Tour Life with Sung Hyun Park is a season-long series that follows the 2017 LPGA rookie and her experience of playing her first year on the LPGA Tour.
EVIAN-LES-BAINS – Winning was the number one goal Sung Hyun Park set this season, and once she reached her target in July, she followed the same model that earned her more than half a dozen wins last year on the KLPGA: keep winning.
“As I did last season, if I achieve my target number of wins, then I set another win as my goal,” Park told LPGA.com via email. “After winning the U.S. Women’s Open, I set a goal of two wins for the season. Then after winning in Canada, I set my next goal as three wins for the season.”
That win at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open was Park’s second victory in four starts after winning the U.S. Women’s Open. And while she may be focused on reaching her third goal of the year with a win at this week’s Evian Championship, somewhere on her radar must be the history she’s positioned to make this season.
Park is the current frontrunner in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year standings with a chance to also win Rolex Player of the Year. No player has won both since Nancy Lopez in 1978. She also enters this week’s championship at the top of the money list, ranked second in scoring average, tied for second in the Rolex Annika Major award standings and third in the Race to the CME Globe.
With a solid showing in the season’s final stretch, Park could effectively sweep the season’s biggest honors - a feat that wouldn’t have been possible just 12 months ago.
Park wasn’t yet a member, but by the time she arrived at the 2016 Evian Championship she had already become a fixture on the LPGA Tour. She was also dominating on the KLPGA and her stoic demeanor and impeccable ball striking seemed engineered for major championships. She earned a tie for sixth at the ANA Inspiration and tie for third at the U.S. Women’s Open where she held the 36-hole lead.
In Evian, she soared once again to the top of the leaderboard with an opening round 63 to match In Gee Chun’s flawless start to the week. But four sub-70 rounds weren’t enough to catch Chun and she settled for a tie for second.
But even with seven wins on the KLPGA in 2016 alone, Park still had some learning to do. Why had she come up short at the season’s biggest events? An analytical mind, who spent the better part of this year fine tuning her own game without an instructor, sought answers.
That quest helped Park find redemption in July at the U.S. Women’s Open, where she came from seven-strokes back on the weekend to win by two. This year she was able to manage the growing anxiety she had felt 12 months prior during the closing stretch at CordeValle, where she finished one-stroke outside the playoff.
“Toward the end I was getting more anxious and I just wanted to reduce the number of strokes. I was probably pressuring myself,” Park said about the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. “Because of that, probably made more mistakes. But this year, I owe to that great experience that I had, I think I learned more and was able to have a better play this time.”
Looking back at her first trip around Evian Golf Club yielded lessons, too. And while it would be tough to find fault with a performance that produced four sub-70 rounds that put her at 17-under par for the championship, Park knew there were areas she could improve.
“My experience at last year’s Evian Championship made me realize the course rewarded accurate and targeted shots. That’s why this year, I plan to focus more on hitting accurate, aggressive shots on the course in close coordination with my caddie,” Park said.
Park has taken a break from the Tour since her victory in Canada, which allowed her to arrive earlier in Evian and given her more time to prepare. The world No. 3 says she got “plenty of rest and feels in great shape.”
She'll need it to keep winning.