Sports

Park faces battle to stay world No. 1

World No. 1 Park In Bee is under severe threat of losing the top ranking, as she makes a delayed start to the season with her LPGA Thailand title defence today.

The South Korean (right) has held the top spot for 45 weeks, but her formerly-healthy lead has been whittled away by Norway's Suzann Pettersen and could disappear altogether in Pattaya.

Pettersen missed a great opportunity to overhaul Park last week when, needing a strong finish at the Women's Australian Open, she shot a disappointing 80 in her final round.

Park, 25, skipped the year's first two events in the Bahamas and Australia, but she will be hoping her luck holds in Pattaya where she was handed last year's win on a silver platter.

Park was two shots behind Ariya Jutanugarn when she finished her final round, but minutes later the Thai teenager gut-wrenchingly triple-bogeyed the 18th hole to cede the tournament.

It was a stroke of fortune which kicked off an amazing run for Park, who won five more titles including three successive Majors in the next few months as she dominated women's golf.

However, she has not managed a win since the US Women's Open last June, and will need to re-assert herself quickly if she is to stay at the top of the rankings.

Park will be aware she is being chased by Pettersen and third-ranked Stacy Lewis of the United States, who have both made it clear that they are after the No. 1 spot.

And she will be anxious to avoid the fate of former world No. 1 Tseng Ya-ni, who spent 109 weeks at the top - and won in Thailand in 2011 and 2012 - but is now ranked 43rd.

Park knows the par-72 Siam Country Club Old Course can be demanding, with high concentration and patience needed on the tricky greens.

"It has very tough greens, so putting will be the key," she said.

The US$1.5 million ($1.9m) tournament has 17 of the world's top-20 players, including world No. 4 Lydia Ko, 16, who is seeking her first win on tour since turning pro last October. - AFP.