When Sung Hyun Park won last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship with a birdie putt on the second playoff hole at Kemper Lakes in suburban Chicago, she immediately buried her head in her hands and wept for joy.
It was a far cry from a month earlier, when Park shot 9 over at Shoal Creek (Ala.) in the first two rounds as defending champion at the U.S. Women’s Open and missed the cut.
“After that, the [PGA] win last year was like a present to me,” Park said through an interpreter. “And right now it is so fresh in my memories.”
It’s easy to see why.
Park arrived at Hazeltine National in Chaska earlier this week to find a poster of her holding last year’s trophy displayed in the clubhouse locker room and a primo parking space in the player’s lot.
The perks of a defending champion.
“I actually took a picture of that,” Park said, smiling.
And now, it’s time to work. Park never again wants the feeling of a poor performance at a major, let alone as a defending champion.
“Last year around June I felt like my putts and shots weren’t that good, and I tried to get back into the game, tried to find better shots,” Park said. “I feel this year they have definitely been better and coming in as a defending champion, I feel less anxious and a little more comfortable.”
That’s an emotion Nelly Korda has yet to experience. The 20-year-old this week is making her 17th career start in a major championship, yet has only one top-10 finish: a tie for 10th in the U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek that wrapped up two days after Park walked away disappointed.
At a major, “everyone puts a bit more pressure on themselves,” Korda said. “You concentrate a bit more, you practice a bit more. It’s such an important week. The golf courses usually play really hard so obviously you’re putting more time into everything. I’m still trying to kind of figure it out.”
Park, 25, doesn’t have all the answers but as a two-time major champion, the good vibes can go a long way in the process. At this year’s ANA Inspiration, Park said luck has a lot to do with it as well.
She doesn’t have any trinkets or charms in her golf bag this week, but memories of triumph and memories of failure are only a mental snapshot away.
Use the good, block out the bad.
“If I make any mistakes, hopefully that luck will come to me and then I’ll be able to bring out good results,” Park said.