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Golf: Shin returns to defend LPGA Kingsmill crown

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

World number one Park In-Bee and defending champion Shin Jiyai headline a stellar field for the $1.3 million LPGA Kingsmill Championship that starts Thursday.

All of the top-10 players in the world rankings are competing as the LPGA plays its first tournament on the US East Coast this season.

Shin won last year's title in dramatic fashion, finally triumphing over Paula Creamer on the ninth hole of a sudden death playoff.

That came on a Monday morning after darkness halted play with the two still deadlocked through eight playoff holes.

The victory -- in a tournament played last year in September -- ended a 31-tournament LPGA drought for Shin, who went on to win the Women's British Open the following week.

"Well, it's definitely a good memory for me because I won," said Shin. "I've never played in a nine holes playoff, so that's why it was a great experience. And I was really hungry for the win at the time."

Shin, currently ranked seventh in the world, has already won this year at the season-opening Women's Australian Open.

Park arrives at Kingsmill fresh off her third LPGA triumph of the season, at the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout.

Those three victories include a major title at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and catapulted her to the top of the world rankings in April.

"It's just living my dream every day, you know," Park said. "That's been my dream since I started playing golf, to be the best in the world, and I finally reached it this April."

In her fourth week atop the rankings -- and with American Stacy Lewis challenging to regain the top spot almost every week, Park said she is learning to tune out any nerves that come with defending the number one place.

"You can put a lot of pressure on yourself when you're number one, but I'm just trying to think that's just a number ... not trying to say that I need to win every week or anything.

"I try to enjoy what I'm doing and that's just a gift."

Although Park's victory on Sunday in Irving, Texas, strengthened her hold on number one, Lewis remains a close pursuer. Lewis also leads the LPGA Tour in top 10 finishes with six, and has won twice.

World number three Choi Na-Yeon has also enjoyed a consistent 2013 season, with her four top-10 finishes including a runner-up finish in Singapore.

Former world number one Tseng Ya-ni, who has slipped to fourth in the world, continues to search for the victory that has eluded her this year, while Norway's Suzann Pettersen, winner of two titles worldwide this season -- could move up from her current fifth in the rankings with a strong performance this week.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130501/golf-shin-returns-defend-lpga-kingsmill-crown