|Park In-bee. (AFP-Yonhap News)|
KUALA LUMPUR (AP) ― World No.1 Park In-bee will have the Rolex Player of the Year rankings in mind when she opens her LPGA Malaysia title defense at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on Thursday.
The 25-year-old Park recovered from a recent dip in form by finishing third at the Reignwood Classic in Beijing last weekend.
Park marked the first half of the season with six wins including three majors. What followed was a frustrating period from July when she found it hard to even record a top-10 finish in the next five tournaments, including two majors ― the British Open and The Evian Championship.
Now with a confidence-boosting finish at Beijing, the South Korean is eager to continue her return to form in Kuala Lumpur.
“I didn’t realize that I won that many (tournaments), I really didn’t expect that,” Park said. “What I achieved this year is beyond my expectations. It has been an incredible season that I will remember forever.
“Luckily enough I had a good finish last week and that gave me a lot of confidence for the remaining of the season,” she added. “One of my goals this season is to win the Player of the Year award. (The season’s) not over yet, so I hope to keep going and trying to defend the LPGA Malaysia, which I had good memories here last year is what I have to do to achieve that.”
Winning at Malaysia last year was certainly a stepping stone for Park, propelling her from a world ranking of No. 4 to No. 2 before going on to claim the top ranking the following year.
Park replaced American Stacy Lewis as the world No. 1 and has sustained the top ranking since April 15.
“Looking back, last year’s victory was a real turning point on the road to world No. 1,” Park said. “It was the first time I’d won two tournaments in one year (including The Evian Masters) and gave me renewed confidence in my game going into 2013.”
Joining Park at the $2-million LPGA Malaysian are Norway’s world No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, No. 3 Lewis, 2011 champion Choi Na-yeon, Australian Hall of Famer Karrie Web, China’s Feng Shanshan and former top-ranked Yani Tseng of Taiwan.
Pettersen and Lewis will be spearheading “the rest of the world” attempt to halt the dominance of Asian players in the tournament. No American or European player has won here since the tournament’s inception in 2010.