South Korea’s Inbee Park moved a step closer to her third major victory this year when she seized a two-shot lead in the weather-interrupted second round of the US Women’s Open in Southampton, New York, on Friday.
Shortly before play was suspended for the day as thick fog enveloped the challenging Sebonack Country Club layout, the in-form Park rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to complete a four-under-par 68.
That left the Korean world No. 1 at nine-under 135, two ahead of compatriot Kim In-kyung, who had played well for a 69 earlier in the day despite gusting winds and several tough pin positions.
“We got very lucky that we finished today,” Park told reporters after ending a wildly fluctuating day of weather conditions with a haul of six birdies and two bogeys.
“I played very good golf today,” she said. “I gave myself a lot of good opportunities, a very good ball-striking day. The long putts seemed to be going well today. I left a couple out [of birdie putts] there, but I am very satisfied with today’s score.”
American Lizette Salas was at four under after shooting an even 72, level with England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who was two under for the round with three holes to complete when the siren sounded to halt the action.
Angela Stanford (68) and fellow American Jessica Korda (71) were a further stroke back at three under while overnight leader Kim Ha-neul of South Korea was eight off the pace after battling to a 77.
Most eyes, however, will be on the 24-year-old Park whose all-round game was once again in dazzling form despite the challenging conditions as she continued her bid for a fourth career major title, and a sixth LPGA win this season.
“I had hit the ball so good today,” the Korean smiled after recording birdies on each of the last three par-fives at Sebonack — the 13th, the 15th and the 18th. “I didn’t miss many shots out there. Very tough conditions out there to play in. With the wind and fog, it just really made me think that is what the US Open is all about.”
Having already won this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship and LPGA Championship, Park is oozing self-belief as she seeks to emulate Babe Zaharias (1950), Mickey Wright (1961) and Pat Bradley (1986) by clinching three major titles in one season.
However, Park said she was doing her level best to maintain her focus on golf, and not on the prospect of carving out another slice of LPGA history.
“It’s tough not to think about it, but I just try to think that’s not a big deal,” she said. “If I want to do it so much, it’s just so tough and it puts too much pressure on you. Try to not think about so much.”
Kim, seeking her first major victory and a fourth win on the LPGA Tour, was delighted with her own position after mixing five birdies with two bogeys at the picturesque venue hugging Peconic Bay in eastern Long Island.
“I felt good out there,” said the 25-year-old South Korean, who has posted six top-10s in 12 starts on the LPGA Tour this year.
“I did a lot of preparation this winter and all the hard work kind of pays off but still there’s a lot of golf to play,” she said. “I feel confident because I feel I have been in contention a few times this year. I have come a long way the last two days.”
The cut was projected to fall at five-over 149 with Taiwan’s former world No. 1 Yani Tseng, compatriot Candie Kung and third-ranked Norwegian Suzann Pettersen among those destined to miss out.
Additional reporting by staff writer