Xiyu Janet Lin soaks up Pebble Beach views and shares lead with Hyo Joo Kim at US Women’s Open

Rose Zhang, center, climbs up a hill Thursday in front of a rules official, right, while looking for her ball on the eighth hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Xiyu Janet Lin of China hits from the 9th tee during the first round of the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament Thursday at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Xiyu Janet Lin and Hyo Joo Kim had rounds that matched the beauty at Pebble Beach, each of them with a 4-under 68 on Thursday to share the lead in the first U.S. Women’s Open held at one of America’s most famous courses.

With only mild wind and a marine layer over the Monterey Peninsula that kept temperatures in the 50s, this was the gentle version of Pebble Beach. This also is a U.S. Open, and it didn’t take much to take a toll, especially at the top.


The top four players in the world ranking were a combined 22-over par. Jin Young Ko, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, and Lilia Vu, who won the first LPGA major of the year, each shot 79.

Rose Zhang, the 20-year-old Stanford sensation who won in her pro debut last month, wasted a good start with a double bogey on the eighth hole that slowed her momentum. She didn’t make a birdie the rest of the way, and had to chip on her last four holes — one of them from the wrong side of the green on the par-3 17th just as Gary Woodland did in 2019 when he won the U.S. Open.

Lin began her round on the tough par-4 10th hole, and she saved par on four of her opening five holes before holing an 8-foot birdie putt on the 15th. The Chinese player’s lone bogey came at the end when she failed to get up-and-down from short of a bunker on No. 9.

“At the beginning, putting definitely save me,” said Lin, who took only 25 putts and was leading the field in the key putting statistic. “Making those short putts really kind of boosted my confidence, making me feel more comfortable to attack when I needed to.”

Kim, whose lone major was the Evian Championship in 2014, was 4 under through eight holes until her lone bogey at No. 9. She made only one birdie the rest of the day, holing a 20-footer on the 17th that allowed her to catch Lin.

She was happy with her score and the location.

“I think I can brag about this, my opportunity to play at Pebble Beach,” Kim said.

Irish amateur Aine Donegan didn’t get her clubs until Tuesday — only to find her driver damaged — and had a 69 that included a wedge she holed out from 96 yards on the 15th. She was in a large group one shot behind that include the more notable Irish player, Leona Maguire, who birdied the 18th.

Maguire is coming off a tough loss two weeks ago in the Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol when she lost the 54-hole lead with a 74.

“I think when you’ve got another major coming up as quick as this was and at somewhere like Pebble, I think your focus shifts pretty quickly,” Maguire said. “Looking forward to another opportunity this week, hopefully.”

This has been among the most anticipated events of the year for women’s golf because of the location. Pebble Beach is the most iconic of U.S. Open venues, and the most recognizable with its seaside views on half of the holes.

Lin said she got the best advice from the person working on her clubs.

“He just told me, ‘Whatever hole you’re at, just take 30 seconds to look up at the view and you will be very grateful where you are.’ I think it’s absolutely right,” she said. “We’re part of history. It’s really cool. So I think I told myself this is going to be a memorable week.

“Yeah, even today when there was some stressful shots coming up, I just kind of tell myself how grateful I am to be actually hitting a shot on this hole.”

She was most grateful for her short game — the 12-foot par save on the 10th, her up-and-downs from bunkers on the 11th and 13th holes, and her last great save from short of the wicked 14th green, going up a steep slope from the fairway grass to 5 feet and another one-putt par.

Lin also holed a couple of long putts, from 30 feet on the par-5 18th and from 18 feet on No. 4, the short par 4 with Stillwater Cove to the right.

The leading stars on the LPGA Tour didn’t fare so well.

Ko was already losing ground when she pulled her tee shot left and over the cliffs onto the beach at the par-3 17th, leading to double bogey. In 24 previous rounds in the U.S. Women’s Open, she never had worse than a 75.

She played with Nelly Korda, the No. 2 player in the world who missed the cut at the Women’s PGA two weeks ago. Korda began her big day at Pebble Beach by sending her opening drive over the cliff and onto the beach at No. 10 for a double bogey. She opened with a 76.

Lydia Ko hit a wild hook on the par-3 fifth hole and wound up with a quadruple-bogey 7 that sent her to a 76.

Michelle Wie West and Annika Sorenstam are playing what likely will be their last U.S. Women’s Open, both drawn back by the lure of playing Pebble Beach. Both are likely to be leaving earlier than they wanted. Wie West shot 79 and Sorenstam had an 80.

Zhang holds the Pebble Beach record for women, a 63 last September at a college tournament. This is a different course, a stronger test. She made birdie putts at Nos. 3 and 4 and was as calm as the ocean until No. 8.

Her second shot strayed to the right beyond the bunker and down a bank of thick grass. She couldn’t find the ball and had to return to the fairway to play her fourth shot, leading to double bogey.

She never seriously challenged for birdies even with short irons in her hand.

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