HSBC Women’s Champions 2017

HSBC Women’s Champions 2017: Parked atop leaderboard

Park In Bee teeing off on the ninth hole during the second round of HSBC Women's Champions at the New Tanjong Course. Park carded a second straight five-under 67 to stay one ahead of a trio tied for second.
Park In Bee teeing off on the ninth hole during the second round of HSBC Women's Champions at the New Tanjong Course. Park carded a second straight five-under 67 to stay one ahead of a trio tied for second.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Form is temporary, class is permanent for Park as she goes one stroke ahead of the pack

Even with all that she has achieved in her career, Park In Bee continues to define what greatness on the golf course is. Yesterday was only her sixth competitive round after a six-month injury layoff, yet she has stamped her class at the HSBC Women's Champions.

A second straight five-under 67 has given the South Korean the lead at the halfway point of the tournament. Her 10-under 134 was one better than the chasing trio of Michelle Wie (69), Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and Hur Mi Jung (67).

Even Park, the former world No. 1 who has slipped to No. 12 and is winless since November 2015, was surprised with her performance at the Sentosa Golf Club. She has missed only one fairway so far and had gone 29 holes without dropping a shot at the New Tanjong course until a wild approach on the 12th hole led to a double-bogey six.

She recovered with birdies on the 14th and 18th, and the seven-time Major winner said: "My expectation is obviously lower than what I have usually set for myself in the last few years...

"But two good rounds here will definitely help my confidence."

 

It is already a far cry from her comeback performance at last week's LPGA Thailand tournament. She had nine bogeys and two double bogeys to finish tied-25th.

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    Holes Park In Bee went without dropping a shot at the New Tanjong course until a double-bogey six on the 12th yesterday.

Her flight-mate Ariya, world No. 2 and 2016's standout player with five wins, was in awe of Park. The Thai said: "I have so much fun playing with In Bee because she inspires me a lot. Whenever I play with her, I try to be a better golfer."

With a congested leaderboard - 14 players within four shots of the summit - the US$1.5 million (S$2.11 million) event stayed wide open.

Overnight leader Wie may have swopped positions with Park, but the American drew comfort from her clean scorecard. She said: "It got really frustrating at times just seeing those putts just slip out.

"I just kept it steady, and a good up-and-down on the last hole is one which I'm really proud of."

World No. 1 Lydia Ko, who closed with three straight birdies for a 68 and is joint-seventh on 137, was also pleased with her efforts. She produced the shot of the day when her ball came within inches of a double-eagle on the 534-yard 5th hole.

The 2016 Olympic silver medallist is chasing her first Tour title since July and said: "I know I'm striking the ball well enough where I can give myself the opportunities."

She is tied with defending champion Jang Ha Na (67) and four other players. Singapore's Amanda Tan shot a credible 73 and is tied-59th on 149 in the 63-women field that features 19 of the top 20 golfers.

All are in pursuit of the soft-spoken, unfailingly polite Park, who won the 2015 edition at the Serapong course. She said: "The greens are a little bit harder to read here (than in Thailand). I feel like I am not totally warmed up yet with so much break. Hopefully I can get better every day."

Already in command and playing sublime golf, imagine what she could do once she has shaken off all that rust. The chasing pack have been warned.

HSBC WOMEN'S CHAMPIONS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Parked atop leaderboard'. Print Edition | Subscribe