ROGERS, Ark. (AP) – Inbee Park used a well-timed week away from golf two years ago to set up a run of three straight victories on the LPGA Tour, including two major championships.
The freshly anointed top-ranked women's player hopes a similar approach pays off again this week at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Coming off her third straight Women's PGA Championship victory two weeks ago in New York, Park returns to action this week at Pinnacle Country Club – where she won in 2013.
That victory also came after the then-LPGA Championship, and it served as the prelude to a win at the U.S. Women's Open a week later. It's exactly the type of trifecta the South Korean star wants to repeat this time around, a large reason why she largely stayed away from the game last week.
"I had this streak when in 2013 when I won the LPGA Championship and this week and then the U.S. Open," said Park, set to begin play Friday. "... Another repeat of 2013 would be really nice."
Park also was ranked No. 1 in 2013, and she returned to the top spot with her victory two weeks ago.
The win was her sixth major championship, her fifth in the last 12 over the past three years, and she matched Annika Sorenstam (2003-05) in winning the event in three straight years.
All in all, this year – in which Park has won three times and finished no lower than 18th in any tournament – has served as a more than just a reminder about how great she can be when all of her game is on point.
"It's just coming along together really well, and yeah, (I) just feel a lot more comfortable and a lot more confidence after looking at a lot of good shots," Park said.
While Park reigns at the top of the LPGA Tour these days, she's expected to face stiff competition from a former No. 1 this week.
Defending champion Stacy Lewis hasn't won since her victory at Pinnacle last year, but the former Arkansas player returns to her adopted home state to once again enjoy perhaps the most unique home-course advantage on the LPGA Tour.
Lewis, ranked third, finally broke through her self-imposed pressure to win the NW Arkansas Championship last year, doing so by sinking a 7-foot birdie putt on the final hole. It was Lewis' 11th victory overall, not counting her rain-shortened unofficial win at Pinnacle as an amateur in 2007.
Lewis has finished second three times this year, but has struggled with her takeaway and accuracy – something she spent last week working on with hopes of returning to top form.
Whether that's enough to win this week, or eventually challenge Park again for the top ranking, remains to be seen. What is sure is the support Lewis will hear across Pinnacle this week.
"No. 1 is way back, way in the back of my mind," Lewis said. "... To get back to No. 1, that takes some help from some other people. So, the immediate goal is to get back to doing what I do best, get my golf swing in a better place and winning tournaments."
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