With renewed spirit, Park poised to dominate again


Get out of her way. The Queen Bee is back.

After a long layoff recuperating from injury, Inee Park didn’t take long to remind us that while she may already be a Hall of Famer, she isn’t done astonishing us.

Park, 28, showed Sunday in Singapore that she may not be done dominating, either.

In just her second start after a six-month layoff, Park beat a stellar field that included the top 15 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. Park won the HSBC Women’s Champions looking poised to reassert herself as a force at the top of the women’s game. 

With a course record 8-under-par 64, Park came from three shots back in the final round to win her 18th LPGA title. At 19-under overall, Park finished a shot ahead of Rolex world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (66).

Park won the way she always did at her best. She won making just about every putt she looked at on the Sentosa Golf Club’s Tanjong Course.

Park’s putter was so hot Sunday, you wondered if it was going to spontaneously combust. You wondered if her caddie, Brad Beecher, ought to be toting a fire extinguisher with her golf bag.

“My putting was amazing today, obviously,” Park said. “In the middle of the round, I felt like I could make it from anywhere.”

Park made nine birdies, seven of them with putts of 20 feet or longer.

“Her putter is really good, awesome,” said Ha Na Jang, who finished tied for fourth playing alongside Park. “I feel like she made every putt. I don’t think she missed one putt today.”

Nobody in today’s game is capable of demoralizing a field the way Park can with her putter. She deflates spirits in ways even power players with their intimidating length cannot.

Still, Park’s triumph was a tour-de-force performance about more than putting.

Park hit every fairway Sunday and missed just one green in regulation. Yes, the fairways are generous at Sentosa, but Park missed just one fairway the entire week.

“It’s a very impressive round, no matter how the course is set up,” said Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko, who finished tied for ninth. “To shoot 8-under on the final day, it's not easy. I think she should be very proud of herself for that. It was super impressive to see.”

After Park took control running off a string of seven birdies over eight holes in the middle of the round, Jutanugarn kept applying pressure. Jutanugarn was regularly bombing her 3-wood 20 and 30 yards past Park’s driver, but Jutanugarn couldn’t rattle the unflappable Park.

“She’s so calm,” said Jutanugarn, whose play at the 17th summed up the frustration that can come playing Park.

A shot down, Jutanugarn stiffed her tee shot to 3 feet. Park followed, pushing her tee shot 35 feet right of the hole. With Jutanugarn waiting to putt, Park stole the moment. Park buried her long putt.

“She’s awesome,” Jutanugarn said afterward. “She’s the best player.”

Park’s victory is more remarkable when you consider how much rust she ought to have on her game. She didn’t just shut down her game after winning Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro in August, resting six months to heal up ligament damage in her left thumb, going four of those months without touching a club. She didn’t play an LPGA event for two months leading into the Olympics. Park’s win Sunday in Singapore came in just her third LPGA start in nine months.

Park said all the time away helped her. It didn’t just heal her body. It rejuvenated her spirit.

“It was really important,” Park said “Because I was really just getting burned out.”

After earning induction into the Hall of Fame early last summer, and then winning Olympic gold late in the summer, Park said she wasn’t sure what she had left to prove. The time away made her hungry to get back on tour.

“My goal is to win a major championship this year,” said Park, who has won seven of them.

Park told GolfChannel.com back in January that the Olympics made such a large impression on her, she’s already thinking about a return to try to win another at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

So get out of her way. Park has places to go again.