Park looks to reaffirm her grand slam

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Park looks to reaffirm her grand slam

World No. 1 female golfer Park In-bee is chasing another milestone at the Evian Championship on Thursday as Koreans gear up for the LPGA Tour season’s final major at Evian-les-Bains, France.

Park, 27, last month achieved a career Grand Slam by winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open. She previously won three LPGA Championships (now the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship), two US Women’s Opens and the 2013 Kraft Nabisco Championship (now the ANA Inspiration).

But after she won the British Open, some critics doubted whether Park had really completed a Grand Slam because there are now five major tournaments, after the Evian Championship became the fifth major in 2013.

Park won the Evian Masters, just a year before the tournament changed its name to the Evian Championship and gained major status.

Although the LPGA recognizes Park as the career Grand Slam winner, which refers to those who won four different majors, she is now aiming to silence critics by winning the Evian Championship. The LPGA describes winning five major championships as the “Super Career Grand Slam.”

Park, who has won six of the last 14 major championships, is also chasing her third major title this season, hoping to replicate the 2013 season where she was named the LPGA Player of the Year.

A victory at the Evian will leave Park tied for sixth place in all-time major titles with Betsy Rawls, who has eight. She tied for 10th last year.

But regardless of the Evian Championship, Park, the 16-time LPGA Tour winner, has already won the Rolex Annika Major Award, which is given to the season’s top performers in major tournaments. She currently leads the award points at 138. Even if Brittany Lincicome, the 2015 ANA Championship winner who has 74 points, wins the Evian Championship, the American will only be able to get 60 points, which automatically gives victory to Park.

But it will not be easy for Park, who has four wins this season, to achieve her milestone as the world’s top golfers are also eyeing the season’s final major.

World No. 2 Lydia Ko, who has three wins this season, is also chasing a historical milestone: becoming youngest major champion in the women’s tour. Morgan Pressel was 18 years and 10 months old when she set the record at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship. Ko, the Korean-born Kiwi, can beat that by five months.

For Ko, who already has eight LPGA Tour victories in her career, the Evian Championship is the only major where she has two top-10 finishes. As an amateur in 2013, she finished second behind Suzann Pettersen and tied for eighth last year.

Park, Ko and world No. 3 Stacy Lewis are paired in the same group for the first round.

Another golfer in Park’s way may be compatriot Kim Hyo-joo, who is the defending champion. The 20-year-old, who is ranked world No. 5, won last year’s Evian with a record first round at 10-under 61, which was a new 18-hole low for a major for both women and men.

BY Joo KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]
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