Final-hole birdie keeps Kim one shot ahead of Wie and Tseng in Thailand

in-kyung kim
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In-kyung Kim lost a three-shot lead on Friday, but went back ahead by a shot with a birdie on the 18th hole.
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Associated Press

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In-kyung Kim of South Korea birdied her final hole to card a 1-over 73 and hold onto the lead by a stroke over Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie midway through the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday. The event is the season-opener on the 2011 LPGA Tour calendar.

A day after firing a record-equaling 63 on the Pattaya Old Course at Siam Country Club on Thursday, Kim struggled throughout the second round. She endured four bogeys on the front nine, earned her second and third birdies of the round on the 10th and 14th holes, dropped another shot on the 15th, then sank a 6-foot birdie putt to finish with an 8-under 136 total.

2011 HONDA LPGA THAILAND

The Honda LPGA Thailand is the season-opener on the 2011 LPGA Tour calendar.

By the end, her three-shot lead to start the day was trimmed to one over the top-ranked Tseng (71) and Wie (68).

“I pushed myself hard in the front nine. I had no rhythm and made mistakes,” Kim said. “I didn’t know why and I didn’t know what to do. Maybe because of the pressure. But I played a solid back nine to get back to where I was.

“I didn’t think about the lead. I am happy that I still have the lead even though it was not a great round,” she added. “I will have to have a nice sleep. If I can play my game and be patient, I will have a chance.”

Wie began five shots behind Kim, but birdied the first hole and kept chipping away at Kim’s lead in a bogey-free round. She picked up two shots on the front nine, then successive birdies on 14 and 15 lifted the American into a tie for the lead at 7 under. But Wie could only par her last three holes, missing a two-foot birdie putt on 18.

Wie shared the day’s best round of 68 with only two other players, Karrie Webb, who was at 2 under, and Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, at 2 over.

“It was a good day but I was hot,” Wie said. “This weekend I have to play well, not make errors and keep the energy level up.”

Tseng, winner of the Women’s Australian Open and Australian Ladies Masters in the last two weeks, overcame a double bogey on the fifth hole to settle for second again. She canceled bogeys on the 11th and 14th and made a second successive birdie on the 16th to join Kim and Wie in the lead, until Kim’s superb finish.

“I just couldn’t make a putt, had some three-putts,” Tseng said. “Couldn’t make my ball drop in the hole. I hung in there with drama, up and down with birdies and bogeys.

“I thought I was the only one who played bad today, but I guess not. A tough golf course and tough day out there. I think I still have lots of birdies.”

American veteran Juli Inkster, tied for second with Tseng on Thursday, overcame three bogeys and a double bogey with a birdie finish for a 73 to be three strokes off the lead alongside compatriot Paula Creamer (7), Japan’s Momoko Ueda (69), and South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi (70).

Also Friday, Giulia Sergas of Italy shot a 3-under-par 69 to take a two-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the New Zealand Women’s Open on the Ladies European Tour. The 31-year-old, U.S.-based Sergas led by three shots after a first-round 64 and had a two-round total of 11-under 133.

Kristie Smith of Australia was in second after a 64, posting nine birdies and a bogey in a round which lifted her nine places up the leaderboard.

Linda Wessberg of Sweden shot the day’s best round of 63 to sit in third place on 9-under 137, four shots behind Sergas.

Smith was a late starter on the tournament’s first day and struggled to a 1-under 71 in strong winds. She made the best of an early tee time Friday, with her only mistake a three-putt at the par-3 15th.

“That came out of the blue because I was playing well and had holed some great putts,” Smith said. “I didn’t really hit it close, but put it close with my wedges when I needed to and made the putts when I needed to.”

Thirteen-year-old New Zealand amateur Lydia Ko was among a group of four players in fourth place at 6 under, along with British veteran and defending champion Laura Davies. Ko had a 68 Friday and Davies shot a 66.