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The Reigning Queen… and an Exhausted Se-ri

Posted July. 29, 2004 22:11,   


The final battle has begun.

The last major championship of this year’s LPGA Tour, the 2004 Women’s British Open (total prize money $1.6 million), opened on July 29 at the Sunningdale Golf Club (par 72) in Berkshire, U.K.

Park Ji-eun (Nike Golf) and Ahn Shi-hyun (Kolon Elord) are off to a happy start with one birdie apiece at the first hole, and Song A-ree (Beanpole) is at 1-under par after the third hole (as of 5:00 p.m.).

The focus of this year’s tournament is on Annika Sorenstam (Sweden) and Pak Se-ri (CJ), who finished in first and second place, respectively, at last year’s British Open. Although they are the reigning no. 1 and no. 2 of women’s golf, their approaches to this year’s British Open differ dramatically.

Sorenstam is attempting to write a new chapter in the history of the LPGA Tour: to defend her title at all four majors. If Sorenstam, who won last year’s British Open, successfully defends her title this year, she will become only the second woman in the LPGA Tour, after Mickey Wright (U.S., Hall of Famer with 82 wins in the LPGA Tour, the second highest of all time), to win two successive titles at all four of the major championships.

Sorenstam stated that she was aware of the fact, but that she would put it out of her mind at the tournament in order to reduce stress.

By contrast, Pak Se-ri has failed to land in the top 10 at her last seven championships, and is attempting to overcome her slump at the British Open, where she has a good track record with a victory in 2001 and a first-runner-up spot last year.

Among Pak’s doubts about the game: “I love golf, but I wonder if I’m investing too much of my time into it.” “Three hundred days out of the year, my schedule consists of practicing, competing, and returning to my hotel room. I don’t even have time to spend with a boyfriend. It’s not an easy life.” “Golf is a highly stressful game, both mentally and physically. I’ve long been working at becoming perfect. Now I just want to enjoy a normal life.”

Pak also remarked that, for two years, she has been having a hard time trying to find a driver that suits her. With such obvious difficulties hampering her game, it’s unclear whether she will make a good showing at this year’s tournament.

Meanwhile, the Korean players who have been through the practice round and the Pro-Am tournament were unanimous in their complaint that the green was overly hard, making it difficult to make the ball come to a stop. Fifteen Korean players in all are participating in the British Open this year.

Sang-Soo Kim ssoo@donga.com