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Top Koreans set sights on U.S. Women’s Open cup

Park Sung-hyun, Park In-bee, Ko Jin-young will all vie to lift trophy
May 29,2019
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From left: Park Sung-hyun, Park In-bee watch their shots during a tournament. Ko Jin-young waves to the fans during a tournament. All three players hope to win the U.S. Women’s Open in South Carolina starting tomorrow. [NEWS1, GETTY IMAGES/YONHAP]
The LPGA Tour’s second major tournament of the season, the U.S. Women’s Open, will kick off at the Country Club of Charleston in South Carolina starting tomorrow.

The U.S. Women’s Open is the second tournament in a three-month run that will see the LPGA play 12 consecutive tournaments in 12 weeks, starting with the Pure Silk Championship Presented by Visit Williamsburg that began on Thursday last week.

As if 12 tournaments in a row isn’t hard enough, four of the Tour’s five major tournaments will be held during that time.

The busy three months didn’t get off to the best start for Korean golfers, who, despite dominating nearly every season so far this season, didn’t fare so well in Williamsburg.

At the latest tournament, Bronte Law of England picked up a wire-to-wire victory by shooting a four-day total of 17 under par, 267, to finish two shots ahead of the runners-up. Among the Korean golfers, Park Hee-young was the best finisher tied for 13th, finishing with a four-day total of nine under par at 275.

World No. 1 Ko Jin-young finished tied for 21st while Park Sung-hyun finished tied for 35th.

This was the second time this season that Korean golfers have failed to record a top-10 finish.

Although it was a disappointment not to see a Korean name anywhere near the top of the leaderboard, it does mean that every single one of Korea’s top female golfers will be looking for redemption at the U.S. Women’s Open.

At this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, a total of 23 Korean golfers will be competing. Looking at the last 11 years, Korean golfers have won it seven times since 2008.

On the first two days, third-ranked Park Sung-hyun’s group is expected to be one of the most popular in the field. Park will be playing her first two rounds with Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand and Lexi Thompson of the United States, one of the longest hitters on the LPGA Tour.

A win this weekend will allow Park Sung-hyun to achieve one of her goals this year - winning a major title as well as topping five tournaments. In March, Park picked up her first win of the season at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

Park Sung-hyun and Jutanugarn have continuously been pitched against each other as rivals since last year and this weekend is no exception - Park Sung-hyun won the U.S. Open in 2017 while Jutanugarn is the defending champion.

Although Thompson hasn’t won the U.S. Women’s Open, she is also a major champion as she won the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship, now the ANA Inspiration. Also, as all three golfers are ranked inside the top 10, Park’s group is expected to be one of the most competitive.

Park Sung-hyun’s group will tee off at 8:06 a.m.

Park In-bee once again returns to the tournament hoping to get her first win of the season this weekend. Park, an LPGA Hall of Famer, has had quite some success at the U.S. Women’s Open. She was the youngest player to win in 2008 at just 19, and went on to win the tournament for a second time in 2013. If Park wins it for the third time this weekend, it’ll be her 20th win on the LPGA Tour.

Park In-bee’s first two rounds will gather as many fans as Park Sung-hyun’s group as she will be teeing off with world No. 1 Ko Jin-young and No. 2 Lee Min-jee of Australia. The group will start its first round at 7:44 a.m.

Two other groups will prove especially popular with Korean fans as they will feature all Korean players.

The 2015 U.S. Women’s Open champion Chun In-gee will play her first two rounds with 2011 champion Ryu So-yeon and Amy Yang. Although Yang has never won a major title, she’s having a solid season, already picking up a win at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

The group will tee off at 8:28 a.m.

Kim Hyo-joo, who lost to Jutanugarn in the playoff during the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open, will also be playing alongside two Korean golfers - Shin Ji-yai and Lee Mi-hyang. The group will start its first round at 1:18 p.m.

BY KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]