South Korean duo eyeing first place

Yani Tseng of Taiwan celebrates her birdie with her caddie on the sixth hole on way to a six under...

Yani Tseng of Taiwan celebrates her birdie with her caddie on the sixth hole on way to a six under 66 to lead the tournament during round one of the Canadian Women's Open at The Vancouver Golf Club on August 23, 2012 in Coquitlam, Canada. (Harry How/Getty Images/AFP)

TODD SALHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:48 PM ET

COQUITLAM, B.C. - The coyotes have come to play at Vancouver Golf Club.

So, too, have the South Koreans.

With coyotes stealing headlines for their assault on golf balls and CBC TV cables on the course, Na Yeon Choi, compatriot Inbee Park and South Korean-born Lydia Ko are on the hunt themselves, chasing pack-leader Yani Tseng heading into Friday's opening round of the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open.

Choi is one shot behind Tseng, who posted the best round of Thursday's opening day with a 6-under 66. One stroke further back are both Park, who's finished top 10 in seven straight LPGA Tour events, and Ko, a 15-year-old phenom now playing under New Zealand's flag and the top-ranked amateur on the planet.

Four other fellow South Koreans, including Jee-Young Lee at 3-under, are within four strokes of the lead among the top 17 shooters at the $US2-million event.

"A lot of people were out there, especially a Korean crowd," said Choi of Vancouver's diverse crowd on hand to watch the LPGA tournament. "So they support me a lot. I think I got good vibes from that, and that's why I could play well (Thursday)."

Choi shot the lights out of the front nine — considered the tougher of the two unique nines because of its rolling terrain — by earning birdies on holes No. 2, 5, 6 and 7. Two consecutive bogeys — on holes 14 and 15 — tempered three more birdies on the back nine.

She's looking like she's feeling right at home in Vancouver.

"I go to a Korean restaurant every meal I can," Choi said. "I found a great restaurant (Wednesday night). It tastes like my mom cooks. So maybe even (Thursday night), I'm going to go again.

"It's like three minutes away from the course."

The late story of the day was Ko, who won the U.S. Women's Amateur just two weeks ago. Her birdie putt from inside 10 feet on the final hole ended a roller-coaster opening round.

"It's always good to scramble with the pros," said Ko with a giggle. "(Golf Channel commentator) Kay Cockerill said I was a short-game queen, and I think that went really good (Thursday) — and my putting really helped a lot.

"It was a really good day at the office, so hopefully, that will continue in the next few days," Ko continued. "It's kind of nerve-wracking to play along with the pros."

That, of course, includes the top-ranked Tseng, whose score was the result of a hard charge over the final handful of holes. The Chinese Taipei superstar birdied five of the last six holes, again on the more challenging front nine.

"I'm very patient the whole day," said Tseng, who won three of this season's first five LPGA tourneys before falling into a funk until recently.

"I saved three or four shots for par (Thursday)," Tseng continued. "Confidence is very important for me. The last couple of months, it seemed like I'm worried too much about (missed shots). This week, if I miss a couple of shots, I don't worry about it."

The low Canadian heading into Day 2 is 47-year-old Lorie Kane. The P.E.I. native posted an even-par 72.

Next among Canucks is 29-year-old Jessica Shepley, of Oakville, Ont., with a 1-over 73.

todd.saelhof@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNToddSaelhof


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