RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Two players broke a 12-year-old record on Friday at the ANA Inspiration, one-upping World Golf Hall of Famer Lorena Ochoa. The pair at 12-under 132 – besting Ochoa’s previous 36-hole mark by a shot – couldn’t be more different. Pernilla Lindberg, a veteran LPGAer from Sweden who has never held a 36-hole lead, is an average-length player who is quick to smile and content with a slower route to success.
Sung Hyun Park is none of those things. The aggressive, long-bombing South Korean with the take-no-prisoners game face opened with a 62 in her first LPGA event. She became the second LPGA rookie to take Player of the Year honors last season and won the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open under the shadow of President Donald Trump.
Park is a celebrity in South Korea, the complete package when it comes to athleticism, appearance and potential. She dominated in South Korea and has a dedicated fan club that travels the world to watch her compete.
The delightful Lindberg, 31, is a celebrity in her hometown of Bollnas, Sweden, particularly at the only course in town where her father has been club president for a whopping 40 years.
“We probably have 1,200 members there,” said Lindberg, impressive for a town of 10,000. “I’m from a pretty small town, but I know I have 1,200 fans there that have kind of followed me since I was little.”
Lindberg played golf at Oklahoma State and met her fiancé/caddie, Daniel Taylor, at LPGA Q-School in December 2009. Taylor, an Englishman, also played collegiate golf at Southeastern Louisiana. The couple lives in Orlando, Fla., but haven’t been there often in 2018.
Lindberg began the year playing in six consecutive events starting from the Bahamas through Singapore. The ANA marks her ninth event of the year, and she’s firing on all cylinders, posting 12 birdies and no bogeys in the first two rounds. Her birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 Friday were tap-ins.
“I just think playing pretty smart,” said Lindberg, who birdied all the par 5s in Round 1. Her parents, Jan and Gunilla, are in the midst of a full month on the road watching their daughter. On Wednesday they played 18 holes off property and then came out to watch the pro-am.
“So, growing up, my dad was a scratch player,” said Lindberg. “He was never professional, but he actually played on the Swedish Senior Amateur National Team.”
If Lindberg wanted to see her parents in the summers growing up, she had to go to the golf course. Sometimes that meant rolling around in the grass and picking flowers.
Park missed the cut at last week’s Kia Classic but turned the time off into an advantage, coming to Mission Hills early to use the practice grounds and get back to basics. Her caddie, David Jones, asked her to think back to tendencies that have gotten her into trouble in the past. It didn’t take long to self-correct. Park, who rose to No. 1 last year, hasn’t used a swing instructor for years.
“I really enjoy the time alone to practice alone,” said Park, through the help of an interpreter. “On my own it’s serving to be pretty good for me and pretty satisfying. If it comes to the point where I need a coach, I will consider that, but right now I just feel really good about my game.”
Park stuffed her approach shots close all day, ultimately holing out from the fairway on the 15th hole for eagle with a 50-degree wedge. She posted an 8-under 64, two off of Ochoa’s record of 62.
At the midway point on Friday, Park and Lindberg held a 5-shot lead over a trio of players including Charley Hull, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Amy Olson. The marquee pairing of the day – Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie – reversed roles in the second round. While Wie still suffered from dizzy spells, she managed a 5-under 67 and easily advanced to the weekend at 2 under. Thompson struggled mightily with her putter and stayed at 4 under.
Major champs Inbee Park and In Gee Chun are somewhat lurking at seven back. Karrie Webb actually came from seven back in the final round to win here in 2006. Park, a seven-time major winner, happens to like her position heading into the weekend.
“The next couple rounds hopefully the putter gets a little bit hot,” said Park, “because the conditions were really great out there. There was no wind. It was perfect for scoring.”
Park and Lindberg can attest.