Inbee Park turns up the heat to win Bank of Hope Founders Cup

There were days when Inbee Park thought it might be nice to stay home forever. Forget the grind of the LPGA. Curl up on the sofa with her dog, Rio, husband G.H. Nam and a glass of wine. But then Park went out and scorched the field in Phoenix after another long break. How can she even think about quitting?

No one can switch it on and off like Park. The LPGA Hall of Famer won in only her second start in 2018 after a seven-month break from the tour. She also won gold at the 2016 Summer Olympics after a long layoff, as well as the 2017 HSBC Women’s World Championship.

“I think I just love the breaks,” Park said. “Just really refreshes me.”

Park poured in four consecutive birdies on the back nine at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup to collect her 19th LPGA title. She finished five strokes ahead of three players, including Dame Laura Davies, the 54-year-old who last won on the LPGA in 2001.

Both Davies and Park posted 9-under 63s at Wildfire Golf Club in the third round. Davies said she was so nervous on the first tee Sunday afternoon that she nearly shanked it. A chip-in for eagle on the second hole calmed her down.

“Would’ve been huge,” Davies said of winning her 21st LPGA title. “I realized the record and how old I am now and not having won for God knows how many years on the LPGA. It would’ve been huge.”

Davies, a World Golf Hall of Fame member, remains two points shy of gaining entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame. She hopes the strong showing in Phoenix stops people from asking when she’s going to retire: “People are off my back now.”

The long-bombing Ariya Jutanugarn played alongside Davies in the final round and shares in her appreciation for the 2-iron. (She also outdrove Davies with 2-iron.)

“I love how (Laura) plays,” said Jutanugarn, who took a share of second with Davies and Marina Alex. “She’s like my idol and I had so much fun.”

Park, 29, became the youngest player to enter the LPGA Hall of Fame in 2016. The South Korean’s 19th victory moved her into a tie for 28th with Sandra Palmer on the LPGA’s all-time wins list. One of the best putters in all of golf, Park took only 10 putts in her front-nine 29 on Saturday. She likened it to how she felt in 2013, when she won the first three majors of the year.

Interestingly, Park changed to an Anser-style putter in Phoenix because she felt like she was getting too used to looking down at a mallet.

“I wanted to see which way I was missing,” said Park, “what my stroke was doing wrong. With Anser style you can tell much better.”

Park decided to change it a few weeks ahead of the ANA Inspiration, which she won in 2013.

When asked how the long breaks have helped her get the urge to compete again, Park said it’s 50/50. Half of her wants to stay at home being lazy: “I really love this life, too.”

Half of her can’t stand watching someone else win. She misses it.

“As soon as I’m back here,” she said, “I just feel like this is where I belong.”

The winner’s circle never felt more like home. Gwk



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