Park finds comfort on soggy greens

South Korean Park Sung-hyun lining up a putt on the eighth green during Thursday's first round of the Women's PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club. She shot a six-under 66 for a one-shot lead.
South Korean Park Sung-hyun lining up a putt on the eighth green during Thursday's first round of the Women's PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club. She shot a six-under 66 for a one-shot lead.PHOTO: REUTERS

KILDEER (Illinois) • Park Sung-hyun bounced back from a poor performance in the previous Major to take a one-shot lead in the first round at the Women's PGA Championship outside Chicago on Thursday.

The 24-year-old Park, among several long hitters who revelled in the soggy conditions, carded a six-under 66 on a Kemper Lakes course that was drenched by rain earlier in the week.

Four weeks after missing the cut at the US Women's Open, where she was the defending champion, the South Korean was more assured, particularly on the greens, as she gathered six birdies.

Americans Jessica Korda, Brittany Altomare and Jaye Marie Green and Canada's Brooke Henderson were tied for second on 67.

"I agree that the course is long and difficult, and I think it's pretty big benefit for the long hitter," Park, who spent a week as world No. 1 last November, told reporters. "As the score says, it went pretty well."

Park added that poor putting had cost her at the US Women's Open. "I felt like something little was missing, especially my putting, but this week I feel pretty comfortable and confident," she said. "I changed my putter, and I made some change in the putting routine."

Korda was also delighted that the 6,741-yard course, which offered very little roll, played so long and allowed her to unleash her driver.

"It was wet out there, so managing each shot was tough, but I love the way they set up the golf course," she said. "I could finally hit drivers. It wasn't an iron or three-wood off every tee. This is a Major and it played like a Major golf course."

Henderson overcame an awful start when she made bogeys at her first two holes, to match Korda's 67.

She started "grinding away" and stemmed the bleeding, before a birdie at her ninth hole opened the floodgates and she added six more on her inward half.

"I started to hit it really close and was able to make a few putts," said Henderson, who won the event two years ago.

Defending champion Danielle Kang did not fare as well on Thursday as she battled to a 73 that was marred by a late double bogey.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'Park finds comfort on soggy greens'. Print Edition | Subscribe