SINGAPORE | As temperatures soared in Singapore, Inbee Park rose to the challenge of Sentosa Golf Club, carding a first-round 64 to lead after 18 holes. Park, who went bogey-free and recorded eight birdies, hit every fairway and missed only two greens on the New Tanjong Course.
“I hit a lot of great shots but probably left myself a lot of ten to 15-footers, and I was able to make most of them, which has been the difference this year,” said Park. “You know, holing putts when you need to hole, especially ten to 15-footers, so those percentage the last few years wasn't that great but this year has been a little better. So I think that really paid off today.”
Park recorded four birdies on both the front and back nines, securing the first-round lead/co-lead for the 12th time in her LPGA Tour career. In the five previous occurrences, Park went on to win four times, most recently at the 2021 Kia Classic. Park also held the 18-hole lead back in 2015 at the HSBC Women’s World Championship, her first of two victories in Singapore. She said as her confidence improved, she recalled on those past winning experiences in the “Lion City.”
“It definitely reminded me of some good memories when I was playing good out there today, just if I can raise this trophy again this time, I definitely thought about it. The good memories definitely make me concentrate even harder,” said Park.
One-stroke back is Hee Young Park at -7, carding her best score since the third round of the 2019 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic (65). Park kicked things off with a birdie on the first hole, but said she truly felt the momentum shift in her favor with her eagle on No. 10.
“I just tried to survive with this heat in Singapore, which is -- I love it, but after played the front nine, I had a good moment on No. 10. Made a eagle. Then really makes everything easier, less pressure and then I played with nice people, nice girls today and we tried to have fun with this hot weather. So I think everything goes, like everything easy. Hit the fairways and greens and easy to make two-putt and sometimes birdie.”
Park, a native to South Korea, hasn’t been back to Asia in over a year and a half, and is happy to be back in a comfortable environment. “I have a lot of good memories in Singapore and Thailand and Asia playing golf tournaments. Always reminds me, I played well before and I think I can do it. It kind of inspires me all the time, so I think it helps,” said Park.
Three major champions – Hyo Joo Kim, So Yeon Ryu and Sophia Popov – are among five tied for third at -5 after the first day. Ryu, who said she was most proud of her putting, carded just one lone bogey in route to her 67, and with no cut, hopes to keep the momentum going through the next three days.
“I think the no cut event gives us more opportunity, even if you're not playing well the first two rounds, you still have two rounds to go and you still have chance to shoot really low and then come back really high up again,” said Ryu. “I think no cut events definitely giving us more chance and more confidence, and because I started really great today, I want to keep my low score for all three days.”
LPGA Tour winners Gaby Lopez, Amy Yang, Jeongeun Lee6 and Shanshan Feng as well as Su Oh and Brittany Altomare round out the top-10 in a tie for eighth at -4. Defending champion Sung Hyun Park is in 69th at +6.