Park Min-ji finds strength in difficult course, ties for 1R lead

Park Min-ji, who has been the ‘big thing’ on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf (KLPGA) Tour for the past two years, is unusually strong on difficult courses.

She has won three majors in two years, including the Korean Women’s Open last year, the KB Financial Star Championship and the Hite Jinro Championship, all of which were played on very difficult courses.

At the KB Financial Star Championship, her winning score was 5-under par, and at the Hite Jinro Championship, her four-round total was 2-under par.

“On a difficult course, you are given a mission on every hole, and it’s fun to solve it,” Park said, “I look forward to competitions on difficult courses.”

Park shot a 4-under 68 with six birdies and two bogeys in the first round of the KLPGA Tour’s third major of the season, the Hanwha Classic ($1.7 billion in prize money), at the par-72 Jade Palace Golf Club in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, on Thursday.

Park, who finished the first day tied for the lead with last year’s U.S. Women’s Professional Golf (LPGA) Tour Rookie of the Year, Ataya Thitthikorn (THA), is well positioned to win her third major of the season.

Park finished runner-up at the event last year, when no player shot a four-round total under par.

If she wins this event, she will become the first player on the KLPGA Tour to win four different major trophies.

Ko Woo-soon, who holds the record for most major wins (7), has only won two majors, while Shin Ji-ae, who has five majors, has won three majors.

Park struggled early in the match, with her shots pulling left.

“My shot feeling wasn’t the best,” she said, so she turned to misaiming.

The mis-aimed shots, aimed slightly to the right, worked, and she birdied the first (par-5) and fourth (par-4) holes.

“After playing like that for a while, my shot feeling came back,” Park said.

“I missed some birdie putts that I should have made, but I also made some difficult birdie putts,” said Park, who dropped three more strokes in the second half with four birdies and one bogey. “I’m happy with four under par on the first day at a major on a difficult course.”

Tietjen made five birdies and one bogey to showcase the form that once propelled him to the top of the world rankings.

“The course set-up and pin placement is very challenging,” said Thititjer, who used his pinpoint accuracy to his advantage at Jade Palace Golf Club, missing the green just three times. It’s important to stay on the fairway,” she said.

Han, who won her second consecutive Women’s Open title at Hi One Resort on Sept. 20, shot a 3-under 69 to finish in a tie for third place by one stroke.

“I was actually very tired in the morning, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play well today, but I hit it without thinking and it turned out well,” said Han, who is looking for her second straight win and first major championship.

“It’s a course where you have to stay in the fairway. I will protect the fairway as much as possible.”

Two-time defending champion Im Jin-hee, Jung Yoon-ji, and Lee Ji-hyun also shot 3-under par 69s and are in contention for the title.

In the highly anticipated ‘New and Old Longest Stroke Queen’ matchup, the original longest stroke queen, Kim Ah-rim, came out on top.

“It’s a shame I couldn’t show what I was prepared for,” said Kim, who shot an even-par 72.

Bang Shinsil struggled with a three-over-par 75. “I made a lot of mistakes,” said Bang.

Defending champion Hong Ji-won had two birdies and three bogeys for a 1-over-par 73.

The money list leader, Lee Ye-won, was given a two-stroke penalty after her caddie was seen putting an umbrella over her head when she made a par putt on the par-4 third hole.

The penalty on No. 3 cost Lee a 1-over par 73. 토토

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