Inbee Park, going for a 3rd straight major, trying to ignore the pressure

  • Article by: DOUG FERGUSON , Associated Press
  • Updated: June 25, 2013 - 11:43 PM

Park is coming off back-to-back wins, including the LPGA Championship in a playoff, to widen her lead at No. 1 in the world.

hide

Inbee Park threw the ball into the stands after winning a sudden-death playoff during the LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y. , on June 9.

Photo: Gary Wiepert, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The toughest test in women's golf would figure to be a piece of cake for the No. 1 player in the world.

She already had six wins, and the LPGA Tour season was barely at the halfway point. She stamped her dominance by winning the first two majors of the year. The gap between her and the next best player was even larger than what Tiger Woods enjoyed in men's golf. Her swing was reliable. And she had the experience as a past U.S. Women's Open champion. If she had a weakness, it wasn't apparent.

A third straight major almost seemed inevitable.

But it didn't work out that way in 2005 for Annika Sorenstam. She tried to ignore a month of hype only for jangled nerves to join her on the first tee at Cherry Hills. She was behind from the opening round, and the harder she tried, the farther behind she fell.

"It was a lot of pressure," Sorenstam recalled last week about her bid for the Grand Slam. "I wanted to not necessarily ignore it, but I was trying to not let it get to me. I wanted to just focus. It's another major. It's the U.S. Open, and at the time, I had won two before. And I thought, 'I can do this.'"

She can appreciate better than most what Inbee Park faces this week.

The 24-year-old South Korean didn't win the first two majors as convincingly as Sorenstam did in 2005, but she won them. Park is coming off back-to-back wins, including the LPGA Championship in a playoff, to widen her lead at No. 1 in the world. She won the Women's Open just five years ago at Interlachen.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how Inbee handles this," Sorenstam said. "She has the major experience and she's the No. 1 player in the world, so she's not necessarily brand new in this role. ... We'll see how she handles Sebonack and the conditions that await."

Sorenstam didn't make it clear if she was talking about external conditions — such as wind coming off Atlantic waters on Long Island — or whatever emotions are roiling inside Park.

The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Sebonack Golf Club, and Park is the latest to challenge history.

Sorenstam was only the most recent player who tried — and failed — to win three straight majors to start out the season.

Woods had a chance in 2002 until he was blown away by the wind, cold and rain of Muirfield on Saturday of the British Open. Pat Bradley was going for three straight in 1986, but she shot 76 in the first round of the U.S. Women's Open and never caught up. Jack Nicklaus was on the verge of winning three straight majors in 1972 until Lee Trevino beat him at Muirfield. Arnold Palmer, who created the modern version of the Grand Slam in 1960, lost out by a shot to Kel Nagle that year at St. Andrews.

The last player to start the season by winning three straight majors was Babe Zaharias in 1950, back when the LPGA Tour only had three majors. Ben Hogan won all three he could play in 1953, when the PGA Championship was held at the same time as British Open qualifying.

It's different now.

Sorenstam said of Park, "I've been in her shoes," but only as it relates to her bid to win three straight majors. Sorenstam was going after the Grand Slam in 2005. The LPGA Tour now counts the Evian Masters, which gives it five majors. Trouble is, a grand slam only scores four runs. Or as Jeff Sluman so famously said in 2003, "When you go to Denny's and order the Grand Slam breakfast, they don't give you five things, do they? They give you four."

What do you call winning five majors in one year? That's a question Park would love to have someone answer.

The next stop is Sebonack, whether nothing figures to be easy — not the course, not the competition, not the pressure.

"I think there is no way that you won't feel the pressure," Park said Tuesday. "Because you will always feel the pressure. But it's just the more you experience it, you just feel it a little less and less over the time. Now when I'm in the position where I am, and when I'm in the winning position — and I've been there a lot — it's just knowing what I have to do. I think that's been a big help for me."

A bigger help is how she's playing.

"This is the best I'm playing in my career so far," Park said. "I'm trying to keep this going."

Park is coming off a year in which she won the money title, and she is happy to see her game get even better. She replaced Stacy Lewis at No. 1 in the world just over two months ago, and there has been nothing to suggest she is ready to give it back.

What might help her in this case is her lack of experience compared with the other players going for three in a row.

Bradley was 35 and Sorenstam was 34 when she went to the U.S. Women's Open trying for three straight majors. Sorenstam seemed to be fully equipped for the moment. She had played on the PGA Tour at Colonial only two years earlier. She stated her goal at the start of the year was to win the Grand Slam.

Park is still young enough to see only the next shot instead of wondering where it might lead.

"I've watched her a lot on TV, and she's very calm. She does not get rattled," Bradley said. "That's the key, to keep your mind calm and just get out of your own way. Youth might serve her very well. Annika and I knew the history of it, the importance of it. We knew the buzz that would be created. This young lady, I'm not sure. It might be to her benefit to take it as a regular tournament. Don't look at the signage that says, 'U.S. Open.' Just look at the hole. Just do your thing."

Bradley believes it will happen. She sees a player dominating the game, at least in the first part of the season. She sees a simple, repeatable swing. She sees a calm hand over the big putts. She sees no reason why another LPGA major will end on Sunday with someone other than Park holding the trophy.

Then again, she has seen this before.

"But I thought Annika was going to do it a few years ago," Bradley said, "and that didn't quite happen."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 4th Qtr 0:16
Phoenix 103
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 3rd Prd 12:41
Los Angeles 2
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
UMBC 56
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
SMU 63 FINAL
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 67 2nd Half 5:52
Washington 49
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 71 FINAL
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 58 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
UNLV 75
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close