March 3, 2017 / 9:41 AM / 6 months ago

Park recovers from muddy mishap to edge ahead in Singapore

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Park In-bee overcame a 'dirty' double-bogey to leap to the top of the HSBC Women's Champions leaderboard after the Korean fired a second straight five-under-par 67 on Friday to move one clear of the field in a soggy Singapore.

As the players took a liking to a soft and exposed New Tanjong Course being used for the first time at this event, Park picked up her seventh birdie of the day on the par-four 18th to take a halfway lead at a tournament she won in 2015.

Revitalised overnight leader Michelle Wie maintained her strong showing from the opening round, the American firing a three-under 69 to join Thai world number two Ariya Jutanugarn and Korea's Hur Mi-jung in a tie for second on nine-under.

Sweet-swinging rookie sensation Park Sung-hyun is a further shot back, alongside Suzann Petterson, while defending champion Jang Ha-na and world number one Lydia Ko are also well-placed at seven-under after 36 holes.

Park endured a frustrating LPGA Tour campaign last year when she put her clubs away in May to undergo thumb surgery but returned to action with a brilliant victory at the Rio Olympics in August before opting to sit out the remainder of the season.

Her 2015 win here was made remarkable by the fact she went bogey-free through all four rounds and after scything through 29 holes without dropping a shot this time, a repeat appeared on the cards until the setback on the par-four 12th.

"It was just really unlucky. I had a really good drive down the middle and I had mud on the ball," the 28-year-old told reporters.

"I was on the right side and I knew it was going to go left, and I aimed right but it went 30 yards left. I hit a good shot but had an unlucky bounce. Making double-bogey was a mistake."

Park, who has slipped to world number 12 as she searches for a first LPGA Tour victory since November 2015, made light of the setback and struck back with a couple of birdies coming home to cancel out her muddy misadventure.

"I was already having a really good day. I didn't want to ruin it with one bad hole and an unlucky shot. I just tried to keep the calm emotions going. There was a few birdie holes coming in, so I tried to get a couple from there," she said.

The Korean seven-times major winner added that she was just happy to be pain-free again after last year's difficult campaign and scoring well as she worked her way back into the swing of things was an added bonus.

"I had a tough time last year, so the sooner I got back, the better. Obviously, two good rounds here will definitely help with the confidence. I never took that kind of break in my whole career, so it was just something different," Park said.

Reporting by John O'Brien; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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