Published September 13, 2013
EVIAN, France (AFP) – Pak Se Ri, the trailblazer of South Korean women's golf, made an impressive start in her bid to win a sixth major title with an opening 66 in the Evian Masters on Friday.
But following Thursday's washout and with more bad weather forecast for the weekend, the fifth and final major of the season has been reduced to 54 holes.
It is only the second time in LPGA history a major has been reduced to three rounds. It also happened at the 1996 LPGA Championship won by England's Laura Davies at DuPont Country Club in Delaware
Just a couple of weeks before her 36th birthday, Pak turned back the clock with six birdies in a five-under-par 66 to share second place with Germany's Sandra Gal and Norway's Suzann Pettersen, one behind Japan's Mika Miyazato.
Miyazato, whose only win came in the 2012 LPGA Safeway Classic, had seven birdies."I played well and am very pleased," said the player.
Pettersen, this year's Safeway Classic winner, should have joined her on 65 but missed a three-foot putt for par at the last.
A late finisher, the world no.3 had two bogeys, both three-putts. "The one at the last just bounced off line," she asserted. "I think the greens will definitely be better in the morning."
Lydia Ko, the 16-year-old New Zealand amateur who retained the Canadian Open last month, again showed her class among the professionals with a 68, but world No.1 Park Inbee, chasing a fourth major win of the year, struggled to a 74.
Park's round included a penalty shot at the short second when she inadvertently moved her ball with her putter when facing a two-foot bogey putt.
Pak was just 20 when she took the LPGA Tour by storm, winning two majors - the LPGA Championship and US Women's Open - in her spectacular rookie 1998 season.
She added another two LPGA titles and the 2001 Women's British Open to bring her majors haul to five and also won another 20 LPGA tournaments, although none since the 2010 Bell Micro LPGA Classic.
Pak spoke little English and was the only South Korean player in her early years, but she opened the floodgates and now players from her country, led by Park, dominate the game.
"I'm so proud and happy to see what the young Koreans are achieving," said the leader of the revolution. "They give me good energy.
"I'm still as motivated but I feel much less pressure than when I started out. Playing golf now is more enjoyable."
Pak finished eighth at Evian last year - before it was a major - and then took a long time out of the game due to a shoulder injury. She reckons the break did her good.
The other key to her round was her putting - and that was thanks to her father. "I'd been playing well but putting badly," she explained. "But I went back to Korea last week and Dad knows my game the best. He told me I was bending too much and to stand tall. Today I made some good putts."
Gal, a member of the winning 2011 team in Ireland, was bitterly upset to miss out on this year's European Solheim Cup team and the historic first win on US soil in Colorado last month. But her recent form has been sparkling.
"I started playing well just a little too late," said the player who was sixth at the recent LPGA Safeway LPGA Classic in Oregon. "I was very disappointed not to make the Solheim team but the 2015 matches in Germany are a real focus.
"Being on that team is a must. It is going to be so good for the game in my country and will inspire so many kids."