WILMINGTON, DELAWARE – AUGUST 18: Kyoung-Hoon Lee of South Korea plays his second shot on the fifth hole during the first round of the BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club on August 18, 2022 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Korea’s K.H. Lee knows fully well that every shot matters now in the FedExCup Playoffs as a first round 3-under 68 in the BMW Championship on Thursday kept him firmly in the chase for a coveted maiden appearance in next week’s TOUR Championship.

The two-time PGA TOUR winner hit four birdies against a lone bogey at Wilmington Country Club in Delaware to share 13th place, and four back of leader Keegan Bradley of the U.S. Australia’s Adam Scott is solo second after a 65 while Harold Varner III, Shane Lowry and Justin Thomas all carded 66s in the penultimate event of the season.

The other Asians in the elite field endured mixed days. Sungjae Im and Hideki Matsuyama, who are assured of their places in the TOUR Championship after entering the week in 11th and 15th place respectively on the FedExCup standings, opened with matching 70s. Rising star Joohyung “Tom” Kim, who won the Wyndham Championship two weeks ago, carded a 71 for tied 42nd and was projected to drop from 25th to 34th on the FedExCup standings. Si Woo Kim signed for a disappointing 78 which included a quintuple bogey 9 after dumping two balls into the water.

“I think I opened the first round with a good score,” said Lee, who made birdies on Hole Nos. 1, 7, 8 and 16 against a bogey on 15.  “I played well on the front nine, and kept the pace until the end. Even though I made bogey on the back nine, I could bounce back with a birdie at the next hole. I feel good about my play today, and I’m happy.”

The 30-year-old Lee agonisingly missed out on having a crack at the PGA TOUR’s ultimate prize, the FedExCup, last season when a bogey at the 72nd hole at the BMW Championship saw him finish one rung outside the top-30 who qualified for the Playoffs Finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. The FedExCup champion earns US$18 million.

The Korean star is also fighting for one of the automatic top-8 spots in the International Team for the Presidents Cup next month where qualifying concludes on Sunday. He is presently in ninth place.

“I need to play well this week to advance into the TOUR Championship. I am doing my best, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I will just keep the focus on my game plan and enjoy this week,” said Lee, who successfully defended his AT&T Byron Nelson title in May in addition to seven other top-25s this season.

He is feeling right at home at par 71, 7,500 yards Wilmington Country Club which is hosting a PGA TOUR event for the first time in the club’s history. “First of all, I like this bent grass course, and it is very big and wide. I like big courses and also the greens seem to fit for my eye. I like this course so far,” said Lee, who made putts of 16, 13, 10 and five feet for his four birdies on the card.

Bradley, a four-time PGA TOUR winner but not since winning the 2018 BMW Championship, tied his career-low nine-hole score of 29 en route to a superb 64 to hold a one-stroke lead over playing partner, Scott.

“I made a nice putt on the first hole and just kept it going. It was really a fun day playing with Adam. We both were playing really well, hitting good shots, and making putts. It was a blast,” said Bradley, who totalled eight birdies on the card which tied his most in a round this season.

After playing his way into the BMW Championship via a T5 at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, Scott could well force his way into the TOUR Championship, which he has not featured in since 2019.

“I think more than anything out of Memphis, I got some confidence out of having a result with maybe not my best stuff all four days. It is a nice feeling walking onto any golf course when the confidence is a bit higher, and I certainly felt a sense of ease with that today. So that was very nice,” said Scott.


First-Round Notes – Thursday, August 18, 2022

Weather: Mostly sunny. High of 85. Wind WNW 8-12 mph.

First-Round Leaderboard 

Keegan Bradley                  64 (-7)

Adam Scott                        65 (-6)

Harold Varner III                66 (-5)

Shane Lowry                       66 (-5)

Justin Thomas                    66 (-5)

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