Korean duo in front in Alabama

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South Koreans Grace Park and Song-Hee Kim both carded 67s on Thursday to lead by one shot at the Avnet LPGA Classic.

South Koreans Grace Park and Song-Hee Kim both carded 67s on Thursday to lead at the Avnet LPGA Classic.

Park, who only recently returned to professional competition after a back injury forced her out for much of the last few seasons, started on the 10th tee, and made two pars before her first birdie on the 12th.

She followed it up with an eagle on the par-five 13th, only to drop a shot on the 15th and get it right back at the long 16th.

Making the turn at three under, she followed it up with three more birdies and a bogey for a round of 67.

“Obviously when you finish the round at 5-under, everything has to go pretty well,” said Park.

“Everything was just easy and smooth today. Made a couple of mistakes, but overall in these windy conditions I stayed very consistent to the green and rolled in some putts, and birdied the last two holes to finish at 5-under.”

With only eight cuts made in the last three years because of her persistent back problem, Park says that while she is happy to be back in action, she is not yet fully fit.

“I actually had to withdraw from the Pro-Am yesterday because I started feeling a little funny Tuesday afternoon,” she admitted. “But overall, my back’s been better than it has been in the last five, six years. I mean, I’m feeling really strong, I’m feeling really good.”

Kim got off to the worst possible start with a bogey on the first, but got the stroke back immediately on the second.

Three straight birdies followed from the fifth, and were followed by five pars before she went birdie-bogey on the 13th and 14th holes.

Two more birdies followed on 15 and 17, which saw her tie for the lead.

“I feel pretty good to be tied with Grace Park,” said Kim. “I played solid today and hit it much better than other tournaments. I made a lot of putts, so I like it.”

Stacy Lewis, fresh off her first major victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, lies only one shot off the pace after a 68, tied with Karen Stupples.

Angela Oh, Na Yeon Choi and defending champion Se Ri Pak are tied in fifth place at 3-under-par 69.

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