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Park Starts out Hot in U.S. Women's Open; Kim Leads
The winner of the first two majors on the LPGA Tour this year, No. 1-ranked Inbee Park, got off to a rousing start for her third in a row. The 24-year-old opened with a 5-under 67 at the U.S. Women's Open, which began Thursday at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
Finishing late in the day, South Korea's Ha-Neul Kim carded a flawless, six-birdie 66 for a one-shot lead over Park. Starting on the 10th tee, the 24-year-old Kim had two birdies on her front nine and four more on the back. She is a seven-time winner on the LPGA of Korea Tour.
Park, who's logged a total of five wins this young season, including last week's Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, carded six birdies and a bogey. Park knows she's on a hot streak and hopes it continues through the weekend. If she pulls off a win in the U.S. Women's Open, she'll join Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1950) as the only woman to win the first three majors of the year.
"I do have a lot of confidence in myself at the moment," Park told reporters. "I mean, the way I'm playing, the way things have been going, the way I've been getting the luck, I think I am in the zone. I mean, I've been playing my best in my career at the moment. Yeah, I mean, I really just want to enjoy the moment." (See below for Park's full post-round interview.)
Known as one of the best putters in professional golf, Park needed only 25 strokes on the short grass Thursday. Fellow South Korean I.K. Kim was tied with Park through 17 holes, but she bogeyed the par-5 last to shoot a 4-under 68. Also at that number are American Lizette Salas and Sweden's Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist.
Surprisingly, Sebonack was set up to play much shorter than in the practice rounds. Instead of extending 6,821 yards, it was nearly 250 yards shorter at 6,548. The move was not meant to cross up the players but was due mainly to bad weather and high winds that were in the forecast.
Paired with Park in the opening round were No. 2 Stacy Lewis and No. 3 Suzann Pettersen of Norway. Lewis opened with a 71 and Pettersen a 76. Defending champion Na Yeon shot a 71.
Lewis was among the players taken aback by the reduced length of Sebonack, a Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus co-design. "I was surprised," she said of the difference. "First - we started on the back, and the first three holes I had pitching wedge, pitching wedge, 9 iron into (the greens). So it was definitely set up a lot easier today, a lot more scoreable.
"Not surprised Inbee shot what she did because it was definitely out there," added Lewis. "But I was definitely surprised at how, I mean, how many tees were moved up. I'd say over half the tees were moved up today."
Other scores included a 70 by American Natalie Gulbis and a 72 by Paula Creamer, whose last win came in the 2010 U.S. Women's Open at Oakmont. Former No. 1 Yani Tseng opened with a 76.
New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko had a 72. The 16-year-old carded four birdies and a like number of bogeys. "I started off with a bogey and ended up with a bogey," said the teenage sensation, who won last year's Canadian Women's Open.
"So other than that, it was a pretty good day. Yeah, you know, I think when I was off the green, and even though I was putting, that's when I made my bogeys. But I made some really good birdies. And it's not an easy golf course, so even par is a pretty good start to the open."
Michelle Wie had a disappointing 80. The 23-year-old Hawaiian carded three birdies, five bogeys, a double on the par-5 15th and a quadruple-bogey eight on the par-4 10th. "Everything that could go wrong went wrong today," said the two-time LPGA winner. "But I'm proud of myself for making three birdies in the last four holes or five holes. So, hopefully I can get a couple more birdies tomorrow."
For all the scores, visit www.lpga.com.
After signing her scorecard, Park met with reporters for the following interview.
MODERATOR: Welcome to the first round of the U.S. Women's Open. We're here with Inbee Park who has come in with a great round of 5 under 67, carding six birdies and one bogey. Inbee, your great play continues. Tell us how you felt today.
INBEE PARK: I played very good today. I hit the ball very good, didn't miss many fairways or greens. I was able to take some pins today where the USGA was a little generous on us today. A lot of tees were moved up. So instead of hitting like 5 irons, we were hitting 9 irons, and that was making the course much easier. I was actually able to go for some pins and give myself a lot of opportunities today. Yeah, I made a lot of putts and didn't leave much out there.
MODERATOR: If we could quickly ask you to run through your card. You started on 10, and you started right off with a birdie. If you wouldn't mind walking us through your round really quickly.
INBEE PARK: You mean like shots?
MODERATOR: Yes, birdies and your one bogey.
INBEE PARK: Number 10 was - what did I hit? I hit a 47 degree wedge to about a foot, and I just tapped in for birdie. And 14, I hit 5 iron to seven, eight feet.And number 1, I hit pitching wedge to five feet. Number 2, I hit 5 wood to 15 - no, 10, 12 feet. Number 4, sand wedge to 15 feet. And a bogey on 6, yeah, I was in the thick grass off the tee, and I just laid it up and hit it on the green and two putted. Number 8 was a 30 yard chip, and I did to about five feet, six feet.
Q. On number 16, you hit a 3 wood, I think, off the tee there or driver. I'm sorry. This is number 6, you hit a driver. Were you trying to carry that bunker there?
INBEE PARK: No, I mean, they moved the tees up about 35 yards, and it wasn't a driver hole from behind, but then I knew I was getting into the left or right bunker. But that hole was a quite tough hole, so I really wanted to take the risk and going with the short iron, but I pushed it and that just slightly went over the bunker into the thick stuff on the right.
Q. And on number 16, you hit 3 wood, I believe. Were you trying to stay short of the bunker there?
INBEE PARK: 16?
Q. The uphill par 4.
INBEE PARK: Yeah. Well, 16, what did I do there? 17 is the par 3. I remember the par 3, but - I was just trying to stay short of the bunker there on the right. Driver brings the bunker into play, and it wasn't worth it. Even the bunker is an automatic bogey.
Q. When you make a birdie putt or you hit it close from the fairway, it's difficult for us to even see an expression change. But I'm wondering what goes on in your head, and do you allow yourself to get excited? What do you think when you do something really good on the course?
INBEE PARK: Well, I get my happy moments and I get my angry moments. But it's just a shot in golf, and you sometimes hit a good shot. You sometimes hit a bad shot. I don't think it's a big deal. You're excited inside, but you can't be too excited because you've got to play the next shot. So I'm just trying to stay as calm as possible when I'm on the golf course.
Q. When was the last time you stood over a putt and thought I just can't make this?
INBEE PARK: Maybe like a 30 footer. No, I've been feeling quite confident over the putts I guess the last couple of years. I had a little struggle with my putting in Shop Rite this year in May and maybe in the Bahamas. After that, I really haven't felt that bad.
Q. We hear a lot of athletes say "in the zone" when they're feeling it. Since you've won so much at these majors and last week, do you feel like you're in that area right now in your game that you just can't be stopped at this point?
INBEE PARK: I mean, I do have a lot of confidence in myself at the moment. I mean, the way I'm playing, the way things have been going, the way I've been getting the luck, I think I am in the zone. I mean, I've been playing my best in my career at the moment. Yeah, I mean, I really just want to enjoy the moment.
Q. You used the word "generous." That's not a word that most people use when they talk about the USGA in terms of set up. Do you think they'll be less generous tomorrow?
INBEE PARK: I'm not sure about tomorrow, but I think on the weekend they'll definitely go difficult. I think with this golf course, they can do so much on this golf course. You could play a totally different golf course tomorrow and they can do so much with the tee boxes and pin placements. You just can't expect anything from them. They can do whatever they want.
Q. And along that same line, this course was played completely different than when you practiced on this week, didn't it? I mean, no wind, some receptive greens. Were you surprised that you got those conditions?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean, I never had practiced from those tees, so I was a little bit shocked when I went to the tees. I didn't know what line I had to hit to. I mean, it was just a learning experience today. But I didn't hit - I hit my shots where I wanted to today, which helped a lot.
Q. As many great birdie putts as you made today, you also missed two or three short ones. The last hole, number 18, and I think number 15. What happens there and what do you tell yourself after you miss a makeable putt?
INBEE PARK: I just tell myself when putts are not going in, I mean, it's going to go in maybe the next hole or some time. I mean, you can't miss everything. We have 18 holes to play, even if you miss a couple putts, you'll get more opportunities. It's bound to go in. You have your handicap.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.