Pak feeling comfortable for title defense in Mobile

Se Ri Pak during the LPGA Tour Championship.

Se Ri Pak during the LPGA Tour Championship.

MOBILE, Ala. – Se Ri Pak has reason to feel comfortable going into this week’s Avnet LPGA Classic at Magnolia Grove’s Crossings Course.

The LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer is coming off her best finish of the year three weeks ago at the Kraft Nabisco Championship with a tie for 10th. Now, she finds herself at a course where she has won three tournament titles going into the Classic starting Thursday. It’s not home for the South Korean, but it sure feels that way.

Pak has competed in 10 previous tournaments on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course, winning three times, including last year’s Bell Micro LPGA Classic. She also won the 2001 and 2002 Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions titles on the same course.

“Everyone asks why you’re so good on that golf course,” Pak said Wednesday. “I don’t exactly know why my game suits in this golf course. But the golf course, you kind of – you have to (be) really smart playing. You know, like you’re not always hitting straight. (It) doesn’t always have to be a great shot on the golf course. But this course you have to think how this shot, next shot, how to make it good, make sure which shot is easier.

“I guess overall, my game is pretty good on this golf course.”

Obviously. In her previous appearances at the Crossings Course Pak has an overall score of 42 under par. That includes last year when she won with a 13-under score in 54 holes of play. The final round was canceled because of rain and Pak, Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen played a sudden death playoff on the 18th hole to determine the winner.

Pak dropped a 10-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole after Lincicome had made a 30-foot, downhill par putt. Pak said when she returned for practice rounds this week she was greeted with a sense of familiarity.

“You have a great memory about it,” she said of the course. “Of course, this week is going to be a strong field but it’s supposed to be on the LPGA Tour.”

Five other former champions of tournaments on this course, and nine of the top 10-ranked players, are in the field. There’s also Stacy Lewis, who is coming off her first LPGA win – and her first major championship – having won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in the previous LPGA event. Lincicome and Pettersen are back, as is world No. 1 Yani Tseng, who has one LPGA win, two wins in Australia, a win in Taiwan and a second-place finish in the Kraft Nabisco to her credit this season.

“I played this two, three years already and I’ve never done good,” Tseng said of her previous Magnolia Grove experiences, when she finished tied for 33rd last year and tied for 35th in 2008.

This marks the first LPGA tournament since April 3, and the first competition for most of the field during that span.

Paula Creamer makes her return to the Crossings Course where she has won events as an amateur and a professional for the first time since the course underwent major renovations. The tournament wasn’t played in 2008 when the LPGA changed its date on the schedule and Creamer missed last year’s tournament as she recovered from thumb surgery. She won the Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions crown here in 2007.

“You always want to play with the best players,” Creamer said. “You want to have the strongest fields that you can. That makes the tournament special and makes it more exciting for everybody. You know you have to play well and you have to beat a lot of good players.”

Karrie Webb, Dorothy Delasin, Christina Kim, Angela Stanford and Creamer have all won titles at Magnolia Grove in the past.

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