Hee Young Park may not have drilled seven consecutive birdies during the opening round of the Evian Masters, as 18-hole leader Stacy Lewis did. But the 2011 LPGA Titleholders champ managed to can five in a row on her way to a second-place, 7-under 65 finish -- thanks to the belly putter she employed in competition for the first time on Thursday.
Despite her support staff questioning her decision to add the long blade to her bag, Park pointed to Ernie Els’ surprising victory at the British Open to back up the move.
“Did you know that Ernie Els won last week with the belly putter? Did you see that?” Park told reporters she said to quiet the dissension in the ranks about her use of the scorned stick, which she began tinkering with just 10 days ago. “Then I got more confidence.”
No kidding. The 25-year-old South Korean needed just 27 putts in a near flawless round that included a lone bogey on the par-4 fourth hole. She made her five straight birdies on holes five through nine.
Until now, women anchoring putters to their non-existent guts or chests have not been common sights on the LPGA Tour. Michelle Wie tried a belly putter last year but to no avail and has since returned to a traditional flat stick.
In addition to her first LPGA Tour win in the Titleholders event last year, Park has three top-10 finishes this season. Her best performance in four previous appearances at the Evian Masters was a tie for sixth in 2008.