SPORTS

Top-ranked Inbee Park enters Waterloo event on three-tournament win streak

07/10/2013 05:44 EDT | Updated 09/09/2013 05:12 EDT
WATERLOO, Ont. - The field for the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic boasts some of the biggest names on the women's tour. Brittany Lang is back to defend her title and nine of the top 10 players in the world rankings are on hand.

But when first-round play begins Thursday at the Grey Silo Golf Course, there is one player who will get most of the attention.

Inbee Park has been dominant this season and she's showing no signs of slowing down. She has won the first three majors this year and is looking to capture her fourth straight LPGA Tour victory at this week's US$1.3-million event.

"What Inbee's doing is just unbelievable really," said Stacy Lewis, a distant No. 2 behind Park in the world rankings. "You look at her numbers the last few weeks and the way she's winning and the way she's getting it done, it's just impressive.

"To play well with all the extra demands, with the extra attention is even better."

Park recently won the U.S. Women's Open to become the first player to win the year's first three majors since Babe Zaharias swept the three majors played in the LPGA's inaugural season in 1950. Park was in top form at the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., earning $585,000 for her four-shot victory.

"It's like the Open week every week with Inbee Park," Lang said. "Actually it's exactly like that because she makes every putt and she doesn't make many mistakes."

Park, 24, leads the LPGA Tour in seven statistical categories and has six wins over 13 starts this season.

She'll go for her fourth straight major at the Women's British Open next month. Another major — the Evian Championship in France — was elevated in status this year, giving the LPGA Tour a total of five majors for the first time.

Park will begin her warmup for the Old Course at St. Andrews at this week's stop in southwest Ontario. The South Korean will try to become the first golfer to win four straight LPGA tournaments since Lorena Ochoa in 2008.

Park, who enjoyed some downtime after a media swing following her latest victory, feels rested and ready for the week ahead.

"I feel more relaxed, I feel more refreshed so I feel a lot better this week," she said at a pre-tournament media availability. "I think I'm calmed down a lot now."

Nancy Lopez holds the tour record with five consecutive victories in 1978, a mark equalled by Annika Sorenstam over the 2004-05 seasons.

Lang, meanwhile, has yet to win since claiming her first career title in the inaugural event last year by defeating Park, Chella Choi and Hee Kyung Seo in a three-hole playoff.

She noticed some of the small differences that come with being the defending champ while playing a pro-am competition Wednesday.

"This is a first for me and it's been a very fun week," Lang said. "The fans have been amazing. Every tee box I've been up to, they cheer when I come up there and I've never experienced something like that.

"So I'm just really trying to enjoy it and trying to represent myself well this week and have a good week for them."

Charlottetown's Lorie Kane is one of 10 Canadians in the field. The eight LPGA Tour players from north of the border are joined by sponsor exemptions Jennifer Kirby of Paris, Ont., and Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont.

In all, 144 players are entered in the 72-hole stroke play event. The 6,330-yard course has been playing soft after some wet weather through the week.

Heavy rains returned late Wednesday afternoon and there is a chance of more wet weather Thursday. Sunny skies and warm temperatures are in the forecast for the last three days of the tournament.

Notes: There will be five spots in the Women's British Open field available this week for players who have not already qualified for the major. The five entries will be determined by 36-hole scores. Ties will be broken by 54-hole or 72-hole scores if necessary. ... Lang holds the No. 43 position in the world rankings. ... It has been over a decade since a Canadian won on the LPGA Tour. Kane was the last to do so at the TakeFuji Classic in 2001. ... Park and Lang will play in the same group Thursday with Jessica Korda. They are scheduled to tee off at 8:27 a.m. ... Park will celebrate her 25th birthday on Friday.

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