Park Sung-hyun to defend title at HSBC World ChampionshipPark Sung-hyun will be looking to defend her title as the LPGA kicks off a two-week Asia swing with the HSBC Women’s World Championship at the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore on Thursday.
Park Sung-hyun isn't the only Korean looking to build on her success in Singapore. World No. 2 Park In-bee is aiming to become the first person ever to win the tournament three times, while world No. 1 Ko Jin-young is still searching for her first win of the 2021 season.
The HSBC Women’s World Championship is the eighth event of the LPGA Tour’s 2021 season. The HSBC Championship debuted in 2008, but was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, making this year the 13th edition.
The Asia swing could have gone another week as the Blue Bay LPGA in Hainan, China, was originally scheduled for May 13, but was cancelled due to health concerns and travel restrictions.
Park Sung-hyun is back to defend her 2019 title. In 2019, she rallied for 64 in the final round to take the win with a two-stroke lead.
“I remember not losing focus until the end and trying to make a lot of birdies,” recalls Park.
However, a shoulder injury at the end of the season in 2019 impacted her game last season as she took time off to recover. This is her sixth tournament of the 2021 season, and Park says she feels better now.
“I think I couldn't swing because of my injury, and I really kind of lost how well I used to swing before," said Park. "So I'm trying to find that again.
“But right now, I'm not feeling any pain in my shoulder.”
Ko is still waiting on a chance to get inside the winner’s circle this season. She has competed in five events so far this season with four top-10 finishes, most recently tying for third at the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open.
“My game is getting better," said Ko. "So I hope [to come] soon to [the] winner's circle, and I will focus on my game and I will fight with heart.
“My goal is [to play] better as 2019. And I don't care about, like, future. Like I'm just focused on my driving accuracy and driving, fairway hits, how many hit on green or how many putts average.”
Alongside Ko, Park In-bee also had to fly all the way from Los Angeles to Singapore for the HSBC Women’s World Championship.
“We spent about 30 or 40 hours just indoors,” said Park, who, with the rest of the incoming participants, had to test and quarantine until receiving negative test results.
Park is the only multiple winner of the HSBC Women’s World Championship, having won in 2015 and 2017.
“Singapore is definitely a special spot for me and I really love the country, and being here, I really love being here,” said Park. “It has been very tough call for a tournament to make the decision, but I'm really thankful that they made the decision for us so that we can come here and play. I'm really, really happy to be back here again in Singapore with really great memories here.”
Park is looking to relive her former glory with her husband and coach Nam Gi-hyeob as her caddie.
“He is the game changer of my life.” said Park.
Park has won a total of 20 LPGA titles since she met her husband.
“After winning the US Open in 2008, I went through a slump. Golf changed for me after I met my husband. After four years, I won the Evian Championship in 2012. My second turning point was winning the 2016 Rio Olympics.”
Park is looking forward to Tokyo already, having won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“Obviously this year is a very important year for me with the Olympics in August, and my main goal is trying to qualify for the team. The Korean team is not the easiest team to make,” said Park.
Only four Koreans ranked above 15 at the end of June will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Park In-bee tees off on the first hole at 9:25 a.m. alongside Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Minjee Lee of Australia. Ko and Park Sung-hyun will tee off together alongside Danielle Kang of the United States on the first hole at 9:37 a.m.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [firstname.lastname@example.org]