Park keeps one-stroke lead at LPGA Kia Classic

South Korean golf star reels off four birdies against a lone bogey to stand on nine-under par 135

AFP March 27, 2021


LPGA Hall of Famer Park In-bee of South Korea fired a three-under par 69 to keep a one-stroke lead after Friday's second round of the LPGA Kia Classic.

Park, whose 20 LPGA victories include seven major titles, reeled off four birdies against a lone bogey to stand on nine-under par 135 after 36 holes at Aviara, north of San Diego.

It's Park's first event of the year as she prepares for next week's ANA Inspiration, the LPGA's first major tournament, at Rancho Mirage, California.

Germany's Sophia Popov fired a second 68 to stand second on 136 with England's Mel Reid third on 138, South Korea's eighth-ranked Kim Hyo-joo fourth on 139 and Taiwan's Hsu Wei-ling fifth on 140.

World number four Park, who began off the 10th tee, birdied the par-4 12th and birdied three of the first five holes after making the turn -- the par-4 first, par-3 third and par-5 fifth -- before making her only bogey at the par-4 seventh.

"I played good. I just didn't putt as good as yesterday," Park said. "I hit good shots, and it's just weird on these greens, because I hit the shots really close and I don't make the birdie putt, but I kind of hit it to 15, 20 feet and I make those birdie putts.

"It's just greens that really need patience. I played good throughout the day, struck the ball well, hit a lot of greens, gave myself a lot of opportunities, so happy with the round."

Park admitted it was difficult to get back in the swing after a long layoff.

"I haven't played tournament golf in three months. It's awkward," she said.

"But after just three months at home and not touching the golf clubs that much, it's quite different coming out here trying to contact the ball. It sometimes looks weird. I feel like I'm doing it very well."

Park was happy to spend time with friends and her dog, Rio.

"Staying at one place for like over two months is just like a miracle for us," Park said.

Popov, another back-nine starter, had three birdies each on the front and back nines but late bogeys at the fifth and par-3 sixth set her back.

Reid had a bogey-free 70 but her only birdies came at the par-4 fourth and ninth holes.

Eighth-ranked Kim is playing her first LPGA event since November of 2019 after two wins on the Korean LPGA circuit last year.


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