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Competition at Boiling Point in Singapore

Parks prevailed on the second day of the HSBC Women’s World Championship as Inbee Park, ranked two in the world, and Hee Young Park, ranked 114th, ended up with a share of the halfway lead on 11 under par as against the 9-under tallies of XiYu Lin and Hoo Joo Kim.

The Park’s rankings may be poles apart, but so much is the same. They were at middle-school together back in Korea, they are both in their early 30s, and they and their husbands regularly hang about together on tour.

Today, the pair were struggling in the heat and struggling to read the putts early on before starting to make a few crackers. Inbee holed a 30-footer to make a wake-up of a birdie at the 7th and, for Hee Young, the putt which made the difference to her dinner was the 15-footer she slammed home at the last. She was round in 68 to Inbee’s 69.

Meanwhile, the masked invader who stole the tournament lead for a brief period at the start of the second half ended her run of birdies with a bogey at the 15th. What made Hyo Joo Kim such a mysterious and mesmerising presence was the fact that that only her ears and eyebrows were showing beneath the latest in all-embracing masks. (Sunglasses hid the eyes). Her 68 was seen as one of the rounds of the day and, though it was hardly up there with Hannah Green’s 66, it was certainly the most intriguing.

Inbee is a veritable Rolex among golfers. Everything about her swing and her demeanour remains the same regardless of what might be going on elsewhere. Today, she had to keep her husband-cum-coach calm when the putts were just skirting the holes. “He was sad when I missed but I told him, ‘It happens’.” This evening, she was going to take her putter to the room to work on her rhythm rather than her stroke.

The winner of the Olympic Gold in Rio, Inbee loves having Gi Hyeob on the bag, believing as she does that it’s good to have company when things aren’t working out quite as planned.

In contrast, Sophia Popov, last year’s British Open champion who was playing in the same group as the two Parks, had no caddie-company after 11 holes when her man had to retire with heatstroke. Mind you, he would have known that Popov would be all right on her own in that she used to caddie on occasion for her friend Anne Van Dam. The German did some astute clubbing for herself but, after a glorious second into the green at the last, she missed the 10-footer she needed to finish on the right side of 70.

Such is the current competence of so many of these players that you have to wonder if they have collectively moved up a level during the pandemic. Living as they must in a series of bubbles, they seem to have picked up on patience – and smiles. On top of that, they have clearly been practising as never before when they haven’t been competing.

Hyo Joo Kim and and the hard-hitting Xiyu Lin from China had a 68 apiece for their share of third place, while Spain’s Carelotta Ciganda and South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu are one shot behind them on eight under.

Going on from there, as many as five players are lurking on seven under, with the septet in question Popov, and Caroline Masson, both Germans, Australia’s Green, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, and South Korea’s Amy Yang.

In other words, the eventual winner could come from anywhere in the world if Inbee and Hee Young lose their hold on things.