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'Nervous' Park Sung-hyun among dozen S. Koreans in field for LPGA season's 2nd major

All News 09:39 September 09, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- World No. 4 Park Sung-hyun will headline a contingent of 12 South Korean players at the second major championship of the 2020 LPGA season this week.

Park will make her season debut at the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, starting Thursday. She will tee off with Nasa Hataoka at 1:18 p.m. Thursday local time, or 5:18 a.m. Friday in Seoul.

The 2020 season began in January with two tournaments in Florida. The tour moved to Australia for two more events, but the season came to a screeching halt in mid-February because of the coronavirus outbreak. The play only resumed on the last day of July.

In this file photo from May 14, 2020, Park Sung-hyun watches her drive during the first round of the Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association Championship at Lakewood Country Club in Yangju, just north of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The ANA Inspiration, originally set for April 2-5 as the season's first major, will instead follow the Aug. 20-23 AIG Women's Open as the second major of the year. As has been the case for all events since the resumption, the ANA Inspiration will be played without fans.

Park, former world No. 1, had planned to make her season debut at the Feb. 27-March 1 HSBC Women's World Championship in Singapore, where she was the defending champion.

She had withdrawn from the third round of the 2019 season-ending CME Group Tour Championship last November with a left shoulder injury.

Park spent the hiatus in South Korea, playing at the Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association (KLPGA) Championship in May and appearing in a charity skins game against world No. 1 Ko Jin-young.

Park opened 2020 as world No. 2 but has slipped two spots during her time off.

"It's really been a while since I've been on the LPGA Tour. I think I'm more nervous than excited to be back," Park said through an interpreter at her pretournament press conference Tuesday at Mission Hills Country Club. "It's been a while since I've been in a competitive environment, and I've got to keep that in mind while playing the four rounds this week."

Park said she doesn't have high expectations for herself immediately.

In this file photo from May 15, 2020, Park Sung-hyun prepares to tee off at the first hole during the second round of the Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association Championship at Lakewood Country Club in Yangju, just north of Seoul. (Yonhap)

"I just hope to kind of get some momentum and play well in a competitive environment," she said. "There aren't that many tournaments this year, but I do hope to win at some point and finish the year on a high note."

Eight of the world's top-10 players will be in the field, the exceptions being Ko and No. 10 Kim Hyo-joo. They have both chosen to stay home in South Korea instead of traveling during the pandemic, with Ko becoming the first defending champion since 2004 to skip the ANA Inspiration.

Among 12 South Koreans in action, No. 8 Park In-bee will chase her second career ANA Inspiration title. She has posted two top-10s in two events since the restart.

Park won the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open in February, the last tournament before the pandemic-induced hiatus. Park ranks second in money and Player of the Year points, both behind Korean-American star Danielle Kang.

No. 6 Kim Sei-young will be playing in her first major of 2020 this week. She currently leads the tour in scoring average (68.091) and greens in regulation (81.8 percent).

This file photo provided by Hyundai Card on May 24, 2020, shows South Korean LPGA player Park Sung-hyun in action in a charity skins game at the Ocean Course at Sky 72 Golf & Resort in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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