LOS ANGELES - After a blustery afternoon at Wilshire Country Club, Alison Lee carded the lone bogey-free round of the day at the DIO Implant LA Open, firmly taking the solo lead after a 5-under 66. Lee, who spent a year and a half at UCLA where she won the inaugural ANNIKA Award, posted five birdies on Nos. 6, 7, 12, 15 and 16. It is her first 18-hole lead/co-lead since the 2016 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, where she also recorded her career-best finish of second.
“I feel like I was just hitting the ball really well. Everything was just falling into place. I feel like my game has been in the right place the last few months,” said Lee. The Los Angeles native and now Las Vegas resident is making her fourth appearance at the LA Open, where her career-best finish is a tie for 39th in 2021. Lee, who has battled through some tough seasons on Tour that included a trip back to LPGA Q-Series in 2018, said the hometown and alumni support this week certainly helped the 27-year-old as she took on the historic course.
“I feel really comfortable, and I would say it's not so much the course but just being in LA, seeing a bunch of familiar faces out there,” said Lee, whose best result of the season so far is a tie for eighth at The Chevron Championship. “Sometimes when you play week to week it does get pretty lonely out there.”
Sitting in a tie for second one stroke back of leader Lee at -4 are Emma Talley, Nasa Hataoka and Emily Kristine Pedersen. Hataoka, who said she wasn’t feeling her best on the range before Thursday’s start, rattled off with three birdies in her first four holes, and notched four more by day’s end. “There are things I'm working on with my swing, so I'm not looking at my result,” said Hataoka. “I'm trying to concentrate on each shot. I think that really helped a lot.”
Six players sit in a tie for fifth after carding 3-under 68s, including major champions Sei Young Kim and So Yeon Ryu along with University of Southern California alum Jennifer Song. Defending champion Brooke Henderson finished the first round T116 after a 5-over 76.