The young player will attempt to successfully defend a title for the first time in her career this week as she faces a strong field that includes all the top-10 players from the ADT Official Money List. The 143 players that will challenge Park for the title are highlighted by top-ranked Annika Sorenstam, as well as amateur sensation Michelle Wie, who is playing in her third LPGA event of 2004 on a sponsors exemption.
Park was challenged by a number of talented young players at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March. Wie finished fourth and Aree Song, who finished second, tied Park on the 18th hole forcing her to make a six-foot birdie putt to win. Park, Song and Wie are not the only tough competitors in the 144-player field contending for the $2.2 million purse, the third largest on the seasons schedule.
Tournament winners Cristie Kerr, Jennifer Rosales and Karen Stupples will ride on momentum of their recent success, while World Golf and LPGA Tour Halls of Fame members Amy Alcott, JoAnne Carner, Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster are competing as well.
In 2003, Park nearly jinxed herself heading into the final round of the Michelob Light Open at Kingsmill when she told a crowded media room that she had never lost a final-round lead, dating all the way back to her days in junior golf. But the 24-year-old Korean survived a hearty challenge from the field and drained a 20-foot par putt on the final hole to stave off a four-way playoff and keep alive her streak of sealing leads.
Park carded an even-par 71 on Sunday to finish at 275 (-9), one stroke ahead of Lorena Ochoa, Karrie Webb and Kerr. After beginning the final round with a one-stroke lead over Kerr, Park got off to an inauspicious start after hooking her tee shot into the water hazard on the first hole, giving her a double-bogey. That dropped her to 7-under-par for the tournament, and she fell to 5-under-par after bogeys on holes two and four.
Park charged back with three straight birdies on holes five through seven, leaving her a stroke behind Kerr and Ochoa. She bogeyed the 10th hole to again fall back to 7-under-par, but rebounded with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to reach 9-under-par before making the par-saving putt on 18.