Sung Hyun Park overtook Minjee Lee on the last day of the HSBC Women’s World Championship to add ‘Asia’s major’ to the US Open she won in 2017 and the Women’s PGA championship she bagged last year. Round in a scintillating 64, the 25-year-old signed off at 15 under par and two ahead of Lee, with whom she had been neck-and-neck for the first 13 holes.
“Every now and then,” said Park’s caddie, David Jones, “an enigma comes along and that’s what she is.”
Broken though Park’s English is, she did not struggle to get across that her 64 was probably the best round she had ever played – and that she was thrilled to have done it in front of a group of fans from Korea who follow her around the world. “I got really good energy from them,” she said. On top of that, she wanted to convey to Tiger Woods that he had given her another dollop of ‘good energy’ when they met on a recent Taylor-Made photo shoot.
Jones picked out his player’s straight, long driving as having raised the bar among the women, while is not alone in drooling over the quality of her long irons. In spite of the language barrier, the Irishman did his best to keep things light for her when he suspected that she was getting a bit nervous towards the end. Via the interpreter at her press conference, Park said that because she had a thing about keeping her hat straight, he had suddenly asked her to turn round and look at him: “He had put his hat on back to front and that really made me laugh out loud.”
Park had not covered herself in glory over the back nine in the second and third rounds. Indeed, her mother, Keumja Lee, had asked her if she was tired. Probably she was, but the mere fact that she had another round to play kept her going. This time, when it came to the back nine, she was home in a four-under-par 32 in which her every shot smacked of good sense.
“It had been coming all week,” said Jones. “She was owed so many putts coming into today and this time around they were dropping.”
Jones knew and she didn’t when Minjee Lee had the five at the 14th which cost her a share of the lead. However, Park herself was well aware that once she had made her birdie putt at the 16th, she was two ahead. “That was when I looked at the leaderboard,” she explained.
Park’s compatriots see something spellbinding about the player with the most striking of tomboy looks. It was Lydia Ko’s mother who once suggested that Korean women were built for golf in that they are mostly small and well co-ordinated but Park is tall and slim. Also, the fact that she is relatively expressionless out on the course is different again, adding as it does to her air of mystery. “It’s very tough to read her mind,” said Colin Cann, who nowadays works with In Gee Chun but had a stint of caddying for her. “I never knew what was going on in her head.”
As one who had also worked for Minjee, Cann had been fascinated to see which of the two would come out on top. “Minjee,” he noted, “is very consistent and she’s not one for backing off.”
Lee, a runner-up last week in Thailand, was still brooding on the slight draw which saw the end of her lead at the 14th. But in the end, she could hardly be upset at losing to a rival who had signed off with a 64. “Congratulations to her. Nobody can go wrong with an eight-under on the final day. She really did good.”