Inbee Park seeks to regain winning form in China

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BEIJING (AP) - South Korea’s Inbee Park will seek to regain her dominant form with a strong showing at the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing.

Park, the world No. 1, is being joined by third-ranked American Stacy Lewis at the tournament, which begins Thursday.

Park swept the first three major championships of the season, and has added three other U.S. LPGA Tour wins this year.

However, she finished well out of contention at the British Open and last month’s Evian Championship, failing in her attempt to become the first golfer _ male or female _ to win four majors in a year.

Park said the familiar feeling of the tournament’s setting at the Nicklaus Course at Pine Valley Golf Club on the outskirts of the Chinese capital boded well for success.

“I’m from Asia and I just feel very comfortable playing here. I’m going to try my best this week and play good,” said Park, who tops the LPGA money list this year with $2,186,601 in winnings.

Lewis will also be looking for a strong tournament after giving up her No. 2 ranking to Norway’s Suzann Pettersen at the rain-shortened Evian Championship in France on Sept. 15.

Lewis trails Pettersen, who is sitting out the tournament, by about $170,000 on the money list, adding some late-season excitement to the final seven events of the tour schedule.

“It’s been a great year the three of us kind of going back and forth,” said Lewis, who has 14 top-10 finishes in 21 tournaments this year, the most of any player on the tour. “It’s a good competition. You see what the other players are doing, and you try to figure out how to get better and watch what they are doing.”

“You always want to play well in this last Asia swing just because there is so much money out for grabs and there are a lot of things on the line,” said Lewis, who won her second career major at the British Open this year.

Park took the U.S. Women’s Open in June for her third consecutive major of 2013, but stumbled at the British Open in August by four-putting for double bogey on the first hole of the final round.

Since the modern version of the Grand Slam began in 1960, Park is the only player to win the first three majors of a season. The only other pro to do that was Babe Zaharias in 1950, when the U.S. LPGA Tour had only three majors.

The event is the LPGA’s first tournament in China, highlighting the role of homegrown star Shanshan Feng in bringing six out of the top 10 women golfers to a country that already boasts more than 400 courses.

Feng won the LPGA Championship last year to become China’s first major champion.

“I think we just need to say thank you to Shanshan because we’re here this week because of her. It’s really cool to come play in her country and her winning the LPGA Championship last summer certainly spurred this on a little bit,” Lewis said.

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