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Park leading Sunrise but Tseng trailing close
October 25, 2012

Inbee Park -7, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Yani Tseng -5, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Danielle Kang -4, Rolex Rankings No. 116
Paula Creamer -3, Rolex Rankings No. 11

Inbee Park’s impressive second-half surge continued on Thursday in the first round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship (@taiwanlpga). Park fired a 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead over Rolex Rankings No. 1 and Taiwan native Yani Tseng (@YaniTseng) after 18 holes of play at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club. Park tallied seven birdies in her bogey-free opening round and she has now shot under par in each of her last eight rounds in LPGA events.

Tseng, who won the inaugural event here in Taiwan last year, is alone in second place after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the first round but there is a group of four players who sit not far behind at 4-under-par – Nicole Castrale, Pornanong Phatlum, Danielle Kang and Hee Young Park.

Over the past few months, it’s been hard to find an LPGA leaderboard that didn’t include Inbee Park’s name on it.

Park’s T15 finish last week at the LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship ended what had been an impressive streak for the 24-year-old South Korean. She had recorded 10 straight top-10 finishes, a streak that dated back to early June at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. It included two victories, four runner-up finishes and eight top-5 finishes while falling a few top-10s shy of Karrie Webb’s LPGA record of 16 straight top-10s.

But while that streak may have ended for Park, it appears she’s on track to beginning another one this week following her hot start in Thursday’s first round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. Park’s 7-under 65 has given her a two-shot lead after the first round and she was pleased with how her game is feeling.

“Obviously with that number, everything went really well today,” Park said. “I hit the ball great. I mean I hit a lot of short irons in, so I hit a lot of shots close and I was able to make a lot of birdies.”

It’s been just two weeks since Park captured her second victory of the 2012 season at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. That win marked the first time that Park has enjoyed a multi-win season in her career and she seems pleased about the way she’s been able to improve over the past few months.

“I mean that was a big accomplishment for me, and a lot of really a lot of confidence boost for me, and I mean it's the first time that's happened for my sixth year on the tour, and I'm really happy for that and really want to give myself credit for that,” Park said of her two wins. “And hopefully it's going to be a better one next year and two years later. I just want to improve myself every year.”

Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng made it a memorable week last year at the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship when she captured a five-shot victory in the first-ever LPGA event in her home country.

Now the question is whether the world’s top-ranked player can deliver an impressive second act here in Taiwan.

Tseng put herself in a good position to do just that with her 5-under 67 in Thursday’s first round. She tallied six birdies and one bogey in the round, which included a stretch of four birdies in five holes following her lone bogey of the day.

“Must be the bogey on No. 10 make me a little mad out there,” Tseng said with a laugh. “I've been really consistently and like all Front 9, and the Back 9 I make bogey on No. 10, and it was kind of -- I hit it good on every shot, but I still make bogey. But after that I feel let's make birdie chance, let's make a few birdies, and I did on No. 11, that was a great putt because I didn't putt well on the Front 9. Almost every hole I had a birdie chance and I only made two. So No. 11 hole I think is my turning point today to give myself making lots of birdies.

“After 12 I see my niece. My mom just calling my name, and she brought the niece, and I saw her and just make me real happy. That must give me little different power to make three birdies in a row.”

Thursday’s round was another sign that perhaps Tseng is getting her game back on track following a rough stretch over the past couple months. Tseng looked like her old self at last week’s LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship where she finished third and one shot out of a playoff. It was her first top-10 finish since the Sybase Match Play Championship back in May. After winning three of the first five LPGA events of the year, the top-ranked player in the world hit a rough patch beginning in June and prior to last week she had gone a stretch of 11 consecutive tournaments without a top-10 finish, which included three missed cuts.

So is her game finally coming together once again?

“I haven't been that close to winning a long time,” Tseng said of her play in Korea. “Last week every drive, every shot I feel like I played like before. But now I just want to always looking forward. It doesn't matter how I play before, but now is the start every shot and I want to do my best and focus on every shot.”

This week marks the first time that Paula Creamer (@ThePCreamer) has seen the Sunrise Golf & Country Club as she did not play in the event last year. Creamer got a taste of Taiwan weather when she made a visit to the country last December to play in a non-LPGA event and when the winds were gusting earlier in the week.

But on Thursday with the winds quiet for most of the day, Creamer got her first chance to play in conditions that were right for scoring and she took advantage with a 3-under 69.

“The wind kind of picked up on the last four or five holes and kind of had to play for it a little bit more there,” Creamer said. “But this golf course is all about the pin placements, too, where they're going to put it tucked in these big greens, and it was good to get my first round in competition since it is always different than a practice round. So this was a nice way to start, and just going to have to make a lot of -- make some birdies on the next three days.”

Creamer enters this tournament coming off a sixth place finish in an event in Japan last week. While her last win came at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open, Creamer seems confident that her game is coming together and her hope is that soon it will result in a return to the winner’s circle.

“I feel pretty solid with where my game is at, just trying to really eliminate the mistakes and make as many birdies as I possibly can,” Creamer said. “But I continue working on my golf swing and having new confidence with my putting and hopefully I’ll be in contention on Sunday.”

“She has a lot of fans here, and I know she's really comfortable with this golf course. I think she does have an advantage. She won here last year, and she likes this golf course. And she played well last week, too. So I think she has a good opportunity.” – Inbee Park when asked about Yani Tseng’s home advantage here in Taiwan.

Rolex Rankings No. 7 Suzann Pettersen, who captured her first win of the 2012 season last week in Korea, shot a 3-under 69 in Thursday’s opening round. Nicole Castrale, whose best finish this year is a T9 at the U.S. Women’s Open, sits in a tie for third at 4-under-par. Two rookies sit in the top 10 after the first round, Danielle Kang who shot a 4-under 68 and Lizette Salas who fired a 3-under 69.

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