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S. Korean golfer aims for top-10 ranking after win in Japan

Fresh off her first victory of the 2011 season, South Korean female golfer Park In-bee said she has her sight on a bigger goal.  

"This year, I would like to be among the top 10 players of the world," Park said after winning the Daichi Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament in Okinawa over the weekend. It was the first event of the 2011 Japan LPGA Tour, and Park overcame a three-stroke deficit to win by three over Miki Saiki of Japan at 11-under par.

"I couldn't quite pull that off last year," said Park, who was 13th in the rankings released on Feb. 28 and had been 12th a week earlier. The world rankings are announced every Monday in U.S. time, or every Tuesday, Korean time.

"This year, I will try to play about 15 tournaments in Japan, about the same as a year ago," she said.

In 2008, two weeks shy of her 20th birthday, Park became the youngest-ever champion of the U.S. Women's Open, one of four major tournaments on the U.S. LPGA Tour. But Park hasn't had a victory in the U.S. since, though she put up 13 top-10 finishes in 2009 and 2010.

Park split last season in the U.S. and Japan, and won twice in Japan to finish fifth on the money list. The 22-year-old plans to divide her time on both tours again in 2011, after what she called "an adjustment period" a year ago.

"This year, I would like to keep winning, but I would also like to get closer to fans and connect with them," Park said. "I always feel a sense of responsibility for the many fans that are counting

on me to perform."

South Koreans are expected to once again rule the Japanese tour this year, after Ahn Sun-joo became the first Korean to win the money title there in 2010. Aside from Park, there were three other South Koreans among the top five in Okinawa.

Park said the South Korean dominance a year ago might have irritated local fans or even players, but she tried not to be bothered by any negative perception.

"Japanese players I meet out on the course have been nice to me," Park said. "I know it was a big issue that Koreans did so well in Japan last year, but I wasn't concerned about that." (Yonhap News)

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