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Pettersen and Park tied for lead
October 26, 2012

Inbee Park -10, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Suzann Pettersen -10, Rolex Rankings No. 7
Yani Tseng -8, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Catriona Matthew -8, Rolex Rankings No. 15

Rolex Rankings No. 5 Inbee Park and No. 7 Suzann Pettersen (@SuzannPettersen) share the lead at 10-under-par through two rounds of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship (@taiwanlpga). Pettersen continued her hot play of late, firing a 7-under 65 to tie the 18-hole tournament record. Park, who had also tied the tournament record in the first round, followed up her impressive opening round with a 3-under 69 which was highlighted by a near hole-out for eagle on the 18th.

Rolex Rankings No. 1 and Taiwan native Yani Tseng (@YaniTseng), who won the inaugural event here last year, sits two shots back of the leaders and is tied for third with Scotland native Catriona Matthew (@Beany25).

The last time that Suzann Pettersen won events in consecutive weeks it was back in October of 2007 when she took home trophies in Korea and then in Thailand. The 10-year LPGA pro is now trying to see if she can deliver a similar magic stretch during the LPGA Tour’s Asian swing this year.

Pettersen captured her ninth LPGA Tour victory at last week’s LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship and she is now trying to take home win No. 10 in Taiwan. With her 7-under 65 on Friday to move into a share of the lead with Inbee Park, Pettersen has put herself in contention for yet another possible victory.

“I played really solid on the Front 9,” Pettersen said. “I gave myself three good looks on the first three holes, chipped it in on the fourth, and really just tried to stay aggressive, and when I made the turn, I figured it's time to kind of shift to the fifth gear, and it's nice when the body reacts to your kind of mind game, and really just tried to stay aggressive and firing at the pins.”

So considering her success in these overseas events, is there something special about Asia that brings out the best in her game?

“That's a good question,” Pettersen said with a smile. “I mean I love playing golf. I mean some players like to come to Asia. Other players think it's a hassle to kind of travel that far. I really just try to embrace wherever I go. Last week I really enjoyed Korea. This week I'm really enjoying Sunrise because this is the place I've been all week and I'll be for the next two days. So I'm really just trying to when I'm on the golf course work, and when I'm off the course, just really give myself a break, do something completely different and really just look forward to getting on the course the next day.”

It’s hard to argue that anyone is playing better golf on the LPGA Tour right now than Inbee Park.

The first-round leader of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship maintained a share of the lead after 36 holes of play, shooting a 3-under 69 in Friday’s second round.

Even when it appeared that Park might be in line for a rough day, as she was 1-over-par through her first five holes, she managed to get hot once again. Park birdied four straight holes to close out her front nine and then hung in on the back nine, following up a bogey on 17 with a birdie on the 18th. It continued what has been a remarkable few months for Park, who has shot in the 60s in 24 of her last 39 rounds on the LPGA Tour.

“At the first birdie, I made a putt, I think about a 15-footer, and I wasn't really comfortable with the putter after missing two short putts early in the round, so I just needed that one putt to fall, and that fell and just gave me a lot of confidence after that,” Park said of getting her round going on Friday. “And then I hit a couple shots close after that. So four birdies in a row was the highlight of the day today.”

With this tremendous stretch of play, Park has been making a run at many of the LPGA’s season-ending honors. Park currently is the leading money winner on the 2012 LPGA Money List with $1,979,926 in season earnings. She’s also closing in on Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis in the Rolex Player of the Year race. Lewis currently leads Park by 40 points, although The Woodlands, Texas native, who is trying to become the first American to win the honor since Beth Daniel in 1994, is not in the field this week. A win here in Taiwan would give Park another 30 points in the race and put her very close to the lead.

“I mean if I end up getting Player of the Year, I think that's the first time as a Korean,” Park said. “I mean looking at all the Korean players playing, I thought there would have been -- somebody would have gotten that, but nobody got it, so I was really surprised with the result. If I would be the first one, it would be a really great honor and it would be a gift for me.”

Anything you can do, I can do better. There were plenty of cheers from the crowd for hometown favorite Yani Tseng on Friday but the loudest of the day came on the 18th. That’s when Tseng and her fellow playing partner, Inbee Park, played a “who can hit it closer?” contest with their approach shots into the par-5 hole.

Right after Park nearly holed out her shot and left herself with a tap-in, Tseng followed it up with a dart of her own. Tseng’s third shot also nearly went in for eagle and in fact, based on the roar of the crowd, the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings thought she had holed it.

“The crowd goes like crazy. It was like -- it just make me goose bumps, and I thought my ball was in, but it's not, because it just sounds like my ball was in,” Tseng said. “But after Inbee hit that shot, I tell myself I gotta hit Inbee's ball, and Inbee's ball goes in and the crowd goes like crazy. So I was pretty close. I almost hit her ball, but I thought maybe I would hit her ball and my ball goes in. You never know.

“But it's just fun. I mean the crowd give me so much support today and because every time I make a putt, I mean the crowd just goes crazy. So I mean they let me keep my smile always going on, and they're always telling me to keep it up, keep up the good work and always giving me great support. So I'm very appreciative.”

Catriona Matthew fell just shy of capturing her fifth career LPGA victory last week at the LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship, losing to Suzann Pettersen in a three-hole playoff. After the tournament, Matthew tweeted a congratulatory message to Pettersen while adding at the end of her tweet “... next time!”

Perhaps, Matthew was right that her next win is right around the corner.

Matthew has carried over her strong play to this week’s event in Taiwan. The 43-year-old fired a 6-under 66 to move into a tie for third with Yani Tseng at 8-under-par. Last week marked Matthew’s fourth straight top-10 finish and so far during this Asian swing, Matthew has finished fourth in Malaysia and then runner-up in Korea.

“I think I've really played pretty well since was it July or August and the Irish Open, which I won,” said Matthew. “I've been playing not too badly the first half of the season, but just not putting the scores together, and then I think the win in Ireland just gave me that little bit of confidence, and just holing more putts makes all the difference.”

Early in the week all of the talk was about the gusty winds that plagued players during Tuesday’s practice rounds and Wednesday’s pro-am. But over the first two days of tournament play, that strong Taiwanese wind has been nowhere to be found and thus it has resulted in many low scores.

“I'm really just trying to enjoy this while it lasts because tomorrow could be a completely different day out there,” said Suzann Pettersen, who shot a 7-under 65 on Friday. “Obviously first time I played this course with the slight breeze into on 17. I played here nine, I don't know, nine or ten -- nine rounds total, and just feeling really good. I've been sweating a lot. I don't know if I have a fever, I have a cold coming on, but watch out for the sick golfer.”

Other players have been surprised as well to see that the wind has been kept at bay over the first two rounds but not everyone is wishing for it to stay that way.

“I was totally very surprised,” Yani Tseng said of the lack of wind. “I probably never been playing in this kind of wind for a long time on this golf course because it's always very windy here. I mean you never know. Hopefully the wind picks up a little bit because I think it will make more challenge.”

“It's no surprise at all. Probably they are surprised to see my name on there. (Laughs). So they better watch out now. So I'm just really happy to see my name on the board and hopefully on the weekend I'll enjoy and I'll enjoy to play with the best player. So I mean I just want to go out there and have fun and enjoy all the crowd.” – Yani Tseng on seeing many of the same names that have been playing well recently up near the top of the leaderboard.

Lexi Thompson had a rollercoaster round on Friday, finishing with four birdies, five bogeys and two eagles to shoot a 3-under 69 and move into a TXXX at 3-under-par. The par-3 11th hole played as toughest hole on Friday with only one player making birdie there on the day, Alison Walshe. Se Ri Pak and Jeong Jang withdrew during Friday’s second round. Pak said she withdrew due to lingering back troubles that also forced her not to play in Malaysia two weeks agao.

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