NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park has a "Tiger Woods-like" mind-set, according to renowned swing coach Gary Gilchrist, and she will need to rely on that steely focus in Sunday's final round of the CME Group Tour Championship if she is to end her barn-storming rookie season on the LPGA Tour with an array of awards.
Park has already scooped up the only 2017 honor which has been decided – the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year - and she began this week at Tiburón Golf Club in good position to add four or five more coveted titles to her trophy cabinet - among them Player of the Year and Race to the CME Globe champion. All that she needed in her bid to pull off an unprecedented sweep was a third tournament victory this season.
Opening rounds of 67 and 65 put Park three-strokes in front of the chasing pack, leading many to believe that a runaway win was in the cards, but the 24-year-old Korean struggled during Saturday's third round, frequently putting herself out of position off the tee as she carded a 75 to end the day a stroke off the pace in a seven-way tie for fifth.
"The tee shots weren't quite solid, and so there were a few misses there," Park, who is known as ‘Dak Gong’ or ‘Shut up and Attack’, said after mixing two birdies with three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par-five sixth. "Over the course of four days there is always a day where I'm not quite in tip-top shape. That day might have been today.
"There’s always one day where my focus is a little off, and it's something I'm trying to fix. It really comes down to being able to cover that up, and how you cover up that loss of focus. There are a lot of top players right now at the top of the leaderboard, so keeping my focus tomorrow will be key."
Swing coach Gilchrist, who has had three of his pupils occupying the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings at different times this year – Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn and Shanshan Feng - has long regarded Park's focus as among the most unwavering in the women's game.
"Sung Hyun plays to win every time she plays, so it's more of a Tiger Woods-like mind-set," Gilchrist told LPGA.com. "She doesn't come here to finish second; she comes to win. She certainly does have a great swing, though she backs up a little through impact, but again is that what's going to make her good or great? No, it's all about her heart.
"The second round here (Friday) was probably the toughest day it's going to be out of the four days and she birdied five, six, seven, eight and nine on her way to a 65. Unbelievable!
"(Saturday) was a still day, a calm day, and it that can be more challenging for her because it brings all the other girls up (the leaderboard). For her, playing in the toughest conditions makes her one of the best out there."
Park leads the LPGA Tour's Official Money list, sits second in the Race to the CME Globe standings and could join Nancy Lopez (in 1978) as the only player to win Player and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season with a strong finish on Sunday at Tiburón.
However, the leaderboard is jam-packed after 54 holes with four players tied at the top and a further 14 within two strokes off the lead.
"Sung Hyun's got a mind-set where she can really dominate because of what she knows she can do but I have been part of the LPGA now for over 24-years and I've seen how this Tour has grown," said Gilchrist. "The talent out there is just unbelievable."