INCHEON, Oct. 12 (Korea Bizwire) — The top two women’s golfers in the world, Park In-bee of South Korea and Lydia Ko of New Zealand, said Monday they both want to enjoy themselves a bit more even as their competition for the top ranking heats up.
Park and Ko are in the field for this week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship, the only LPGA event held in South Korea each year. The Ocean Course at Sky 72 Golf and Resort near Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, will be the host for the eighth straight year.
Heading into the week, Park remains the world No. 1 with 12.87 points, with Ko, who was born in South Korea, right behind her at 12.38 points.
They’re also neck-and-neck in major statistical categories on the tour. Park has a slight edge over Ko on the money list (US$2.31 million to $2.19 million), in scoring average (69.442 to 69.534), and in the Player of the Year points race (243 to 224). There will be five tournaments left in 2015 after this week.
At a pre-tournament press conference Monday at the Ocean Course, Park said she doesn’t want to get caught up in numbers.
“I’ve won the money title and the Player of the Year honors, and they’re all very important,” said Park, who counts two majors among her four victories this year. “But if I start worrying about them, I will lose focus on more important things. I think the most important thing for me is to keep playing my game.”
This week’s tournament falls in the LPGA Tour’s annual Asian swing, which takes golfers through other nations such as Malaysia, Chinese Taipei, China and Japan in October. Park said she hasn’t been able to enjoy the Asian stretch the past two or three years, as she found herself in the thick of the races for key awards.
“I want to stay stress-free this year and have fun playing in Asia,” said Park, who won the Ricoh Women’s British Open to complete her career grand slam. “That’s really my last objective of the season. Lydia has been playing phenomenal golf the past three to four weeks, and I hope we engage in some friendly competition and enjoy the experience.”
Ko, a teenage sensation who already has nine LPGA wins to her credit, said she is also trying not to lose sight of what’s really important.
“We’re out there to play some good golf and just trying to enjoy it,” said Ko, who, at just over 18, became the youngest woman to win an LPGA major when she captured the Evian Championship last month. “If we think about what one putt would do to the world rankings, we’d not be able to enjoy it. We’re just trying to show what the LPGA is like to the fans. That’s more important than what one shot could do to the world rankings.”
Though Ko could overtake the top spot seemingly any day now, Ko said she also won’t try to be caught up in numbers.
“I really feel like In-bee deserves that No. 1 ranking,” she continued. “She won two majors this year and has played consistently well the last couple of years. When you have that kind of year, you deserve to be there.”
Ko will be playing here for the second straight year. Playing in South Korea for the first time, Ko finished in 29th place after shooting 72-73 on the weekend.
She said she hopes to have a better result this time around.
“There will be some great golf out there,” she said. “I had a great experience last year. This is a tough golf course and it can get windy. Someone’s who’s really creative and holes a lot of putts will be the winner at the end of the week.”