INBEE PARK AIMS FOR 20TH LPGA TOUR VICTORY
With 18 holes remaining in the 2020 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, Korean superstar Inbee Park is in prime position to become the 28th player in LPGA Tour history to reach the 20-win mark. The seven-time major winner shot a 4-under 67 in Saturday’s third round to reach -13 and carries a two-stroke lead over countrywoman Sei Young Kim into Sunday’s final round.
“It was a really good day out there, especially my ball striking was flawless today. I didn't make any mistakes,” said Park, who last visited the winner’s circle at the 2018 Bank of Hope Founders Cup. “I wish my putter could have followed up a little bit better, especially the three-putt on the last was a little bit disappointing. Overall, playing was pretty good, especially my ball striking. I was really satisfied.”
Kim sits at -11 after carding six birdies on Saturday, including four straight on holes 14-17, with two bogeys bookending that streak. She is the most recent winner on the LPGA Tour, having captured the 2019 season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
Nasa Hataoka, one of Japan’s greatest medal hopes heading into August’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, is sits third at -10, while Frenchwoman Celine Boutier had a slam-dunk eagle from the fairway at No. 16 and is fourth at -9.
In the celebrity portion of the competition, defending John Smoltz leads the way at +111 in the Modified Stableford scoring system. Mardy Fish, who won the celebrity competition in 2016 and 2018 when it was played as the Diamonds Resorts Invitational, is second at +107, followed by 2017 DRI winner Mark Mulder third at +105.
WITH A WIN
Inbee Park would earn her 20th LPGA Tour victory and become the 28th player in Tour history to reach that mark
Sei Young Kim would earn her 11th LPGA Tour victory and tie Jiyai Shin for the third-most wins by a Korean player, behind Se Ri Pak (25) and Inbee Park (19)
Sei Young Kim would become just the second player in LPGA Tour history to win a season-ending event and the opening event of the following season, joining LPGA Founder Louise Suggs (1960 San Antonio Civitan, 1961 Sea Island Open)
With her fourth LPGA Tour victory, Nasa Hataoka would tie Hiromi Kobayashi for the third-most victories by a Japanese player, behind Ayako Okamoto (17) and Ai Miyazato (9)
INBEE PARK AIMING FOR MORE OLYMPIC GLORY
When your resume includes seven major titles, an Olympic gold medal and nearly 30 combined victories around the world, you’re allowed to be confident. Inbee Park’s serene bearing belies the fierce competitor lying underneath. With the opportunity to defend her Olympic triumph at stake, the 31-year-old knows that a win at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions could set her up for yet another dominating season on the LPGA Tour.
“(A win) would mean a lot, especially it would give me so much confidence going into this season,” said Park, who is looking for her first win since March 2018. “Getting off to a hot start is always a really, really good sign for the season. Yeah, I'll keep that in mind tomorrow, and hopefully I have another good ball striking day tomorrow.”
A win would move Park up the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings and closer to that goal of playing in the Olympics. The cut-off to make the women’s roster comes June 29 following the completion of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The top 15 world-ranked players will be eligible for the Olympics, with a limit of four players from any given country. At No. 16 in the Rolex Rankings, Park is the sixth eligible player from Korea, behind No. 1 Jin Young Ko, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park, No. 5 Sei Young Kim, No. 7 Jeongeun Lee6 and No. 13 Hyo Joo Kim. Of that list, Ko, Park, Lee6 and H.J. Kim are not in this week’s Diamond Resorts field.
SEI YOUNG KIM LEARNING FROM THE BEST
Sunday’s final grouping will include Inbee Park, one of the greatest players to ever grace the LPGA Tour, and Sei Young Kim, who has joined Park as one of the most consistent players on Tour. Both players represented the Republic of Korea at the 2016 Olympics and Kim relishes every opportunity she gets tee it up alongside her superstar countrywoman.
“She's a great player. She's a Hall of Famer. I've been watching her play since I was young,” said Kim of her countrywoman. “It's a dream come true for me to play with her. All the times I played with her, it's a good experience. I learned a lot of things from her. So, yeah, I'm very glad to play with her.”
This is not the first time Park and Kim have battled down the stretch. In 2015, the duo went to a playoff at the LOTTE Championship, where Kim earned the victory with an eagle on the first playoff hole.
HATAOKA SILENTLY SITS THREE BACK OF LEAD AT DIAMOND RESORTS
Three-time LPGA Tour winner Nasa Hataoka could be closing in on a fourth Tour victory after shooting a third-round 68 to sit solo third at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions. The 21-year-old sits only three back of leader and LPGA Hall of Fame member Inbee Park, but is as confident in her game as she can be.
“The beginning of the season with this kind of event is really relaxing and it's really fun. If I'm playing a normal event, I get a little bit nervous, but this kind of event is more fun, and I'm really enjoying it,” said Hataoka. “I really want to be aggressive tomorrow, especially on my putting.”
Hataoka is looking to make the most of the 2020 season. Even during the year’s first event, her dreams of representing Japan at the Olympics in Tokyo are not too far from her mind. If the Olympic qualifying period ended today, Team Japan would comprise Hataoka, 2019 TOTO Japan Classic winner Ai Suzuki and 2019 AIG Women’s British Open winner Hinako Shibuno, But as she rounds out the final day tomorrow, Hataoka said she also has other goals to achieve on the horizon before she sets foot in her home country this August.
“I definitely want to win before the Olympics for sure,” said Hataoka. “But my first goal is to be No. 1 in the world before the Olympics, and then I want to play in the Olympics.”
Rolex Rankings No. 16 Inbee Park (65-68-67)
- She hit 12 of 13 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, with 27 putts
- Park is in her 14th season on the LPGA Tour; she has 19 career victories, including seven majors, and won most recently at the 2018 Bank of Hope Founders Cup
- Park won the gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics
- Park is competing in her first Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
Rolex Rankings No. 5 Sei Young Kim (66-69-67)
- She hit nine of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, with 27 putts
- Kim is in her sixth season on the LPGA Tour; she has 10 career victories, most recently at the 2019 CME Group Tour Championship
- She finished 25th at the 2019 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
Rolex Rankings No. 6 Nasa Hataoka (66-69-68)
- She hit nine of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens, with 31 putts
- Hataoka is in her fourth season on the LPGA Tour; she has three career victories, most recently at the 2019 Kia Classic
- She tied for 16th at the 2019 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
WHO’S IN THE DIAMOND RESORTS TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS FIELD
26 LPGA Tour Winners from 2018 and 2019
Marina Alex (2018 Cambia Portland Classic), Celine Boutier (2019 ISPS Handa Vic Open), In Gee Chun (2018 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship), Cydney Clanton (2019 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational), Georgia Hall (2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open), Nasa Hataoka (2018 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, 2018 TOTO Japan Classic, 2019 Kia Classic), Brooke Henderson (2018 LOTTE Championship, 2018 CP Women’s Open, 2019 LOTTE Championship, 2019 Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give), Mi Jung Hur (2019 Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open, 2019 Indy Women in Tech Championship), Eun Hee Ji (2018 Kia Classic, 2019 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions), Ariya Jutanugarn (2018 Kingsmill Championship, 2018 U.S. Women’s Open, 2018 Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open), Moriya Jutanugarn (2018 HUGEL-JTBC LA Open), Danielle Kang (2018 Buick LPGA Shanghai, 2019 Buick LPGA Shanghai), Sei Young Kim (2018 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic, 2019 LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship, 2019 Marathon Classic, 2019 CME Group Tour Championship), Cheyenne Knight (2019 Volunteers of America Classic), Jessica Korda (2018 Honda LPGA Thailand), Nelly Korda (2018 Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA, 2019 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, 2019 Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA), Bronte Law (2019 Pure Silk Championship), Brittany Lincicome(2018 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic), Pernilla Lindberg (2018 ANA Inspiration), Gaby Lopez (2018 Blue Bay LPGA), Annie Park(2018 ShopRite LPGA Classic), Inbee Park (2018 Bank of Hope Founders Cup), Angela Stanford (2018 Evian Championship), Jasmine Suwannapura (2018 Marathon Classic, 2019 Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational), Lexi Thompson (2018 CME Group Tour Championship, 2019 ShopRite LPGA Classic), Amy Yang (2019 Honda LPGA Thailand)
Marcus Allen, Maurice Allen, Ray Allen, Josh Beckett, Lee Brice, Joe Carter, Roger Clemens, Richard Dent, Mark DeRosa, Josh Donaldson, Mardy Fish, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Flaskey, Colt Ford, Terry Francona, Eric Gagne, Tom Glavine, Denny Hamlin, John Hart, Ben Higgins, Grant Hill, Case Keenum, Jon Lester, Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux, Brian McCann, Kevin Millar, Mark Mulder, Phil Nevin, Bud Norris, Blair O’Neal, Michael Peña, Patrick Peterson, Chad Pfeifer, A.J. Pierzynski, Alfonso Ribeiro, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Sterling Sharpe, John Smoltz, Cole Swindell, Larry The Cable Guy, Brian Urlacher, Justin Verlander, Frank Viola, Jack Wagner, Tim Wakefield, Michael Waltrip, David Wells, Deron Williams
Professionals: 26 players; 72 holes, stroke play, no cut
Celebrities and amateurs: 49 players; 72 holes, Modified Stableford scoring format, no cut
MODIFIED STABLEFORD SCORING FORMAT
Double bogey – 0
Bogey – 1
Par – 2
Birdie – 3
Eagle – 5
Hole-in-One – 8
Double Eagle – 10
Tournament: @DiamondResorts (Twitter and Instagram), #DiamondLPGA
LPGA: @LPGA, @LPGAMedia (Twitter), @lpga_tour (Instagram)
TV TIMES (all times Eastern)
Sunday, Jan. 19 – 2-3 p.m., Golf Channel; 3-5 p.m., NBC