Park Inbee storms to the lead in HSBC Women's Champions
South Korean storms to the lead in HSBC Women's Champions after a second straight five-under-67
It was only her sixth round of competitive golf after a six-month injury lay-off, and Park Inbee insisted that there were still cobwebs that need blowing away.
The former world No. 1 did card a double-bogey on the par-four 12th hole of Sentosa Golf Club's New Tanjong course yesterday, but the other 62 golfers contesting the HSBC Women's Champions should be worried.
For that was Park's only blemish in two days of golf.
She yesterday signed for a second straight five-under-67 to take the outright lead at the US$1.5 million (S$2.1m) event, her 10-under 134 a solitary stroke clear of overnight leader Michelle Wie (69), Hur Mi Jung (67) and world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (68), who are locked in a three-way tie for second.
"I'm not totally warmed up yet. I was a little bit nervous last week, and my expectations were lower than what I've set for myself in the last few years," said Park, addressing her return from the longest lay-off of her career.
But, calm as ever, the South Korean was taking nothing for granted as the HSBC Women's Champions moves to its business end.
"I'm always dreaming of leading and holding the trophy by the end of the week... but we're only halfway there, and I just want to play my own game. Hopefully I can be consistent," said the 28-year-old, who is the sport's first female Olympic champion as well as the youngest player - aged 27 - to be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame when she gained entry last year.
But Park can expect a tough fight to the finish line.
Wie followed an opening round of 66 with a bogey-free 69 yesterday, and she is looking forward to the weekend playing alongside Park.
"I had a lot of putts that almost went in, and I just kept patient out there today. It's frustrating seeing those putts slip out... but you can't let yourself get frustrated," said Wie.
Jutanugarn, too, is planning an aggressive assault on the top of the leaderboard, although she said she enjoys playing with the calm Park.
"I have so much fun playing with Inbee because she inspires me a lot. I just feel like she's chilling and not really bad when she hits a bad shot," said the 21-year-old.
"I try to be aggressive every day, so tomorrow I think the plan is going to be the same.
"So, I will not really worry about too much, like today. Get up to the tee and see what I want to do."
There are 11 other golfers within four strokes of Park, including Suzann Pettersen (136), world No. 1 Lydia Ko (137) and defending champion Jang Ha Na (137).
Singapore's representative, 18-year-old Amanda Tan, finished the second round with a creditable one-over 73 - a three-stroke improvement on her opening day scorecard - and she is looking for more improvement over the weekend.
"Compared to the first day, I holed more putts. My ball-striking was not as good at first, but I figured it out along the way," said Tan, who is tied for 59th.
"I was more calm on the first tee, despite the pressure and all the people watching, but I've got a long way to go to get to where these other women are at.
"I just want to see if I can keep doing the right things, and keep heading in the right direction."
134: Park In Bee 67-67
135: Hur Mi Jung 68-67, Ariya Jutanugarn 67-68, Michelle Wie 66-69
136: Suzann Pettersen 69-67, Park Sung Hyun 68-68
137: Jang Ha Na 70-67, Kim Sei Young 70-67, Charley Hull 69-68, Lydia Ko 69-68, Brooke Henderson 67-70, Anna Nordqvist 67-70
138: Feng Shanshan 70-68, Paula Creamer 68-70, Mo Martin 67-71
149: Amanda Tan 76-73