By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- The reigning Olympic women's golf champion Park In-bee said Monday she will sit out the final major of the LPGA Tour season with a nagging thumb injury.
Park appeared at a press conference in Seoul with her left thumb in a cast, and said it will stay that way for three weeks -- which has ruled her out of the Sept. 15-18 Evian Championship in Evian-les-Bains, France.
The 28-year-old had been bothered by back and thumb ailments all season. She was questionable for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics held earlier this month, but decided to compete after all and went on to win the gold medal.
"I felt my thumb had improved a great deal after the Olympics, but my doctor told me I have to rest it for three weeks," Park said. "Since the Evian Championship is the last major of the season, I wanted to push myself to play there. But I decided my long-term health was more important."
Park said she will begin her rehab after the cast comes off, and will decide then how much more she can play the rest of the season.
Her Olympic gold medal notwithstanding, Park has had the least productive season of her Hall of Fame career in 2016. In 10 LPGA events, Park has no victories with three withdrawals and two missed cuts.
South Korean golfer Park In-bee poses with her gold medal won at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics during a press conference in Seoul on Aug. 29, 2016. (Yonhap)
And when she does come back, there will be only a handful of tournaments left for Park in 2016
"I will concentrate on getting back to 100 percent this year," she added. "But it won't be a bad idea to enter a couple of events late in the season."
Park shot a four-round total of 16-under to capture the first Olympic gold in women's golf in 116 years, beating world No. 1 Lydia Ko by five strokes. Park's struggles leading up to the Olympics -- she'd missed the cut at a Korean LPGA event weeks earlier -- and her heavy underdog status against the likes of Ko and Ariya Jutaugarn rendered the gold medal even more remarkable.
"There were times when I wanted to give up because I didn't think I was 100 percent healthy," Park admitted. "But I was in a position to represent the country as golf made its return after 116 years away. And I felt it was against the spirit of the Olympics to give it all up just because I wasn't feeling well and I was afraid I couldn't play well."
Park added that she didn't want the fear of embarrassing herself at the Olympics to also affect her career down the road.
"As important as it is to win a gold medal, I think Olympic athletes have to test their limits and inspire others with their dedication and hard work," she added. "And I felt like if I gave up on the Olympics, then I'd be giving up on my entire career as well."
Park counts seven major titles among her 17 LPGA victories, and said every round at Olympic Golf Course in Rio felt like the final day at a major championship.
"I concentrated harder during the Olympics than any other competition, and I was absolutely spent after every round," she said. "And after each round, I really felt that I'd given my 100 percent with no regrets. I might have made bogeys and other mistakes, but I knew in my heart I'd done everything I could. The gold medal was a big prize, and the Olympics also allowed me to take the next step as a golfer."