Rain came at a perfect time for Jiyai Shin early Friday afternoon. Facing a tough 20-yard chip shot on the fourth hole (her 13th of the day), the two-hour weather delay let her calm her worries over the difficulty of the shot and spend some time on the practice range chipping away.
The short-range result: She holed the shot for birdie, one of nine in her bogey-free round in the Kingsmill Championship.
The long-range result: Her 62 is a tournament record and thrust her into a three-stroke lead when play was stopped because of darkness at 7:26 p.m.
Still on the course when play was stopped because of darkness was Dewi Claire Schreefel, who was 7-under through 16 holes. She was on her 17th hole and, along with 32 others, will finish their rounds at 7:10 a.m. Friday before the second round begins.
After Friday's round, the 144-player field will be cut to the low 70 and ties for Saturday and Sunday.
Shin, who missed two months earlier in the season recovering from wrist surgery, leads Paula Creamer, Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari and Maria Hjorth, all of whom completed their rounds at 6-under 65.
Shin's 9-under round tied the lowest of the year on the LPGA Tour and was her career best. So Yeon Ruy shot a 9-under 62 at the par-71 Jamie Farr Classic in Toledo, Ohio, and Stacy Lewis had a 9-under 63 at the par-72 Evian Masters.
The 62 broke the previous tournament low score by a stroke. It was a record held by seven golfers, including defending champion Cristie Kerr.
Shin had surgery on her left wrist in June, the latest in a string of setbacks for her. She won eight tournaments from 2008 to 2010, including the 2008 Women's British Open. She ended her 2011 season early because of a lower back injury.
Before surgery, Shin said she was playing with pain and her mental outlook was getting worse. So she decided on the operation.
"It was good rest for me," she said. "… so when I come back, I really happy to play golf."
At 5-under 66 are Christina Kim, her best round of the season, Mika Miyazato, Jennifer Johnson and Jennifer Song.
Kerr shot a 1-over 72, putting her 10 shots behind Shin. Stacy Lewis, the No. 2 money winner on the tour, is 2-under and Ai Miyazato is 4-under.
Other top players included Natalie Gulbis at 4-under, Juli Inkster at even-par 71, Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lincicome at 2-over, and Michelle Wie at 4-over.
Shin started on the back nine and had birdies on 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17 for a 5-under 30. She dropped to 6-under when she birdied 3, the last hole she played before the suspension. Then came the chip-in and, after birdies on seven and eight, she needed only a par on nine for the record.
"Finally I can say golf is not too hard … today was not too hard for me," she said with a laugh. "My shot was really good today and also my putting was really good."
Recari, playing in the same threesome as Shin, also had a bogey-free day.
"Last week was a week off," she said. "Before that it was Canada and my putting wasn't good at all. I've been playing consistently from tee to green all year long, it's just been a matter of getting the putts in the hole."
She needed only 26 putts Thursday. For the season, she ranks 112th with an average of nearly 31 putts a round.
Creamer shot a 6-under 30 on the front nine, then had nine straight pars on the back nine.
She called her bogey on the first hole "a terrible bogey. I just kind of told myself I'm not doing this"
She birdied No. 2, then pitched in for an eagle on 3, and she was on her way.
"I didn't make any birdies on the back nine, but I'll take a 65," said Creamer, who hasn't won in two years. "This was a big confidence booster for me."
Munoz liked her round, which included seven birdies and a bogey on the always tough No. 8.
"Everything was working well. I hit a lot of fairways and I was hitting a lot of good drives," she said. " I hit, I think, 17 greens."
Hjorth was the only afternoon golfer in the runner-up group.
"I played solid today. I made a couple of really good par saves," she said.
She also had an eagle on the par-5 15th by hitting a 3-wood from 220 yard to within a foot of the pin.
When play was suspended at 12:24, only 20 golfers had finished their rounds. And in the system where the field is split in two with half the field playing in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, at least 50 hadn't teed off.
Most of the golfers took the delay in stride.
On Twitter, Sophie Gustafson said "Gotta love when weather delay happens just in time for lunch."