South Korea’s Inbee Park took a two-stroke lead in the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship over local favorite and world No. 1 Yani Tseng (曾雅妮) yesterday.
Park, leading the race for LPGA Tour player of the year, birdied seven times in the first round at Sunrise Golf and Country Club for a seven-under 65 to leave Tseng (67) in second place.
Defending champion Tseng finished the day with six birdies offset by a bogey on the 10th hole.
There were a group of four tied for third on 68 — Nicole Castrale and Danielle Kang of the US, Park Hee-young of South Korea and Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand.
Inbee Park finished in the top three for six straight LPGA Tour events, including two wins, until her streak was broken in South Korea last week with a tie for 15th place. She leads the LPGA Tour money list.
She credited improved hitting skills and calm conditions on the normally windy Sunrise course for her performance.
“We were expecting a lot of wind and I was prepared for it, but today it was really calm and a very nice day,” Inbee Park said. “Last year, I wasn’t hitting the ball as solid as this year and my ball-striking skills have improved.”
While Park is the most in-form player on the Tour, her’s and everyone else’s support was shaded by that for Tseng, one of the Taiwan’s few sports superstars.
“I know everyone is talking about the pressure this week,” Tseng said.
“When I see all the fans, I think that pressure is gone because I know it doesn’t matter how I play, they’re still going to be there to give me 100 percent support,” she said.
The only blemish in her round, the bogey on 10, “made me a little mad out there,” she said.
Pornanong led the field of 78 early on with birdies on her first four holes from the 10th.
Park Hee-young eagled the sixth hole, but bogeyed twice. Castrale, who hasn’t enjoyed a top 10 finish since the US Women’s Open in July, birdied the 18th, as did Kang, who made up for two bogeys with six birdies.
Taiwanese amateur Doris Chen carded an even-par 72, while LPGA Tour regular Candie Kung was as shot further back with Cheng Ssu-chia.
Taiwan’s Hsu Wei-ling, Wei Yun-jye and Yao Hsuan-yu were in a group on three-over 75, while Chang Yu-hsin and Chen Meng-chu carded 80s.
Additional reporting by staff writer