PORTLAND, Ore. – Thirty minutes after destroying a tournament record by five shots after finishing 23-under-par, So Yeon Ryu sat at the front of the media room alongside the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open trophy looking stumped Sunday night. The question was simple, but the answer wasn’t.
“What is your goal now that you’ve won?” a reporter asked in her post-round press conference.
She hadn’t even thought about it. For two years, all she had thought about was getting back into the winner’s circle. Her only goal entering the year was “no matter what, just get a win.” She did that Sunday and now here at the Portland Classic Presented by Cambia Health Solutions, she’s having to recalibrate her goals for the remainder of the season.
“The last two years was a really tough time for me that I was like strongly needing a win, and after I made it, it feels like I lost everything because I really wanted to win a tournament and I made it,” Ryu said. “So it feels like I already reached my goal and I already finished my career.”
She made it all look so easy early on. She won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open at 21 in a playoff before she was even an LPGA member, and then in her rookie season on the LPGA, she won the 2012 Jamie Farr Classic and finished in the top-10 a total of 16 times.
The great finishes kept coming – 27 top-10s since that win at the Jamie Farr – but the wins didn’t and the frustration mounted. Making it even more difficult was that it wasn’t an issue with her golf. She felt her golf was better in 2013 and 2014 than the two years prior. The wins just weren’t coming with it.
Meanwhile, her best friend, Inbee Park, was unintentionally amplifying the pressure - winning six times in 2013 and twice this season. There’s never been a rivalry between the two, and they celebrate with each other when they win. But as the second highest ranked Korean player, the comparisons were unavoidable at home.
“My world ranking was in Top-10, so people say, you know what, you play really consistent, but you haven’t won a tournament, so you need a win. See Inbee, Inbee won six times,” Ryu said. “I think people try to compare me with Inbee, but I never do that, because I think Inbee deserved to take No. 1. That’s why I’m not really competing with Inbee. I more respect Inbee.”
It wasn’t Park winning that bothered her personally. She knew how great Park was and how much time she put into it. Instead, it was some of the other players that she’d see win over the last two years that she felt like her swing was better than and felt like she had played more consistent golf than that turned her introspective.
“Why can I not win the tournament? What can I improve?” Ryu said she asked her coach Ian Triggs two weeks ago at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. “Then my answer was I cannot improve anything because I’m pretty sure I’m ready to win.”
That only ratcheted up the pressure. If the missing piece wasn’t obvious, what was keeping her out of the winner’s circle, she thought?
She finished second four times between her wins and heard the critiques. She’s unlucky. She’s not strong enough in the final round.
“It’s kind of I just think to myself, ‘Oh, maybe I’m a loser.’ You know, that kind of thing. I think it’s pretty much both like media or people and my thinking,” Ryu said. “Sometimes people asked me, ‘I know you play really, but you couldn’t win any tournaments, so what does that mean?’ How can I answer that question, you know?”
As stereotypical as it sounds, the answer she realized last week was focusing on one shot at a time. Before she had looked at leaderboards, thought about the possibility that she wouldn’t close it out, and would compare herself to other players. Not last week.
“I didn’t do anything last week. I can promise that. I think that’s why I won the tournament,” she said. “I always just thought about myself. I didn’t think about any player. I didn’t pay attention to anything.”
Topics: Ryu, So Yeon