Jutanugarn, Smith, Lee share U.S. Women’s Open lead

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The sun shone brightly at rain-soaked Shoal Creek. So did Ariya Jutanugarn, Sarah Jane Smith and Jeongeun6 Lee.

Jutanugarn, Smith and Lee each shot a 5-under 67 Thursday to share the first-round lead at the U.S. Women’s Open, where the course held up better than some feared after heavy rains in recent days.

Thailand’s Jutanugarn spent hours in front before Smith and Lee caught her in the evening.

Jutanugarn is coming off a Kingsmill Championship win and kept up the momentum, including an eagle on No. 6. She said she started focusing more on each shot instead of worrying about the big picture.

“At Kingsmill, I started (saying) I’m not going to think about the outcome,” the eight-time LPGA Tour winner said. “I’m not going to think about winning the tournament.”

Jutanugarn and the Australian Smith each had an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys. The Korean Lee, meanwhile, had five birdies on a course that has been drenched in recent weeks, forcing the cancellation of Tuesday’s practice round and limiting course time on the eve of the tournament.

Danielle Kang, 2014 winner Michelle Wie, Korean Ji-Hyun Kim and Swedish amateur Linn Grant were 3 under. Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., was tied for 44th at 1-over 73 and Hamilton’s Alena Sharp was 3-over 75.

Smith and Lee have never won on the LPGA Tour.

Now, they find themselves in the unfamiliar position of holding a share of the lead at a major championship — and trying not to get caught up in it.

“It’s pretty early,” Smith said. “I think later on in the week it might be easier to get ahead of yourself. (Friday) morning I have got to make sure that it’s just a new day and not worry too much about where I am. Whether that’s possible, I don’t know. I would like to say that.”

Lee wasn’t getting carried away either. “Well, it’s just the first round, just started it,” she said.

There were doubts about the state of the picturesque course and whether USGA officials would have to play lift, clean and place for the first time at a championship thanks to nearly five inches of rain on the week.

So far, so good.

Jutanugarn said it was the only time she can remember as a pro when she wasn’t able to see the entire course before a tournament, having played only the first nine holes in practice. It wasn’t just the rain but her golf clubs arrived late.

She might as well have left the driver at home, so far.

“I hit 3-wood almost every hole,” Jutanugarn said. “I hit 2-iron maybe twice off the tee.”

Lee parred the first five holes before heating up. She arrived last Wednesday from Korea and played nine holes several times.

“My main strategy today was not to have a bogey and I think that worked and also when I went to a more difficult situation I try not to get into trouble,” she said. “I stay out of it.”

Top-ranked Inbee Park shot 70. No. 3 Lexi Thompson is 1 under. Defending champion Sung Hyun Park shot 76.

Kang had four birdies and a bogey. Her brother Alex, also a professional golfer, got her to start practising with mud balls as a teenager.

“It actually gave me a sense of calm,” Kang said. “It wasn’t, oh, crap, there is mud.

“You have to adjust, what is this mud going to do, how is it going to affect the shot.”

England’s Mel Reid is in a group at 2 under, a few weeks after hiring a new coach. She had missed eight of nine cuts on the LPGA Tour this year.

Reid said she decided to play the ball down in the wet conditions Wednesday.

“Let’s get the mud balls and just kind of deal with it,” she said. “And I honestly think that’s one of best things we could have done. It wasn’t a surprise to us today.

“You are going to get mud balls. You have got to accept it. It’s going to cost you one shot. But it’s going to be the same for everybody. Whoever deals with it the best is going to have the better outcome.”

Just Posted

Cannabis facility proposed for Clearwater County

Cannabis production facility proposed south of Caroline would produce 30,000 kg of cannabis a year

Two Central Alberta country singers are finalists in career-launching contest

They will attend music industry ‘boot camp’ this summer

Transit changes to aid Burman University students

An additional evening trip and student bus passes to be in place by fall

WATCH: Province, Maskwacis Cree Nations sign educational agreement

Funding and support will help the First Nations develop a Cree-based curriculum

WATCH: Red Deer celebrates World Refugee Day

The Central Alberta Refugee Effort hosted multiple events around Red Deer Wednesday

New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall wins Hart Trophy as NHL MVP

LAS VEGAS — Taylor Hall has won the Hart Trophy as the… Continue reading

Red Deer high school student psyched for SHAD

Lindsay Thurber’s Kaden Nivens will head to Newfoundland for the annual program in July

Red Deer College team tackles lack of Indigneous inclusion in research projects

A local college research team has completed a lengthy project examining the… Continue reading

Officials make case against parents accused of child abuse

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Prosecutors made their case Wednesday against a Southern California… Continue reading

Manitoba educational assistant sentenced to 3 1/5 years for sex with student

WINNIPEG — A former educational assistant in Winnipeg has been sentenced to… Continue reading

Conservatives can ‘win anywhere,’ Scheer says in welcoming Richard Martel

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer welcomed the newest member of his… Continue reading

Fans grieve as detectives search for XXXTentacion’s killers

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — For hours, the fans came in a steady… Continue reading

Canadian steel not a national security threat on its own: US commerce secretary

OTTAWA — The U.S. commerce secretary says Canada is not a national… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month