WILLIAMSBURG, VA. (AP) - Inbee Park has never had much success on the River Course at Kingsmill.
She’s also never tackled the layout along the James River as the world’s top-ranked female player.
The 24-year-old South Korean will do that beginning Thursday, hoping to stay on the roll that has already produced three victories this season and completed her climb to the No. 1 ranking.
It will be her first competitive rounds at the popular stop on tour since 2009, when for the second time in three years, she missed the cut. The other time, in 2008, she tied for 16th.
“It seems pretty new to me, but somehow I just remember this course like I played yesterday,” Park said this week. “I mean, I just love to come to this spot. It’s a great spot to come and it’s a very nice resort and very nice golf course. I’m just going to try to enjoy my week of golf here.”
If having success equals fun, Park had had plenty in the past year. She has won five of the 18 tournaments she’s played in since June, and finished in the top 11 on six other occasions.
She’s been No. 1 for four weeks now, and trying to appreciate it without feeling pressure.
“That’s been my dream since I started playing golf, to be the best in the world, and I finally reached it,” she said. “And it was everything was just coming together and everything that I dreamed for.
“You can put a lot of pressure on yourself when you’re No. 1, but I’m just trying to think that’s just a number,” she continued. “… It’s just No. 1 and No. 1 is just No. 1, not trying to say that I need to win every week or anything. It’s just I try to enjoy what I’m doing and that’s just a gift.
Park skipped the tour’s return to Kingsmill after a two-year absence last season, and missed one of the most dramatic events of the year. Countrywoman and former No. 1 player Jiyai Shin and Paula Creamer finished regulation in a tie and remained tied while replaying the 18th hole eight times before darkness came.
Returning on Monday morning, Shin won with a par on the first hole of the day, the 16th.
It was her first victory in 32 events, a drought helped along by a wrist injury that had required surgery three months earlier. Six days later, she won the Women’s British Open for her second major title.
Shin earned her 11th career victory earlier this season, but returns to defend her title after a back problem cropped up a few weeks ago, causing her to skip a tour stop in Hawaii to allow it to rest.
She played last week to get back in the swing, and said, “I feel really good and feel ready to go.”
It’s also a source of confidence to return to a place with such pleasant memories.
“I have a good confidence this week because last year I hit it 9-under par on the first day,” she said. “So I’m pretty sure I know about the greens and all the condition at this course.”
Not everything is the same, however. Last year, the tour visited in September.
“Green and fairways are much softer than last year and pretty wet at the moment,” she said.
Perhaps no player in the field hopes to take more advantage of that than Creamer.
One of the most popular players on tour, she hasn’t won since the 2010 U.S. Open.
“I just say it like that, “I haven’t won in a while,” she said. “I haven’t and I’m reminded of that constantly and I know. It’s not like I don’t know I haven’t held a trophy in my hand for a couple years.
“You know, I think for a while there I thought about it way too much and I’m just trying to become a better player for myself,” she said, “trying to get out there and do what I know I can do.”
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.