Women's British Open victor Sophia Popov left top-ranked playing partner Jin Young Ko and everyone else behind Thursday in the Pelican Womens Championship.
Kim, brimming with confidence after her maiden major triumph at the Women's PGA Championship last month, was in the groove from the first tee, bagging back-to-back birdies on the opening two holes.
Popov stunned the golf world three months ago by capturing the British Women's Open championship at Royal Troon in Scotland. You know, the shots are there. I always had them I felt like. I think mentally Ive never felt as freed up as I do now. I dont know if thats from winning the tournament or just overall just having more fun out here. She parred Nos. 3 and 4 then caught fire on number five before ending her front nine with another birdie on the par-three ninth. Had a few more realistic looks for birdie.
"I don't feel as stressed about things since I got that win under my belt", McDonald said. "The greens firmed a lot and it was hard to get it close". Thats what I did.
"I grinded it out and I made a lot of par putts coming in, so I'm pretty happy with my score", the German said.
Ko, the No. 1 player in the world for the last 68 weeks, has been home in South Korea since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament brings the LPGA back to the Tampa area for the first time since the 1989 St. Petersburg Women's Open. American Ally McDonald is second at nine-under and Northern Ireland's Stephanie Meadow is third at eight-under, after both shooting 68.
Honestly, my ball striking wasnt that great, McDonald said. "For a little bit, I kind of lost my touch with the putter".
She skipped her title defence at the pandemic-delayed ANA Inspiration in September, and is returning to the LPGA tour for the first time in nearly a year.
Canadians Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp and Australia's Minjee Lee topped the group at 68. You got to be careful out there.
Local favorite Brittany Lincicome and Jessica Korda shot 69.
"She made a hole-in-one, we nearly one-shot lead", Kim said.
Hit a full 9-iron and it was kind of flagged right off the face, Thompson said. "That's kind of my strategy, because I wasn't looking at the hole, but then it went in". He put his hands up.
That saw her slip from third spot to a three-way tie for sixth and threatened to hamper her progress, but she responded in strong fashion, with a birdie at the next hole, as well as at 17 and 18, adding to her three earlier in the round.
McDonald had put the pressure on the world No 2 when she bounced back from a double-bogey at the eighth with a flawless tee shot to the short 12th, where her punched pitching-wedge pitched 15 feet short of the pin, took the left-to-right break and rolled gently into the cup for an ace.