RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. In the world where golf and Karma intersect, it made sense that Annie Park had a positive experience at the Chevron Championship on Friday morning.
Playing by herself and the first one out on the course, Park breezed around the Dinah Shore Tournament Course for a 5-under 67 to move to 8 under for the tournament and up among the leaders.
A smile beamed as she addressed the media after the round, part of her best 36-hole effort ever at a major.
“Just having fun out there. I think that’s kind of the biggest key, and it’s been a while that I’ve had a great time on the golf course, ”she said.
Flashback to 2019 and Park wasn’t smiling. On Wednesday night before the tournament then known as the ANA Inspiration started that year, Park’s car was broken into the parking lot of her Palm Desert hotel. She learned her golf clubs were stolen when she woke up Thursday morning about two and a half hours before she was scheduled to tee off.
She cobbled together a set of Clubs using the only long putter they had in the clubhouse, her caddy’s Irons and some hastily put together Woods and was able to play. She didn’t play poorly considering the circumstances, but she did miss the cut.
Annie Park lines up her tee shot at the 9th hole during the second round of the Chevron Championship at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, March 30, 2022.
“No one ever found my Clubs,” she said Friday, as the police report she had to file back then didn’t lead to anything. “Yeah, that was stressful, but it was a lesson learned. And I’ve got a great set now, so everything’s good. ”
That’s an understatement. Park used those Clubs to string together six birdies and one bogey on Friday, including a three-birdie stretch on holes 18, one, and two. To be in contention at a major is a big step for Park. This is her 23rd major tournament, and she’s never finished inside the top 15.
She admitted that she considered calling it a career or at least taking a break from golf as her performance was lagging and the toll of playing pro golf during the Pandemic sapped some of the enjoyment out of the game.
“Yeah, it feels good to be back (in contention),” she said. “You know, I think for a while I thought about stepping away from the game. I mean, COVID really was long. Last year I took the two-month break just needing some time to myself. Yeah, I think last week was the first time I started to enjoy it again. Just not with golf, but just in general, like being able to see the spectators again and just having this newfound passion for golf. ”
On Thursday and Friday, Park was in the unusual situation of playing by herself. The tournament plays in twosomes and there were 115 golfers in the field, so that meant someone has to play by themselves and Park was the last player to make the field.
But is playing as a single an advantage or a disadvantage? Even after playing two great rounds, she wasn’t 100 percent sure if being by herself helped her.
“Yesterday, I was just chilling, taking my time. Then I realized the group behind me started to catch up, and I’m like, I’m going to get a warning at this rate by myself, ”she said. “Playing by myself was kind of weird Yesterday, but today I kind of got used to it.
Annie Park lines up a putt on the 8th hole during the second round of the Chevron Championship at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, March 30, 2022.
“When I made the turn and started waiting for the players in the group in front of me, kind of just starting to feel like a normal golf all over again,” she said. “It could be an advantage that you do have a little bit more time to yourself, but also overthinking is not always great.”
The one clear disadvantage? Without a playing partner, she had to rely on Heavily on her caddy Scott Leonard’s sense of humor.
“I mean, I am by myself out there, so there’s a lot of talking to myself and I’ve been stuck with my caddy’s dad Jokes,” she said with a laugh.
Park went to USC, but is a New Yorker through and through as evidenced by the white Yankees cap she wore during her round Friday. Even giving her a Mulligan for the 2019 tournament, she has not had much success on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course.
She’s played here four other times, missing the cut twice along with finishes of 56th and 57th.
She’s been tinkering successfully with the entire package that is her golf game in recent weeks and it’s paying off. She’s worked on the mental aspect, her swing, and even her equipment, adding a Scotty Cameron putter and a TSi3 driver to her bag.
“I’ve been studying my own swing, and it’s been kind of helping me guide my DNA and base the foundation out there,” she said. “I actually changed to a new putter and it’s been helping out a lot. I’ve added new iron shafts, new driver. But, yeah, I just overall started having fun on the golf course again last week, and been enjoying it this week as well. ”
Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at email@example.com.