ORLANDO — Sunday's final group at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions is an interesting one. Inbee Park, leading by two, and Sei Young Kim start the 2020 LPGA season with different levels of momentum. Kim has the most of anyone on tour: the 10-time LPGA winner won the most recent LPGA event, the 2019 CME Group Tour Championship. Park, on the other hand, hasn't won an event since 2018 and has only played in six events since July 2019. Kim played 25 events to Park's 17 last season.
It's a surprise that Park is even in the field at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions: She hasn't begun her competitive season in January since 2016. This year is different because it's an Olympic year. Park, a 19-time winner on the LPGA Tour, isn't among the top four South Korean players on the Olympic ranking list. She needs to rack up high finishes to move up the points list from sixth to at least fourth in time for Tokyo, where she would be defending the gold medal she won in Rio in 2016.
Kim is currently ranked third on that list.
The differences between the two players extend to their games.
"She's very consistent," Kim says of Park's game. "It's very opposite my character."
Kim went on to commend Park's ability to stay calm, regardless of what happens during the tournament. Kim's style of play is more aggressive, and as such, has the ability to produce a lot of birdies. That was on full display at Tranquilo Golf Course on Saturday, where Kim had a stretch of four birdies in a row on the back nine.
The two players have gone up against each other in the final group on Sunday in two previous LPGA events. In 2015, they were in the final group at the Lotte Championship. It came down to a playoff, where Kim holed her approach shot on the first playoff hole to win. Later that year, they played in the final group at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. Park won by five shots.
Kim says she likes being paired with Park. She remembers being a young player, looking up to Park, who is five years her senior. Since joining the tour and getting to know Park better, Kim says she's learned a lot from her. The advice that has stood out most to Kim, who is now 26, is how Park talks about finding a balance between golf and life outside of golf. Kim says she still has some work to do in that regard. "Personally, I always push myself too much," she says.
Though both players are different, they have arrived in a place with which they are both familiar: vying to win a golf tournament.
"I have one more day, and I feel good about my game," Park said. " So hopefully I can keep this going."