A message for the folks back home: Se Ri Pak is feeling fine and in the mood to win.
Her resurgence continued Thursday as she moved into the first-round lead of the JAL Big Apple Classic with a five-under-par 66.
"I want to get the trophy," she said. "I want it. . . . Now I am working more hard than last year.
"My country-people keep asking what happens to her, how long do we have to wait, is she not practicing?" Pak said. "I tell them I want to win more than anything, but it's not that easy."
Pak edged ahead of a knot of players at the top of the leaderboard, making three birdies and an eagle over a six-hole stretch on the back nine.
She led Tina Barrett, Jane Geddes, Pearl Sinn, Rachel Hetherington and tour rookie Mi Hyun Kim, a Korean native like Pak, by one stroke.
Some of the other hot golfers on tour were not far behind, including Lorie Kane (68), Karrie Webb (69), Laura Davies (70), Meg Mallon (70), Emilee Klein (70) and Juli Inkster (71).
Defending champion Annika Sorenstam, who set the tournament record last year with a 19-under 265, shot a one-over 72.
Pak broke out of a slump of sorts when she won at Atlantic City, N.J., in late June, and two weeks later in the Jamie Farr at Toledo, Ohio. She said she has restored some balance to her life by practicing more and cutting back on interviews and personal appearances.
"My mind is all clear, like my body," she said. "Very light. . . . Right now I'm much more happy, whether I win or not, I'm much more happy."
If anything, Pak said she is putting better now than in 1998, when she won four tournaments, including the U.S. Open.