Sung Hyun Park birdied her last two holes for a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead in the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship as the South Korean bolstered her bid to win LPGA rookie of the year and player of the year.
Park was tied for the first-round lead with Min-Sun Kim and Minjee Lee. Cristie Kerr, coming off a victory last week in France, was among those at 67.
Park, who won the U.S. Women’s Open this year for her first major and is No. 2 in the world, was playing Thursday in the featured group at Sky 72 Golf & Resort comprising the top three players in the world ranking. The top-ranked So Yeon Ryu opened with a 72, while Lexi Thompson had a 69.
“I am off to a really good start,” Park said. “I’m feeling really good. My only hope at this point is that I maintain this. My putting was really strong today, especially I was holing a lot of my mid-range putts. So I’m quite satisfied with that.”
The 24-year-old Park won six times last year on the Korean LPGA. In her first season on the American tour, she already has won the U.S. Women’s Open and the Canadian Women’s Open. She leads the LPGA money list and is No. 3 on the points list of player of the year behind Ryu and Thompson.
Even on a cool, overcast day, Park played before a large gallery and fed off the energy. “At one point, it did cross my mind that there may not be many spectators today,” she said. “I was quite surprised when I reached the first hole and saw the size of the crowd. I’ve never felt that it’s uncomfortable to have a larger crowd. The larger the cheering is the more fun for me, so I had a really good time out there today.”
Lydia Ko was in the large group at 68.