Inbee Park admitted she was resigned to the prospect of losing the world No. 1 ranking, with Suzann Pettersen breathing down her neck at this week’s HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore.
The South Korean starlet swept three major titles last year and she made a fast start to her season last week in Thailand, carding six-under 66 on Sunday to finish second.
However, Park, 25, said she expected a shift in the rankings, with Norway’s Pettersen capable of catching her this week, and defending champion Stacy Lewis not far behind in third.
“It’s actually really tough to win every tournament,” said Park, who made a delayed start to the year and missed the first two events in the Bahamas and Australia.
“It’s only my second week back this year and I think rankings points-wise, there’s not much gap between one to three. So obviously there are going to be some changes this year,” she said on Tuesday.
At last year’s edition in Singapore, Taiwan’s Yani Tseng was the woman under pressure as she struggled to extend her two-year reign as world No. 1. The US’ Lewis won a thrilling tournament by just one shot and went on to supplant the young Taiwanese at the top of the rankings just weeks later.
However, Park appeared relaxed about her 46-week stint at the top and said she was more focused on her overall performance this year.
“My goal would be maybe to maintain the No. 1 spot at the end of the year, but during the year, whoever has a good first week I think could change the rankings,” she said. “I think I’ll try to enjoy the week and try to enjoy while I’m here.”
Her standpoint is directly opposed to second-ranked Pettersen, a veteran at 32 who is highly motivated to be crowned the world’s best player for the first time in her career.
According to the LPGA projection, to go to the top Pettersen needs to win at par-72 Sentosa Golf Club and hope that Park does not finish better than tied for third with two players.
“I think I can be good enough to be the best in the world, otherwise I don’t think I would have kept playing. So that’s my motivation every day,” Pettersen said on Tuesday.
“I think the eternal drive of trying to get better every day is what gets you up in the morning, what gets you through the tough days, the good days,” she said.
“It’s obviously a dream of mine to become the best female golfer in the world, I’m not going to hide that, but at the same time, I just want to see how good I can be,” she said.
The US$1.4 million tournament has drawn nearly all of the world’s 60 highest ranked players, including 19 of the top 20.
Other players to watch include New Zealand’s world No. 4 Lydia Ko, 16, who is seeking her first LPGA Tour win since turning professional in October last year.