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
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 44 3rd Qtr 10:09
New Orleans 57
Minnesota 40 3rd Qtr
Oklahoma City 48
Orlando 51 3rd Qtr 10:55
Memphis 67
Boston 11 1st Qtr 6:25
Utah 6
Denver 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 35 2nd Half 3:40
Bethune-Cookman 36
Coppin State 56 2nd Half 11:59
NC A&T 55
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 54 2nd Half 0:39
SC State 63
Gardner-Webb 40 2nd Half 12:01
Campbell 54
MD-Eastern Shore 39 2nd Half
Florida A&M 30
Stephen F Austin 51 2nd Half 14:35
Lamar 33
Central Arkansas 42 2nd Half 15:25
New Orleans 60
Norfolk State 44 2nd Half 11:58
Savannah State 35
TX A&M-CC 45 2nd Half 13:30
SE Louisiana 41
Sam Houston St 55 2nd Half 15:19
Abilene Christian 39
McNeese State 74 2nd Half 6:50
Incarnate Word 63
Milwaukee 35 2nd Half 8:34
Valparaiso 61
Alcorn State 21 1st Half 7:40
Alabama A&M 28
Southern U 20 1st Half 11:42
Alabama State 10
Prairie View 8:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Texas 14 1st Half 11:59
Iowa State 14
Texas Southern 21 1st Half 3:04
Miss Valley St 27
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 11 1st Half 11:36
Auburn 5
(15) Nebraska 22 1st Half 8:09
(20) Iowa 15
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close