SUNG HYUN EYES VARE TROPHY TO CAP REMARKABLE ROOKIE SEASON
Runaway leader in the race for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award, World No. 2 Sung Hyun Park is already overjoyed by her spectacular success this season and she will attract hordes of fans this week on home soil as she bids to win her third LPGA Tour title of 2017.
Sung Hyun is also a strong contender for the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, where she is a close second behind Lexi Thompson, and that is an award she would cherish dearly if she is able to pull it off.
“Now that we’re coming to the end of the year, it is definitely becoming harder to be completely free,” said Sung Hyun. “For me, I would really like to win the Vare Trophy ... that’s kind of the ultimate title that I want.
“For myself, I’m still excited and my heart thumps being ranked No. 2 in the world. I’m quite new to this concept, and already very excited about where I am right now. I didn’t expect to do so well so soon, and I really want to give myself a pat on the back. I think we become more conscious of these titles because people around you talk about them a lot. So far, I don’t think I’ve been so conscious about those titles.”
SO YEON LOOKS TO REGAIN SENSE OF FUN IN KOREA
World No. 1 So Yeon Ryu heads into this week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship determined to regain the sense of fun as well as purpose that helped her produce sizzling form on the LPGA Tour for most of this season.
Two victories among her 10 top-10 finishes have already set up a banner year, but she recorded disappointing performances in her last two starts with a missed cut at the Cambia Portland Classic presented by JTBC followed by a tie for 40th at The Evian Championship.
“This year, I have been focusing more on positive thoughts, thinking about where I was going to get my birdie chances, how I was going to hit the ball closer to the pin,” said So Yeon. “So overall I was having much more fun on the course, and that helped me greatly as well.
“Going into this championship now, to be honest, I think for the past six weeks I haven’t had that same kind of buzz. So I think for me going into this championship, I really hope to be able to feel that again.”
So Yeon could very well end the year with a glittering array of awards. The impressive form that she has displayed for most of her campaign has thrust her into contention for the money list title, Rolex Player of the Year and the LPGA Race to the CME Globe.
“I’m sure that a lot of players, we say that we’re not going to focus on these titles, but I would really like to win the Player the Year,” said So Yeon, who has been paired with World No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and World No. 3 Lexi Thompson in a mouth-watering grouping for Thursday’s opening round at SKY72 Golf & Resort.
“Not because I need that recognition to really see or feel how well I did this year, but rather I think it would be kind of like a medal for myself, to really just pat myself on the back on a really great year done. But I have to say, for the past 10 years as a pro golfer, the biggest lesson I learned is I do far better when I don’t look too far and focus on what’s ahead of me right now.”
WIE ‘REALLY EXCITED’ TO BE BACK ON LPGA TOUR
Michelle Wie is raring to go in Thursday’s opening round of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship after being sidelined from the LPGA Tour for six weeks, but also says she will try to be patient with herself as she eases her way back into tournament competition. The 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion has missed the last four events on the Tour after undergoing an emergency appendectomy in Canada on Aug. 27.
“I feel great,” said Wie, who has not played in the Korean event hosted by SKY72 Golf & Resort since 2015 when she tied for 52nd. “I’m really excited to be here. It’s been six weeks since I last played so I’m extremely excited to be back. I’m healthy and back on Tour.
“I’m not expecting to be rusty, but I might be a little bit. For the last four or five weeks, I couldn’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds so I’ve just been putting and chipping a little bit ... I just practiced full shots maybe three days before I got here. I’m just going to try and be patient with myself and take it easy out there, just try to manage how I feel and what-not. I’m just really excited to play and hopefully I will make some birdies.”
Wie was six shots off the lead before she had to withdraw from the final round of the CP Women’s Open in Ottawa where she was admitted to a nearby hospital to have her appendix removed.
“It was extremely disappointing,” said Wie, who had displayed some excellent form on the LPGA Tour this season, highlighted by six top-four finishes. “I woke up on that Sunday morning and was really excited to play - I was only six shots back and I was trying to make something happen. Then something like that happens and it’s not even just one week or two weeks. You’re gone for a really long time. But I am playing six (tournaments) in a row to end the year so I’m really excited and hopefully I can build some momentum coming in.”
IN-FORM HENDERSON SEEKS ANOTHER RANKINGS BOOST IN KOREA
Victory in her last start has certainly made World No. 11 Brooke Henderson one of the players to watch this week at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, and the bubbly Canadian has set her sights on continuing to ride her wave of momentum.
“It has been a little bit of an up-and-down season for me, but getting my second tour win of the season just a few days ago gave me a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum,” said Henderson, who triumphed by five strokes at the MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open after having to contend with wind-swept, rainy conditions in the last two rounds.
“I only have five events left on the LPGA Tour this year, which really isn’t that many. I really want to focus and work hard and see if I can finish in the top 10 and get some top-five finishes and hopefully move my CME rank up a little bit. That’s kind of where my main focus is going into for the next five weeks.
“Just continuing to gain experience and learn every single day, so that next year I can be even better than this year,” added Henderson, who is the only LPGA Tour player with multiple victories in both 2016 and 2017.
Asked by local reporters to put her finger on why it is that Korean golfers have been so successful in global golf over the past two decades, Henderson replied: “They’re very talented. I’m sitting amongst four ladies that are role models and inspirations to me as well.”
Henderson was accompanied by So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and In Gee Chun in a packed media center at SKY72 Golf & Resort for a pre-tournament press conference.
“As for the secret to it, I have no idea,” smiled the Canadian. “You’ll have to ask these girls. I think they do work really hard and they’re very passionate about the game of golf and they have strong goals and they’re willing to work really hard to achieve them.
“I think that’s something that everybody can learn from, golfers or even people in business or just everyday life. You know, pick a goal and then work as hard as you can to achieve it.”