Se Ri Pak defies odds and takes second day lead
Se Ri Pak -3, Rolex Rankings No. 33
Just six weeks removed from a partial tear to the labrum of her left shoulder, Se Ri Pak is defying the odds with a one-shot lead after 36 holes at the LPGA's second major of the season. The LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer appears to have made a full recovery, shooting rounds of 70 and 71 to lead a quartet of players by one stroke at 3-under-par 141 at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Pak carded three birdies on her day, including back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 (her seventh and eighth holes) with two bogies to shoot 1-under-par 71 on a breezy day at Locust Hill Country Club. A 25-time LPGA winner with five major championships to her name, Pak is in pursuit of her first victory since the 2010 Bell Micro LPGA Classic. Her last major championships victory came at the LPGA Championship in 2006.
"This week you come out, you don't (have) very high expectation," she said. "Of course you really want it. My shoulder isn't any problem at all."
Major champions Paula Creamer and Inbee Park are tied for second at 2-under-par 142 along with Sandra Gal and Mika Miyazato.
As a 15-year veteran on Tour, Se Ri Pak has seen it all. From 25 victories to a shoulder injury, Pak has taken something from every round, every win, and every season. With many emerging young South Koreans on the LPGA Tour, Pak feels it's important to be a mentor to the girls and help guide them in their careers
"I tell young players as much as I could say it is great to be out here," Pak said. "I'm very happy to see you guys. I'm really proud to see you guys here play so well. It will come, but before that make sure you have to enjoy something in your life. Golf is a job. Yes it's a job. Most important thing you have to enjoy it.
"Just go out and relax just as fun. It's a game. Bad week, move on. You are not finished. Good week, yes, happy. But move on, right? Try to make it simple as I could. Most important for me to tell all Korean players if they need help that's the most I can say. Not how to make the shot, how to make this kind of lie."
Paired with fellow South Koreans Sun Young Yoo and So Yeon Ryu Friday, Pak wanted to start the round with some advice.
"Se Ri gave me really great advice and before the tee off," So Yeon Ryu said. "Se Ri said, please, enjoy the golf. Don't think about the results. So I did. So I think that's why my results is great."
"She said the great player is great golfer. But also we must be a great personality. So I really trying to be -- smile on my face and kind for lot of gallery. So I really respect her and she gave me really great advice, so I want to follow in her step."
Every time Paula Creamer walks up the 18th fairway at the Locust Hill Country Club this week she is overcome with memories of her late grandfather, who passed away the week of the Kia Classic. Creamer's grandfather, whom she calls "Pops," hadn't missed a single tournament played in Rochester since she started her LPGA career.
She plays with a heavy heart this week as she thinks of the memories of his presences in the grandstands on the 18th green where he used to always sit. Creamer believes those memories will be the driving force in her quest for her first season victory.
"This is by far the hardest year for me with pops not being here," Creamer said. "I've kind of been dreading this week in my mind ever since he passed away, just coming here. He has never missed a tournament this week, or at this event. That's been kind of the hard part for me mentally is really just kind of getting in my own world and every time I walk up to the 18th green, I get tears in my eyes, because I see him right behind the green. But that's part of life and hopefully this is my year and he will be there helping me out through it."
For Inbee Park, sitting at 2-under for the day along with Sandra Gal, Paula Creamer and Mika Miyazato is a pretty good feeling. A four-time winner on the Japanese Ladies Professional Golf Association (JLPGA), Park has found it difficult to be in contention at an LPGA event since her first and only victory, the 2008 U.S. Women's Open.
"I haven't won for a while, and I really want to win but I try, I try to play like all of the other tournaments," Park said. "I've had a couple of wins in Japan, not over in U.S., but I think it's a lot tougher to win out here. Competition is so tough. I'm just trying my best and see just what happens."
Park has consistently finished in the top-25 in each appearance this year and although she hasn't posted a win this season, she believes her wins on the JLPGA have boosted her confidence to pull out a victory this season.
Sticking around for the weekend: A total of 73 players made the cut which fell at 7-over-par 151
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng found herself in an unfamiliar position after finishing her second round early Friday afternoon at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. The defending champion, who won by 10 shots last year, had to sit around all afternoon to find out whether she had made the cut at this year's event.
Tseng fired a 3-over 75 on Friday to sit at 7-over-par after two rounds. When she finished, the cut line was at 5-over-par but with the winds picking up, the course proved to play tough in the afternoon wave. So Tseng managed to sneak in under the cut line and avoid becoming just the second defending champion to miss the cut at the LPGA Championship. The only one to do so was Betty Burfeindt, the 1976 champion, who missed the cut in 1977.
"I don't know how I shot 19-under last year," Tseng said. "And it's really tough. I know the course is very different this year. I mean, I just keep telling myself be patient, be patient. It's a Major. Everybody is going to make bogey. It's okay. But I finish with 3-over today, I wasn't happy. I was kind of very sad. Like I say, hopefully, I can still play the next few days and try to get my feel back for the next two days."
Tseng, who recorded her worst finish of the season with a T12 last week at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, played in the marquee pairing over the first two days with Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer. While both Lewis and Creamer put themselves in the hunt, Tseng struggled to get anything going.
"That's probably the worst I've seen Yani play over two days straight," Lewis said. "Usually if she has a bad day, she bounces back, and the next day is right back in it. She got off to a good start today. She looked more confident with her swing, and then throughout the day I can tell she just lost some confidence. It wasn't the usual Yani out there."
Stacy Lewis kept herself in contention for a third victory in 2012 with a second-consecutive even-par 72 on Friday. The top-ranked American is three shots off the pace at even-par 144 entering Saturday's third-round play at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
Lewis is the winner of two of the last three LPGA Tour events including a four-shot victory at last week's ShopRite LPGA Classic.
"My round was a little up and down," Lewis said. "I gave a few away, just not really playing smart. But I was lucky a couple of times and got a couple back. So overall it was pretty solid." The 27-year-old had a wild closing stretch including a long distance putt for par at 17 and a bogey at 18 where she drove it in the rough and hit a tree on her second shot.
Grace Park shed a few tears after sinking the par putt on her final hole in Friday's second round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship. It was an emotional moment for the 33-year-old who wasn't sure if that would be the final putt of her LPGA career.
Two weeks ago, Park made the decision to retire from the LPGA Tour in the midst of her 13th season. She chose Rochester to be her final event and sitting at 6-over-par through two rounds of the event, Park thought she might miss the cut and thus see her career come to a close.
But Park's determination, which helped her to six career wins on Tour including the 2004, showed on the back-nine of her round on Friday when she went 3-under to give herself at least a chance of making the cut. It made a big difference as Park finished inside the cut-line to give herself two more days of golf.
It's fitting that Park will get a little more time considering that injuries stunted a career that showed so much promise early on. The 1998 U.S. Women's Amateur champion and a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Park seemed poised to make a big splash on Tour early in her career. But back problems, as well as a hip injury, limited Park's time on the golf course in recent years and when she finally seemed to be back on track health-wise, she wasn't able to rediscover that magic in her game.
"I had been thinking about it for a while," Park said of her decision to retire. "After getting my health back and playing every event last year, I wanted to give it one last chance at becoming one of the top golfers again. I worked really hard to get here today. Especially this past winter in trying to improve my game, improve my strength again, and I thought I could do it again. But the truth was, the reality was, that my game just wasn't there."
Park is engaged to Skye Kim with a wedding planned for November. It's just one of many new things ahead for Park, who acknowledges that she's unsure of exactly what lies ahead for her.
"I just want to take some time off," Park said of her initial plans. "I picked up this game when I was 8 years old. I've been competing since I was 10. I really never had any time off. I don't even know what I like doing because I pretty much devoted my whole life into being the greatest golfer that I could be. So I want to take some time off to find out what I like doing."
Jodi Ewart made eagle on the par-4 No. 1 hole, knocking in her second shot from 153 yards with a 7-iron. Karen Davies and Minea Blomqvist both withdrew after the first round of play at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Sponsor exemption Cheyenne Woods shot a second-round 79 to finish at 10-over-par and miss the cut. Michelle Wie shot 82 on Friday to finish at 12-over-par and miss the cut. It's Wie's sixth consecutive missed cut this season.
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