YANG MEI, Taiwan — Inbee Park of South Korea shot a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead over local favorite and top-ranked Yani Tseng after the first round of the Taiwan Championship on Thursday.
Park, leading the race for LPGA Tour player of the year, had seven birdies at Sunrise Golf and Country Club.
Defending champion Tseng finished the day with six birdies offset by a bogey on the 10th hole.
The group of four tied for third on 68 included Nicole Castrale and Danielle Kang of the United States, Hee-young Park of South Korea and Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand.
Park finished in the top 3 for six consecutive tour events, including two wins, until her streak was broken in South Korea last week with a tie for 15th. She leads the tour money list.
She credited improved hitting skills and calm on the normally windy Sunrise course for her performance.
“We were expecting a lot of wind and I was prepared for it. But today it was really calm and a very nice day,” Park said.
“Last year I wasn’t hitting the ball as solid as this year, and my ball-striking skills have improved.”
While Park is the hottest player on the LPGA Tour, Tseng, one of the island’s few sports superstars, got most of the attention.
“I know everyone is talking about the pressure this week,” Tseng said. “When I see all the fans, I think that pressure is gone because I know it doesn’t matter how I play, they’re still going to be there to give me 100 percent support.”
The only blemish on her round, the bogey on No. 10, “made me a little mad out there,” she said.
Phatlum led the field of 78 early with birdies on her first four holes from the 10th.
Park eagled the sixth hole but bogeyed twice. Castrale, who hasn’t enjoyed a top-10 finish since the U.S. Women’s Open in July, birdied the 18th, as did Kang, who made up for two bogeys with six birdies.