Golf: Park In-Bee eyes three in a row, Ko's top ranking

Golf: Park In-Bee eyes three in a row, Ko's top ranking

HARRISON, United States - Park In-Bee, winner of the past two LPGA Championship titles, will try to make it three in a row in the major that has been reinvented this year as the Women's PGA Championship.

The 26-year-old from Seoul already owns one impressive major treble: her victories in the 2013 Kraft Nabisco Championship, LPGA Championship and US Women's Open make her the first player of the modern era to win the first three major titles in a season.

But she's never won the same major three straight times, and with a victory this week at Westchester Country Club she could join Annika Sorenstam as the only players to win this tournament in three straight years.

"That would be very special for me," said Park, who is also closing in on a return to the world number one spot now occupied by 18-year-old New Zealander Lydia Ko.

Park, a two-time winner on the LPGA tour this season with a victory in the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore and the North Texas Shootout, said the 6,670-yard, par-73 Westchester course will require a combination of the accuracy demanded two years ago at Locust Hill and the short game needed last year at Monroe Golf Club.

"This golf course is probably a bit of everything," Park said. "You have to be accurate off the tee. You have to be accurate with the irons, and you have to putt really well. It's very slopey greens. You've really got to be careful." Ko, also a two-time winner this season, says she won't be thinking about the possible loss of her number one ranking when she tees it up.

"It's been a whole lot of fun," she said of holding the top spot. "But when we're playing out there, we're not thinking about the rankings." And she'll be trying not to put too much pressure on herself to add a first major title to her already impressive resume.

"Sometimes I try and force it a little bit," she said, adding that she succumbed to that perfectionism at the first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration.

"I kind of tried so hard and tried to force some good scores and I tried to force everything, and that's when I didn't play as good," she said. "So I think one of the big things is really self-pressure ... I can't think about the past and I can't think about what's coming."

Fresh and exciting

The rebranding of the tournament comes with a partnership between the LPGA and the PGA of America, the body that oversees the PGA Championship men's major as well as the Ryder Cup.

The collaboration has led to a boost in prize money to $3.5 million, and has LPGA players excited to see how the championship will evolve.

"Everything is really new and everything is very fresh and exciting," Park said. "So I'm really excited to see what this tournament is going to end up being. "I'm sure it's going to be a great one, and hopefully I'll be the one holding the trophy." World number three Stacy Lewis said the week has a "big event" feel that the LPGA Championship had been lacking in recent years - and an on-course challenge befitting a major.

"This set up is much more similar to a US Golf Association set up, especially the length of some of the par-fours.

"But it's also got some good holes where you can make birdies and things like that.

"I think you'll see some good scores. I think you'll see some five-, six-, maybe seven-under just having the par-fives.

"But then you can make some big numbers with one swing, too ... I think at the end of the week it won't be too far under par."

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