EVIAN-LES-BAINS – Standing on the first tee Thursday afternoon, Sung Hyun Park will be feeling the nerves. It’s a feeling the Rolex Rankings world No. 1 player has battled since joining the LPGA Tour, as both internal and external pressures continue to grow for the Korean.
But what will give her a sense of relief will be the sight of her caddie, David Jones, who for the last three weeks has worn the green Rolex No. 1 bib in recognition of his players stature in the women’s game.
“Whenever I see my caddie he’s been wearing that Rolex caddie bib,” Park said through a translator. “It makes me more confident.”
Park has plenty of reasons to feel confident. The top-ranked player in the world headlines the field this week at the season’s fifth and final major, the Evian Championship. Park is already a three-time winner in 2018, and with a win on Sunday would become the first four-time winner of the year. Picking up three wins, one more than her total in 2017, was Park’s main goal this season. With that mission accomplished, Park turned her focus to the season’s closing stretch.
“My first goal would be to do my best at the last major, Evian Championship,” Park said. “If I don’t win this one, then I think I want to win one of the tournaments the rest of the year.”
She has a good shot at reaching that goal this week as Evian Resort Golf Club suits her game.
In 2016, Park finished runner-up in her Evian debut and backed that up with an opening round 63 the following year. This season, she returns to Evian as a two-time major champion, having added the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to her U.S. Women’s Open title in 2017. A win on Sunday would add a third leg to Park’s pursuit of the Career Grand Slam.
But the Korean says that’s not even on her radar. She’s focused on the task at hand, which means not only winning the season’s final major but also the Rolex Annika Major Award.
In 2017, Park’s U.S. Women’s Open victory made her eligible for the award, which is given to the player who performs best in the season’s major championships. In addition to winning at least one of the five majors, players need to finish within the top ten in the other major championships in order to earn qualifying points. Last season, So Yeon Ryu eclipsed Park with not only her win at the ANA Inspiration but also her T3 finish behind Park at the U.S. Women’s Open. This time, Park wants the award for herself.
“I was really jealous,” Park admitted Wednesday. “I always see on the TV one of my role models, Annika, giving an honor. I’m very excited to be able to win the award this year.”
For Park, the pressure of trying to win the Evian Championship as well as the Rolex Annika Major award will be tough to manage come Sunday. But anytime she needs a little reassurance that she’s not only capable, but she’s also the best player in the world, Park will just look at her caddie.
One glance at that Rolex No. 1 bib will give Park all the confidence she needs.