HUGEL-JTBC LA Open Wilshire Country Club Los Angeles, Calif. – Inbee Parks Leads

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Updated: April 19, 2018

INBEE PARK STARS IN LPGA’S RETURN TO HOLLYWOOD

Thursday at the inaugural HUGEL-JTBC LA Open, Inbee Park carded an opening round 5-under par, 66 to take the outright lead at Wilshire Country Club. The LPGA Tour Hall of Famer holds a one stroke lead ahead of Marina Alex at 4-under par. A large group sits just two strokes back at 3-under par, including major champion Pernilla Lindberg and Lexi ThompsonCaroline InglisAditi AshokMoriya JutanugarnEun-Hee Ji and Emma Talley.

“I played really well out there. Especially being the new golf course. I didn’t know how it was going to play,” Park said after her round. “The course played really good. Really suited me. I putted really well out there, so I was really happy with that.”

In was an uncharacteristically cool and rainy morning in Los Angeles, but the rain subsided just as Park began her early morning round. She made it around in 28 putts and led the morning wave by two. Earlier this week, Park gushed about enjoying the nearby Koreatown and Thursday was amazed at the outpouring of support.

“I never played a tournament outside of Korea having this much Korean supporters out,” Park said. “I almost feel like I’m playing back home. It’s almost like a little Korea.”

The second round is scheduled to start on Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. – Park tees off Friday afternoon at 1:06 p.m. local time alongside Thompson and Anna Nordqvist.

For more and “Five Things to Know” from Round One of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open, visit: http://www.lpga.com/news/2017-five-things-to-know-round-one-la-open

PARK PUTS TRUSTY OLD PUTTER BACK IN THE BAG

Inbee Park switched back to her old putter, the Odyssey Two-Ball, after feeling disappointed with her T3 finish at last week’s LOTTE Championship in Hawaii.

“Yeah, last week was really bad putting week for me. I was hitting the ball good, but a lot of short putt misses, which, I mean, I usually — yeah, I don’t usually miss the short ones,” said the seven-time major champion.

Park said she feels like she’s “playing back home” with so many fans to support her during the round and is confident about her club change.

“[I’m] looking forward to the next three days because I posted a good round today. Hopefully I can post some good rounds like today for the next three days.”

ALEX LOOKING FOR HER BREAKTHROUGH

American Marina Alex finished one stroke behind Republic of Korea’s Inbee Park with a 4-under par 67 on Thursday. Alex had a breakthrough season with a career-high six top-10 finishes in 2017, and she has started the 2018 season off strong with two top-5 finishes in her seven starts, already beating out her previous best career finish (T3, 2017 CP Women’s Open).

“Building confidence,” Alex said of her game. “There is still some stuff I’m trying to work out and get more comfortable with out on the golf course. You know, some setup things and trying to not overthink what I’m doing technically.”

The 27-year-old Florida resident, who was a two-time SEC Player of the Year while at Vanderbilt, has never won on the LPGA Tour and is feeling optimistic about her first round performance.

“Overall, you know, it was a really good day. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.” Alex added, “Just kind of let a shot on 17 get away from me. Other than that, it’s definitely getting better.”

Alex will tee off in the second round tomorrow at 7:44 a.m. with back-to-back Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic champion Brittany Lincicome and three-time European Solheim Cup team member Azahara Munoz from Spain.

GULBIS MAKES A COMEBACK IN L.A.

35-year-old California native Natalie Gulbis carded a 2-under 69 today, playing in her first tournament since last September at the 2017 Evian Championship. The 2002 LPGA rookie is looking to make her first cut since the 2015 Meijer LPGA Classic.

Gulbis has suffered from back injuries that have kept her off the course, “I’ve had three back surgeries, and the first one wasn’t successful. I was going to retire in 2010.”

Gulbis only practiced for a month before her 2018 season debut, her delayed start due to a prolonged healing process.

“[I was] just waiting to heal. Just like a lot of stiffness and just weakness. You’re weak in every golf muscle that you need,” the SoCal native explained.

Gulbis will tee off tomorrow at 8:28 a.m. with fellow Southern California native Tiffany Joh and 2018 rookie from England, Georgia Hall.

NOTABLE QUOTES FROM LA

Inbee Park, Republic of Korea (66, -5) on switching putters after her third place result last week:

“I didn’t want to [place] blame on anything, but I just thought try to find something to blame, I thought it was maybe a new putter.”

Marina Alex, USA, (67, -4) on what she’s learned from being in contention:

“Yeah, just to not get too overwhelmed with the moment that’s going on. Sometimes I just will tend to get ahead of myself, and I just really need to keep that in check. I mean, even today I found myself a little bit towards the end just getting a little bit anxious when I probably — you know, it’s only Thursday of this. There is so much golf left. So just to chill a little bit, honestly, for lack of a better term.”

 

Aditi Ashok, India (68, -3), on what’s she’s learned in her second year on Tour:

“I think it gets better every year. Some of these events have been in the same place for almost eight, ten years, maybe more. I just feel like if you’ve played it once you kind of know the courses, how it suits your game. You might know some pin placements. It just helps you plan the week a lot better.”

 

Natalie Gulbis, USA (69, -2), on how special playing in Los Angeles is to her:

“The L.A. Open. I mean, being back in L.A., being back at Wilshire and in this market. This is an incredible golf course. It’s the hundred year anniversary of Wilshire. It was the first golf course that let me practice when I would spend time here in L.A. Just to have an event back here, it just shows you how well the LPGA is doing to be back in markets like this.”

 

OF NOTE

This is the 10th time in Inbee Park’s LPGA career she has held at least a share of the lead thru the first round – Park went on to win the tournament in three of the nine previous instances.

 

Park’s 19 career LPGA Tour victories rank tied for 28th (Sandra Palmer) on the Official Career Wins list.

Park, the 2013 Rolex Player of the Year, became the youngest player ever to qualify for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame after her 10th start at the 2016 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at the age of 27.

Of players in the top nine (within two shots of the lead), five are looking for their first career win this week – Marina Alex (-4), Caroline Inglis (-3), Aditi Ashok (-3), Moriya Jutanugarn (-3)and Emma Talley (-3).

Alex recorded her best career finish and the first runner-up of her career at the 2018 Bank of Hope Founders Cup, finishing five shots behind champion Inbee Park.

There have been two Rolex First-Time Winners so far in 2018 – Jin Young Ko (ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open) and Pernilla Lindberg (ANA Inspiration).

Natalie Gulbis won the 2007 Evian Masters for her lone career LPGA victory.

Haru Nomura withdrew from the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open on Wednesday with a back injury and was replaced by Kris Tamulis.

Jane Park withdrew from the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open on Thursday morning and was replaced in the field by Lee Lopez.

Na Yeon Choi withdrew from the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open on Thursday with a back injury.