Azahara Munoz and Austin Ernst fired 6-under-par 65s to take the lead of the Kingsmill Championship by 1 shot over Hee Young Park, 2 shots over Cristie Kerr, Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lang, Lizette Salas, Danielle Kang, Thidapa Suwannapura, and Kathleen Ekey, and 3 shots over Ya Ni Tseng, Ai Miyazato, Jessica Korda, Sarah Jane Smith, Sandra Changkija, Dori Carter, and Alejandra Llaneza.
Munoz's round was bogey-free, while Ernst offset her lone bogey on the 1st hole (her 10th) with an eagle on the par-5 3rd. Park's putting saved her, as she hit only 9 greens but made 6 birdies and a lone bogey on a mere 22 putts. It was a similar story for Tseng, who hit only 4 fairways and 11 greens but took only 25 putts, and Thompson, who hit 4 more fairways and 1 more green, and took 1 more putt, than the former world #1. Meanwhile, Kang and Miyazato got off to hot starts--Kang a bogey-free 30 on the back (her front) while Miyazato was -5 through 12 holes after eagling the 3rd--but struggled down the home stretch, making a pair of bogeys each on the front (their back). Still, today was only Kang's 3rd round in the 60s all season and Miyazato's 2nd (she failed to break 70 in the Salonpas Cup last week but hung in there for a top 10), so they have plenty of reason to celebrate. Other leaders to make eagles included Carter (on the par-5 7th), Llaneza (on the par-4 9th), and Changkija (on the 3rd).
By contrast, a good number of the hottest golfers on the planet had cold starts to their week: Anna Nordqvist (74), Paula Creamer (73), Angela Stanford (73), Se Ri Pak (72), Suzann Pettersen (72), and Chella Choi (71) failed to set Kingsmill on fire, while Karrie Webb (70), Stacy Lewis (70), Lydia Ko (70), So Yeon Ryu (70), and Charley Hull (70) barely got under par. Several of them had to make comebacks to even get to where they got: Ko was -2 over her last 7 holes, Ryu was -2 over her last 8, Lewis was -1 over her last 4 holes, and Creamer closed with a bogey-free 33 after opening with a 5-bogey 40. The difference, as you might have guessed, was putting. Lewis was the only player in this bunch to take fewer than 30 putts, and she had as few as she did (26) because she hit so few greens (10).
Let's see whether former #1s Tseng and Miyazato can keep it rolling, whether Kerr and Thompson can make a move on Munoz and Park, and whether all the surprising Southerners (in both a U.S. and global sense) at or near the top of the leaderboard can stay there tomorrow!