NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan said the annual awards celebration Friday of the Titleholders was by far his favorite time on the year. Inbee Park made it special for everyone there with a speech that explained who she is and what she tried to achieve this year.
Park had six wins and three straight majors with just more than three months left in the season, and she still didn't wrap up the points-based award for LPGA player of the year until the next-to-last tournament. She jokingly said that kept her from having more time to work on her speech.
She delivered one of her best moments of the year.
"Many people say I look effortless. They also say I'm emotionless. Some people started called me the 'Silent Assassin,'" Park said. "However, just because I'm short of feelings doesn't mean I don't feel anything."
She conceded that the pressure around her amazing run in the majors was almost too much to bear, even though no one around might have imagined that.
"I remember there were days when the thought of addressing the media overwhelmed me," she said. "Imagine yourself in China, standing before a crowd full of Chinese people who are staring at you, and you had to make a speech in Chinese. That's how I felt."
Most intriguing, though, was when she talked about her goals for the year. It was simply to be happier than she was last year.
"Don't we all want to be happy? Aren't we all doing whatever we do in order to be happy?" she said. "Unexpectedly, as soon as happiness became my goal, I achieved more things than ever. ... But a funny thing happened. I started to want more. That's when I really started to struggle. A lot came into my mind. I started to think too much. I started to think about scores, statistics — not only of mine, but others as well. I found it especially challenging to deal with others' expectations for me."
She said her family kept her grounded, and then Park paid tribute to her parents, her fans and sponsors, her caddie and her fiance, speaking a short message in Korean to each of them after explaining in English the role they played.
Park closed her speech with this:
"I am especially proud to be the first player from South Korea to win this award," she said. "My hope is that my achievement will inspire a new generation of young girls ... to pick up a set of golf clubs and follow their dreams. More than anything, though, I — the 'Silent Assassin' — am most proud that I kept my eye on the higher goal — happiness. I found it."
PRESIDENTS CUP: In another move away from money counting anywhere except the bank, the Presidents Cup will be relying on FedEx Cup points to determine the U.S. team for the 2015 matches in South Korea.
That means golf's strongest fields will not award as many points compared to previous years.
American players previously earned one point for every dollar in official PGA Tour earnings (double the amount in the year of the Presidents Cup). Prize money at the majors was roughly $8 million this year, while the World Golf Championships offered $8.75 million, The Players Championship had a $9.5 million purse and the FedEx Cup playoff events were at $8 million. The largest purse for a regular PGA Tour event was $6.7 million last year.
Americans now get FedEx Cup points counted toward the President Cup standings.
Majors and The Players offer 600 points to the winner. The WGCs and FedEx Cup playoff events award 550 points, while the rest of the PGA Tour events offer 500 points (except for opposite-field events, which award 250 points).
Then again, winning majors never guaranteed a spot on the Presidents Cup team. PGA champion Keegan Bradley didn't make it in 2011. U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover was a captain's pick in 2009, and neither British Open champion Ben Curtis nor PGA champion Shaun Micheel was on the 2003 team.
International players are determined by the world ranking. Major champions are awarded 100 ranking points, nearly double the average of other PGA Tour events.
THE LEWIS COLLECTION: Stacy Lewis plans to use a new set of irons before next year, so that 5-iron she hit into the 17th hole at St. Andrews is headed for a special place.
The American star has a proper trophy case for her eight LPGA Tour titles, two of them majors. It's out in the garage where she keeps a few extra mementos, such as the putters with which she's won tournaments and the shoes from both her majors.
"The Kraft, those were some wet shoes," she said, referring to the leap into the pond after winning.
She plans to put the 5-iron in a bag. That club produced one of the best shots of the year — a baby cut that rode the wind and ran onto the famous Road Hole green to 3 feet for a birdie that sent her on the way to victory at the home of golf.
WESTWOOD CADDIE: Billy Foster is returning to work as Lee Westwood's caddie for the first time since in 18 months.
The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday that Westwood, who faces his first winless season in five years, will get back together with his old caddie at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge next week in California.
Foster, whose list of players ranges from Seve Ballesteros, Darren Clarke and even one week with Tiger Woods, injured his knee playing soccer at the Wells Fargo Championship in May 2012. Westwood eventually hired Mike Kern.
Foster returned this summer and was working for Branden Grace of South Africa.
He was on the bag with Westwood when the Englishman had five top 3s in the majors over a four-year period and reached No. 1 in the world.
WEB.COM CHANGES: Starting next year, the top 65 and ties will make the cut in Web.com Tour events, an increase from top 60 and ties. The change was approved in the latest policy board meeting.
Also, the policy board decided that the PGA Tour China series will provide a full Web.com card for the winner of that tour, with the next four players on the money list in China earning conditional status on the Web.com. That's how it also works on the Canadian and Latin American circuits run by the PGA Tour.
DIVOTS: Along with winning PGA Tour player of the year, Woods picked up another award last week. The Tiger Woods Learning Center won the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association, recognizing excellence in education. ... The second part of the Sam Snead Collection is going up for auction Dec. 6-7 in Dallas. Among items up for bid are his 1949 Masters trophy and his 1951 Ryder Cup captain's trophy. The first auction in Chicago brought in $1.1 million, which included his 1954 Masters trophy, the lone claret jug he won at St. Andrews and the gold medal from his first PGA Championship title. ... British Open qualifying gets underway this week at the Australian Open. The leading three players from the top 10 and ties who aren't already eligible will earn a spot at Royal Liverpool next summer. ... The PGA of America approved a five-year contract extension for chief executive Pete Bevacqua. In his first year, Bevacqua oversaw a TV deal with NBC Sports through the 2030 Ryder Cup and brought the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup to Bethpage Black.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The top 25 players in the women's world ranking are from 11 countries.
FINAL WORD: "Sports are at their absolute best ... when the best athletes in that sport are having the best years of their lives." — LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan.