LPGA star to build future seasons around major championships

August 29, 2016

SEOUL, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) — If her injury-plagued 2016 LPGA season has taught Park In-bee anything, it’s that she should start scaling back her schedule.

Park has been bothered by back and finger injuries all year. She battled through ligament damage in her left thumb to capture the gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics earlier this month, but the monumental victory came at a cost.

Park attended her post-Olympic press conference in Seoul with her left thumb in a cast. She announced she will be out of action for three weeks, and her status for the rest of the season beyond that remains doubtful.

Park will miss the season’s final major, the Sept. 15-18 Evian Championship in France, but she said she’s taking a long-term view on her career.

“I think I’ve played quite a bit over the past 10 years, more so than most others,” she said. “I felt building momentum from week to week was important, but then I started developing some chronic injuries. If I want to keep playing the way I want to, then I think I should manage my playing schedule and take care of my body.”

Park, 28, has only entered 10 LPGA tournaments this year, and none since June. She has withdrawn from three of them and missed two cuts without posting a victory.

South Korean golfer Park In-bee speaks at a press conference held in Seoul on Aug. 29, 2016, following her victory at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

South Korean golfer Park In-bee speaks at a press conference held in Seoul on Aug. 29, 2016, following her victory at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

She played in 25 out of 31 tournaments last year and 23 out of 33 in 2014.

Park said one way to scale back her schedule is to build her seasons around the five major championships. They are held in April, June, July and September.

As a seven-time major champion, Park said, without a hint of arrogance, “I think I’ve been strong at major championships.”

“Rather than competing every week, I will start concentrating even more on majors,” she added. “I can’t afford to be grinding on a weekly basis. I have to put myself in optimal mental and physical condition for major championships.”

It’s a tactic once famously employed by Tiger Woods during his heyday, when he was routinely winning majors every season.

Park has won four different majors over her Hall-of-Fame career, accomplishing what the LPGA Tour calls a career grand slam. Park hasn’t won the Evian Championship since it was elevated to the major status in 2013, and some have argued Park hasn’t completed the true career slam because she’s missing the Evian title.

Park won’t have the chance to silence her detractors this year, but she chose to look on the brighter side.

“I’m disappointed not to enter the Evian this year, but it’s given me something to shoot for in the future,” Park said. “It’s among the last things I want to accomplish, and it will force me to focus even harder.”

Park said she wants to start a family eventually, but just doesn’t know when it will be because “I still enjoy playing golf and I feel that this is what I have to be doing now.”

Until then, she wants to keep adding major trophies to her mantelpiece.

“More than any other tournament, I want to pile up major victories,” said Park, who is tied for seventh all-time in major titles, eight behind the all-time leader, Patty Berg. “It’d be nice to defend my gold medal at the 2020 Olympics (in Tokyo) but that’s too far down the road. For now, I’d like to be someone who keeps winning majors.”