KILDEER, Ill. – The only thing that’s predictable about Sung Hyun Park is the look on her face. Whether it’s a 77 or 66, which happen to be Park’s last two rounds in major championships, her steely expression rarely changes. Five missed cuts and one trophy tell the tale of Park’s sophomore campaign, quite the contrast from a remarkably consistent rookie year that included a major title and share of LPGA Player of the Year honors.
Park’s flawless 6-under performance at Kemper Lakes Golf Club puts her one shot ahead of a foursome of players that includes Jessica Korda, Brooke Henderson, Jaye Marie Green and Brittany Altomare.
“I felt like something was missing,” said Park of her up-and-down year, “especially my putting. But this week I feel pretty comfortable and confident.”
Like Henderson, Park changed putters this week and has enjoyed an immediate boost. The South Korean superstar switched from the TaylorMade Spider Tour Red to the Black model and took an inch off the length of the shaft to 33 inches.
Last season, Park ranked 40th in overall putting average on the LPGA; this year she’s 106th. Park took 27 putts in Round 1.
Henderson got off to a rocky start with bogeys on her first two holes, Nos. 10 and 11, but older sister Brittany helped keep her head in the game.
“I think that’s one thing about having my sister on the bag is she always knows the right thing to say,” said Brooke. “I don’t really remember anything specifically, but just kind of getting me to calm down and relax a little bit and just to believe that I could finish strong.”
That she did, pouring in three birdies on her last four holes to post a 30. Her birdie putt on No. 9 (her final hole) measured 48 feet.
Henderson, winner of the 2016 KPMG, put the newest version of the Ping Craz-E putter in her bag earlier this week for the CVS Charity Classic, which she won alongside Billy Andrade and Keegan Bradley. A winner last April in Hawaii, Henderson has switched putters at least four times this year, and this time changed from a blade to a mallet with a longer shaft and a different grip.
She took 25 putts in Round 1 and credits playing alongside male touring pros for giving her an added edge this week.
“I think just playing with the men, it’s really exciting, and it kind of makes you have to make a lot of birdies,” said Henderson, “and kind of puts a lot of – not pressure on your game, but just makes you want to play a little bit better.”