Ko ahead of Park Inbee at CME Championship, Ernst leads

November 19, 2015
Korean New Zealander Lydia Ko watches a tee shot. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Korean New Zealander Lydia Ko watches a tee shot. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

By Brian Han

American Austin Ernst may be in the lead after a sizzling 6-under 66 first round that included a field-leading eight birdies on Thursday at the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida, but the real focus is on the duel between the world’s two best female golfers, Lydia Ko and Park Inbee.

The two are vying for a multitude of awards and honors including who will be world No. 1 after the final event of the 2015 season.

Currently, the 18-year-old Ko holds that spot, but because the two are so close, it’s still a toss up dependent on who plays better this week.

So far, the New Zealand teen is edging out her 27-year-old veteran counterpart by just two strokes after a three under 69 that was fueled by three birdies on the back nine.

Park on the other hand opened with a bogey and couldn’t really get anything going until the back nine where she started off with a birdie on the par-4 10th and got her only other one on the par-5 17th.

Her struggle stemmed from her performance on the greens where she had an uncharacteristic total of 31 putts. Other than that, she hit every single fairway so at the very least her ball striking will be her strength this week.

Ko only needed 27 putts on the day, which very well could be the difference maker throughout the tournament. She’s also averaging more than 260 yards off the tee, putting her at a considerable advantage over Park’s 230-yard average.

Ko is especially accurate and fearless with her driver, whereas Park occasionally leaves hers in the bag to ensure she keeps the ball in the short grass.

South Korean rookie Kim Sei-young is tied for fourth after a 4-under 68, while Lee Mi-hyang is in solo second following a 5-under 67.