She sits at 12-under 132 and is tied for the lead with second-year LPGA Tour player Yu Liu, who returned the round of the day with a blazing 8-under 64.
Park captured the 2019 HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore on March 3 for her sixth career LPGA Tour victory. She followed that up the next week with a win at the Taiwan LPGA’s The Country Club Ladies Invitational in the Philippines. Park pointed to her early success in 2019 as the key driver behind her strong opening rounds in Phoenix.
“It makes me really comfortable,” said Park, who went back to World No. 1 after her win in Singapore. “I used to have not really the perfect beginning of the season in the past. Since I have early wins this season, it will make my comfortable with my playing.”
Local favorite Linnea Strom, a Swedish rookie who played two years at Arizona State University, was tied for the lead heading to the 18th hole. But she needed two attempts to clear a buried lie in the greenside bunker, with the ensuing double bogey dropping her into second at 10-under 134. She is joined by seven players in a tie for second, including first-round co-leader Celine Boutier, former Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko, 2017 USA Solheim Cup Team member Angel Yin and Strom’s fellow 2019 rookieCheyenne Knight, who shot a 63 in the Monday Qualifier to earn one of the final spots in the tournament field.
STROM AIMS TO BE “HOMETOWN” HERO
If you didn’t know 2019 LPGA rookie Linnea Strom, you’d have been surprised to see quite a gallery following the Swedish native around Wildfire Golf Club on Friday afternoon. Strom, who now calls Phoenix home, spent two years at Arizona State University, where she was a two-time All-American and helped lead the Sun Devils to the program's eighth NCAA National Championship in 2017. Strom’s former teammates and several local supporters had a front-row seat to what was a career-best 7-under round on Friday.
“I'm not used to being in this situation with a lot of the people watching and everything,” she said. “It's a bit different. But as I said, with my ASU team out there around me I feel like I had some great support. I live here so it's like home for me.”
Strom is making just her fourth career LPGA start this week, her first playing in front of her adopted hometown fans at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. The 2018 Symetra Tour Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year heads into the weekend just two shots off the lead but is trying to stay relaxed.
“Obviously I want to end up on the top of the leaderboard,” said Strom. “It's my first time being in this situation so I don't have any high expectations. I just want to go out and try to play as good as I did today, but just continue to do what I can do and we will see how it is.”
TWO BLUE DEVIL ALUMS NEAR THE TOP IN PHOENIX
Yu Liu (-12, T1) and Celine Boutier (-10, T3) have quite the history together beyond the LPGA Tour. Liu, a native of Beijing, and Boutier, who hails from Montrouge, France, played together during their time at Duke University and formed a strong bond along the way.
“Oh, we were the best friends!” said Liu, who gushed about Boutier, who became a Rolex First-Time Winner when she won the ISPS Handa Vic Open in February. “Celine has been doing an incredible job this year. Definitely great role model for all the Dukies, and hopefully I'll be able to do what she's done this season: get a win.”
Boutier was a two-time All-American and the 2013-2014 National Player of the Year while at Duke. She and Liu, who earned second-team All-America honors in 2013-2014, helped lead the Blue Devils to the program’s sixth NCAA Championship in 2014. “She's one of my closest friends out here,” Boutier said of Liu. “We played on Symetra Tour two years ago together, we graduated together, and then last year we had a pretty good rookie year on the LPGA Tour together.”
Liu had 10 birdies on Friday to shoot the second-lowest round of her young LPGA career with a 64 and find herself in a tie for the 36-hole lead for the first time. “Everything kind of clicked all together,” said Liu. “I don't expect this to happen every day. When a day like this come, I just am glad I was able to take advantage of it.”
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Sung Hyun Park (66-66)
Rolex Rankings No. 71 Yu Liu (68-64)
LPGA FOUNDER’S ANNUAL PRO-AM MOVING TO BANK OF HOPE FOUNDERS CUP WEEK
LPGA Founder Marilynn Smith announced today at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, that the annual Marilynn Smith LPGA Charity Pro-Am, originally held at PebbleCreek in Goodyear, Arizona, is moving to Wildfire Golf Club next year. The event will take place on the Monday following the 2020 Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
“At the LPGA, our motto is ‘act like a founder’, which means do whatever it takes to leave the game better for the next generation of golfers,” said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “There is no greater role model for our members than LPGA Founder Marilynn Smith. Her passion for the game and for the LPGA are unequaled. Even in retirement, she continues to serve as an example to all players and teachers.”
The event benefits the Marilynn Smith Scholarship Fund, which the founder herself created in 1999, and to date, 159 scholarships have been awarded, totaling $838,000.