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San Jose’s Christina Kim off to great start in LPGA’s North Texas Shootout

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San Jose’s Christina Kim, an 11-year veteran of the LPGA Tour, missed the cut at last week’s Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, played right here in the Bay Area, but is off to a much stronger start this week in the North Texas Shootout, at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas, near Dallas. Kim is tied for second place with five other players, including good friend Michelle Wie.

Kim and Wie, along with Americans Cristie Kerr, Cydney Clanton, and Dori Carter, and Germany’s Caroline Masson, at 4-under, are one stroke behind first-round leader Suzann Pettersen. Pettersen, who returned to competition last week at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club after a layoff of several weeks due to a back injury, finished T-28 in the Lake Merced tournament, knocked down the standings by a 7-over 79 during a windy third round.

Kim’s 4-under 67 at Las Colinas is her lowest round since the first round of the 2013 Evian Championship. Kim is coming off of a couple of poor years, and has been dealing with injuries, as well as battling depression since 2011. A freak back injury she suffered in 2010 caused her to lose power in her swing, and the loss of distance through the bag derailed her game, leading to a slide down the rankings, and a serious struggle with self-doubt. Kim’s struggles with depression were documented in a sensitive and well-received December 2012 article by Golf Digest magazine columnist Stina Sternberg.

Kim played solid golf in the first round at Las Colinas, hitting 8 of 13 fairways and a laudable 17 of 18 greens, and was only held back by mediocre putting, taking 31 putts for the round. Kim and leader Pettersen were the only players in the field to post bogey-free rounds.

“I just played steady,” Kim said after Thursday’s round, “…I struck the ball really well and just kept the ball in front of me and was able to find it after every swing, so that’s really all you can ask for.”

Kim had a very successful early career on the LPGA Tour, and is trying to regain the form of her early days. In 2004, at the age of 20, she became the youngest player to reach $1 million in earnings, a record which was broken the following year by another Bay Area native, Pleasanton’s Paula Creamer. Kim’s last win on the LPGA Tour was in the 2005 Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions; she has one win on the Ladies European Tour, in the 2011 Sicilian Ladies Italian Open.

Los Altos resident Juli Inkster, 51, who is retiring from LPGA competition after the 2014 season, is T-11 after the first day, at 2-under; Monterey’s Mina Harigae is T-95 at 3-over.