A Lim Kim, Katherine Kirk and Eun-Hi Ji each shot 8-under 63 Friday for a single shot lead over Sarah Burnham after the first round of the Walmart Northwest Arkansas Championship.
Five others – Nasa Hataoka, Lindsey Weaver, Pajaree Anannarukarn, Aditi Ashok and Klara Spilkova – were one more stroke back after 6-under 65s at Pinnacle Country Club.
Kim, of South Korea, and Burnham posted career-low rounds, while Ji, the 2009 U.S. Ladies’ Open champ, coordinated with her career best.
Kim, the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open victor, didn’t make her first birdie until the seventh hole, and that started off a run of five directly from Nos. 7-11. She added one more birdie at the sixteenth and accentuated her round with an eagle on the par-5 eighteenth.
Kirk, from Australia, and Ji each recorded eight birdies, and Burnham had seven, all with bogey-free rounds.
“It was fun,” said Kirk, a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour. “I got off to a good start and this is the kind of golf course where you just have to keep the pedal down. I was fortunately able to do that and rattled in four birdies on each side.”
Kirk is one of three golf players to have played in every one of the 15 editions of the competition, alongside Brittany Lang and hometown favorite Stacy Lewis, the 2014 champion who played collegiately at Arkansas in nearby Fayetteville.
Lewis prowls four shots back after an opening 67.
Lim is playing the occasion interestingly. She approved of the close wonderful climate and scoring conditions.
“Tight grass and clear greens, I love it,” Lim said.
Burnham came in at No. 132 on the CME points list and necessities solid completions over the last a month to keep her LPGA card.
“I just wanted to get off to a good start today,” Burnham said. “I just told myself to swing easy and play it smart and we’ll see what happens. Things worked out, and I made a lot of putts. This is one of my favorite weeks on tour. The course is so beautiful with the little creeks throughout the course and just super nice greens.”
Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, a two-time major winner and twice a winner this year, is among six players three shots off the lead after an opening 66.
Some of the competition’s greatest names are in a group of 13 golf players at 4-under par, including Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Brooke Henderson and Minjee Lee. Beginner Brooke Matthews, a senior at Arkansas, was additionally at 4 under.