Inbee Park’s flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.
Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a five-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC L.A. Open in the LPGA Tour’s return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.
Showers ended shortly before Park’s threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club.
Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-four 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.
“I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,” Park said. “I almost feel like I’m playing back home. It’s almost like a little Korea.”
The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.
Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68.
Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-five 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.
Alex found trouble on the par-four 17th, where her ball rolled into the water. She salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park.
“I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn’t, I wouldn’t have expected to make,” she said. “I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.”
Murray leads Texas Open despite rough winds
Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions didn’t matter at the Valero Texas Open. He made seven birdies in his round of 5-under 67 for a one-shot lead.
Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw Thursday. He says it was among his best rounds of the year.
The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted a 68.
Sergio Garcia, playing the Texas Open for the first time since 2010, had a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75.
Maggert, Parnevik lead Legends of Golf
Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik shot an 8-under 63 in better-ball play Thursday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions’ Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.
Playing together for the first time in the team event, Maggert and Parnevik eagled the par-5 eighth and had six birdies in cool, breezy conditions on Big Cedar Lodge’s Buffalo Ridge course.
The next three rounds will be played on par-3 courses. Maggert and Parnevik will play the 18-hole Top of the Rock on Friday and Sunday, and the 13-hole Mountain Top on Saturday.
Mark Calcavecchia and Woody Austin were a stroke back. They also eagled No. 8. Austin won the 2016 title with Michael Allen. Calcavecchia won the Boca Raton Championship this year.