OLYMPIA FIELDS, Illinois, June 29 (Reuters) - Chella Choi birdied four of the final six holes to take the clubhouse lead as Michelle Wie and Brooke Henderson both challenged during the first round at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Thursday.
Choi demonstrated how the Olympia Fields course can be tamed, posting a five-under-par 66 as the second women’s major of the year got off to a low-scoring start in the far-flung southern suburbs of Chicago.
With half the field back in the clubhouse, the South Korean headed American Brittany Altomare by one stroke, with Wie and defending champion Henderson among a group two behind.
“I putted well today so I made a lot of birdies. Of course (it is) very exciting (to lead), because this is big tournament, so I wanted to play well and today played so well,” Choi, a one-time LPGA winner, said.
She was particularly pleased with her score after only one practice round, leaning heavily on her father-caddie Ji for advice. “I played just 18 holes before tournament, so I don’t remember every hole,” she said. “But I ask my dad, every hole, every shot and my shot was very good today.”
Not that her father’s advice was perfect.
“My father missed a couple of shots today but it just happens because wind is every time switch, so very difficult for the caddie,” she said.
Henderson also finished strongly with three late birdies, before downplaying her chances -- publicly at least -- of defending the title she won after a playoff with Lydia Ko last year.
“Of course, I would love to do it again but it’s a different golf course and a different year,” she said. “Everything’s different but I gave myself a great round today.”
Former child prodigy Wie continued her recent resurgence, a fine approach to the ninth hole leading to a birdie, which got her back to even par and set her up for a strong back nine.
“Yeah, 2016 was a miserable year,” said the 27-year-old from Hawaii, who has finished in the top four in her past three starts.
“I was sick of playing bad golf, sick of being down and started this year with a really good sense of determination and motivation.”
Wie also has adopted a most unusual approach to putting, using several different grips, seemingly on a whim.
So how many grips does she use?
“I don’t know,” she said. “Don’t try to figure it out. I‘m like ‘this feels right’ and I just go with it.” (Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Ian Chadband)