LOS ANGELES: Park In-bee fired a bogey-free nine-under par 62 on Friday (Jun 28) to grab a one-shot lead in the LPGA NW Arkansas Championship in Rogers, Arkansas.
The South Korean star, who counts seven majors among her 19 LPGA tour titles, strung together five birdies in a row from the 11th through the 15th among her nine birdies on the par 71 Pinnacle Country Club course.
She was one stroke clear of Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, Thailand’s Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong and American Paula Creamer, with Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and Americans Annie Park and Maria Torres tied at 64.
Sherman had 10 birdies and two bogeys in her 63 while Ciganda had nine birdies and a bogey.
Both were in the clubhouse early behind Park, with Creamer joining them on eight-under with a round that featured nine birdies and a bogey.
Park, who is in search of her first victory since the 2018 Founders Cup, won the 2013 NW Arkansas title and said her familiarity with the course is an advantage.
“I have played this golf course so many times, so it helps me playing through this week,” she said.
Even more helpful was seeing her putts drop.
“It’s always great to see the ball rolling in the hole,” Park said. “I haven’t been seeing that for such a long time. For a couple of years I have been missing a lot of short putts.
“I was waiting for this moment and, hopefully, I can keep this going.”
Creamer, who has 10 LPGA titles but hasn’t won since 2004, was eight-under through 12 holes. She played the last six in even par, unable to sneak past Park.
“I hit the ball really well,” Creamer said. “I don’t think I missed one fairway today. I had six-, seven-, eight-footers pretty much all the holes. I made them.”
Defending champion Nasa Hataoka of Japan, who claimed her first LPGA title with a dominating, record-breaking victory last year, was in a tie for eighth, three shots off the lead.
She has gone on to win two more titles, and came into her first LPGA title defense ranked fifth in the world.
She was joined on 65 by world number one Ko Jin-young and Jenny Shin of South Korea and Americans Katherine Perry and Marina Alex.