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Park Looking for First U.S. Victory of the Season


Despite still being ranked the No. 1 female golfer in the world - a position she's held for 50 straight weeks, Inbee Park is so far winless this season on the LPGA Tour.

The 25-year-old South Korean, who stormed to six victories in 2013, hasn't visited the winner's circle in the States since her four-stroke triumph in the U.S. Women's Open last June.

That said, she did win the World Ladies Masters in China in early March, vanquishing second-ranked Suzann Pettersen of Norway by five strokes in the Ladies European Tour event.

Park hopes to get back on track in this week's Kia Classic on the LPGA Tour. The $1.7 million event starts Thursday at the Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif.

Park currently ranks ninth in the LPGA's new Race to the CME Globe, a season-long points race similar to the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup. Australia's Karrie Webb leads the standings thanks to her two wins so far.

"I haven't been really putting well the last few weeks, but yeah, I feel like my game is really ready," Park explained Wednesday. "I just need to have the putts fall a little bit more. Yeah, I feel like I'm hitting it good, but last three, four tournaments I've played and I only need a couple, two, three more putts to fall and I was just right there.

"I know I'm getting close to it and I just don't want to rush to win, because I think it will come if I be patient and just play my game."

Here's what else Park had to tell reporters on the eve of the Kia Classic.

MODERATOR: All right. I am pleased to welcome in Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park into the interview room here at the Kia Classic. Thanks for coming in. Happy 50th week at No. 1. Just saw that come in on Monday. Is that anything special? Is that something that you looked at and they just told you and you said, oh, happy 50th? Is that something you take into consideration and something you're really, really proud of?

MODERATOR: All right. I am pleased to welcome in Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park into the interview room here at the Kia Classic. Thanks for coming in. Happy 50th week at No. 1. Just saw that come in on Monday. Is that anything special? Is that something that you looked at and they just told you and you said, oh, happy 50th? Is that something you take into consideration and something you're really, really proud of?

INBEE PARK: Yeah. One thing for sure, the time has gone really quick, because it feels like I was No. 1 just yesterday in Hawaii and we were all celebrating because I was No. 1.Yeah, it's already been 50 weeks, and I've played some good golf in those times, and yeah, just really proud of myself that it already is the 50th week. Yeah, it's not the easiest place to be in, but it's a lot of fun.

MODERATOR: Trying to enjoy it.

INBEE PARK: Yeah. I'm trying to enjoy it. I'm getting more used to it.

MODERATOR: Back in Thailand with your first start this season, and we talked a lot. It was your first start coming off of such a amazing year last year, and you said you were a little nervous. You said I don't know how much my training was going to translate. You were very unsure. You got three consecutive Top 10s to start off the year. Doesn't look like you were taking too much time off to get back in the swing of things. Talk about your start this year and how pleased you are with how you've been able to transition from the off season into another very, for what it's been, good season so far.

INBEE PARK: Yeah. Last year I had a great win in the first tournament, and after that I kind of had a little bit of a slow time. You know, I played good, but had kind of bad final rounds, finished top 10s and 20s and 30s. I think this year, I think I'm a lot more consistent, like off the tees, on the greens. I mean not necessarily on the greens. I haven't been really putting well the last few weeks, but yeah, I feel like my game is really ready. I just need to have the putts fall a little bit more. Yeah, I feel like I'm hitting it good, but last three, four tournaments I've played and I only need a couple, two, three more putts to fall and I was just right there. I know I'm getting close to it and I just don't want to rush to win, because I think it will come if I be patient and just play my game.

MODERATOR: Good. Now, you mentioned you have spent a lot of time in this area, Southern California, LA area in the off season. You said it's almost like a second home. You feel very comfortable. Your family's coming in this weekend. You said your grandpa, parents, your mental coach. How much does that play a factor in being in a comfortable setting? I know you say you love having your family around. How much does that play into being comfortable for a week?

INBEE PARK: Yeah. My mental coach doesn't come to many tournaments. She probably comes to like three tournaments per year, so whenever she comes, I feel so comfortable. And you know, my head is just so clean. So whenever she comes I'm just really comfortable. So I'm really looking forward to seeing her, and obviously my family, and I think it's going to be good, and I'm just really used to this weather because I spent a lot of time here in Southern California. It's lovely weather. I like a little bit cooler weather, which is perfect. Yeah, I've played many times on this golf course in the off season, and yeah, I feel like I'm ready and I'm ready for it, ready for this week.

MODERATOR: Talk about your mental coach. How long have you been working with her? What's her name and what do you guys work on? Do you do mostly stuff over the phone? What does she do with you throughout the season?

INBEE PARK: Started working with her just after the 2008 U. S. Open, so it has been like six, seven years. Yeah, we always talk on the phone maybe two times a week and we just go through things, what I need to think about this week and what when I'm going in a very negative way, she turns me into a little bit positive way. So yeah, she's a good mentor for me.

MODERATOR: What's her name?

INBEE PARK: Sue Kung Cho.

MODERATOR: How did you guys meet up?

INBEE PARK: My management - I was looking for a mental coach, and my management company contact her. She's the best sports psychologist in Korea.

MODERATOR: All right. Questions for Inbee.

Q. You're only 25 and you already have four majors. What is it that makes you so good on difficult courses, like Tiger Woods says he wants to play the most difficult courses. He thinks he has a better chance to win on them. Why have you been so successful in the majors?

INBEE PARK: Because I think I'm just the type of player like who wants to sometimes scramble for pars, and you know, whenever you make pars and, you know, sometimes you pick up a shot off the field. I think it's a good challenge. I like the challenge on the golf courses. And like I don't like the golf courses where you have to make ten birdies to win, birdie after birdie. I think scrambling for par sometimes and putting in like clutch putt pars. I think those challenges are I think a lot of fun, and when you have to think a lot on the golf courses, where you need to put the balls instead of just middle, middle, middle and just stop right there. So I just like a little bit of different things on the golf courses. Yeah.

Q. Just one more question. When you were 17, you did well on the Duramed Futures Tour, 11 Top 10s, I believe it was. When you see a player like Lydia Ko at 16 doing what she's doing, are players, the younger players getting better quicker now or is she just an exception?

INBEE PARK: I think tour in general I think is getting younger and younger and a lot of young players are playing very mature games and they are becoming a lot of they're becoming very good players, I think. But they get a lot of experiences out on the tour, even before they turn professional and I think those opportunities and those experiences really help them to get used to the tour. And like playing with the professionals when they are in amateur career, I think that really helps because I played a lot of professional events when I was a junior golfer. And I think I always learned a lot when I played with professionals.

Q. Looking back on last year, you had such a great run, and then you went to the British Open with so much pressure. At the end of the year did you look back and think about that, and were you able to get refreshed, too, because it was a lot of pressure; right?

INBEE PARK: Yeah. I think I - you know, I really got - yeah, I think I was really - I had a lot of pressure at the end of the season last year, and yeah, I expected a lot more than what I should have. But those experiences you have to experience. I think not many people get to experience that. So it's good that I got that out of the way, and you know, this year if I have the same situation, I will maybe be a little bit better and a little bit more mature. So yeah, in the off season when you have off time and you spend time with family and you're back home, you know, I usually get refreshed. And I feel very refreshed starting this season.

MODERATOR: Not to look past this week, but next week is Kraft, kind of a moment in history for you where you got your first of your three major wins. Talk about the mentality going into next week. Is there something that you're thinking of already or mentally preparing? It's going to be a very big week for you, defending champ. Have you been thinking about it a little bit?

INBEE PARK: Yeah. I think so. Just going in as a defending champion. I've never defended a tournament before, so I think it will be good to do in a major tournament. That course, I'm so comfortable on that golf course, and this week I think I can take it as like very good practice and good momentum for the tournament, next week's tournament. And yeah, I think I've been there for the media day, and yeah, seeing the golf course and I practiced a couple of times there. So it reminds me of very good memories, and I'm really looking forward to going there and playing again.

MODERATOR: This week's a huge week, the last International Crown team to be set by players. Talk about representing your country. I know you'll talk about the Solheim Cup and the Americans and Europeans getting to play on the big stage. This event gets to showcase eight different countries of the best players from around the world. Talk about that event and the excitement and if you guys have talked amongst yourselves with the players that are already now supposedly on the team, but we won't see until next week.

INBEE PARK: Yeah. I talked with So Young a little bit about who's going to be on the team and who do we want on the team. It's not we decide the team, but obviously the best four players in the top get to be on the team. And yeah, I'm really looking forward to playing in International Crown because we never had something like this before, yeah, it's like a totally different format to stroke play. It's match play. Anything can happen. We actually kind of - So Young and I were talking about if this was stroke play, I think we would have had more chance, but since it's match play, so you just don't know what's going to happen. So you just gotta be a little bit lucky and we gotta play very, very good. So yeah, we're trying to get ourselves ready. And yeah, we're already really excited, and this week at Kia the last spot is up for grabs, so yeah, hopefully we will play good and have some fun in the final round. I'm just glad that I'm not in that position to get on the team.

MODERATOR: Talk about you guys and your chemistry. A lot of you are friends. I know you're very close with So Young. You guys are more - you call yourselves the silent assassins. You guys are very calm demeanored people. You guys are going to have to make decisions. Have you guys talked about that? You have a little bit of seniority being No. 1, I guess, but stepping up into that leader position, have you thought of that?

INBEE PARK: No. In Korean culture, Asian culture, we always have to play the role, and it looks like I'm probably one of the oldest in the group because we have the young Korean players. So I don't know. I mean I don't need to be a leader. But I think the four of us are good friends, so we can build some kind of good relationship with each other, and I think we can build a good team.

MODERATOR: Any other questions for Inbee? All right, well, thank you for coming in. Best of luck this week.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.