Angela Park Breaking Out

By Brian HewittJune 27, 2008, 4:00 pm
U.S. WomenEDINA, Minn. -- The concept of the so-called sophomore slump was, to me, always so..sophomoric.
It always conjured up images of baseball flashes-in-the-pan who batted .300 as rookies and couldnt hit their weight the next season. Or glue-fingered all-American split ends that caught everything thrown anywhere near them right out of college and couldnt catch a cold the next year.
But Angela Park, born in Brazil and residing now in Orlando, has been in a nasty little.yes.sophomore slump..
In 2007 she was the runaway pick as the LPGAs Rookie of the Year in a season highlighted by a T2 at the U.S. Womens Open, eight top 10s and just a shade under a million dollars in earnings which placed her eighth on the money list.
Heading into this weeks U.S. Womens Open at long and stern Interlachen Country Club near Minneapolis, Park had collected just two top 10s and arrived having missed three of her last six cuts.
I had really high expectations coming into this year, Park said Friday. And I think that was a kind of negative aspect of thinking, coming into a year.
Worse, as far as expectations go, NBC golf pontiff Johnny Miller anointed Park at last years U.S. Womens Open by saying she had the best swing in womens golf.
None of which would have been worth writing about after Fridays second round if Park hadnt blazed to a 6'under 67 and shouldered her way to the top of the leaderboard.
What a difference a year makes. And what a difference a round can make in a year that wasnt turning out the way Park had hoped. Everyone was coming up to me (last year) and they were like, Youve got the best swing on the LPGA Tour, Park said.
It was hard not to take her eye off the golf ball. Which led to demons. Which turned the game into a struggle when one year earlier it had been a celebration of her fluid gifts as a striker of the ball.
It doesnt matter how bad my season was or how inconsistent Ive been throughout the year, Park said bravely after Fridays 67. Because I know what Im capable of and Ive played well out here.
She hasnt won on the LPGA Tour yet. But her 67 kicked into high gear with birdies on her third, fourth and sixth holes of the day. She made the turn from back to front in 3-under 34 and promptly eagled the par 5 second hole when she drained a 30-foot snake after finding the green from 220 yards with a 5-wood.
Park isnt a bomber. She is only 5-5. And she is only 19 years old. But her swing positions as so technically sound that it doesnt appear to be technical at all. And that is the beauty and the grace of her action.
After opening with an even par 73 Thursday, Park actually had her Friday round down to 7-under through 14 holes. But a bogey on No. 6 (her 15th) prevented her from carding the low round of the tournament so far.
A top 10 this will go a long way towards getting Parks game and year back on the tracks. A win?
I think it comes down to how much you want it, she said Friday. Tiger says, you know, he doesnt want to get beat by anyone. And I think I want to take more of that approach to the game. I know Im still a long ways from it, but Ill get there sooner or later.
Nothing sophomoric about that outlook.
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