ROGERS: South Korea’s Park In-Bee, back atop the world rankings after winning her sixth major title, seeks her fourth triumph of the season when the 54-hole LPGA Northwest Arkansas Championship starts Friday.
Park overtook New Zealand teen star Lydia Ko for the number one ranking by winning the Women’s PGA Championship two weeks ago and she hopes to make her third stint atop the women’s golf world a long one.
“The first time I thought it was just a bit weird and it didn’t feel like my place,” Park said.
“Second time it felt a little more comfortable, but I felt like my game wasn’t quite ready yet. But now the third time it feels like I’m really ready for this spot and my game is getting better and better every day.
“I feel like I am playing like a number one.”
This is Park’s 75th career week on top of the rankings, having been there for 59 weeks in 2013 and 14 weeks last year before Ko toppled her from the top spot with a runner-up finish at the LPGA season opener in Janaury and stayed in front until Park’s latest victory.
Park won the HSBC Women’s Champions event at Singapore in March, the North Texas Shootout in May and the Women’s PGA crown to seize the money list, scoring list and Player of the Year points leads.
She celebrated with a week off at home in Las Vegas with her family.
“This win actually lasted quite longer than what I thought,” Park said.
“Next three, four days, even when the tournament was finished, I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s because I had my family as well on my off week and everybody was just kind of enjoying it together. Just really happy off week last week.”
This stretch could remind Park of her epic 2013 run in which she won the year’s second major, then known as the LPGA Championship, and followed with wins at Arkansas and the US Women’s Open.
“Another repeat of 2013 would be really nice,” Park said.
Ko made the cut in her first 53 LPGA starts before missing out at the Women’s PGA but hopes to bounce back at an event in which she shared second last year, one shot behind home state favorite Stacy Lewis taking her 11th career victory.
Lewis has gone 26 events since last winning an LPGA title last year at this event, her longest win drought since her first triumph at the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
“I feel a little bit more relaxed this year just having gotten the win,” Lewis said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself the last few years to get the win. To do it last year and just coming back, it’s probably one of the coolest wins of my career. I love this place and I’m looking forward to a really good week.”