South Korea's Park sets early pace in bid for Singapore treble

Park In-bee was the first-round leader at the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore
Park In-bee was the first-round leader at the HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore Brenton EDWARDS AFP
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Singapore (AFP)

South Korea's Park In-bee overcame steamy conditions to lead the HSBC Women's World Championship first round with an eight-under-par 64 as she seeks her third title in Singapore on Thursday.

Despite confessing she does not enjoy the heat, the reigning Olympic champion showed she was still one for the big occasion as she signed for a bogey-free card, marked by eight birdies.

The tournament, cancelled last year because of the pandemic, is the first event on any international golf tour in Asia since the Asian Tour's Malaysian Open in March last year.

"I don't like the heat but that doesn't mean I'm going to play badly. It was quite a distraction obviously with the hot weather as I was really trying to concentrate on playing golf," said Park.

Park's husband and coach Nam Gi-hyeob is on her bag as she bids to complete her treble in Singapore, having won twice at the Sentosa Golf Club in 2017 and 2015.

"I'm going to give him 10/10 for what he's doing for me especially under such tough conditions this week. I'm really thankful he's here. I don't need anything. I just need him next to me, carrying the bag, that's all," she added.

Park, who got her LPGA season off to a flying start with a wire-to-wire victory at the Kia Classic last month in California, carded her first birdie on the par-four third before adding three more birdies on holes five, seven and eight.

After turning in 32, she continued her birdie run on the 10th and 13 holes before cruising home with another two birdies in the last three holes to take the outright lead.

"My putting has definitely improved a lot this year, starting with the first event. I've been holing putts especially those 10-15 footers and that has been the key difference in my performance this year," she said.

Compatriot Park Hee-young trailed the world number two in second place by one shot after returning a 65.

Germany's Caroline Masson and Sophia Popov along with China's Lin Xiyu and South Korea's Kim Hyo-joo and Ryu So-yeon are tied for third on 67.

Defending champion Park Sung-hyun of South Korea had a day to forget after posting a 78 to start her title defence bottom of the 69-player, no-cut field.