Fit-again Park raring to go on return

From left: Tiffany Chan, Feng Shanshan, defending champion Park In Bee, Lexi Thompson and Ryu So Yeon posing atop a shipping container at the Sentosa Golf Club during the launch of the HSBC Women's World Championship yesterday. The first round starts
From left: Tiffany Chan, Feng Shanshan, defending champion Park In Bee, Lexi Thompson and Ryu So Yeon posing atop a shipping container at the Sentosa Golf Club during the launch of the HSBC Women's World Championship yesterday. The first round starts tomorrow.PHOTO: HSBC/GETTY IMAGES

Park In Bee could be forgiven for a sense of deja vu as she strolled into the Sentosa Golf Club yesterday. She has been here before, both literally and metaphorically.

Not only are there pictures of her past triumphs at the HSBC Women's Champions (now known as the HSBC Women's World Championship) around the clubhouse, but her stunning victory last year came after a six-month lay-off owing to a thumb injury.

This time round, the South Korean has arrived in Singapore under similar circumstances.

Her last LPGA Tour event was the British Open in August, after which she was mostly inactive to allow her troublesome back time to heal.

The drive that has propelled her to 18 Tour titles, including seven Majors and 92 weeks as world No. 1 between 2013 and 2015 has remained intact though.

There is no reason why she cannot win the HSBC event, noted the 29-year-old, who added that she is currently pain-free and that her health is "close to 100 per cent".

  • HSBC WOMEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2018

    WHEN: Tomorrow to Sunday

    WHERE: Sentosa Golf Club, New Tanjong Course

    PRIZE MONEY: US$1.5 million (S$2 million)

    WHO: An elite 63-woman field with 19 of the world's top 20 golfers, including Feng Shanshan, Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, Lexi Thompson, Park In Bee and Michelle Wie.

    TICKETS: Daily from $22, season pass is $88. Free entry for those aged 16 and below. Go to apactix.com for more information.

"I always feel good coming back to Singapore because I have been having a lot of good results here," she said yesterday. "This is the first tournament of the year, it's hard to kind of judge where my game is. So for me, I'll play four rounds and kind of see where my game is at and if the results come, that's great."

Park's pedigree at the HSBC event is unquestioned. She is the only woman to win it twice.

She won in 2015, making a single bogey over 72 holes. Last year, she closed with a course record, carding an eight-under 64 to beat Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn by a shot on the New Tanjong layout hosting the tournament for the first time. The event had been held at the Serapong Course from 2013 to 2016.

Park is not completely rusty, having played two events in Korea after the British Open.

She finished 56th at the Jeju Samdasoo Masters in August and fourth at the KB Financial Group Star Championship in October.

She added: "I didn't feel like it was six months off because I was preparing for another event, preparing for another event.

"Kind of kept myself really busy and I feel really good about my body now. So nothing to worry about from that, and now, I'm going to try to play more tournaments."

Even after almost US$14 million (S$18.45 million) in Tour career earnings and entry to the Hall of Fame, the world No. 17 remains as hungry as ever and wants more Majors in her trophy cabinet.

She said: "I've achieved so many things in my resume but, whenever I start a new tournament, whenever I start my round, I feel like there's nothing and I have to start again."

Jonathan Wong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2018, with the headline 'Fit-again Park raring to go on return'. Print Edition | Subscribe