By Rick Woelfel
Last summer Inbee Park thrilled golf fans by winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio. Park hasn’t played competitive golf since then because of the effects of a thumb injury but the former world number one will be in action this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. Action gets underway Wednesday night (U.S. time) at the Siam Country Club’s Pattaya Old Course in Chonburi.
Park won this event in 2013. “I feel really good,” she said. “I haven’t felt much pain at all for the last couple of months. I think that’s a pretty safe sign. I haven’t played a tournament yet but I’m pretty confident that I can go through pretty healthy this year.
“I took a lot of time “I didn’t touch a club after the Olympics for maybe four months. I started practicing in December and until now I have slowly gotten my practice time to a little bit longer and longer and now I’m back to pretty much regular routine.”
Park admits that she’s dealing with the mental issues surrounding her injury as much as the physical. Obviously, with the injury my swing has changed a little bit so I’m trying to get that back to what I usually swung,” she said. “I think I’m back to what I want to do. The most important thing is that I can’t be scared on my injury. If I still have that feeling inside me, my swing is going to change and I’m trying to get that fear off me and that has been working pretty well.”
Park, who is still just 28, has won 17 LPGA tournaments. That tally includes seven major championships. Her last victory came in the fall of 2015.
Yani Tseng is another former world number who hasn’t been in the winner’s circle for a while. Tseng, who turned 28 on January 23, hasn’t won a tournament in nearly five years. She’s won this tournament twice, in 2011 and ’12.
“It’s good to be back in this country,” Tseng said. “I’ve been coming here almost every year since I was an amateur at 15 or 16. I love this golf course. I want to thank Honda for giving me this sponsor invite to come here to play. I’m just going to have fun and try to make as many birdies as I can.”
The field features 14 of the top 15 players in the latest world rankings including defending champion Lexi Thompson. Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Ariya Jutanugarn of the host nation who are ranked first and second in the world respectively, are also on hand. In addition to Thompson, the list of Americans in the field includes reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion Brittany Lang, 2007 Women’s Open champion Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Jessica Korda, Brittany Lincicome, and Mo Martin.
— LPGA (@LPGA) February 22, 2017