Notes: Park could deliver Rolex POY for South Korea
It's hard to believe that in the time since Se Ri Pak burst onto the LPGA scene in 1998, a South Korean has not won the Rolex Player of the Year Award. Last year Stacy Lewis broke an 18-year American drought by edging Inbee Park for the title. This year, Park is in command as the season enters its final stretch. Given that Park’s magical run at the grand slam came up short after she claimed the first three major titles, could there be a more fitting end?
“That would mean so much,” Park said. “That’s something no one has ever done ... something that I’ve really wanted to achieve this year. That’ll be just everything.”
Park, a six-time winner this season – including the Kraft Nabisco, Wegmans LPGA and U.S. Women's Open – holds a 77-point lead over Suzann Pettersen, winner of the tour’s last two events. Lewis trails Park by 98 points.
This week’s event in Beijing kicks off a five-tournament stretch in Asia (China, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan). Lewis and Park are competing in the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic. POY points are given out for top-10 finishes, with 30 points to the victor.
“You always want to play well in this last Asia swing just because there is so much money up for grabs and there are a lot of things on the line,” Lewis said.
Last year Park won in Malaysia and finished runner-up in Taiwan and Mexico. Lewis won in Japan and tied for fourth at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.
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CLOSE CALL: USC won a school-record fifth consecutive event Tuesday, and the Trojans did it without the help of last year’s superhero, sophomore Annie Park. As play finished at the Windy City Collegiate Championship, the Trojans appeared to have won by eight shots. A scorecard error from Park, however, disqualified the reigning NCAA champ.
Park signed for a 70 (a 4 on the 10th rather than a 5). Without the error she would’ve tied for fourth. The Trojans were forced to use the score from their fifth player, a 76 from Gabriella Then, but still managed to beat Oklahoma State by two shots.
Southern Cal and Park swept the postseason last year, winning conference, regional and national titles. The Trojans have opened the fall season with two victories for the first time in school history.
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FRENCH CONNECTION: Perrine Delacour took an unusually straight route to the LPGA. The 19-year-old Frenchwoman didn’t first accept a U.S. college scholarship. Nor did she spend time on the Ladies European Tour.
Instead Delacour spent one year on the Symetra Tour, flying back to France during breaks in the schedule, and earned her LPGA card in a feverish last-minute push at the season-ending Tour Championship.
Delacour birdied four of her last eight holes in Daytona Beach to shoot 66 and finish solo second. The performance moved her from 20th to eighth on the money list. She went to bed Sunday night thinking the card was a long-shot. She woke up after a restless evening to see that her mother had changed her flight from Monday at noon to Tuesday. The move proved essential when she arrived at the course and learned of an error in live scoring. (Players must be onsite in Daytona Beach, Fla., to accept their cards.)
Paula Reto had double bogeyed the 16th hole (rather than bogey it) and, when she played her last two holes on Monday in 1 over, it gave Delacour the solo-second finish needed to move into the top 10.
“I’m so happy to get my card,” said Delacour, who managed to get around at 14 events without a car or American driver’s license.
“I never take a taxi,” Delacour said. “My host family or friends take me to the course.”
She’ll get that taken care of next year.
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MISSING A ZERO: And in news that should make everyone think, P.K. Kongkraphan won the Symetra Tour money title with $47,283, while Michael Putnam won the Web.com money title with $450,184.
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SHORT SHOTS: The race for the Vare Trophy (low scoring average) is tight heading into the fall Asian swing as Pettersen (69.700) has a .016 lead over Lewis. Park ranks third at 69.923. . . . Lewis leads the tour in top-10 finishes, with 14. She’s also one of only three players in the top 50 on the money list who have played in all 21 events, joining Chella Choi and Brittany Lang. Lewis plans to skip the events in Korea and Taiwan, however, in part to attend her younger sister’s wedding. . . . Four players have combined to win 14 of 21 events this season. Multiple winners in 2013: Inbee Park (6), Stacy Lewis (3), Suzann Pettersen (3) and Beatriz Recari (2). Americans have won five titles. . . . Players who finished 11-20 on the Symetra Tour money list are exempt into the final stage of LPGA Q-School, to be held Dec. 4-8 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Megan McChrystal won the season-ending Tour Championship to move from 58th to 18th on the money list. “I think I might cry,” McChrystal said. “This gives me the confidence I need for Q-School. Last year, I was terrified. Now I know I’m ready.” . . . Symetra Financial committed to three more years of sponsoring the LPGA’s developmental tour, extending the relationship through 2017. The Bellevue, Wash.-based financial-services company gave yearend cash prizes to winners of the Symetra Swift Award (Sue Kim), Symetra Rising Star Award (Melissa Eaton) and Symetra Tour POY (P.K. Kongkraphan).