• REUTERS

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Reigning gold medalist Inbee Park and silver medalist Lydia Ko said they plan to play in the Tokyo Olympics this summer despite Japan’s latest COVID-19 surge.

The LPGA Tour returns to Asia this week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began 13 months ago. Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings will tee it up at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore.

“Obviously, this year is a very important year for me with the Olympics in August, and my main goal is trying to qualify for the team,” Park told reporters Tuesday. “The Korean team is not the easiest team to make.”

Park has opened 2021 with four consecutive top-15 finishes, highlighted by a five-shot victory at the Kia Classic last month. That has vaulted the seven-time major champion to No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings behind Ko Jin-young.

Right behind them is countrywoman Kim Sei-young, as South Koreans occupy the top three and four of the top 10 spots with Kim Hyo-joe at No. 9. Each country can have up to four golfers in the 60-player Olympic field.

“I’m just trying to play good golf,” Park said. “Everything just comes with it when I play good golf, and I’m just trying to play week-by-week.

“It’s a long season. I’m just trying not to get too quick with the season.”

The Olympic golf tournament is scheduled for July 29 to Aug. 1 at Kasumigaseki Country Club outside Tokyo.

Also planning to play is Lydia Ko, who won her first event in three years at the Lotte Championship and enters this week ranked seventh.

“I feel like I’m still coming in with good momentum and winning in Hawaii definitely built the confidence for me to say that, hey, you know, I can be back in the winner’s circle,” Ko said. “It’s great to be in that kind of a position again.”

The Olympics were delayed a year due to the pandemic and Tokyo was placed under its third virus state of emergency on Friday.

“Obviously, there are lots of people who are still very worried but from an athlete’s point of view, I just think it’s great the Olympics is happening,” Park said.

“We’ve been waiting for it for four years, and it has been five years now.”

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