Americans making run to win only S. Korean event

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The Americans are making a hard run to win South Korea’s only LPGA event.

Brittany Lang, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, took the second-round lead Friday with a 7-under-par 65 at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in Incheon to top a leaderboard led by Americans.

At 10-under 134, Lang is one shot ahead of fellow American Alison Lee (70) and three ahead of American Cristie Kerr (65).

South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park (65) is also three back.

Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko rebounded from a 75 in Thursday’s opening round to shoot 69. She’s tied for 33rd at even par overall. Rolex No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn followed Thursday’s 73 with another 73 and is tied for 47th.

With six LPGA events left in 2016, Americans have won just two titles. In 67 LPGA seasons, they’ve never won fewer than four.

Lang hasn’t yet been able to capitalize on the growing confidence she says she has gained winning the U.S. Women’s Open at Corde Valle in July. In six starts since the victory, her best finish is T-16.

“It was a big confidence builder,” Lang said of winning her first major. “I haven't played great since then. I feel like I've played some good golf. I played really good in Waterloo (at the Manulife LPGA Classic). Other than that, haven't really played that great, so it's really good to come out and have some good rounds. I think I have gotten a little bit mentally stronger from that win. And just knowing I'm near the top here, I’ve just really got to really stick with a good process.”

Park, who has won seven Korean LPGA titles this year and leads that tour’s money list, is knocking on the door to yet another opportunity to win her first event as a non-member playing the American-based LPGA. Park tied for second at the Evian Championship last month, four shots behind the winner, In Gee Chun. Park tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open in July, tied for sixth at the ANA Inspiration in April and tied for fourth at the Kia Classic in March.

If Park wins this weekend, she has the option of immediately taking up LPGA membership through the rest of this season and through next year. Or, she can defer membership until the start of next year.

But even if she doesn’t win, Park will likely have the option at year’s end to take up LPGA membership next year based on her money winnings as non-member this year. In six starts this season, Park has earned $653,369. That would rank 19th on this week’s LPGA money list if she were a tour member. If Park ends the year with money that is equal to or more than the LPGA member who finishes 40th on the final money list, she can claim tour membership for 2017.