There aren’t many places Pernilla Lindberg would rather be than on a golf course.
It’s been that way since her early childhood, even before she played the game as she spent summers picking flowers and rolling in the grass at the only course in her hometown of Bollnas, Sweden (pop. 12,842). And just about any week the LPGA Tour is playing, it’s a safe bet Lindberg will be in the field.
She hasn’t been overly successful. In fact, now in her 11th professional season, she’s still trying for victory No. 1.
In the first major tournament of the year, she’s trying to remedy that.
She shot a five-under-par 67 Friday for her second consecutive bogey-free round to move into a tie for first place with Sung Hyun Park at a tournament-record 12-under par midway through the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage. Park shot 64, lowest score of this year’s event.
Lindberg and Park hold a three-shot lead over Jessica Korda, who offset three bogeys on her first seven holes with seven birdies to shoot a 68 and stand alone at nine under.
Four players — Jodi Ewart Shadoff (67), Charley Hull (68), Amy Olson (68) and Ayako Uehara (71) — were tied for fourth at seven under.
Lindberg, 31, played 28 events on the tour last year. This is already her ninth this year, including six in a row before taking a break a couple of weeks ago.
“I’m happy playing a lot,” she said.
Her parents, who still live in Sweden, are with her this week in California. They’re avid golfers who will stay with her for the next two events, in Hawaii and Los Angeles. Her father, Jan, has been president of the Bollnas Golf Club for 40 years and was once a scratch golfer; her mother, Gunilla, is about a 15-handicapper.
“The golf season back home in the northern part of Sweden is obviously really short,” Lindberg said. “If I wanted to see my family during the summers, I had to be at the golf course, and I loved it. I was just in the environment all the time.”
Her play so far on the Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills Country Club has been at a new level for her. Her coach is with her after about seven weeks apart to work on a few things. And her fiancé, Daniel Taylor, is caddying for her again after they split (just on the course) for a while.
“There’s no one that knows me, my game better than him,” she said of Taylor. “We both learned a lot, him working for other players and me working with a couple other caddies last year. So I don’t regret that decision at all, but I’m very happy to have him back.”
Asked if she could recall two rounds in tournament golf as solid as her first two — in which she has hit 30 of 36 greens in regulation — she paused.
“Just following up a low round yesterday with another low round today, I think it’s always hard to do,” she said. “So I can’t really remember the last time I did that. It feels great.”
Park, 24, won the 2017 U.S. Open and was the tour rookie of the year and co-player of the year, the first time since Nancy Lopez in 1978 that a player earned both honors. She missed the cut in her last tournament, the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, and hasn’t finished better than 22nd in four events this year.
She said the extra time to practice after missing the cut last week has helped.
Unlike many professional golfers, who travel with teams of swing coaches and psychologists, Park is her own coach, and likes it that way.
“I love being on my own,” she said through an interpreter. “It’s my own game, so anytime I need to fix something, I’m going to feel that. It’s served me well to work on my own.”
Park, who played primarily in Korea before earning LPGA membership for 2017, came to the par-five 18th hole needing an eagle to tie the Lorena Ochoa’s ANA Inspiration record of 62. But she drove into the rough on the 516-yard hole, had to lay up and settled for par.
“I was just so focused on my game today,” she said, “I didn’t even know I was eight under.”
Michelle Wie, still battling vertigo that led to a 75 in her first round, sat down frequently, avoided any sudden movement and bounced back with a 67 to get to two under.