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January 14, 2020

Inbee Park

Lake Buena Vista, Florida

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to Diamond Resorts press conference. Our first press conference of the 2020 season, I think it's appropriate we start off with Inbee Park. Inbee, welcome back. It's great to have you. Perhaps starting your season a little earlier than you have in past years. We're happy to have you here at Diamond Resorts. What made your decision to start your season here?

INBEE PARK: I just wanted a little bit of a change this year because I always started the season a little bit late, probably end of February or early March. This year I'm starting early because it's an important year, Olympics in the summer, and there's a lot of tournaments before the Olympics, and I just wanted to choose something -- like the course, I really wanted to play the courses I haven't played before, which is pretty much the first four events I'm going to play I never played before.

So I just wanted to have some kind of fresh start in my mind, and that was probably the first reason. The second reason will be definitely there's Olympics on the line, so I wanted to give myself a lot of opportunity.

THE MODERATOR: You mentioned Olympics. It was a big year. You were the gold medalist for 2016. Is getting back on the Korean team something that's forefront on your mind this year?

INBEE PARK: Yeah, definitely. That's definitely a goal for me and definitely a goal for a lot of fellow Korean players. I think that will definitely motivate us really well this year, especially because the rankings cut off in June. So I think I wanted to play as many events as I can before and give myself some opportunities and try to play some good golf before then. So I feel like I'm in good shape.

THE MODERATOR: You said you played nine holes yesterday, nine holes later today. What's your take away so far as you look at this Four Seasons course?

INBEE PARK: This golf course really reminds me of in my young -- like the time I first came to the United States, I moved to Orlando. So it reminds me of golf courses that I played back then, in my junior years, I should say.

The golf course is in really good shape. The greens are in perfect shape. This golf course will need a lot of birdies to win, but there's a couple of holes that still the Bermuda rough is sometimes tough around the greens. So you're just going to have to avoid going in the rough around the greens. I think that will be the big task.

The greens are pretty soft, so I think we can play a little bit aggressive this week.

Q. Inbee, I wanted to talk about the Olympics for a second. Is there a tougher Olympic team to make than the Korean women's golf team?
INBEE PARK: I say U.S. men's team is pretty tough as well, but in women's golf, I think it has to be, yeah, definitely the toughest team to make.

Q. I'm just curious, back in Korea, are you feeling -- is the media talking about it already? Are you fielding a lot of questions? Do you feel pressure from back home?
INBEE PARK: When I get an opportunity to see media, I think definitely the first question is definitely the Olympics, like how much do you want to be on there? What's your motivation this year? Why are you playing the season so early? Is it because of the Olympics? Yeah, I definitely get those questions a lot.

No matter how I say it, it's definitely an important year for me. Even whether I get an opportunity or whether I don't, I think I just want to have a season that I won't regret. I just want to give myself a lot of opportunities. So whether I get a chance or not, just so I have a good opportunity.

Q. And then as someone who's won so many Majors and is a Hall of Famer, is there a part of you that's at all surprised by how much the Olympics is motivating you, by how badly you want this?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, like I said, in 2016, like before that, I didn't know what the Olympics was going to be like or how important is this going to be as a professional golfer, or is this going to be more important than the major championships? I had a lot of questions in my mind then.

Definitely after I experienced one, I definitely felt like this is something that I should take first priority in my golfing career. Yeah, I think it was definitely worth it. So I definitely wanted to take this Olympic opportunity as a big priority in my career and probably my last one, I'm thinking, if I get an opportunity. So, yeah, I'm just happy to be where I'm positioned. It's good that I have an opportunity. Whether I'm in or not, I think it's worth having a go.

Q. We're seeing that your schedule's changing, you're starting earlier. In what other ways are you feeling the Olympic spark in your life?
INBEE PARK: It's pretty quiet so far. So I'm not feeling anything a lot different or anything so far, but I don't know, once it gets closer to the Olympics, as it gets closer to the summer, I think a lot of things will probably change. So far, I think it's -- I like the atmosphere right now, nothing crazy. It's just same as last season.

This tournament is great because it's the first tournament of the year and it's a very relaxed atmosphere. So it's a really nice week to come out and just enjoy and try to see where your game is at. So, yeah, this tournament will be great.

Q. Following up, I know in the past you've spoken about how you've had sluggish, slow starts to years. Is that something that you're trying to address this year too?
INBEE PARK: Yeah. I wouldn't say I'm the quickest starter, and I wanted to have a lot of tournaments beforehand, like before the first Major. So I feel like I'm in good shape to play. I'm playing probably enough events before then to warm up. So I think I'll be more ready.

Q. Quick question. Fun question. Did Rio come before or after your gold medal win? Your gold medal retriever.
INBEE PARK: Yeah, he came the day after I landed at Incheon Airport after the Olympics, which is like two days after the gold medal.

Q. And have you gotten him a miniature gold medal for his collar?
INBEE PARK: He just don't like anything on his body. He just wants like naked body. He doesn't like accessories. I tried many clothes, or I tried like pretty harness and everything, but he just doesn't like it. I'm sure he's not going to like the gold medal either.

Q. Just a quick followup. Will Rio get a friend if and when you win the gold medal this year?
INBEE PARK: I was thinking about getting another, but he currently has a girlfriend living next to, the neighbor. I don't think he's going to need another. He's doing great.

THE MODERATOR: That's the best kind of dog, someone else's dog.

Q. Inbee, how do you feel about playing alongside celebrities? It's a little different format. Is there anyone you're familiar with in the field?
INBEE PARK: I've heard a few names before. Yeah, it's really different because I never played tournament format like this before, but back in Korea, I have played with the celebrities, but not in the tournament. So it's very, very different. I'm just trying to rely on my experiences back in Korea that, when I played with them, it will be some kind of that feeling.

Like I said, it's a lot more relaxed atmosphere. I won't be feeling as much pressure as if you're playing the first event of the year. So I think it's a good thing in one side, I think, just to have a little bit more relaxed.

Q. Will you Google your playing partners to find out a little bit more about them?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, when I saw the pairings yesterday, we Googled them. Yeah, I know what they've done.

Q. Inbee, I have one more Olympic question. Do you ever look at the format for the Olympics and think, man, I wish it was different? I think I looked at it, and there were 35 Korean players ahead of one of the people who are in the field.
INBEE PARK: What is it, Olympics format?

Q. Yeah, the format for choosing the Olympic teams, who qualifies.
INBEE PARK: Yeah. I don't know, like I think it's -- because it is Olympics, there has to be a lot of countries competing. So I'm sure they chose the way of choosing the players and the way they are right now because it is only fair to have a lot of countries competing. But at some point, I felt like you're No. 20 in the world, but you don't get to compete. Already four Korean players are competing, so I guess we can't really complain about that.

I just wish that we have some kind of a team play as well. So maybe we have -- like because in other Olympics, in different sports, they have team and individuals as well. So I wish we have two different kinds of format to make it more fun.

Q. Inbee, in what ways did winning an Olympic gold medal elevate your profile in ways that winning Majors did not?
INBEE PARK: I think both of them, you really can't decide which one was the better, which one elevated my game more. They both --

Q. I'm sorry. Not your game, but the attention you receive.
INBEE PARK: Oh, yeah. I think the popularity or attention that I've got from the Olympics is definitely a lot bigger than the major championships that I have won, especially back in Korea. I'm not sure -- yeah, especially back in Korea and probably all over the world as well. I think it's just the exposure that we are getting in the Olympics for that one week is probably bigger than what I have done three, four years on the Tour because it's just the impact is just that big.

The people that will watching, it's just totally different because people watching is the whole country is watching, but usually the golf major championships, people who are interested in golf are watching, but it's just a the different types of people watching golf. What I've experienced after the Olympics was that so many people recognize me, but they have never recognized me before even though I've won seven major championships, but they recognize me now because I won one Olympic gold medal.

So it's just different types of people watching it and those types of people that I meet more daily than just variety, I think. It's just the variety of people that are watching the Olympics is just different than just the regular golf fans, I should say.

Q. You're not old by any stretch of the imagination, but with so many other younger south Koreans coming up in the game, winning majors, rising to No. 1, how has that affected your motivation, preparation?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, pretty much wherever I go, I feel like I'm still pretty young, but once I'm on the Tour, the LPGA Tour, I feel like I'm not young anymore. This Tour is definitely getting younger, and probably all the women's sports, pretty much they have their times, like their major times in early age, except for, I'd say, Annika. She had her good times in her 30s. Since her, everyone has been probably early 20s or late 20s, maybe late 20s.

All the motivation is definitely changing every year for me because the motivation that I had before is just like the fighting, I have to play well, I have to do this and do that. I have to achieve this. That kind of motivation for early times. But now I feel like I really need to enjoy what I am doing to keep doing what I am doing. So I'm trying to find some fun side and something that I can enjoy doing for my life. Just different kind of motivation, but I definitely feel like there is a lot of room to catch up. These girls are moving really fast. They're hitting it much, much further. They're young. They're fit. Yeah, there is definitely room to catch up, and that definitely gives me motivation.

Q. Did your husband bring you Rio?
INBEE PARK: Yes, my husband's friend. Yeah, because he talked to his friend about it, and he brought him to the airport.

Q. And then is it fair to say that the Olympics extended your career?
INBEE PARK: I'm not sure about that because, even if there was no Olympics, I think it's just no matter how many times I feel like this next couple years is going to be my last two, these next two is going to be my last two, but it really never happens. So I just keep going anyway. I don't know whether if there was Olympics or not, I think I would be doing what I am doing right now.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks so much, Inbee. We're happy to have you. Have a great week.

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