HSBC Women's World Championship 2021 Day 1

Top marks for park

World No. 2 In-bee putting well and gets her treble bid off to hot start with a 64

South Korean star Park In-bee, the Rio Olympic champion, with her husband and caddie Nam Gi-hyeob after taking a one-shot first-round lead in the HSBC Women's World Championship. She gave herself a nine but Nam a perfect 10 for carrying her bag in "v
South Korean star Park In-bee, the Rio Olympic champion, with her husband and caddie Nam Gi-hyeob after taking a one-shot first-round lead in the HSBC Women's World Championship. She gave herself a nine but Nam a perfect 10 for carrying her bag in "very tough conditions".PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/LPGA

Park In-bee insists she is not a perfectionist but when asked to assess her HSBC Women's World Championship opening round yesterday in which she recorded eight birdies on a bogey-free scorecard, the South Korean said her performance warranted a nine out of 10.

The reason for not getting full marks? "I misread that last birdie putt on the 18th," she said with a wry smile.

Regardless of her own appraisal, it is evident that the rest of the field will have to raise their game if they are to keep pace with the world No. 2 and reigning Olympic champion.

Park, who did not miss a single fairway and hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation en route to her 64, leads by one shot from her compatriot Park Hee-young.

A further two strokes back on five-under 67 at the US$1.6 million (S$2.1 million) tournament - cancelled last year due to the pandemic - are Germans Sophia Popov and Caroline Masson, Lin Xiyu of China and Koreans Ryu So-yeon and Kim Hyo-joo.

In-bee, who triumphed at the Sentosa Golf Club in 2015 and 2017 and is seeking a hat-trick of HSBC titles, said: "Those are some good memories and I am thinking about raising the trophy again. It definitely helps me concentrate even harder."

The seven-time Major champion, 32, has started the LPGA Tour season in blistering form, winning her first event, March's Kia Classic, and posting tied-seventh, tied-second and tied-15th finishes this month.

She added: "My putting definitely has improved a lot this year. That first week at Kia really helped my confidence and it's been pretty good so far."

For 114th-ranked Hee-young though, the new campaign has been a struggle.

She has missed three cuts from six starts - her highest finish was joint-22nd at the season-opening Tournament of Champions in January - but the 33-year-old showed she is capable of magic with an eight-iron in her hand.

She holed her approach from 155 yards on the par-four 10th for an incredible eagle-two and celebrated with a little dance routine on the fairway.

She added three more birdies for a back-nine 31, the lowest in the 69-player field.

Hee-young, who uses a yellow smiley face ball marker, said: "That eagle made everything easier after that. There was less pressure and I could have fun out there."

Back-to-back birdies on her first two holes also helped Popov, 28, quickly settle her nerves. She is making her tournament debut after qualifying thanks to her British Open win last year and while pleased with her efforts, she said she expected Sunday's winning total to be between 17 and 20 under.

"I look at the field and I think, you don't want to lose out on an opportunity to score. The other girls are going to shoot low numbers."

One person at least received a perfect grade. In-bee's husband and coach Nam Gi-hyeob is caddying for her this week and she was a satisfied boss.

She said jokingly: "I'm going to give him a 10 today and probably 10 for the rest of the week because I'm really thankful that he's doing this for me and in this heat. It's very tough conditions."

HSBC WOMEN'S WORLD C'SHIP

Day 2: StarHub Ch204 and Mediacorp Ch5, 10.30am


LEADERBOARD

1ST RD (SELECTED)

64 Park In-bee

65 Park Hee-young

67 Sophia Popov (Ger), Lin Xiyu (Chn), Caroline Masson (Ger) , Ryu So-yeon, Kim Hyo-joo

68 Feng Shanshan (Chn), Su Oh (Aus), Gaby Lopez (Mex), Brittany Altomare (USA), Amy Yang, Lee6 Jeong-eun

69 Lydia Ko (Nzl), Minjee Lee (Aus)

70 Patty Tavatanakit (Tha)

71 Chun In-gee, Ko Jin-young

76 Amanda Tan (Sgp)

78 Park Sung-hyun

*Kor unless stated


TEE TIMES

2ND RD (SELECTED)

1ST TEE

8.01am Patty

8.25am Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee

9.13am Feng, Kim, Yang

9.25am Lin, Masson, Ryu

9.37am Popov, Hee-young, In-bee

10TH TEE

7.30am Jin-young

8.06am Danielle Kang (USA)

8.54am Ariya Jutanugarn (Tha), Nasa Hataoka (Jpn)

9.18am Tan

9.38am Hinako Shibuno (Jpn), Sung-hyun

For full list, visit www.lpga.com/ tournaments/hsbc-womens-world-championship/pairings

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2021, with the headline 'Top marks for park'. Subscribe