Park back after break to defend LPGA Founders Cup crown


Los Angeles (AFP)

Seven-time major champion Park In-bee, who ended a long break two weeks ago in Singapore, isn't feeling any rust as she defends her title at this week's LPGA Founders Cup.

The 30-year-old South Korean star and reigning Olympic champion tees off in Thursday's opening round at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix, Arizona, trying to match Australia's Karrie Webb as a two-time winner of the event.

"I feel a little bit still fresh, but I'm looking forward to playing the stretch starting in this event," Park said. "I thought I was going to be a little rusty on the ball striking, but it was really the opposite.

"I'm just trying to find the best putter for me and best stroke for me and just trying to roll the ball a little bit more consistently."

Sixth-ranked Park shared 14th at Singapore in her first event since sharing eighth at last September's Evian Championship in France, the only one of the LPGA's five major she hasn't won.

The break helped revive Park's love of the game.

"There were times when I was like, 'Wow, I think I'm really sick of golf. I really don't want to play anymore.' Some moments I was really burned out," Park said.

"But since a little bit of time off from golf and as much of a busy schedule as before, I kind of realize that I really still love golf and this is what I want to do. I missed golf. I think that's really good thing that I caught in the time off."

Park has not won an LPGA event since taking her 19th tour title at last year's Founders Cup.

"I played really well last year here," Park said. "This golf course has been a very good fit for me. This golf course is definitely scorable and everybody scores really well. Got to make a lot of birdies out here."

Park's goal for the season is simply for a victory.

"Any type of win will be really nice. I didn't realize since last year this event was my last win on the LPGA Tour, so I think it gives me a good motivation," she said.

- Lincicome plays while pregnant -

Among the others in the field is American Brittany Lincicome, who last month announced she is expecting a baby daughter in September.

"It has been crazy," she said. "Obviously we've been trying for a while, so to find out that we were pregnant again, obviously super excited. I found out two days before Christmas and told my husband on Christmas Day, which was pretty cool.

"I've just been trying to take it easy. Obviously I didn't go overseas. Trying to do all the right things to make sure we have a healthy girl at the end of this."

Lincicome, 33, is looking at ending her season in May after either San Francisco or Kingsmill so next month's ANA Inspiration will be her only chance at a third major title, having won the event in 2009 and 2015.

"I've never done this before," she said. "The consensus is everyone played until they were about six months, give or take. That'll be through San Fran. I would love to play Kingsmill. I'm going to play as long as I can assuming I'm healthy. Just see what happens."