Sung Hyun Park said her mind went blank as she stood over her chip shot behind the 18th green knowing the championship might be on the line. She stayed focused and stuck to her game as she posted a final round 5-under-par, 67, to earn her first victory on the LPGA Tour at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open, the third major of the season.
It’s natural to have mixed emotions and trouble focusing with a major championship on the line, Annika Sorenstam remembered those feelings she had during her first win in 1995 at the U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor.
“Of course, I was very nervous, but I focused on just playing my game. This helped me earn my first LPGA victory,” Sorenstam told LPGA.com via email. “It’s always hard to do. The key is to trust yourself and believe that you are a winner. You have to focus on your game and not so much on what other players are doing or what the tournament means. Stay in the present.”
The 23-year-old South Korean sat three shots off the lead heading into the final day of competition at Trump National in Bedminster, N.J., similar to a year ago when was one back of the lead going into the 72nd hole but made bogey to miss the playoff, finishing third in her only other appearance.
“When you are chasing someone, you can be aggressive and take a few more chances knowing you have nothing to lose,” said Sorenstam. “It’s a totally different situation when you are leading the pack, as there’s a natural tendency to be more passive and protective of the lead.”
Park admitted she was more anxious and made a few more mistakes down the stretch in 2016, but this year she relied on that great experience to handle the pressure.
“We all learn from our previous experiences, whether they’re good or bad. We grow and mature through every step,” explained Sorenstam. “Many times, it’s just about becoming comfortable with the situation and learning how your body will react.”
With Park’s victory, she moved to second on the official money list, sits third in the Player of the Year race, virtually locks up the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race and sits second in scoring average with 69.02.
“She is a very solid player, having already finished in the top 10 six times this year,” said Sorenstam. “She hits the ball a long way and is a good putter, which is always a great combination.”
With her win, Park joins So Yeon Ryu and Danielle Kang as the third major champion of 2017 which makes her eligible for the season-ending Rolex Annika Major Award, awarded at the Evian Championship to the player with the best performance in the majors during the season. Ryu holds the current lead in the standing with Park and Kang tied for second.