Choi grabs one-stroke lead at LPGA Championship

Fri Jun 7, 2013 7:45pm EDT

Chella Choi of South Korea watches her shot on the 15th hole during round one of the LPGA Golf Championship in Pittsford, New York June 7, 2013. REUTERS/Adam Fenster

Chella Choi of South Korea watches her shot on the 15th hole during round one of the LPGA Golf Championship in Pittsford, New York June 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Adam Fenster

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(Reuters) - South Korean Chella Choi used a blistering front nine to shoot a five-under-par 67 for a one-stroke lead after Friday's first round of the rain-delayed LPGA Championship at Locust Hill outside Rochester, New York.

Choi, seeking her maiden LPGA Tour win, had five birdies on her outward half and offset a birdie at the 10th with a bogey at 13 for a one-shot edge over compatriot Jiyai Shin and American Morgan Pressel at the year's second major.

British Women's Open champion Shin posted four birdies, three on the back nine, in a bogey-free round while Pressel finished with four consecutive birdies to register her 68.

One stroke back was long-hitting American Brittany Lincicome, with compatriot Jessica Korda and Hall of Famer Pak Se-ri of South Korea another shot back on 70.

Thursday's play was scrubbed following lightning and torrential rain that soaked the course, leading organizers to move three tees up and allow the players to lift, clean and place balls in the fairway.

Groundskeepers arrived at 4 a.m. (0800 GMT) to prepare the course.

Pressel said she was surprised to tee off as scheduled.

"I thought that we would probably tee off at about noon, having seen photos of what the golf course looked like," said Pressel. "And it didn't stop raining just about all night.

"But the ground staff here did an incredible job getting the course ready. I don't think the greens could be any more perfect. There's some casual out there but that's to be expected. We're just happy to get out on the golf course."

Hitting fairways was critical with the water-logged rough even more penal than usual.

"The rough is nasty," said Korda, who had five birdies and three bogeys.

The leaderboard demonstrated that short hitters like Pressel and bombers such as Korda and Lincicome all had a chance to score at Locust Hill.

"If you don't hit the fairway you can be as long or as short as you want, but it's still going to play at a disadvantage," Korda said about going into the rough. "That ball sits down, you can't even get it out."

Among a large group tied at 71 were 2009 champion Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, 1994 and 1996 winner Laura Davies and Catriona Matthew of Briton, South Korean Amy Yang and Americans Angela Stafford and 18-year-old Lexi Thompson.

Defending champion Shanshan Feng, the first golfer from mainland China to win a women's major, shot a two over-par 74.

Organizers planned to stage the second round on Saturday and squeeze in 36 holes to finish up on Sunday.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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