World No. 1 Inbee Park of South Korea closed with back-to-back birdies in a round of six-under 65 on Saturday to move into contention at the LPGA Northwest Arkansas Championship.
Park, who will be chasing history this week at the US Women’s Open after winning the year’s first two women’s majors, moved within two strokes of the lead after 36 holes in the 54-hole, US$2 million final tuneup for the Open.
Japan’s Chie Arimura also closed with back-to-back birdies to fire a 65 and grab a share of the lead with US world No. 2 Stacy Lewis, Spain’s Beatriz Recari and South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon on 10-under 132 at Pinnacle Country Club.
Park was in a pack in fifth on 134 that also included compatriots I.K. Kim and Oh Ji-young, plus Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum.
New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko, the 16-year-old reigning US Women’s Amateur champion, who won an LPGA title last year in Canada, was on 135 along with Japan’s Mika Miyazato, who led after the first round, but followed a 65 with a 70.
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng was a further two shots back on 137 after a 69, while Candie Kung carded the same score for a 139. Taiwan’s Amy Hung missed the cut after a 79 left her on 14-over 156.
As much as Park is going for the US$300,000 top prize and her fifth title of the year, she is also preparing for this week’s major in Southampton, New York.
Park, 24, won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April and this month’s LPGA Championship, and with a US Women’s Open triumph she would match Babe Zaharias from 1950 as only the second player in LPGA history to win a season’s first three majors.
While there were only three LPGA majors 63 years ago, Park would need three more wins to complete an LPGA Grand Slam — the US Women’s Open, which she captured in 2008; the Women’s British Open, where she was runner-up last year; and the Evian Championship in France, where she is defending champion.
“I’ll probably start thinking about it once I get to next week,” Park said. “Next week is a big week for me. I don’t want to force anything. I want everything to happen naturally. This week is a good week for me to get ready for next week. I will just go out there tomorrow [Sunday] and do my best.”
Park birdied three of the first five holes, before closing the front nine with her only bogey of the day. She followed with birdies at the par-three 11th, par-five 14th, par-three 17th and par-five 18th.
“I really liked the way I played,” Park said. “I didn’t miss many greens. I didn’t miss many fairways. I could have made more putts.”
Additional reporting by staff writer