By Larry Fine
RYE, New York (Reuters) - Brittany Lincicome used an eagle-three on the par-five 15th hole to grab a share of the early lead at three-under 70 midway through the opening round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship on Thursday.
Long-hitting Lincicome, winner of the year's first major, the ANA Inspiration, broke into the red numbers with her eagle and birdied the next to join a pack of 11 players in the clubhouse at 70 on a hot, humid day at Westchester Country Club.
Lincicome said she had hoped to be able to take advantage of the five par-fives with her length off the tee on the classic, tree-lined course that has hosted more than 40 PGA Tour events.
"See my eyes light up?" the 29-year-old American told reporters with a smile. "Super excited."
Seventy was also posted by twice major winner Cristie Kerr, world number four Kim Hyo-joo of South Korea, 11th-ranked Lexi Thompson, Germany's Sandra Gal and Jessica Korda, who birdied 17 and 18 to join the party.
France's Joanna Klatten was also on the popular number 70 along with Taiwan's Lee Min, South Koreans Chella Choi and Kim Sei-young, and American Jane Rah on the rain-softened 6,670-yard layout.
Another five players were in the clubhouse on 71, including two-time defending champion Park In-bee of South Korea.
World number one Lydia Ko of New Zealand closed with birdies on the last two holes to register a one-under 72.
"I was making some crucial putts and if they didn't go in, I know my score would have been much worse," said the 18-year-old Ko. "I think one-under is a pretty good start to the week. The scores are not going to be crazy low."
Lincicome went out in one-over 37 and reached level par with a birdie at the par-five 12th.
At the 492-yard 15th, she hit a four-iron from 203 yards out to within 30 feet and rammed in her putt.
Kerr, ranked ninth, praised the course and said the championship, rebranded after 60 years as the LPGA Championship through a partnership between the LPGA and the PGA of America, had taken on a big-time feel.
"The greens are just so pure here that even if you have a 30-footer, you have a chance to make it. It's a hard golf course but it's fair," Kerr said.
"It definitely feels like a major. It is a major in every way."
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)