Oahu, Hawaii (SportsNetwork.com) - I.K. Kim fired a 7-under 65 in Wednesday's first round and that was good enough to give her a 2-shot lead at the LOTTE Championship.
Kim, a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour, chased down the early leaders as a member of the last group left on the course. Kim's last victory came all the way back at the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
World No. 3 Inbee Park, the highest ranked player in the field, headlines a group of three tied for second. She is joined at 5-under 67 by Na Yeon Choi and Sei Young Kim. Choi won the season-opening Coates Golf Championship, while Sei Young Kim won the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, the second event of the 2015 campaign.
Defending champion Michelle Wie carded a 2-under 70 in her opening round and she is tied for 15th with eight others.
I.K. Kim did not start off great in her round, but she ended in a flourish to take the first-round lead.
Starting on the back nine, a bogey at No. 11 had Kim reeling early, but that was the lone blemish on her scorecard. Kim then poured in three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 13, getting her into red figures and up to minus-2.
After making the turn with a pair of pars on 17 and 18, Kim drained her fourth birdie at the par-5 first. Following a trio of pars from No. 2, Kim finished up on fire.
A birdie on the par-5 fifth had Kim just one shot behind the leaders and then she flew past them as the 26-year-old South Korean made three straight birdies from No. 7 to finish up her day.
"I think it was very windy since yesterday. The pro-am was very windy, too. I think that kind of helped me prepare for the week," Kim said. "I made really crucial putts coming in on the back, so I think overall I played really solid. I putted well."
Park holed birdies on two of her first three holes at one and three before going on a bit of a drought. It was nine holes in between birdies for Park as she made eight pars and a bogey on nine during that stretch.
Then the birdies came in bunches as the five-time major champion made four gains over her final six holes to tie the lead at the time.
Choi was the only player inside the top-2 to begin her day in one of the morning pairings and she held the outright lead for a while before the others caught her.
Birdies on 10 and 13 had Choi in red numbers early and she never looked back. While she tripped to a bogey on 15, Choi steadied the ship and made the turn with a trio of pars from 16. A birdie on No. 1 had Choi going strong again and she finished up with gains on four, five and eight to go along with five pars.
"I think this is like first time I really relax on the course this year, so I think that's why I played well," said Choi. "I really enjoyed it."
Sei Young Kim continued her strong play with a hot start as she made four birdies over her first seven holes. A bogey on nine was not the way she wanted to make the turn, but Kim held strong on the back nine with birdies on 13 and 17 along with seven pars.
NOTES: In five events this season, I.K. Kim does not have a top-10 finish and has missed the cut twice. Her best finish was a tie for 19th at the Kia Classic ... Park has finished no worse than 13th in six events. She won the HSBC Women's Champions and has four top-10 finishes overall ... With her victory at the Coates Golf Championship, Choi has eight career wins on the LPGA Tour ... Sei Young Kim has a win and three top-10 finishes this season. She held the second- and third-round leads at the ANA Inspiration two weeks ago, including a 3-shot lead heading into the final day, but a 75 on Sunday saw her finish tied for fourth ... Vicky Hurst withdrew during the first round due to a wrist injury.