Every Indication Says that Pak is Back

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Tiger Woods can do no better than a tie for eighth at Mercedes and Karrie Webb shoots 3 over par at the LPGA. In their rather surprising absence from the winners circle, two former winners jump in who haven't won in nearly a year. Is this a democratic country or what?
 
Jim Furyk was astounded to win at Kapalua when Rory Sabbatini gagged a 2-foot putt. He was one-upped by Se Ri Pak, who shot a 64 in Orlando to blow by the rest of the field like they were stuck in neutral. Furyk shoots 7-under, Pak shoots 8-under, and both just turn out the lights on folks.
 
Pak, naturally, was sick. There is a belief among players that you must beware the sick golfer. I'm of the opinion that untold numbers of sick golfers have played poorly, but occasionally one does slip through and win, and that adds to the legend - so beware the sick golfer, I guess.
 
'Somehow, being sick makes me concentrate more,' Pak said. 'It helped me calm down, even though I'm not feeling well.'
 
There you have it. Se Ri tries to explain why she wins, just as she had to explain last year why she lost. She is much too accomplished a golfer to go through an entire season without at least one 'W.' She won four times in her rookie season three years ago, including two majors, and then won four more the following year. Last year - nada.
 
A closer look might shed a little light on the situation. Pak has had so much controversy in her private life. She was a fairly normal child in her native South Korea until the age of 14, when she decided to take up golf.
 
She immediately became a personal project of her father, who, among other things, made her spend the night in a cemetery to 'strengthen her mind.' She trained by running up 15 flights in the apartment where she lived with her parents in Daejeon, 100 miles from Seoul. Then she had to reverse course and then the 15 flights of stairs backwards. Her father apologized when he learned how difficult it was. He tried it and could only do five flights.
 
Pak, Se RiShe turned pro and immediately was a big success on the Korean tour, winning five times and coming in second six times in 13 events. Coming to America, she won the U.S. Open and McDonalds as a rookie. Amazingly, she had only been playing golf for six years.
 
During that off-season, she made so many life-altering changes. She broke the management bonds with Samsung, who had such control of her every move. She broke the ties with David Leadbetter, who had been her teacher from the moment she turned pro. A boyfriend had appeared, and although he since has moved on, he was the principal reason for her differences with Leadbetter and personal assistant Steven Kil. And then she changed clubs, turning her back on the old set she had used to go with a different company.
 
As it developed, the club switch was what finally brought her down. She had survived a switch from Leadbetter to Butch Harmon - to no one. She had survived the boyfriend and the switch to International Management Group. She had survived the club switch, going winless throughout last season. And there she was, a winner in the inaugural tournament of 2001.
 
The most advantageous change, however, might have been to a 'new' coach. Tom Creavy once worked for Leadbetter when Se Ri was a student there. He was Pak's main man when Leadbetter didn't have time to check in on her, so he knows her swing intimately. Now he is 'the man,' and Se Ri is listening. Up to now, things couldn't be better.
 
'My first two years, I had great seasons,' she said. 'And then last year, I had a hard time carrying that - not winning, not doing as well.
 
'I just decided, actually around July, that I really needed something to get ready for 2001. My mental game needed to get better. I needed to find a coach and get things around me more consistent. I needed to find a caddy to work together better.
 
'Last year, many things happen. Everything was totally changing. Find a coach, find a caddie, change my swing. We didn't have much of an off-season, only one month. And so I didn't have much of a break.
 
'I found a coach (Creavy) in September and we worked so well, even though I didn't play well. But I knew I was trying to get ready for this year. Then it was perfect timing finding a good caddie (Colin Cann, Annika Sorenstam's former looper.) Now 2001 looks like everyone is all set - mental, swing, coach, caddie. Everything.'
 
Everything. Pak is back. At least for one glorious week, the LPGA was everything it was two - or three - years ago.