NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - Christina Kim is having a great time on and off the golf course.
The 21-year-old from California had seven birdies in a 6-under 65 that gave her a one-stroke lead over Siew-Ai Lim on Thursday in the opening round of the LPGA's Sybase Classic.
Kim, known for an ever-present smile, bright outfits topped by a Kangol cap and animal head covers, made all but two of her birdies from 8 feet or less on a Wykagyl Country Club course that hasn't always been kind to her.
"When I started today, the first thing I thought of was that I had never made the cut here in two starts and last year I eagled No. 1 and 18 in the second round and missed the cut by one stroke," Kim said. "Now I'm a quarter of the way through and it's exciting to be on this side of the spectrum."
Former Sybase champions Gloria Park (2002) and Hee-Won Han (2003) were at 67 along with Miriam Nagl.
Paula Creamer, Yu Ping Lin, Soo-Yun Kang, Mi Hyun Kim and Heather Bowie were all at 69.
Kim, who isn't afraid to show emotion after good and bad shots, won the Longs Drugs Challenge last season and finished 19th on the money list in her second year on tour. She has only one top-10 finish this year and is 33rd on the money list. She knows some people say she has to get serious to succeed.
"I portray to others I'm having more fun than I'm having," she said. "I'm more comfortable. I do work hard and I really care but as far as I know we only get this one shot at life. Look at my office. Life can't get better. I realize that."
Kim's lone bogey was on the par-4 8th after a bad tee shot, but she offset that a number of times by sticking short irons close for her lowest round of the year.
Lim had one bogey - a three-putt on the par-5 18th - and six birdies that included a chip-in on the par-3 2nd and four putts of 5 feet or less.
She and Kim are good friends.
"She adds personality to our tour," Lim, winless in her seventh year on tour, said of Kim. "She has fun and I think that's great."
Lim has made the cut three times in eight starts this year. She didn't play the final two rounds at the Chick-fil-A Charity last week in Georgia.
"I went to see my coach in Birmingham over the weekend and we straightened things out, literally," Lim said. "I didn't make too many mistakes today. It was just a solid round."
Cristie Kerr, at No. 2 the only player among the top 10 on the money list in the field, opened with a 1-over 72. If she were to win here, the $187,500 first prize would have her overtake Annika Sorenstam for the top spot.
Sorenstam, the champion of this event in 1998 and 2000 and a four-time winner this year, took this week off.
Defending champion Sherri Steinhauer, who also won this tournament in 1999, had a 3-over 74, seven shots off her opening round last year. Her worst day last year was a 70 in the second round.
Divots: Se Ri Pak withdrew after five holes because of an undisclosed injury.... Reilley Rankin didn't get a whole lot of support from the gallery at the course just north of New York City as she topped off her outfit with a Boston Red Sox cap. She shot a 79.... There were two other former champions in the field. Michele Redman (1997) had a 72 and Beth Daniel (1994) had a 76.... Creamer, 18 years old and the tour's leading rookie, won't play in next week's Corning Classic because she graduates from high school on Thursday.