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Grace Park, “Birdiepalooza”

Posted October. 15, 2004 23:18,   


“Birdie queen” Grace Park (Park Ji-eun, Nike Golf) has the perfect chance to blow away her “one win per season” jinx.

On October 15, during the first round of the Samsung World Championship (total purse $825,000) held at the Canyons Course of Bighorn Golf Club (par-72) in Palm Desert, CA, Park shot a 10-under-par 62 (one eagle, nine birdies, one bogey) to push her way past competition Catriona Matthew (Scotland) by two strokes and move into the lead.

10-under-par is Park’s best record to date. It’s also a new championship record, coming one stroke under the lowest-under-par set by Pat Bradley (USA) in 1986.

During the four years since her debut in 2000, Park has had only one championship title in each season. This season, she has already won her first major title in March (Nabisco Championship), following it up with five first-runner-up spots until last week. But Park is particularly confident about the current tournament. The reason? Because the conditions are just perfect.

First of all, Park, who moved to the U.S. (Phoenix, Arizona) right after finishing elementary school for her training in golf, is right at home in the kind of “desert golf course” that Bighorn offers. Her records for the practice rounds were 10-under and 8-under; in the Pro-Am tournament, she finished at 7-under-par.

Moreover, she’s found a perfect mate in the new irons she’s been using since last week (Ping→Nike). She also enjoyed a nice long rest over two weeks before competing last weekend (Asahi Ryokuken International Championship, 3rd and 4th rounds). And her momentum has been building rapidly since.

For Seri Park (CJ), who played against Grace Park in the same group, a four-week break from competition seems to have taken a heavy toll: she stands at joint 18th place with a 2-over-par 74.

Also in 18th place is “golf prodigy” Michelle Wie (Wie Sung-mi, 15), who competed in the same group with the “empress of golf” Annika Sorenstam (tied for 3rd place with three other players, at 6-under-par 66). Wie’s mistake on a tee shot at the 12th hole (par-5) led to a triple bogey and an eventual score of 2-over-par 74.

Young-Sik Ahn ysahn@donga.com