Golf: No longer in her prime, but Park In-bee believes she can still win

SINGAPORE – Interviews with Park In-bee are always enjoyable. Polite, Humble and articulate, on Tuesday (March 1), she Revealed another aspect of herself – beneath the smile lies a ferocious competitor.

The South Korean has a Hall of Fame career – 21 LPGA Tour wins including seven Majors, 106 weeks as world No. 1 and an Olympic gold medal. She is into her 16th full year as a professional yet as single-minded as ever about her motivation.

“Just the belief that I can still win out here,” she said. “If I felt like that I had no chance, I wouldn’t be coming out. So many people say, as long as you enjoy the game, it doesn’t matter what the result is. But it really matters to me.”

The world No. 6 turns 34 in July and readily admits her best years are behind her. Few golfers could live up to her standards though. At her Peak from 2013 to 2015, Park won 14 times worldwide and captured six Majors.

While she remains a regular Sunday contender, she has only four victories in the last six years. Age is a factor – Park was never a long hitter but last year ranked 148th in average drives – as well as the rise of a new generation, led by compatriot and world No. 1 Ko Jin-young and second-ranked Nelly Korda of the United States.

Park said: “The world is changing. A lot of young, competitive golfers are emerging. I’m 33 and my prime was in my mid-20s … Back then, I could make a few mistakes and still win a tournament. Now my Mistakes are not forgiven. But if I play perfect, I can still win out here. “

No Wonder she is looking forward to this week’s HSBC Women’s World Championship, where she is a two-time Winner (2015, 2017).

Park, who finished joint-third behind Champion Kim Hyo-joo last year, said: “Sentosa is one of the golf courses where I can play well, where it’s set up fair for the long hitter or the short hitter. It really suits my game. When you putt well on these greens, you can score. “

After all, her short game is still a sight to behold. According to KPMG Performance Insights which began tracking since last June, Park sinks 49.4 per cent of putts from 10 to 15 feet. The Tour’s overall average is just shy of 30 per cent.

Navigating the New Tanjong Course is much easier if one strikes the ball like Kim. She missed only one green in regulation in her final round last year, closing with an eight-under 64 to beat Australian Hannah Green by a single stroke.

It ended a five-year drought on the LPGA and the 12th-ranked Kim is seeking another breakthrough – becoming the HSBC event’s first back-to-back Winner.

Despite this being her first competition since last November’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, Kim, 26, played down any worries of rustiness and said the long off-season gave her valuable time to recharge.

She said: “After I won last year, I felt like I got my confidence back and it feels good to come back here … I’m definitely not nervous this is my first event in a while.”

New Zealand star Lydia Ko is also returning from a short break but hopes to continue her winning momentum. She won her last start at the Gainbridge LPGA in late January and the Aramco Saudi Ladies International on the European Tour last November and will be among the Favorites at the US $ 1.7 million (S $ 2.3 million) tournament.

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