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Inbee Park holds 1-shot lead midway through Kia Classic

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South Korea’s Inbee Park maintained her one-shot lead at the Kia Classic after shooting a 3-under-par 69 on Friday in Carlsbad, Calif.

Park is at 9-under 135 at the event’s midpoint, just ahead of Germany’s Sophia Popov, who carded a second-round 68.

England’s Mel Reid holds third place at 6 under after a 70. South Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim (second-round 72) is fourth at 5 under, and Taiwan’s Wei-Ling Hsu holds fifth place at 4 under following a 69.

Australia’s Minjee Lee (second-round 69), Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen (71) and the U.S. duo of Gerina Piller (70) and Kristen Gillman (71) are tied for sixth at 3 under.

Park started her day on the back nine, and she reached the turn with one birdie and eight pars. She opened the front nine with three birdies in the first five holes, then made her lone bogey of the day at the par-4 seventh hole before closing with two pars.

“You know, I hit good shots, and it’s just weird on these greens, because I hit the shots really close and I don’t make the birdie putt, but I kind of hit it to 15, 20 feet and I make those birdie putts,” Park said.

“The holes I (birdied) … I made probably 10- to 20-footers. But coming in last three holes, I missed probably inside 5, 6 feet. So it’s just greens that really need patience.”

Park, a seven-time major champion, is in search of her 21st career LPGA win. Her most recent was at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in February 2020.

Popov also started on the back nine and was 5 under on the day before notching consecutive bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6. She finished birdie-par-par.

“I think everything has been really solid,” Popov said. “It’s kind of all come together.”

Michelle Wie West, playing in her first competitive tournament since 2019, lowered her score against par significantly in the second round but still didn’t come close to making the cut. She shot 81-74 to wind up at 11-over 155. Players at 3 over or better made it to the weekend.

“Obviously still not where I want it to be, but a lot of progress, and that’s the best thing,” she said. “If I can improve by seven strokes every single day, I’ll take it.”

–Field Level Media

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