Alison Lee opened with a 7-under par 65 to capture a three-shot lead in the first round of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship on Thursday in Incheon, South Korea.
Lee, the 44th-ranked golfer on tour who has three top-10 finishes in her last 10 starts, matched her best round of the year to enter Friday with a lead for only the second time (Pure-Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic).
"I gave myself a lot of chances at birdie. Putting was definitely one of my strengths today," Lee said. "It's definitely what helped me shoot 7-under. I made have a lot of good birdie putts. I think I only missed one or two putts inside 15 feet."
Defending champion Lexi Thompson posted an opening round 2-under par 70 to sit five strokes back of the lead. Thompson played in the final group alongside Se Ri Pak, who is playing in her final event on the LPGA Tour this week in Korea.
Players encircled the par-5 18th to acknowledge Pak, part of a day-long tribute that included fans and officials.
"I saw the gallery and all the people had scarves my name on it. A lot of them came out for me, and during the game they told me what a good job I was doing and good job I did," Pak said. "That's when it all really hit me that this was going to be my final round. I feel that the way they were supporting me was different kind of. Before they were supporting me as a competitor in this game. It felt kind of different. So I will have to say that during the game it was an emotional roller coaster for me."
Lee, in her second season on tour, said she has recovered from the partially torn labrum in her left shoulder. The injury contributed to five consecutive missed cuts in the spring.
"It definitely, it hurt a lot, a huge portion of my mental game. I was struggling a lot on the golf course not only because of my injury, but because I was scared," Lee said. "I was scared of the ball. I didn't know where it was going to go."
She had a firm grasp for direction on Thursday, going out at 4-under in a bogey-free front nine that included birdies on the first, third, seventh and ninth holes. Her lone bogey in the first round was a five on the par-4 11th.