Los Angeles (AFP) – Park Sung-hyun fired an eight-under-par 64 to thrust herself into contention at the top of the leaderboard at the ANA Inspiration on Friday as she chases a second major after a dazzling rookie season.
The 24-year-old star from South Korea shrugged off an opening bogey to card seven birdies and an eagle at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California, to claim a share of the second round lead.
Park, who last year won the US Women’s Open at Trump National in her first year on the LPGA Tour, heads into the weekend on 12 under alongside Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg after 36 holes, leading by three from Jessica Korda of the United States on nine under.
Lindberg, the first round leader, followed up her opening 65 with a five-under-par 67 while Korda remained in the hunt with a 68.
But the day belonged to Korea’s Park, who made the cut of every event she entered in her rookie LPGA season, and was also the first rookie in history to make it to world number one in the rankings.
Friday’s highlight was an eagle two on the par-four 15th, when she holed out from around 100 yards.
“Today the shots were awesome,” Park said afterwards. “I just felt really good about my driver. The shots fell in just as I wanted them to.
“There were a couple things that I missed, but overall just had a great round.”
Park, who has made a slow start to 2018, with three finishes outside the top 10 and a missed cut at the Kia Classic last weekend, said she had rediscovered the poise that helped her win her maiden major at the US Open last year.
“I was super focused at the U.S. Open, and felt just as focused for today’s round,” she said. “It was a bummer to not make the cut last week and I felt pretty disappointed. But I feel like it was a really good comeback today.”
Park’s rise has been all the more remarkable for the fact that she remains one of the few players on tour who does not have a permanent coach.
“I really enjoy the time alone to practice alone,” Park said. “If it comes to the point where I need a coach, I will consider that. But right now, I just feel really good about my game.”
Lindberg meanwhile was happy to be sitting alongside Park after a flawless bogey-free round which saw five birdies.
The 31-year-old said she is thriving after reuniting with caddie Daniel Taylor, who is also her fiance.
“He caddied for me for a good five, almost six years, and then we took a break only on the golf course last year when he caddied for a couple of other players,” Lindberg said.
“I felt like it was great for both of us, but I really missed him on the bag. There’s no-one that knows me, my game better than him. I just trust him so much. It was really me kind of begging him to come back on my bag this year.”
With Korda three back from the lead, a pack of four players — English duo Charley Hull and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Japan’s Ayako Uehara and the USA’s Amy Olson — were tied for fourth place on seven under, five adrift of the lead.