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Two-time LPGA major champion not about to get complacent

Sports 08:57 June 20, 2019

CHASKA, United States, June 19 (Yonhap) -- Even after capturing six titles, including two major championships, in her first 2 1/2 years on the LPGA Tour, South Korean star Park Sung-hyun isn't about to take her foot off the pedal.

The world No. 4, who will try to defend her title at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship this week in Minnesota, said she continues to be motivated by the emergence of new stars from her country's deep talent pool.

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea speaks at a press conference before the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, on June 19, 2019, in this photo provided by the PGA of America. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"Players who only came to the U.S. recently have been playing well, and that forces me to stay sharp and not get complacent," Park said at a press conference at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska on Wednesday. "I want to keep playing well and getting better alongside those players."

Though Park didn't name names, the former world No. 1 was likely referring to the champions of this season's first two major tournaments, who both hail from South Korea. Ko Jin-young, the 2018 LPGA Rookie of the Year, won the ANA Inspiration in April and shot to the top of the world rankings. Earlier this month, rookie sensation Lee Jeong-eun claimed the U.S. Women's Open title and is leading the tour in money this season.

Park, who swept the Player of the Year and the Rookie of the Year awards in 2017, set out to win five tournaments, including at least one major, in 2019. She picked up her first win of the season in her second start in February but has since posted only one top-10 finish in seven tournaments, with one missed cut.

"I have four more wins to go and maybe I set the bar too high," Park said. "But I think setting big goals pushes me harder and helps me get better."

Park said she felt good about her chances at Hazeltine after playing her pro-am the previous day, though she was wary about firm and dry greens and narrow fairways.

And though this year's tournament is being played on a different course, Park can always look back on her dramatic playoff victory at last year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Course in Kildeer, Illinois. Park began her final round trailing Ryu So-yeon, the overnight leader, by four strokes, and then shot a bogey-free 69 on Sunday to force a playoff before beating the fellow South Korean with a birdie on the second playoff hole. Her final round charge included a memorable recovery shot at the 16th hole, where Park nearly dunked her tee shot and her second shot into a water hazard before salvaging par from deep fescue.

"I had been playing so poorly heading into this championship last year and winning this title was like a gift to me," Park said. "I remember hugging my caddie and bursting into tears. It's so fresh in my memories. And I still get chills thinking about making that birdie in the playoff."

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea tees off at the 16th hole during her practice round ahead of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, on June 19, 2019, in this photo provided by the PGA of America. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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