Golf: Park In Bee returns to LPGA Tour in Singapore and aims to defend HSBC title

South Korea's Park In Bee kissing the trophy after winning the HSBC Women's Champions at the Tanjong Course in Sentosa on March 5, 2017.
South Korea's Park In Bee kissing the trophy after winning the HSBC Women's Champions at the Tanjong Course in Sentosa on March 5, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Former world No. 1 Park In Bee is hoping lightning will strike twice this week at the HSBC Women's World Championship where she is the defending champion.

The South Korean is competing in her first LPGA Tour event since last August's British Open, a six-month absence due to a back injury which she wanted to give time to heal.

Park won last year's HSBC event after a similar lengthy lay-off due to a thumb injury.

The 29-year-old said in Tuesday's (Feb 27) press conference that she was "close to 100 per cent" and was currently pain-free and raring to go at the Sentosa Golf Club.

Park's pedigree at the US$1.5 million (S$1.98 million) event is unquestioned. She is the only woman to win the HSBC tournament twice. She also triumphed in 2015 when she did not make a single bogey over 72 holes.

Last year, she closed with a course record - on the New Tanjong layout which was hosting the tournament for the first time after it was held at the Serapong Course from 2013-2016 - of eight-under 64 to beat Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn by a shot.

Park, who has 18 Tour titles including seven Majors, said: "I always feel good to be coming back to Singapore because I have been having a lot of good results in Singapore, and the people have been really friendly whenever I come to Singapore.

"This is the first tournament of the year, it's hard to kind of judge where my game is. So it's almost for me, it's like I'll play four rounds and kind of see why where you are game is at and if the results come, that's great.

"But I'm trying to just see and kind of test my game in this tournament and have some good results."

She is not completely rusty having played in 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."

The world No. 17 faces a world-class field in Sentosa, led by top ranked Feng Shanshan, in-form Lexi Thompson (No. 2) and all five Major champions from last season.

Feng, who is China's first world No. 1 and opened her campaign with two top-five finishes, said: "Normally I'm a slow starter but this year, this is already my third tournament and I've had two top five finishes in my first two events. So really looking forward to play here again."

Thompson, who has a chance to supplant Feng as world No. 1 depending on results this week, added: " think everybody wants to be No. 1 in the world. It's always our goal. But you have to take it one tournament at a time.

"All you can control is your game, your attitude and what you do out here. That's really all I'm trying to focus on is just have more fun out on the golf course with my caddie, Kevin."