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Se Ri Pak retuns quickly from shoulder injury
Updated 6/7/2012 10:57 PM ET
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Se Ri Pak noticed the looks after playing a practice round Monday.

"A couple other players, a couple of caddies they were looking at me like, 'What are you doing here?'" the LPGA Hall of Famer said.

Indeed, Pak's presence at the Wegmans LPGA Championship just six weeks after suffering a torn labrum in her left shoulder stunned many. "I don't even expect that I'd (return) this quick," the 34-year-old native of South Korea admitted.

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So imagine everyone's surprise to find Pak's name near the top of the leaderboard at Locust Hill Country Club after Thursday's first round of the year's second major. Pak hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and shot a 2-under-par 70, which is one shot off the lead.

"Low expectations helps a lot," Pak said before flashing the smile American golf fans first saw in 1998.

That's when she came out of relative nowhere as a 20-year-old to win the McDonald's LPGA Championship and U.S. Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., where the Open returns this July 5-8. After her April 24 fall down some stairs forced her to withdraw from the Mobile Bay Classic in Alabama, an MRI revealed the labrum tear. Making it back in time for the Open was Pak's initial hope.

But the early diagnosis among doctors on whether she needed surgery was like trying to read a putt on a tough green. It was unclear.

"The worst news for me was they talk about the surgery; the best news was I don't have to (have it)," Pak said.

The woman who started the golfing boom in South Korea rested for a couple weeks, did rehabilitation exercises and just two weeks ago started taking full swings again. She isn't wearing a brace but does have her shoulder taped. She iced her left elbow after Thursday's round. She gets some residual soreness in it but says her swings are pain-free.

"I don't feel any, but still you're kind of careful," Pak said.

Going down to dig out a shot in the thick rough could be troublesome, but Pak missed six fairways Thursday and still made only two bogeys, on Nos. 3 and 6. After that, it was all pars and birdies, including a string of three birdies on Nos. 10-12.

A winner of 25 LPGA events, the last coming two years ago, she has captured the LPGA Championship three times (1998, 2002 and 2006). In 2007 at age 29, Pak became the youngest woman inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

She has four top-10s in Rochester, the highest being a third, but those all came between 1999 and 2003. She hasn't fared well at Locust Hill lately.

"I know the golf course pretty well, but it doesn't make it easier," Pak said.

Still, she's happy to be back. "I wasn't sure when I could come back. For me, it's very lucky and exciting," she said.

***

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Posted 6/7/2012 9:13 PM ET
Updated 6/7/2012 10:57 PM ET
Se Ri Pak opens with a 2-under-par 70 Thursday in the first round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
By Kevin Hoffman, US Presswire
Se Ri Pak opens with a 2-under-par 70 Thursday in the first round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

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