RIO DE JANEIRO – Inbee Park’s resume would suggest there will be no consolation prizes this week at the Olympics.
The South Korean has won 17 LPGA events, seven majors and earlier this year qualified for the Hall of Fame, but a lingering thumb injury and two months on the disabled list tempered her Olympic expectations.
“I didn't expect that much from me coming into this week with injuries and with hard times that I've gone through,” said Park, who hasn’t played on the LPGA since June’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship because of her left thumb injury. “My mindset changed coming here. I just really tried to enjoy it and really try to show what I've just done for the last month.”
But from low expectations have come special things for Park this week at the Olympic Golf Course. The 28-year-old started slowly on Day 2, playing her first nine holes in 1 under par, but she rallied late with three birdies over her last four holes for a second-round 66 and a one-stroke lead over America’s Stacy Lewis.
It was Park’s second-consecutive 66 in Rio and sets up an impressive threesome on Friday in the final group of Park, Lewis and England’s Charley Hull.
Not bad for a player who didn’t make the decision to even play the Olympics until about a month ago, and her play on Day 2 is an ominous sign for the rest of the field.
After missing six birdie attempts from 10 feet or closer on Wednesday, Park’s putting improved on Thursday and she took advantage of benign conditions and a golf course that she is starting to feel more comfortable on.
“In the first round, I think everybody was really nervous and they were kind of new to the golf course,” Park said. “Everybody kind of really knows the golf course now and the real game begins.”