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I.K. Kim Takes Slender First-Round Lead in Helsingborg
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World No.10 I.K. Kim

World No.10 I.K.Kim of South Korea made the early running in the Helsingborg Open on the Tournament Course at Vasatorp Golf Club in Sweden.

In the opening group with Solheim Cup stars Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist, the 25-year-old from Seoul carded a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 opening round.

She fired five birdies in a row from the fourth to make the turn in 31 and then picked up two further shots on holes 13 and 17.

“Sweden is one of the countries that I really admire and I have some great friends from here so I wanted to visit,” said the four-time tournament champion, who earned her last victory at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in 2010. “I’m pleased with how I played. There are a few long and challenging holes but I played well on the par fives and had some good up and downs.”

Kim ended the day a stroke ahead of Sweden’s own Pernilla Lindberg, who has a flawless 66 in windier conditions in the afternoon.

Lindberg is yet to win on Tour but has finished second twice on the LET, in 2010 and 2011.

“For me it’s great coming home and it’s the first time ever I get to play a tournament as a professional in Sweden,” said the 27-year-old from Bollnas. “2008 was the last time we had an LET event as I played as an amateur back then but since then I haven’t had the chance to come home and play so it feels really good.”

There are nine players a further two strokes back on four-under-par. They are Swedes Maria Hjorth and Camilla Lennarth, Frenchwomen Gwladys Nocera, Jade Schaeffer and Valentine Derrey, Australian Nikki Garrett, Thailand’s Nontaya Srisawang, Klara Spilkova from the Czech Republic and England’s Liz Young, who played in the afternoon, along with Derrey.

Hjorth, 39, from Falun, was out early and played the front nine in five-under-par but double bogeyed 13 before recovering with a birdie on 16. She said: “I really want to play competitive golf to get my game going. This summer has been very sporadic because I didn’t qualify for the British. There have been a lot of weeks off so playing competitive golf is what I need and what I’m missing. I just hope to play well.”

Fellow Swede Camilla Lennarth has posted three top ten finishes in this, her rookie season, including a tie for second at the South African Open. The 25-year-old from Stockholm holed a chip and run shot from 45 metres for eagle on the eighth hole during her morning round.

She said: “It was kind of a rollercoaster front nine and had everything from a double bogey to an eagle but I sorted it out on the back nine and was more steady. I feel like I’ve been up there quite a few times its just a matter of being consistent. I’m up there and have to learn from everything.”

Also on four-under, Nocera won the Goteborg Masters when the LET last played in Sweden in 2008 before collecting her first win in five years at the Allianz Ladies Slovak Open in June.

“I played well, made a few putts and didn’t hit far from the hole,” said Nocera. “I think you need to be on the right side of the green.”

Spilkova is having her most successful year on tour with three top ten finishes including a tie for sixth at the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters and hopes to put together four solid rounds to capitalise on her talents.

“It was a very good start and I finished birdie, birdie,” said 18-year-old Spilkova, who chipped in on the last hole. “I really like the course and it feels a little bit like a links, but with trees.”

Srisawang, also yet to win on tour, said: “I birdied all four of the par fives and just hit to the centre of the greens, which worked for me.”

Another Thai player, Titiya Plucksataporn, was in the mix on four-under-par at the turn but came back in one-over to finish the day at three-under-par. Plucksataporn holed her second shot for eagle on 18 hitting a 23 degree hybrid 162 yards.

Local player Caroline Hedwall, competing 15 minutes from her family home in Helsingborg, also opened with a three-under 69 and was one clear of Solheim Cup partner Nordqvist.

Hedwall said: “I think I was playing really solid. I hit 18 greens and had a lot of birdie chances out there and just made three of them. I’m happy with 69 and I think it’s a decent start. I.K. was playing well and Anna too. We were playing solid and trying to make putts.

“Of course its pressure and I want to play well in front of my home crowd and I put a lot of pressure on myself so I have to overcome that.”

The Helsingborg Open is a 72-hole strokeplay tournament with a cut after 36 holes to the leading 60 professionals and those tied.

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