67 and blamed a headache on the air pollution over China's financial capital.
“We're not breathing in the cleanest air,” he said. “A good night's sleep tonight and I should be OK for tomorrow.”
Sweden's Peter Hanson and Italy's Francesco Molinari with 66s. Northern Irishman Michael Hoey and Europe Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal were another stroke back.
McIlroy was even all day with playing partner and Race to Dubai rival Justin Rose, until their last hole when McIlroy followed a 144-yard 9-iron shot onto the green with a 3-foot birdie putt. He finished one stroke better than Rose.
“It was a great way to finish. But then I prepared well for this week having worked all last week with my coach Michael (Bannon) out in the States, and it was definitely a whole lot better than out in Turkey,” McIlroy said, referring to the eight-man exhibition in which he failed to make the semifinals more than a week ago. “That was more like a holiday, and today I very much had my tournament face back.”
He hoped not to be bothered again by the headaches that affected him on the back nine.
Olazabal was delighted to record his best first-day score of 67 in four years.
“While the driver was the weakest link, the rest of the game was pretty sharp,” the Spaniard said. “I feel some freedom now the Ryder Cup is behind me and it's been a tough year-and-a-half, a lot of things on my mind, decisions to make, meetings to attend. So I'm really glad that it's over. Now it's fun time.”
The 51st-ranked Donaldson wants to end his 11th full season on the European Tour inside the top 50. If achieved, he'll play the two World Golf Championships in the U.S. next year and qualify for his first Masters. His only three U.S. tournaments were this year.
“So it would be a great Christmas present to know that I will be playing in the Masters next year,” he said. “It would be quite sensational but I need to stay in the present and just keep crossing each bridge as it comes.”
In July, Donaldson ended a title drought lasting 10 1/2 years and 255 tournaments in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush.
McKINNEY, Texas Tag Ridings, Justin Bolli, Cliff Kresge, Michael Putnam, Brad Fritsch and Justin Hicks shared the first-round lead in the Web.com Tour Championship, shooting 6-under 65 in windy conditions.
The top 60 on the money list qualified for the season-ending event at TPC Craig Ranch, and the final top 25 will earn 2013 PGA Tour cards. At 11th on the money list, Hicks is the only one of the six leaders to have wrapped up a tour card. Fritsch, from Canada, is 21st, Putnam 30th, Kresge 38th, Bolli 44th and Ridings 51st.
Ridings needs to win or finish alone in second to earn a PGA Tour card.
“There's a lot of opportunity for me to make some more time with my family,” Ridings said. “If I play well I don't have to go to work this fall and that's what I want. I want to be able to hang out with my new baby and my other two kids who need to see what daddy looks like. The last stretch of six or seven weeks was tough.”
Ridings withdrew after 54 holes two weeks ago in the Miccosukee Championship when his wife went into labor with their third child.
“She was five weeks early. She's not supposed to be here yet,” said Ridings about daughter Charli Elizabeth. “I guess she wanted to see the finish.”
Luke Guthrie and Philip Pettitt Jr. were a stroke back. Guthrie, the former Illinois player who has two victories since turning pro after the NCAA tournament, is second on the money list, and Pettitt is 36th.
The winner will receive $180,000 from the $1 million purse.
“You try to focus on the golf tournament, recognizing that this is a tournament and you're trying to win the money list or finishing 21st like I am now,” Fristch said. “If you freak out every time the guy in front of you makes a birdie, that's too much to think about and I'm way too tired to be thinking about that.
“Play good and the rest takes care of itself. If I was in a different spot and knew I had to finish first, second or third to be in the top 25, you might play a little different and you might think a little different. I know if I play solid, it will take care of itself.”