JAMES CITY — An uncharacteristically hot putter, a comfortable track and a renewed professional relationship produced an unlikely leader after the first round of the LPGA's Kingsmill Championship.
Joanna Klatten, a 30-year-old Parisian who hasn't made a cut on Tour since early February, fired a 6-under 65 Thursday for a one-stroke lead over a trio that encompasses the LPGA's age and experience spectrum.
"I played really solid. I made a few bombs, which was nice," said Klatten, whose accent makes the word "bombs" sound like "bums." "It was just solid. I've been playing pretty good lately, just struggling with putting in the last few tournaments. Today, it was fixed."
Klatten was one shot better than Tour fixture Pat Hurst, young vet Morgan Pressel and rookie Alison Lee. Hurst and Pressel shot bogey-free 66s. Lee, a 20-year-old Tour rookie from California, shook off an opening bogey to shoot her lowest round since March.
Paula Creamer, who teed off in the afternoon, began her round hot with five birdies on the first seven holes. She backed up a bit and was among a foursome two shots back at 67, closing with a bogey at 18.
Jacqui Concolino, also at 4-under 67, had an eventful round, with eight birdies, four bogeys and six pars. So Yeon Ryu birdied three of her last six holes. Perrine Delacour, who has missed six of seven cuts this year, played the par-5s in 4-under.
Klatten missed the cut in her past six LPGA events, but returned to Kingsmill with a positive vibe. She tied for 18th here last year and shot a final-round 69 that included her first double-eagle.
"This is one of my favorite courses all year," she said. "I feel really comfortable here. It suits my eye really well. I think you have an advantage if you're one of the longer hitters. It's definitely a good thing for (Friday)."
Klatten is fourth on Tour in driving distance, but 137th in driving accuracy and 148th in putting. On Thursday, however, she made three birdie putts of at least 30 feet, including a 40-footer on No. 8 and a 50-footer on the par-3 fifth hole.
"I definitely had luck on my side today," she said. "I had the good breaks. It feels good, because lately it fell the other way around. But I knew that it always evens out, so today it definitely did."
The River Course, Klattan said, reminds her of home courses in France. Caddy Greg Sheridan also provides a boost. He's usually on Natalie Gulbis' bag, but Gulbis isn't here this week.
"I've had him before and we make a really good team," Klattan said. "I really like having him on my bag. I feel very comfortable with him. He's a great caddy, so it's a nice change, for sure."
Hurst, a 21-year Tour veteran playing just her fourth event of the year, shot her best round. She made five birdies, including a 10-footer on No. 18 to close her round after a sweet approach.
"I hit the ball well, and I didn't leave many out there, which was good," she said. "Usually, I'm playing the opposite, where I shot as bad as I can shoot. This time, I made some putts, which was nice."
Hurst said that she and her longtime caddy made good decisions on club selection, when they were in-between distances, and then executed shots.
"I put myself in the right position and still had a chance," she said, "and I think that was the key out there. Don't put yourself in a bad position, and then compound the mistake. I was leaving myself in good position."
Lee didn't allow an opening bogey to rattle her, nor a bogey at the turn. She made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 6 and 7. After her bogey on the 10th hole, she ran off five birdies on her next seven holes.
"I've been hitting the ball pretty well this week," she said, "so I told myself to stay in it and not think about it too much. … I've been putting it a lot better. That's what I've (been) struggling with the past month. But I had a lot of good rolls today and a lot of good putts that I didn't think would go in."
Pressel hit several spectacular shots — she nearly made a hole-in-one on No. 17 — but the key to her round, she said, was a number of up-and-downs, including her first hole, No. 10.
"Nicer to start with a par than with a bogey," she said, "so I think that was important."
Pressel hasn't won since 2008, but in the past six weeks she finished third at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major, and lost in a playoff to world No. 1 Lydia Ko at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in San Francisco.
"I've been slowly progressing this year," Pressel said. "I'm giving myself opportunities. I mean, I know that I'm capable of playing well. I'm confident in my game. I just need to carry that into the rest of the week and hopefully be in contention Sunday afternoon."
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