Park Overcomes Pressure
The expectations for Sung Hyun Park coming into the 2018 season were gigantic. She was coming off a rookie season that saw her win the U.S. Women’s Open and claim co-Player of the Year honors.
Prior to the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic, she struggled to match the success from a year ago. She had just one top 10 finish and missed two cuts, which wore on her.
“Since I did so well last year, I felt a lot more pressure this year,” admitted Park in the media center after winning at Old American Golf Club. “After this win, I feel like I can finish out the season with a lot less pressure.”
The 24-year-old took the week off prior to Texas to practice her short game. There has been a lot of chatter this year about Park’s struggles with her short game. Last year, she ranked 40th in putting average. This year, she’s down to 99th.
She switched her putter and her stance last week.
“I’m usually a player that practices my driver shots, but last week I worked on my chipping and my short game a lot,” said Park. “Today (Sunday) felt a lot like the U.S. Women’s Open. I worked a lot with my mom. She helped me by going to the course and she knows my game pretty well.”
Park had just 24 putts in her first round and 28 in her final round. It helps that she had two difference-making chip-ins from off the green.
The Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic was shortened to 36 holes due to storms on Thursday and Friday that caused long delays. The weekend weather was marvelous and large crowds turned out to watch at the first year venue.
Dinner with Shanshan Pays Dividends for Liu
Symetra Tour graduate Yu Liu needed help after missing three cuts in a row, so she called on a mentor, Shanshan Feng. The two had dinner together to talk about Yu’s game and how she could improve.
On Sunday in Texas, she turned in a final round 66 to finish in third place, the first top 10 of her career.
The biggest moment of her round was on hole eight, her 17th of the day. She had 205 yards to the pin and hit a perfect hybrid to three feet and sank the putt for eagle.
“I hit it pretty perfect,” said Liu. “My hands were shaking over the putt, but it was nice to see it go in.”
The finish is a massive confidence boost for the rookie.
“I was thinking about my scores too much, thinking about the cut line, my finish, my position,” explained Liu. “Right now I feel like I’m able to contend out here when I bring out my best, so it’s definitely a confidence booster.”
Quiet Top 10s for Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn
Lydia Ko went under the radar last week in Texas but she managed to post a bogey-free 67 on Sunday to sneak into the top 10, her third of the year. It continues her upward trend following her win at the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.
Ko finished T8 with one of the cleanest two scorecards of anybody on the board. She made just one bogey over the 36 holes.
It was the same story for Ariya Jutanugarn, who carded a final round 66 to finish T4.
“My game plan was just to be aggressive in the final round,” said Jutanugarn, who now has seven top 10 finishes in 11 starts this year. “I feel really good, I’m improving a lot in my short game.”
Jutanugarn was excited for the off week coming up. She has played in every tournament this year.
First Paychecks for Several Players
The 36-hole event made it a shootout and several players took advantage to collect their first paychecks on the LPGA. A reshuffle of the LPGA Tour's priority list will take place during this off week, so any money earned was extremely important in Texas.
Maddie McCrary, a rookie, went 71-69 to finish T32 to collect her first check. She narrowly missed out on full status at the LPGA Qualifying Tournament in December. The finish could help her get into more fields during the rest of 2018
Samantha Troyanovich and Katelyn Sepmoree also collected their first payday of the year. They both finished T46 at 1-under.
One of the most impactful finishes for the reshuffle may have come from Jackie Stoeling. She earned just over $8,000 through six starts this year, but in Texas finished T8 to collect $27,933. She moves inside the top 100 on the LPGA money list.
“There was a lot on the line for me with the reshuffle, my hands were shaking this morning,” said Stoelting. “I feel like I can relax now and start playing golf.”
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