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June 18, 2014

Inbee Park


MIKE TROSTEL: Welcome to the 2014 U.S. Women's Open here at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. It's our pleasure to welcome two-time U.S. Women's Open champion and our defending champion Inbee Park to the media center. A champion in 2008 at Interlachen Country Club, and 2013 last year at Sebonack. The win last year at Sebonack made her the first player in the modern era to win the first three Major Championships of the season, along with the Kraft Nabisco, and the Wegman's LPGA Championship. Off to a great start this year with 8 top-10 in 11 starts. You won last week at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, closing with a 61. It really seems like your game is rounding into shape. You had a great start in 2013, then didn't have a win after the Women's Open, and got your game back on track last week. Talk about where your game is right now heading into this week.

INBEE PARK: Yeah, I think compared to last year, I was really hot in the beginning of the season to probably the middle of the season. But I think this year has been a really consistent start at the beginning of the season and then to the middle. I really try to get my game on and really good in the middle of the season to the end of season for this year, because there is no really big Major tournaments in the end of the year, starting U.S. Open from now on. So I think, yeah, my putter wasn't working so well the last four months I was on the tour this year. But it seems like it's coming -- slowly coming back, starting a couple of weeks ago, especially in Manulife when I won, especially the final round gave me so much confidence, and was really a big confidence boost, especially with the putting, because I just wasn't able to hole anything. But the Manulife life tournament was big win for me.

MIKE TROSTEL: Then you come to Pinehurst and we saw you on the television coverage on Sunday getting here as the men were here. How unique is that for you? Is it a cool, special experience for you playing the Women's Open directly after the Men's Open?

INBEE PARK: Yeah, it's really unique, we never got to do something like that before. I never really seen the men play in person that close before. So I think it was a really cool experience, and I just felt like when I came here on Sunday, on the putting green, like where we were supposed to be putting, and there was a lot of men trying to warm up and putting. So, it was weird, like, should I putt here or not, I feel like I don't belong here. It was a little bit of confusion. But I think it was something different and fun, yeah.

Q. Juli Inkster is making her 35th United States Open start. Can you even imagine that and do you see anyone in this field who will last that long to play in that many?
INBEE PARK: I think that's going to be really tough record to beat, I think. How many years do I have to play from now on? 20? That's many, many U.S. Opens. And I really admire her for playing that long and consistently. She's still so competitive. She's really friendly. I saw her last night at the champions dinner and we had a good time there. Yeah, she's definitely the one to look at and try to follow, yeah.

Q. You had a good year, but it took a little while to win again. I'm just wondering when you won again, was there some relief or were you feeling like all along you were going to win this year?
INBEE PARK: Well, in my mind, there was something that was, I think -- I try to believe in myself that the win is not far away from me all year this year. But every week and week, it just didn't happen. After two weeks, after four weeks, it seems like it was taking longer than I thought. So I was probably getting a little bit more frustrated than I should have been, because I was finishing top-5, top-10s, that's still good golf. But I was probably getting a little frustrated, because I put myself in the right position, but I couldn't hole the putts. It's a bit different, because last year, that's not something that I really struggled with. And this year I put myself in a better position than last year, but I just couldn't hole from there. So it was a really different -- it was a really different type of golf for me this year. I had to overcome that. I think actually the missed cut in the Airbus tournament, I think really things really started from there. Because I was still playing well, even if you're not putting well or not holing anything, but if you're still finishing top-10 or top-5, something has got to be right. So you don't try to change anything or try to do anything. But once I missed the cut, I tried to change up everything, like on my putting. Since then, I try to find a good point, and I finally did in Canada.

Q. If I could follow-up on that, when you're on, you're known not as one of the best LPGA players, but one of the best putters in the world. I'm wondering, have you ever struggled that much with putting the way you have and maybe what are the things that you did to get back into your normal putting success?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean, putting has been my strongest thing with my game. So like this year it's been, I think considering how I've putted in the past, I think this year is probably the worst I've putted in a while. Because my ball-striking was getting a lot better in the last couple of years. And I put myself in a good positions off the tee, off the fairway, but, yeah, just never struggled with the putter. I never thought that would be my problem.

Q. What was it like to be the defending champion at the champions dinner last night, and can you share some flavor of the dinner, and some of the past champions you talked to?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I think it was really a cool thing that USGA put on something like that. It was really different to be able to meet all the legendary players last night, especially feeling more special because there's such great players -- everybody is such great players there. But there's not many multiple winners of U.S. Women's Open that night, too. I felt like I was really special in the room, as well. But there was so many players that are good to admire and good to see. Half of the people I never seen before, so it's -- yeah, it was really -- we did something like that in Kraft, but we had another dinner yesterday. So I think it's -- it's like looking in the past and reminding of good memories. It was really cool.

Q. There's been so much talk about the golf course and how it looks and how it's playing. What are your thoughts on that? Do you enjoy playing courses like this? Does a course like this fit your game and what you like to do on a golf course, how you like to manage a golf course?
INBEE PARK: I think the Pinehurst No. 2 is, the game is around the greens. First, you have to try to hit the greens, but obviously it's really tough to hit the greens around this golf course. So you're going to miss the green. Everybody is going to miss a lot of the greens. I think it's a matter of getting up and down from there and having different strategies around the greens, different clubs around the greens. But, obviously, last week, with the men, they proved that under par is possible. So, yeah, so we should go out there and try to shoot under par.

Q. Did you learn anything else watching the men play, either live or on television? As you studied them, did you learn anything that might help you this week?
INBEE PARK: I think I definitely learned to use the putter around the greens, because the winner, Martin Kaymer, he used the putter a lot of times around the greens and he put it the closest. So it looks like the putter is the most accurate club in the bag, so I'll try to use the putter as many times as I can.

Q. With how you played two weeks ago and winning the first three Majors last year, you know that if you're playing your best golf, you are very difficult to beat. Do you feel, at your best, that you're unbeatable in the women's game?
INBEE PARK: I think on certain courses, like really tough golf courses and when I play, like perfectly, obviously I think -- it's tough to say that I'm unbeatable. But there is, you know, good enough players out here who can play as well as me. So I think it's depending on timing. Like when I'm playing perfect, there's somebody that has to not play perfect. So it's not -- I think last year, everybody make a couple of mistakes, but I didn't make as many. I think it's a matter of reducing the mistakes.

Q. And a follow-up, with you being so successful in Majors last year, do you believe that you rise to the occasion at the largest venues? And why do you think that is? Do you think that it brings something out that other events may very well not?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I think it's like the -- I think -- I don't know how to say this, but I think it's the desire to try to play better golf. Like trying to avoid mistakes. I think you just take a lot more precautions, a lot more cautions when you play tough golf courses. And the Major golf courses are tough golf courses, and when you play those, you take extra care. I'm usually just an easy going person. I'm just -- sometimes I make mistake because I don't pay too much attention. But I think on Major golf courses like this, I take extra time, I take extra caution. I think that's making me play better, I think.

Q. International players have had such great success in recent years in this event, and the majority of the field this year is from overseas. Can you give us any insight as to why that phenomenon is in play now?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I think just golf, itself, is a very International sport. And obviously the golf is very big in Asia. Yeah, I think it's -- the tour, itself, is very international. So everybody is competing each other and obviously when you have couple good players from your country, you try to follow them. And same with like Korea, Japan, anywhere in the world, like trying to follow each other, I think that's bringing more atmosphere here.

Q. You referenced earlier a putt that has turned it around for you. I'm sorry to ask, but was it a make, was it a miss, where was it and what changed?
INBEE PARK: What change did I make?

Q. What changed in your game because of this putt? Did you make it or did it miss it and where was it?
MIKE TROSTEL: Was it a missed cut?

Q. It was a missed cut. I'm sorry. The missed cut, what changed for you? Was it a slap in the face or what exactly happened there?
INBEE PARK: Well, I just really try to go back to my old stroke. I just feel really good about how I putted last year and how I stroked it last year. So I try to look at the videos of me last year and try to see the rhythm and the putting stroke from last year. It felt like my putter head was coming too much -- too high from the ground when I did the follow through. So I try to do it lower to the ground. And that seemed like it's working well.

Q. When you are back home, what is your sense of Lydia Ko's popularity there? Is she any less popular because she now represents New Zealand, even though she's South Korean born?
INBEE PARK: In Korea, you mean?

Q. Uh-huh.
INBEE PARK: I mean, I really can't tell you exact how popular she is in Korea, because -- but like among the golf fans, I think she's still quite popular and among the favorites, I think, even though she represents New Zealand. But I would say, definitely, Korean fans definitely follow Korean fans more than New Zealand.

Q. Even in a joking sense, do you ever try to get her to change allegiances so you can be on teams with her?
INBEE PARK: No, I actually never tried that, but she seems like she's really proud to be in New Zealand. I don't want to push her.

Q. The putter you used to win the first three Majors last year, it was the same putter, right?
INBEE PARK: Last year, U.S. Women's Open?

Q. The first three Majors you won in a row, it was all the same putter?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, those three were the same putter.

Q. Are you still using that one, and if not, where is it?
INBEE PARK: No. It's in Korea. That one is in Korea. I'm using the exact same putter, but the black color. It was silver before.

Q. Remind me of the model again.
INBEE PARK: Sabertooth.

Q. There was a point last year where it didn't seem you were capable of missing a putt. At that point do you feel like you never will miss a putt? And then when you are slumping, does it feel like you will never make another putt? Can you explain the complete difference in the two -- your two half seasons?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I think it's -- when you're putting well, you're going to miss the putt when you misread the putt. That's the only time you're going to miss the putt. Otherwise, you are pretty dead on. But you just feel confident, even if you're far away from the hole, you feel like you can make a birdie. But it's a different story this year for me. Even if I hit it close, five, four feet, there's no guarantee for a birdie. So I feel like the birdie was so hard this year for me, even though I'm hitting the better shots, it's tougher to get a birdie. But last year, even though I'm hitting worse shots, I can make a birdie. I never realized putting was that important in golf, because I was always putting good. But obviously this year definitely gave me a lesson.

Q. The beautiful rhythm in your full swing and on your putting stroke, how much of that was learned and how much of it did you just have that when you got into the game? It's so beautiful, the rhythm of your stroke.
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean, I never try to do anything differently. I just try to -- I just try to swing or stroke naturally. But it just came naturally. There were times where I thought my swing is too slow. I watch men players on TV, like Tiger or Phil or everybody on TV, I think swing so fast. And I thought maybe I should swing faster to play better. But sometimes I try to change it, it just didn't work, so I just went back to my old swing.

Q. You mentioned you're extra careful when there is a Major. What do you do to concentrate more, to relax more in a Major?
INBEE PARK: I think in a Major championship I think everybody takes -- I think everybody tries too hard, almost too hard. I think, that's why everybody tries to do everything so differently. I think that's what sometimes gets you. But I think, because I don't -- I don't try to change so many things, but a couple of things you just -- like -- especially like having the practice rounds, you just take extra care and extra -- you take extra time. But that's it. I just try to learn the course. And everything else off the golf course, I try to do exactly the same thing. U.S. Open is very important tournament. Most important tournament in a year. But, yeah, I just try to be myself and just try to be normal, because when you try to do something different that sometimes can make troubles.

Q. I want to go back to how you credited you finding your old putting form by watching videos of yourself. I know you mentioned Monday you did it through YouTube. I would like to know what do you type into YouTube to find these videos? Are you Googling yourself, are you YouTubing Inbee Park, are you putting in a certain golf tournament?
INBEE PARK: No, I just put my name in there and there's a lot of videos. But I actually -- my dad has the tape of the U.S. Open last year. So it's easier to get it off him. Because like he has the highlights and he has everything. My dad has all my videos.

Q. Is that the tournament that you've used most to channel your putting?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, yeah, U.S. Open, yeah.

Q. How much does the number one ranking mean to you, and are you eager to get it back?
INBEE PARK: I mean I don't think I am -- I don't have the eagerness anymore, because like when I didn't get there I really wanted to get there. But once I've been there, if I play well enough, then I'll be there. But I'm not going to try to force anything. I'm not going to try to push myself to go up there. If I play well, I'll be there. But I definitely say, because I've been there I feel a lot more comfortable, a lot more relaxing, yeah, when -- I think my hope is to probably have it back by end of the year, before the year ends, I think that will be very ideal, yeah.

Q. You said at the champions dinner last night you maybe talked to some people you hadn't talked to before. Was there anybody in particular that you had a conversation with that was fun for you, maybe a former champion you hadn't ever talked to before?
INBEE PARK: We didn't get into like very deep conversations. We just were really busy getting each other's autographs yesterday. I didn't really talk to anyone too deeply. But I heard everybody's story, because we went and everybody talked to one -- one person talked about the memories. Everyone talked about their memories of winning the U.S. Open. Yeah, I think I heard some good, fun stories. But I think I have a souvenir of every past champion that came last night and they signed flags. I think that will be a very good souvenir to keep.

Q. Both Martin Kaymer and Adam Scott said last week that being No. 1 in the world, while it's a great honor, and attributable to great play, it can also be a burden. In Martin's case, I think 2010 he was No. 1, he went through a bad spell where it affected his golf. He said the key to turning his golf around was to have fun playing again. Talk about being No. 1 in the world. Can it become a burden and you're trying to maintain that and you kind of lose sense of really why you're out there playing?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I think being No. 1 spot is definitely extra pressure than everyone else. And obviously you definitely look at the rankings a lot more often than when you're not No. 1. Yeah, I think there is definitely a possibility that you look at the numbers before, I think -- I don't really look at the rankings anymore. But when I was No. 1, I tried to look at it, like who was behind me. So I think you definitely have extra pressure. But I think you definitely have to overcome that to become No. 1 player.

Q. And also, if I could, just the great streak that you had last year, I mean, it's not exactly like you slumped. For you slumping is not winning. You've had good results, but you've gone a period without winning. Did you feel last year when everything was working so well, do you feel like you set a very high standard that was hard to maintain?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, of course, I just realized that, this year, how good I play last year, because my standards are high and my fan's standards are high. Everybody else around me, the standards are so high, that it's really hard to accomplish. And this year, even if I was having top-10s every week, I wasn't satisfied. I was satisfied last year if I finished top-10. I think that was a change of my mindset. I tried to go back to what I was thinking, the last year, the year before, how thankful I was to be playing golf and just being happy. And that's what I'm trying to do every week in on then. Not to get too greedy or not to get too -- not set too high of standards. That's always just hard to catch. Obviously, a year like last year, it's most likely not going to come. So you're just going to go try to be close to that, but you just can't push yourself to be there.

Q. I remember you put your wedding in September so only in three months later how will you prepare for it and where will you hold it?
INBEE PARK: How did I prepare for it?

Q. Where will you hold it, the wedding, yes.
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I'm not really preparing for the wedding, I'm just choosing like the -- I'm just looking at the photos of the wedding dresses and stuff. My mom is doing most of the work. The wedding planner back home is doing most of the work. I'm going back home next week to choose dresses, and traditional dresses. I have good people helping me, so I don't have to think so much about that.

Q. You are young, but when you heard that an 11 year old had qualified for this tournament, what was your reaction? Did you feel old all of a sudden?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I mean, I don't feel young my more, because I am 15 years older than her. Yeah, I mean she's definitely a young, talented player, obviously, to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open. So really looking forward to her play this week. She's going to have a good time, anyway.

MIKE TROSTEL: 8:02 off No. 10 tee on Thursday. Thank you very much.

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