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story.lead_photo.caption So Yeon Ryu of South Korea was the LPGA’s co-player of the year last season, but she still places high expectations on herself entering this weekend’s Northwest Arkansas Championship in Rogers. - Photo by Charlie Kaijo

ROGERS -- So Yeon Ryu's biography and list of accomplishments take up two full pages in the LPGA's Player Guide.

The South Korean star has won more than $9 million in her seventh year on the tour. She has won multiple majors, was the co-Rolex Player of the Year in 2017, was the 2012 Rolex Rookie of the Year and posted a dozen top-10 finishes last season.

LPGA NW Arkansas

Championship

WHEN Today through Sunday

WHERE Pinnacle Country Club, Rogers

PAR 71

YARDAGE 6,331

DEFENDING CHAMPION So Yeon Ryu TV Golf Channel, Today, 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 2 p.m.-4 p.m.

TICKETS General admission is $10 per day or $25 for the week. Children ages 16 and under with ticketed adult get in free. All active, reserve and retired military and families also have free admission.

Today’s Tee Times

Tee 1

Time^Group

7:30 a.m.^Peiyun Chien, Bronte Law, Aditi Ashok

7:41 a.m.^Laetitia Beck, Kelly Shon, Gemma Dryburgh

7:52 a.m.^Chella Choi, Tiffany Chan, Alison Lee

8:03 a.m.^Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Benyapa Niphatsophon, Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong

8:14 a.m.^Wei-Ling Hsu, Su Oh, Amy Yang

8:25 a.m.^Inbee Park, Charley Hull, Azahara Munoz

8:36 a.m.^Lydia Ko, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lincicome

8:47 a.m.^Stacy Lewis, Moriya Juntanugarn, Shanshan Feng

8:58 a.m.^Celine Herbin, Hannah Green, Jing Yan

9:09 a.m.^Paula Reto, Sandra Changkija, Ayako Uehara

9:20 a.m.^Kris Tamulis, Pannarat Thanapolbooyaras

9:31 a.m.^Erynne Lee, Haeji Kang, Leticia Ras-Anderica

12:30 p.m.^Kassidy Teare, Daniela Iacobelli, Sun Young Yoo

12:41 p.m.^Joeng Eun Lee, Vicky Hurst, Perrine Delacour

12:52 p.m.^Amuy Olson, Brittany Lang, Yu Liu

1:03 p.m.^Alena Sharp, Lee-Anne Pace, Mo Martin

1:14 p.m.^Nasa Hataoka, In-Kyung Kim, Austin Ernst

1:25 p.m.^Carlota Ciganda, Sung Hyun Park, Catriona Matthew

1:36 p.m.^Ariya Jutanugarn, Minjee Lee, Anna Nordqvist

1:47 p.m.^So Yeon Ryu, Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson

1:58 p.m.^Mariah Stackhouse, Sandra Gal, Beatriz Recari

2:09 p.m.^Maria Fassi (a), Jaye Marie Green, Madelene Sagstrom

2:20 p.m.^Gaby Lopez, Christina Kim, Morgan Pressel

2:31 p.m.^Dylan Kim (a), Mariajo Uribe, Cheyenne Woods

Tee 10

Time^Group

7:30 a.m.^Jessy Tang, Maria Torres, Dani Holmqvist

7:41 a.m.^Luna Sobron, Daniela Darquea, Natalie Gulbis

7:52 a.m.^Sydney Michaels, Camila Lennarth, Brianna Do

8:03 a.m.^Emma Talley^Kim Kaufman^Robynn Ree

8:14 a.m.^Mirim Lee, Yani Tseng, Katherine Kirk

8:25 a.m.^Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji, Jin Young Ko

8:36 a.m.^Angela Stanford, Pernilla Lindberg, Sarah Jane Smith

8:47 a.m.^Jenny Shin, Nelly Korda, Caroline Masson

8:58 a.m.^Katie Burnett, Rebecca Artis, Giulia Molinaro

9:09 a.m.^Lauren Coughlin, Cindy LaCrosse, Lee Lopez

9:20 a.m.^Lauren Kim, Amelia Lewis, Joanna Klatten

9:31 a.m.^Olafia Kristinsdottir, Anne-Catherine Tanguay, Jane Park

12:30 p.m.^Cydney Clanton, Jackie Stoelting, Ally McDonald

12:41 p.m.^Maude-Aimee Lablanc, Caroline Hedwall, Brittany Altomare

12:52 p.m.^Emily Pedersen, Jacqui Concolino, Ashleigh Buhai

1:03 p.m.^Brittany Marchand, Nicole Broch Larsen, Celine Boutier

1:14 p.m.^Lindy Duncan, Marina Alex, Paula Creamer

1:25 p.m.^Juli Inkster, Mi Hyang Lee, Megan Khan

1:36 p.m.^Hyo Joo Kim, Annie Park, Cristie Kerr

1:47 p.m.^Danielle Kang, Jennifer Song, Haru Nomura

1:58 p.m.^Julieta Granada, Mel Reid, Mi Jung Hur

2:09 p.m.^Ryann O’Toole, Wichanee Meechai, Tiffany Joh

2:20 p.m.^Hee Young Park, Thidapa Suwannapura, Emily Collins

2:31 p.m.^Pornanong Phatlum, Karine Icher, P.K. Kongkraphan

Yet despite all her accolades and success, the soon-to-be 28-year-old Ryu still battles periods of self-doubt and the high expectations she places on herself to be a consistent winner on the LPGA Tour.

"I think if I look back over my entire professional career, I have always struggled with the expectation level," Ryu said Thursday. "I think this year, I've definitely had to fight against myself and I've felt overwhelmed.

"I was like, 'OK, you have to play consistent all the time.' And then when you really can't play consistent, you question yourself and ask, 'What's wrong with you?' Even if you finish in the top 20, you are still not satisfied with that and you still try and find the problem and fix it. To be top five, top 10 all the time is great, but when you don't, you lose a lot of confidence."

Ryu heads into today's first round of the Northwest Arkansas Championship on a wave of momentum. She is the defending tournament champion after scorching Pinnacle Country Club last year with a record-setting 18-under 195 to win by two shots.

She won her first tournament of the season last week at the Meijer LPGA Classic, which vaulted her to No. 5 in the Rolex rankings and boosted her 2018 winnings to $576,600.

"To be honest, I've struggled with my game this season," she said. "I was expecting my game to just slowly progress instead of just winning right away, but I was very fortunate to win last week. When you come to defend your title, you have a lot of pressure, but after I won last week, I started to think maybe I have a chance to defend my title. So I've got total confidence after last week."

Ryu has enlisted the help of a sports psychologist to help her with the mental aspects of the game. She also has a new caddie who she credits with helping to keep her grounded.

But when she needs a dose of reality from a player who has walked in her golf shoes, she knows exactly where she can get an honest assessment -- Inbee Park.

The longtime friends share a special bond, and that relationship extends well beyond the lush greens and fan-packed galleries of the LPGA tour.

"When I talk to her I was like, 'Oh my god, I'm not doing this right or I'm doing this wrong,' and she's always like, 'Just get over it,'" Ryu said. "She just tells me, 'You know what to do. You've done it. Just do what you do and don't worry about it.'

"She's definitely a great adviser for me for my professional life as well as my personal life."

Park is the No. 1 player currently in the Rolex rankings and is a past winner of this event. The 2016 Olympic gold medalist is also one of the most consistent golfers on the LPGA Tour.

But even Park had to take a step back away from the game after a series of injuries threatened her career in 2016. She took several months off that year to recover and made a triumphant return to the course with the Olympic gold medal. Since then, she has limited her LPGA Tournament schedule, but remains as dominant as ever.

"I just had to listen to my body and try to stay healthy," Park said. "This has been a good strategy for me. When I come to a tournament, I am ready to play. Even when I feel good, I still try to rest and take care of myself."

Park said she told Ryu to embrace all that she has accomplished on the LPGA Tour and focus on that.

"I tell her she just stresses too much. Sometimes even when she's playing great golf, she just pushes herself so hard," Park said of Ryu. "I try to tell her, 'Look, even if you don't do anything from now on, you have already accomplished so many things. You need to just take it a little bit easier on yourself.'

"She just needs to relax a little bit and I think that's what she did last week. I was really happy to see her win this year."

Ryu tees off No. 1 at 1:47 p.m. today in a grouping that also includes Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson, all ranked in the top 11 on the tour.

As the defending champion and a fan favorite, she has consistently played well in this tournament. Besides the win last year, she also has four additional top 15 finishes, including four top-five finishes.

"This golf course is always in good shape," Ryu said. "The putting greens are awesome and I know that they are always pure, and as long as I have confidence the greens are pure, I know I can make them. And I love the big crowds here. I always feel like I have a thousand people rooting for me. I love this atmosphere."

Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand will tee off in her opening round of the Northwest Arkansas Championship today at 8:47 a.m. She will play in the same group with former Arkansas Razorback Stacy Lewis.

Sports on 06/22/2018

Print Headline: Defending champion Ryu focusing on positive

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